The government had  failed to answer that question “Who is the farmer” when it was asked in Parliament last week. 

  • The government’s ambiguity has serious implications for the design and beneficiaries of the schemes meant to help them, including its flagship PM-KISAN (Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi).

Government stand on the definition of “Farmer”

  • The Centre evaded giving any definition of a farmer.
  •  Government  said agriculture is a State subject.
  • The centre has provided data on the number of agricultural landholdings.
  • The Centre provides income support to all farmer families who own cultivable land, that is, via the PM-KISAN scheme.

Problem with the centres definition on the farmers.

  • The number of land holdings do not necessarily equate with the number of farming households.
  • It was noted that dairy farmers, fisherfolk, fruit and flower growers, as well as landless agricultural workers would not fit into a narrow definition where farmers 
  • The centre had  linked farmers  to the ownership of land alone.
  • Farmer leaders and researchers point out that the definition of a farmer is not merely a philosophical or semantic question, but rather has practical implications.

Under the National Commission of Farmers(2007) headed by M.S. Swaminathan

  • The term ‘FARMER’ will refer to a person actively engaged in the economic and livelihood activity of growing crops and producing other primary agricultural commodities
  • This will include all agricultural operational holders, cultivators, agricultural labourers, sharecroppers, tenants, poultry and livestock rearers, fishers, beekeepers, gardeners, pastoralists, non-corporate planters and planting labourers, as well as persons engaged in various farming related occupations such as sericulture, vermiculture and agro-forestry
  • The term will also include tribal families or persons engaged in shifting cultivation and in the collection, use and sale of minor and non-timber forest produce.


Implication of  government’s apathy towards the farmer.

  • There is a deliberate attempt to fudge it to escape responsibility for the welfare of all farmers.
  • He noted that most schemes meant for farmers’ welfare, including the procurement of wheat and paddy at minimum support prices, are effectively available only for land owners. 
  • Even in death, those who work on the land may not be identified as farmers for the purposes of counting farmer suicides.
  • According to Census 2011, there are 11.8 crore cultivators and 14.4 crore agricultural workers.

 In practice, those who cultivate or work on the land but do not own it are excluded from access      to agricultural credit and interest subvention for farm loans.

  • Crop insurance and loan waivers go to loanees so they are left out of that as well.
  •  Access to subsidised crop inputs is difficult without identification as farmers.
  •  In the event of crop failure, compensation is only given to owners. 
  • Direct income support schemes such as PM-KISAN are limited to owners.
  • Tax exemption is usually claimed by owners who give an unverified affidavit that they cultivate the land.
  • Linking the identity of a farmer to land ownership has devastating consequences women farmers who constitute 60%-70% of total farmers  but their names are rarely on ownership documents.


  • There is a need to convert the M.S. Swaminathan Commission’s definition into a legal and actionable tool for identification.
  • Geo-tagging: can help develop annual record to determine who is actually cultivating the each piece of land in an era of GPS, GIS and Aadhaar, this should not be that difficult.
  • Expansion of  the term “farmer” : Out of the intended beneficiary of 14.5 Crs only, 7.5 crore farmers have benefited so far.If the budget is available, why not expand the definition of farmers under the scheme and give the benefit to all those

The policy emphasises the need to substantially increase the net income of farmers and develop support services for them, using that comprehensive definition.