In this article we will discuss about the problems of agricultural labourers with government measures to sole it.

Problems of Agricultural Labourers: 

Agricultural labourers who are mostly landless and form a significant section of rural society mainly depend on wage employment in agriculture. Majority of them belong to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and among the worst exploited section of society.

Unlike the industrial worker who are well organised agricultural labourers are neither well organised nor well paid. Their income has always been meagre, resulting in poor living heavy indebtedness. Before independence, their position was nothing better than serfs. They were required to do all sort of work from dawn to dusk. They were victim of social discrimination and economic exploitation.

The situation has shown some signs of improvement during the last four decades. Though even now they are the poorest and resource less class in rural areas yet they are no longer a victim of extreme form of oppression. But their economic exploitation cannot be ruled out even today. Even now their level of income is extremely low and not sufficient enough to make both ends meet.


Agricultural wages and family incomes of agricultural workers are very low in India. The average annual income of household was Rs. 477 during 1950-51 which declined to Rs. 437 in 1955-56 according to the agricultural Labour Enquiry Reports. In the seventies there was an interest­ing discussion on whether the conditions of agricultural labourers in terms of real wage rates had improved or deteriorated with the advent of the green revolution.

Using ALE data Bardhan argued that male real wage rate in Punjab and western U.P. declined while it had risen in Kerala Krishana Ji and Jose used Agricultural wages in India (AWI) data to wake inter-state comparisons and concluded that agricultural wages are poorly adjusted to and long behind the rise in the cost of living.

A. V. Jose (1978) argued that real wage rates alone do not tell us about the real earnings of agricultural labourers which are dependent upon:

(1) The agricultural wage rates.


(2) The quantum of employment per year available per worker and

(3) The prices of wage goods consumed by the members of households.

He provided indirect evidence on the decline in employment opportunities to agricultural labourers after 1964-65. There was an increase in real wage rates but per capita income or agricultural labourers had fallen between 1964-65 and 1970-71 in most states.

More recently, Bardhan (1984) attempted another assessment of the so called ‘trickle down’ effects of growth on poverty of agricultural labourers using RLE data. He noted a decline in real daily wages earnings agricul­tural labourers in all states except Uttar Pradesh during 1964-65 to 1974-75. In a nutshell the living condition of agricultural labourers are truly pathetic.


The agricultural labourers have to face the problems of unemployment and underemployment. Labour participation alone is not a very efficient measures of the employment available to labour households since it only indicates the proportion of persons who were working during an agricultural year.

Days of agricultural employment per agricultural employment per agricultural labourer in a particular year would be the net result of changes in the demand and supply of labour. In a year of low agricultural output the demand for labour would be such less, thus reducing the total available days of agricultural employment. On the other hand the supply of labour, in terms of earner’s population ratio, increased, in India during agricultural Scarcity. The days of employment per agricultural would be expected to fall.

Though bonded labour has been abolished in the country, yet news about the existence of this system in rural India keep appearing in daily from various parts of the country. According to the NSS (32nd round) there are still 3.5 lakh bonded labourers in the country. There is no provision fixation of hours of work. During the peak seasons, they have to work on the farms form down to dusk. There is no question of any leave as they are employed on daily basis.

Unlike the industrial worker the agricultural labour is not organised, His employment is mere a matter of personal whim or the employer. The situation is frequently exploited by the employer. The relationship between the landlord and the labourer is not uniform throughout the country. There are substantial differences not only among different state but even among different villages of same state as regards the period bf employment mode of time period of payment freedom of movement, bargaining power vis-a-vis landlords.

Government Measures of Assistance:

Agricultural labour constitutes a significant proportion of total agrarian work force. Minimum wages of agricultural labourers are below.

(i) Fixation of Minimum Wages:

Minimum wage Act of 1948 which provide for the fixation of minimum wages of agricultural workers under the Act, the minimum wage are to be fixed by the state governments and are to be reviewed periodically at intervals not exceeding five years. However, because of number of difficulties was not found possible to fix minimum wages for agricultural labour almost of the states up to 1974.

The main difficulties were small size holdings low productivity of agricultural labour back of organization a rural workers excessive labour supply in many areas act. With increase in the agricultural, production in most of the states the labourers have been demanding Like in wages.

Moreover changes accompanying reforms; increased the aspirations of workers. At present all states have passed legislation of fixation of minimum wages barring Jammu and Kashmir Nagaland and Sikkim.


(ii) Abolition of Bonded Labour:

After independence there have been serious attempts to abolish the bonded labour as it is in human and expletive in nature. A notification abolishing this practice was issued in October 1976. As a consequence of this Act, 2,35,670 bonded labourers were identified and free in various parts of the country upto March 31, 1988.

(iii) Providing Land to Landless Labourers:

The land obtained through the application of ceiling on land ceilings and other land reform measures is being distributed among landless labourers. Labourers Priority in the distribution of land is accorded to the labourers belonging to scheduled castes and scheduled tribe proximately 70 lakh hectares of land has been distributed to landless labourers so far.


(iv) Provision of House Sites:

A number of steps were undertaken during the second Plan to provide house sites free or on subsidy basis. During forth plan a scheme is introduced under which financial assistance was given to the states for provision of house sites with an area of 91 sq. meters to cover the Seventh Plan proposed to provide assistance to the extent of Rs. 500 per family provision of developed house sites of 90 sq, meters each and assistance of Rs. 200 per family towards construction cost.

The twenty point programme introduced during the Emergency period was described as a direct assault on poverty. It gave highest priority to rapid implementation or land costing or provision of house-sites for labourers abolition of labour a moratorium on the recovery of debt from landless labouerers small farmers and rural artisans liquidation of rural indebtedness, legislation for higher minimum wages for agricultural labourers.


Provision like abolition of bonded labour enforcement of minimum liquidation of debt had only a partial success in the absence of infrastructure like grassroots organisation of unions of agricultural labourers or bonded labour.

(v) Sp Schemes for Providing Employment:

A number of schemes have been initiated in the planning period for providing employment to rural poor. In 1978 the small farmers and marginal farmers and agricultural labour agency programme as well as other programmes of rural development like Drought Prone Area Programme were started into what is called the Integrated Rural Development programme. Initially the programme was introduced in 2,400 selected block.

On 2 Oct. 1980 it was extended to all the 5011 blocks in the country. This involves identification of thousands of families within the target group cach block preparation of plans for assisting these families, arranging support for financing these plans, monitoring the implementation follow up that action to ensure that the beneficiaries lasting derive benefit they cross the poverty line.

Supplementing IRDP are programmes like Training Rural youth for Self-Employment (TRYSEM), the Minimum Needs sramme (MNP) and the Special Area Development Programme. Integration Rural Development is a multi-sector, multi-sectional concept encompass developing various sectors of the rural economy like agriculture and transportation and various sections of the rural population landless labourers, artisans small farmers, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

A new programme called Rural Landless Employment Guarantee Programme (RLEGP) was launched 5th August, 1983, to provide employment opportunities to the landless for at least 100 days in year.


Other Measures:

Various other measures adopted by the government from time to time whether directly or in directly sought to improve the conditions of agricultural workers. For example, Promotion of small and cottage industries and villages handicrafts and development of industrial estates in rural areas have created job opportunities for agricultural workers.