During the last 15 years or so, the number of farmers in Assam has got drastically reduced. This does not mean that that there are now fewer farmers than we had earlier. What it means is that given the increase in Assam’s population during the last 15 years, the number of farmers is far less than what it should have been. During the last 15 years, the population of the State has increased by about 60 lakh. Against this, the number of farmers has increased by only 330,000. The shortfall of farmers is particularly noticeable in the nine districts of Kamrup, lbari, Darrang, Barpeta, Bangaigaon, Jorhat, Lakhimpur, Sivasagar and Dibrugarh. In several districts, farmers have begun to give up farming and opt for other vocations. At present, the cultivable land in the State is 30.16 lakh hectares, and 98.77 per cent of this is in rural areas. Of the 30.16 lakh hectares of cultivable land, 15.22 lakh hectares are cultivated only once a year. According to official reports, in seven of the nine districts mentioned above, there has been an actual decline in the number of farmers. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of workers who are connected with farming activities. In 2015, the production of paddy in the State was 54 lakh tonnes. In 2016, this got reduced to 52 lakh tonnes. In addition, there were other avoidable misfortunes. Due to overuse of fertilizers, the shelf-life of potatoes grown in the State has got so drastically reduced that huge quantities of potatoes have had to be thrown away.
Over the years, people have referred to Assam’s economy as an agrarian economy. But given the present trend of farmers wanting to give up farming in favour of other means of livelihood, any talk about Assam having an agrarian economy would seem like a myth. What is very visible is a reluctance to do any hard work. If our farmers give up farming just because farming is hard work, we shall have no economy worth talking about. The right course of action would be to diversify our farming activity and combine it with fisheries so that we have a kind of food production that reflects our food preferences. This is beginning to happen in a limited way in some farms of the State, but the trend needs to be promoted and popularized.