Cooperative Farming in India: (For and Against Arguments)!
Argument in Favour of Co-Operative Farming are:
1. Economies of Scale:
The most important point to be said in favour of co-operative farming is that it prevents subdivision and fragmentation of land which obstructs various schemes of agricultural development in India.
The consolidation of land in large and compact blocks will permit more land to be brought under cultivation. This, in its turn, will make many types of investment profitable.
Such investments cannot be undertaken on the small and scattered plots. It is possible, for example, to use costly agricultural equipment like pump-sets, tractors, threshers, etc. only when the area of operation is sufficiently large. Similarly, irrigation schemes would be useless on fragmented plots because a large quality of irrigation water (which is a costly input) would go waste.
In other words, large irrigation projects, if undertaken, will bear fruit only when the water can be properly utilised on a large area of land. Only through enlargement of the area of operation is it possible to raise both land productivity (yield per hectare) and labour productivity (yield per worker) substantially.
Critics often argue that the yield per hectare can be raised by adopting other methods as well—such as more intensive cultivation of each individual plot. But the fact remains that for raising yield per worker (specially, per man-hour) it is absolutely essential to increase the area under agricultural operation. In short, economies of scale associated with large-scale farming can be derived only by pooling land of numerous small farmers.
2. Release of Workers for Non-Agricultural Operations:
Higher productivity per worker in agriculture is the first precondition of economic progress. As Prof. D. Bhattacharya has rightly commented: “It helps to release workers for non-agricultural work whose scope greatly expands with economic progress. At the same time supply of agricultural products can be maintained to meet the requirements of workers working outside agriculture. The process of industrialization in India depends to a very large extent on the increased productivity of the workers in agriculture.”
3. Marketable Surplus:
Thirdly, co-operative farming is likely to lead to an increase in the quantum of marketable surplus by making the collection of surpluses easier than under individual farming. The quantum of marketable surplus generated from the agricultural sector is an important determinant of a country’s material progress. But planners and policy-makers in India have often failed to take note of this fact.
4. Administrative Convenience:
Fourthly, such farming is advantageous to the government also. It is anybody’s guess that the smaller the number of agricultural farms the easier it is for the government to collect taxes, distribute subsidies and, generally, introduce better agricultural practices (i.e., modern method of cultivation based on sophisticated technology).
Finally, large farms are also more creditworthy than small cultivating units and can attract a sufficiently large amount of finance for agricultural improvement. Without sufficient credit it is not possible to derive the advantages of large-scale commercialised farming.
The above five arguments have been put forward in India during the plan period to create an enthusiasm for co-operative farming societies for small and medium cultivators as a matter of prime importance.
Arguments Against the Co-Operative Farming:
However, various arguments have been put forward against co-operative farming in India.
The following points may be noted in this context:
1. Unemployment Problem:
Prima facie, in India the working population is so dependent on agriculture, and alternative employment opportunities outside agriculture are so limited that it will not be judicious to introduce co-operative farming for mechanising agriculture.
Agricultural mechanisation due to large-scale introduction of co-operative farming is likely to make more workers redundant in the rural areas than can be absorbed in the industrial centres. In fact, the problem of unemployment has already reached serious proportions. So introduction of co-operative farming practices is likely to aggravate the problem of both rural and urban unemployment in a labour- surplus country.
2. Availability of Better Alternatives:
It is also argued that there are other methods of raising agricultural productivity such as the supply of high yielding varieties of seeds, fertilisers and implements to the farmer. Service co-operatives may be formed to overcome the difficulty of organising such supplies to a large number of small farms.
Such co-operatives serve limited but useful purpose of enabling farmers to obtain supplies of inputs and distributing these among themselves and, thus, enable each farmer to reap the benefits of large scale organisation. It is felt that service cooperatives enable the farmers to achieve the best of both the worlds: improving his methods of working by merging his plot of land with those of others.
3. Loss of Independence:
Another argument against co-operative farming is that it is also difficult to set up a co-operative farm and hold its members together. Land is not only the most important income-earning asset but is also a status symbol for farmers. This explains why peasants have a deep sense of attachment for their individual plots and are always eager to work independently of others.
As Prof. D. Bhattacharya has put it “Individual farming is essential for genuine independence and co-operative farming involves at least some restriction on freedom”. Even if joint farms are setup, various difficulties are likely to arise in future. Such difficulties may relate to the valuation of land, the suitable reward for appropriate effort put by members and the joint sharing of profits.
4. Managerial Difficulties:
Finally, it will be difficult to find qualified persons for farm management. In most rural areas it is not possible to find managers who can deal with a large area of land and large number of men for both political and other reasons.
An Overall Assessment:
For all these difficulties the movement for co-operative farming is yet to gain momentum in India. There is a feeling among some people that it is not very difficult to organise co-operative farming. But it is considered undesirable because of its political implications. In this context Prof. D. Bhattacharya comments: “The chances of genuine co-operation among India’s peasantry, however, are so small at present that large-scale expansion of co-operative farming is unlikely to take place in the near future.”
But there is the need to impart proper training to farmers in co-operative methods whenever the gains from such co-operatives are likely to be substantial. To conclude with Prof. Bhattacharya: “Co-operative farming, in the proper sense of the term, must of necessity entail some break with existing patterns of ownership and work. In a democracy such disturbances to established practice are likely to be accepted only when there comes to be established a definite preference for the new system in the public mind. All available indications point out that there is as yet no such marked preference for the system of co-operative farming among the Indian people.”
In this situation the task of the Government would be to educate the rural people and clearly demonstrate the superiority of the co-operative system of farming over the present small-scale peasant farming practices.