Citizenship goes beyond belonging to a sovereign nation. It also entails deliberation, reflection and participation by the people, especially on various issues concerning them and the nation. Furthering this, at Socratus Foundation, we enabled farmers to participate in this process, become full citizens by deliberating on themes relevant to them, and contributing to the policy dialogue. For the same, from 15th to 17th August, 2022, we conducted a Citizen Jury process on 'Dignified Income for Agricultural Households' in New Delhi.
India has 800 million people of employable age, a number that is estimated to reach 1100 million by 2050. More than 50% of that working population still derives livelihood from agriculture and allied activities, despite the reduction in the last two decades. Given the absence of an employment boom in other sectors, the phenomenon of jobless growth becoming a global trend and the unsustainability of massive rural-to-urban migration, we need to acknowledge that a large section of our population is likely to remain in agriculture and allied activities. Therefore, we should focus our economic policies to improve small farmer livelihoods, rural non-farm livelihoods and ecological sustainability.
The outlook for farmers is plagued with challenges. India has been producing an excess of wheat and rice, but it lags significantly in the overall nutrition profile. The current rate of ecological deterioration and damage is already causing problems. While prices for inputs and services are soaring, the prices farmers get for produce don't rise in concert.
While improving farmer livelihoods is a matter of discussion, we can all agree that a dignified and secure income should be available of every hardworking agricultural household.
<aside> 💡 How do farmers envision a dignified future? What are some ways to improve their incomes and secure livelihoods sustainably? What does a dignified income mean for different categories of farmers in the country?
To answer these questions, Socratus conducted a ‘Citizen Jury of Farmers’. This Citizen Jury is a space in which a jury composed of regular people sit in judgment on policies and other developments that affect their lives and livelihoods. The jury's views add much-needed diversity of voices to policy-making dominated by specialists. These are voices unconstrained by subject boundaries and ideologies and enriched by real-life experiences and worldviews.
The process involved in the Citizen Jury is just as important as the verdict - it evokes the collective wisdom of those who are usually denied the opportunity to stand in judgment. Therefore, the jury was comprised of farmers, to collectively deliberate and come up with their recommendation.
Stakeholders for different policy positions - academics, farmer union members independent experts, decision makers etc - from different schools of thought were invited to present to the jury. The jury had the ability to directly cross-examine the presenters, before discussing on the verdict among themselves.
Jury Process (Hindi)
Every Citizen Jury process entails the following set of important stakeholders.