By Daya Sagar
Rural India has been been made to live in the illusion that government has exempted the agricuture income from direct taxes (income tax ). It is more due to bad socio-economic environment as well as due to low earnings from agriculture that the population of cultivators employed in the agriculture sector has declined from 71.9 per cent in 1951 to 45.1 percent in 2011.
The politicians have been exploiting the innocence of the poor farmer in the name of income tax exemption so that the rural India falls in their ‘vote’ trap. Where as nearly whole lot of the the agriculturalist families in India will not fall in the income tax bracket as per the present standards.
Income tax exemption has given no real benefit to the common farmer and instead there may be many rich farmers as well as some people with unfair earnings from other sources who may be avoiding payment of income tax on their un fair income by showing such income as agricultural income. There is fair case for the Union governemnt to withdraw the income tax exemption on agricultural income. And if done so no genuine farmer will be hit by such action and instead many may be checked from avoiding tax payment on unfair income in the name of agricultural income.
As per the statastics released by Registrar General of India (2011) out of the total 121.08 crore population (say nearly 24 cr families) the rural population amounted to 83.37 cr ( say 16.6 cr families – 68.9% of the total population ). The total workers were listed as 48.17 cr ( say nearly two per family) and out of that 26.31 cr were cultivators and agricultural labour i.e 54.6 % of the total working population. Of the total 26.31 cr population working on agricultural lands 14.43 cr ( 54.9%) were landless agriculture labourers and only 11.48 cr population ( just 45.1%) has own land.
The per hectare productivity of rice during 2000-01 in India was 19.13 Qtl and 31 Qtls ( 2009) where as in Japan it was 64.10 Qtl kgs. and in China it was 63.20 Qtls (2000-1) & 65 Qtls ( 2009). Similarly, the productivity of wheat was 72.40 qtl.(2001) and 74 Qtl( 2009) in France and 72.50 Qtl (2001). in UK while in India it is much lower at 25.53 Qtl ( 2000-1). per hectare. & 29 Qtls ( 2009) and in China it was 47 Qtls(2009). During the fertilizer used in China 927 units as against1337 units used in India. The data itself speaks what performance indian agencies have given on ground as compared to China. India has to match China in efficiency and production units instead of playing sentimental cards like simply asking for boycotting the Chineese products even if they cost 1/3rd as compared to indian product to a sweating common man. Instead government must call on the industrial sector and the public service sector ( government machinery / public servants) to improve upon their money use efficiency so as to lower the costs of inputs and products of common consumption, China has lesser agricultural land than India but produces much more food grains than what India produces , one would ask why is it so inspite of the fact that the Indian farmer works so hard ?
The farmers’ unrest across the country, and particularly even across BJP-ruled States should not be taken by surprise. Narendra Modi in 2014 promised the farmers in the name of “acchhe din” considering doubling of farm incomes in five years if voted to power by atleast ensuring MSPs ( minimum support prices for agri produce ) 50% more than the costs as recommended by the Commission like the one headed by M S Swaminathan. Farmers have been waiting for these promises to be fulfilled.
No doubt the prices of agriculture produce need be sufficient for the honorable survival of the rural community. But it can also not be overlooked that the agricultural farm labour too has to bear the burden of the minimum support prices fixed for the farm produce and hence would demand more labour from the producer . Therefore simply increasing the minimum procurement costs (MSPs) would not be a total solution. So, it is also high time for the non governemntal gaencies / social activists/ indian civic society/ agriculturist families / rural india to ask the government even for withdrawing the income tax exemptions and instead demand from the government reduced indirect taxes , reduction in cost of farm inputs and provisions like quality education & health cover at the village level. How long the Politicians will be allowed to take refuge for their failures on these accounts under the ‘umbrella’ of “income tax exemption” and regular promises of “bad loan waivers” for agriculture sector on ‘election eves’ ? .
(Daya Sagar is a Sr Journalist and a social activist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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