According to the National Federation of Cooperative Sugar Factories, many mills and farmers are opting for mechanised harvesting and are purchasing large numbers of sugarcane harvesters. Sugarcane cutters from Maharashtra’s Marathwada region who migrate to the sugar belt during the cane cutting season are unsure if they will return next season.
With sugarcane, however, this is not the only case. Tillage, sowing, planting, harvesting, reaping, threshing, plant protection, inter-cropping, and residue management in all crops are being mechanised across states, with the Central Government pushing for farming mechanisation aggressively. In fiscal years 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20, the Centre released funds to state governments totaling Rs 1,591.02 crore, Rs 2,502.69 crore, and Rs 2,101.93 crore, respectively, for farm mechanisation.
‘We bought our own sugarcane harvesting machine, which has helped us in a variety of ways. It has helped us save money and energy. We can now cut sugarcane without having to wait for cutters. ‘Many times, sugarcane extract was reduced due to a lack of cane cutters,’ says Dilip Jadhav, who took advantage of the government’s scheme to purchase a sugarcane harvester. He is adamant that farming mechanisation is critical to making agriculture profitable.
The Advantages of Mechanization
The Ministry of Agriculture informed the Lok Sabha on Tuesday that impact assessment studies show that mechanisation has a net positive impact on farming, as it has been reported that mechanisation has increased productivity by 17.9% and seed germination by 14.1%.
‘Mechanisation also helped to save approximately one-third of the time of operational activities, 30% reduction in manual tasks, 11% reduction in seed rate, 26.6% reduction in weed instances, 22.4% reduction in diesel consumption, and 12.7% reduction in fertiliser requirements,’ the Ministry mentioned.
As per government data, 12,66,844 machines and equipment were subsidised for farmers; 14,182 custom hiring hubs, 310 high-tech centers, and 13,080 farm machinery banks were established across the states. The Centre has introduced a special dedicated scheme, Sub Mission on Agriculture Mechanization (SMAM), to boost farm mechanisation, under which a 40-50 percent subsidy is provided to buy various types of agricultural equipment and machinery.
How this affects the farmworkers?
According to Census 2011, the country has 263.1 million agricultural workers, including 118.8 million cultivators and 144.3 million agricultural labourers.
‘There is no doubt that mechanisation is necessary, but the livelihood of farmworkers remains a major concern. Many farm labourers are already migrating to cities for work, but a large number of people remain dependent on agriculture work,’ says agriculture expert Sampatrao Pawar.
As per Anil Ghanwat of Shetkari Sanghatana, if farmers are given market and technology freedom, the agriculture sector could provide employment.