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About Farmers’ Distress Index


The Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (CRIDA), an institution under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), is developing an Early Warning System called “Farmers’ Distress Index”, a first of its kind for India.


GS III: Agriculture

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Farmers’ Distress Index
  2. Significance
  3. Mitigating Farmers’ Distress through Interventions:

About Farmers’ Distress Index:

  • The Farmers’ Distress Index aims to anticipate and prevent agrarian distress by providing early warnings and facilitating proactive interventions.
  • It focuses on minimizing crop loss, income shock, and other forms of distress experienced by farmers.
Development Process of the Index:
  • The index development involves multiple steps, including monitoring local newspapers, news platforms, and social media to identify instances of farmers’ distress.
  • Telephonic interviews with small, marginal, and tenant farmers are conducted, using standardized questions to detect early signs of distress.
  • The collected data is then mapped against seven indicators to assess the level of distress.
The Seven Indicators:
  • Exposure to risks: Examining the farmers’ vulnerability to risks such as extreme climate events and market fluctuations.
  • Debt: Assessing the farmers’ debt burden and their ability to repay loans.
  • Adaptive capacity: Evaluating the farmers’ ability to adapt to changing circumstances and implement effective strategies.
  • Landholding: Considering the size of land owned or operated by the farmers.
  • Irrigation facilities: Analyzing the availability and access to irrigation systems.
  • Mitigation strategies: Examining the presence of measures or initiatives taken to mitigate agricultural risks.
  • Socio-psychological factors: Assessing the psychological well-being and social support systems of farmers.
Interpreting the Index:
  • The Farmers’ Distress Index assigns a value between 0 and 1 to indicate the level of distress.
  • Values ranging from 0 to 0.5 represent low distress, 0.5 to 0.7 indicate moderate distress, and values above 0.7 signify severe distress.
  • In cases of severe distress, the index helps identify the specific indicator contributing the most to farmers’ distress.


  • The index enables various entities, including government bodies and non-governmental agencies, to receive early warnings about impending farmers’ distress.
  • It facilitates proactive interventions to address the distress and minimize its impact on farmers and the agricultural sector.

Mitigating Farmers’ Distress through Interventions:

  • Based on the severity of distress indicated by the Farmers’ Distress Index, different agencies can implement interventions to prevent income shocks and support affected farmers.
  • Proposed solutions include direct money transfer and mid-term release of claims under government crop insurance schemes in case of crop failures.
    • For example, under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), insurance claims are typically processed after a full survey is completed. However, if the index predicts severe distress in the upcoming weeks, the government can provide interim relief under the scheme to alleviate immediate financial burdens for farmers.
  • These interventions aim to provide timely support and ensure that farmers receive necessary assistance during periods of distress, helping them sustain their livelihoods and recover from agricultural setbacks.

-Source: Down To Earth

December 2023