In certain parts of Tamilnadu, the wages for agricultural and other unskilled workers have increased by about 100% in the last three years. Workers, who used to get Rs.70 per day for 5 hours of work, demand and get Rs.150 per day. Wages for harvesting sugar cane (the process of cutting grown cane) have gone up to over Rs. 350 a tonne. This is more than 25% of the price which farmers will receive for 1 tonne of sugar cane. One would expect that the monthly earning and standard of life of the workers have gone up. But unfortunately it has not. What has happened is that workers who used to go for work for 10 to 12 days a month are now working for only 5 to 6 days a month. Thus the total earnings per month remains more or less the same.
On the other hand farmers have started keeping larger area fallow, for want of affordable agricultural labor which, makes agriculture unremunerative. The overall agricultural production has not gone up. In some cases, production is coming down at such a scale that in the foreseeable future, India may have to import very large quantities of agricultural produce. Keeping agricultural land fallow is a great national loss.
Very often farmers do not harvest the crops and leave the produce in the land. This happens when the prices of vegetables drop to around Rs. 1 per kg but the wages remain at Rs. 150 per day. Classic examples are tomatoes and radish. This is a tragic loss, not only to the farmers but also to the nation.
The prices of agricultural produce and wages for workers should be fixed that one has to work for about 15 days a month for meeting his essential requirements of food, clothing and housing and another 10-15 days for non-essential expenditure like entertainment, electrical household gadgets, mechanized transport, education of children in private schools, medical treatment from private doctors, holiday tours, purchase of jewellery etc. The quality of life of the people will go up and the national income will rise.