Ahead of #UnionBudget2019 a postcard for Modi from rural India: Survey of those ordinary Indians who you won't find in the TV studios

India's biggest rural India platform conducts a survey in 19 states just ahead of the Budget. Read and watch findings of the survey all this week only on Gaon Connection

Climate change is now the biggest challenge for one in five farmers. The next generation in 48% farming families does not want to pursue agriculture. When sick, even 36% rural Indians go first to a private doctor. Forty-four per cent farmers say they don't get the correct price for their crops. And farmer loan schemes are not reaching almost 60% people in rural India.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi's new government settles in, these are some of the grim realities rural India is holding out in the findings of a national survey conducted among 18,000 rural respondents across 19 states. The survey was conducted by the rural insight team of Gaon Connection, India's biggest rural media platform.

Ahead of the Union Budget 2019, the survey was conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Punjab, Karnataka, Odisha, Uttrakhand, West Bengal, Telengana and Jammu and Kashmir. The margin of error is +/- 3%.

"What rural India wants is often not known to policymakers in urban India," said Neelesh Misra, founder of Gaon Connection. "There are no credible means and platforms for the central and state governments to know what's on the mind of the rural citizen. Our surveys want to constantly find out, what does rural India want? What are its real priorities?"

Crop prices are a key concern

Crop prices are a key concern. Not getting a fair price for their harvest is one of the biggest farmer problems. Some 43.6% respondents said farmers don't get the correct price for their produce. While 13% respondents said that high debt was their biggest challenge, some 17% said that high input cost – the high prices of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and other raw material for their agriculture – is their biggest problem.

To address this, 62.2% of those surveyed felt that farmers should get to decide the selling price, 30% respondents said the onus to decide the selling price should be, as it is now, on the government which decides the MSP (Minimum Selling Price). One of the biggest promises of the Modi government to the Indian farmer is to find ways on how to double farmers' income.

The Indian rural survey, carried out by a team of 175 surveyors, also explored issues like law and order, women security, medical facilities in rural India, and the searing water scarcity that has affected thousands of villages in India this summer.

Every third woman living in Indian villages has to walk, on an average, half a kilometer to fetch water. At least 61% respondents said their households get water through public taps or hand pumps. Only 8% villagers said they get piped water at home.

Despite strong beliefs to the contrary around women's safety, 63.8% women respondents said they feel safe to step out of their houses.

Stray cattle was seen as a big concern for farmers in Uttar Pradesh, but the survey revealed that this concern resonated across other states as well. Some 44% respondents said that stray cattle was not an issue earlier, but is so now.

Farmers in UP and other states have witnessed the destruction of their crops and attacking herds of cattle have wounded, even killed farmers. As a result, farmers now sit all night in their farms to protect their crops and erect barb wires around their farms, leading to injuries to animals and humans.

Apart from stray cattle, there are other severe challenges to farming. Without calling it to, at least 19% respondents recognized that climate change is happening. They said that sudden and unexpected weather changes are now the biggest challenge to their crops. Millions of farmers across the country have to deal with sudden hailstorms, unseasonal rains, excessive heat and cold that affects agriculture and livelihoods.

Irrigation is a crisis

Irrigation is a crisis that rarely makes headlines but 41% respondents felt that improving their access to irrigation alone will address many of their problems related to agriculture. Thirty per cent respondents said that better prices for their produce would fix their problems related to agriculture. About 20% respondents said their biggest problems would be eased if diesel was affordable.

The Modi government has launched farmer loans, direct benefit transfers and other subsidies apart from other perks offered to farmers by previous governments. However, a whopping 59% of farmers said they are not able to avail of any kind of loan. While 25% of farmers take loans amounting to up to Rs 50,000, 15% of all farmers taken loans amounting to up to Rs 5 lakh, according to the survey.

There are many reasons why farmers don't get to avail loans. The main ones are either they don't have proper information regarding loan facilities or that they believe the paper work is so tedious that it discourages them to even apply for loans.

Rural residents spend most of their earnings on family functions. They also spend on making homes to buy household items. However, only 10% said they manage to save anything.

Internet a boon or bane?

Internet has reached most of the Indian villages. Today, rural India is better informed and well connected than it was before. It has also helped people avail various government schemes and facilitates related to banking and cash transfers.

Most of those living in rural India use the Internet for information dissemination. 38% said they use the Internet for accessing social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. 30% said they use the Internet to get any kind of information. 15% people said they don't have Android mobiles.

Medical facilities and police force

Rural India largely depends on government hospitals. However, while 44% said they go to nearby government hospitals to get treatment, 36% said they rush to private doctors in case of emergencies.

The police force plays an instrumental role in maintaining law and order situation in urban and rural India. However, because people living in rural India are not aware of their rights, they end up running from pillar to post. While 35% felt police is doing a good job, 26.1% said police officers often misuse the power that they have.

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