The Socio-Economic conditions of agricultural labour are very poor, Agricultural labour is one who works for daily wages, unorganized and most of them come from lower castes and they are the most depressed and neglected section in the society.
The agricultural labour produces food grains, vegetables, fruits, etc.. by making his hands and legs dirt in the soil and working hard but the fact is many of them strive from hunger and beg their owners to get loans to feed their family even today.
Even though a lot of improvements have been seen from the past 4-5 decades, still it is the sector which is suffering from an extreme level of poverty and social status.
According to the national commission on labour, there is an increase in 2.5% of agricultural labour every year. The increase in 10-20% of wages is not at all sufficient due to the increase in the prices of daily commodities.
The number of Agricultural labours increased from 27.3 million in (1951) to 74.6 million in (1991), which tells us the number of agricultural labours has multiplied by 3 times within the period.
Socio-Economic Problems of Agricultural Labour in India
1) Unorganized Labour
The Agricultural labours generally illiterate because they receive education hardly primary school or even totally ignored due to their economic conditions of their family.
In Industries the labours are well organized because they are educated and their lifestyle is better than agricultural labours due to the opportunities created in cities which lack in villages.
Agricultural labours bargaining power is very less and they lead a miserable life. They will not have a regular income, timings, nor any set of rules, hence they are highly unorganized.
2) The Absence of Social Security Measures
Agricultural labourers in India are not provided with any social security measures like accident benefits, old-age pension, insurance, medical benefits, etc. This kind of discrimination is mainly due to the unorganized nature of agricultural workers.
Even though the government provides some facilities, many people will not able to get the benefit due to the unawareness of the schemes.
3) Low Wages and Income
Agricultural wages and family income of agricultural labours are very low in India, as a result, their standard of living is poor.
With the Green Revolution, the wages have increased but with the increase in prices for daily used commodities and the expenses, they meet still the wages they are getting the same accordingly.
4. Unskilled Labour
Agricultural labours are basically unskilled because there will be no training given to them. They use old practices for cultivation due to the lack of knowledge and adaptation of new technology available in the market.
Agricultural labour is indebted because of the seasonal nature of their employment, extreme poverty and low level of family earnings made them heavily indebted.
In the absence of the banking system in most of the rural areas the money lenders dominate the situation by receiving high-interest rates, in some cases, it goes to 40-50% which cannot be paid back throughout his lifetime, hence they will be held as a hostage till he pays.
6) Migratory in Character
Agricultural labourers are migratory in character, they do not get gainful employment in their places throughout the year. Therefore, they will go to other places in search of jobs.
Some labours migrate to cities to earn more ultimately they land up getting jobs as construction labours and get the same because even they get little more than rural areas the cost of living is high in cities.
7) Child Labour
The employment of children under the age of 14 is called child labour and it is a serious problem in India. Almost 90% of working children in rural areas are involved in agriculture and allied activities.
It is the fact that one-third of the child labours in Asia are from India, hence the government must do something which can bring them to schools and help them with basic needs.
8) Seasonal Unemployment
The agricultural labourers do not have continuous work, because agriculture is a seasonal occupation it depends on the crops and season, and then they will be in search of other jobs for time being to survive.
9) No Unity
As agricultural workers spread to millions of villages across the country, they lack unity because they don’t have any leadership like Unions in Industries. Therefore, they can not negotiate their salaries, interest rates, etc. with the landlords.
10) Long Hours of Work
The hours of work of agricultural labourers are not fixed like the industrial labourers generally, they have to do long hours of work. This has diversely affected their health and efficiency.
Government Measures to Solve Agricultural Labour problems in India
a) Abolition of Bonded Labour
Bonded labour is the one who commits himself as a pledge, or a member of his family against a loan until the repayment of the borrowed money.
Here the landlord exploits the workers by paying low wages and extracting more work, it is nothing but slavery system.
The government of India abolished the bonded labour system in 1976. By 2007 about 2.86 lakhs bonded labourers were freed and about 2.66 lakhs bonded labourers were rehabilitated by providing loans, houses, employment, etc.
b) Schemes for Providing Employment
There are many schemes introduced by the government to empower the rural and agricultural people, some of them are National Rural Employment Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojana (JGSY), Rural Employment (CSRE), National Food for Work Programme (NFFWP), and the popular scheme “Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act MGNREGA”.
c) Abolition of Child Labour
The work of children under the age of 14 is considered child labor and it is a serious problem in India.
About 90% of the working children in the rural areas employed in agriculture and allied activities. Normally they will be paid very low wages.
In 1986 the government of India passed the Child Labour Prohibition Act, this act prohibits the appointment of children below 14 years of age in any kind of hazardous or non-hazordous jobs. As per this policy, the government has already rehabilitated 2.5 lakhs children by opening 3000 schools all over India.
d) Special Agencies Set-up
There have been special agencies set-up to help the agricultural labours like the Small Farmers Development Agency (SFDA) and the Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labourers Development Agency (MFAL) were formed in 1970-1971 to address the problems of agricultural labor in the country.
e) Minimum Wages Act
The Minimum Wages Act was brought in the year 1948 itself but the question arises how much does it actually applicable?
Even today the wages differ from state to state and even place to place. There is no one to monitor properly and send advice to the government about the poor economic conditions of agricultural labour.
The agricultural labours should be respected more or equal to the Industrial labours or else they will leave the job in their difficult times and migrate to cities for other work, which will affect us in the shortage of food because the production comes down and the demand increases and there will be the shortage of supply.