India is ranked second worldwide in agricultural output and is the largest economic sector of India. It is main occupation of 58% Indian population. Different regions celebrating different agricultural festivals clearly indicate role of agriculture in Socio-Economic fabric of India. In terms of size of Industry, agriculture and allied sectors (including agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery) is estimated to be 17.3 per cent of the Gross Value Added (GVA) during 2016-17 at 2011-12 prices and it accounts for about 10% of the country's exports. India is world’s largest producer of many fresh fruits and vegetables, major spices, select fibrous crops such as jute, staples such as millets and castor oil seed. Not only this India is the second largest producer of wheat and rice, the world's major food staples. India has been the world's largest producer of milk for the last two decades and contributes 19 per cent of the world's total milk production. But even after being largest sector in employment generation, it has always remained the most unorganized sector of India. One of the reasons is that not enough attention is given to agricultural sector and the second is short sighted policies in agricultural sector by political classes of India. As a first step, we need to understand the basic problems faced by Indian farmers.
For understanding real issues, we need to see why the farmers are forced to take up loans. Farmers are facing serious issues of less income due to fragmented land holding, depleting water table levels, deteriorating soil quality, rising input costs, low productivity and inappropriate rains. To manage expenses, they are often forced to borrow loans which subsequently they are not able to repay. Is the one-time loan waiver solution to problems of farmers? I shall say NO. This has been done by the UPA government once but still the farmers are under debt. The loan waiver can be one-time solution to some farmers but will never be helping the farmers permanently. So, if we want to make our farmers independent and debt free, we must lay emphasis on resolving the issues which are leading to less income. Using some innovative methods and new technologies these issues can be resolved and farmers will have some amount in their hands to manage expenses. To counter the issues faced by farmers NDA government under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi has taken much awaited and needed steps in agricultural sector. Government has come up with many schemes due to which farming is becoming occupation by choice rather than by compulsion. Some of the schemes of GOI which have proved to be boon for farmers are:
- Soil health card: Under this scheme, the government issues soil cards to farmers which will encompass crop-wise recommendations of nutrients and fertilizers required for the individual farms to help farmers to improve productivity through judicious use of inputs. Using the information in soil health card farmers will have knowledge about the strength, weaknesses (micro-nutrients deficiency) of the soil and measures to deal with it. In 2016 Union budget of India, Rs. 568 crores have been allocated to states for making soil health cards and set up labs.
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY): PMKSY has been formulated with the vision of extending the coverage of irrigation ‘Har Khet ko pani’ and improving water use efficiency ‘More crop per drop' in a focused manner with end to end solution on source creation, distribution, management, field application and extension activities. PMKSY has been formulated amalgamating ongoing schemes viz. Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme (AIBP) of the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation (MoWR, RD & GR), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) of Department of Land Resources (DoLR) and the On Farm Water Management (OFWM) of Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC). PMKSY has been approved for implementation across the country with an outlay of Rs. 50,000 crores in five years. For 2015-16, an outlay of Rs. 5,300 crores have been made which includes Rs. 1,800 crores for DAC; Rs. 1,500 crores for DoLR; Rs. 2,000 crores for MoWR (Rs. 1,000 crores for AIBP; Rs. 1,000 crores for PMKSY).
- Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY): It aims to provide insurance coverage and financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of any of the notified crop because of natural calamities, pests & diseases. Indirectly this scheme will also encourage farmers to adopt innovative and modern agricultural practices. The scheme will ensure flow of credit to the agriculture sector.
- e-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM): NAM addresses the challenges due to fragmentation of mandis by creating a unified market through an online trading platform, both, at State and National level and promotes uniformity, streamlining of procedures across the integrated markets, removes information asymmetry between buyers and sellers and promotes real time price discovery, based on actual demand and supply, promotes transparency in auction process, and access to a nationwide market for the farmer, with prices commensurate with quality of his produce and online payment and availability of better quality produce and at more reasonable prices to the consumer. As of now e-NAM is being deployed in selected 585 regulated wholesale markets in States/UTs desirous of joining the e-platform. To facilitate assaying of commodities for trading on NAM, common tradable parameters have been developed for 90 commodities.
- Rashtriya Krisi Vikas Yojana (RKVY): In order to enable farmers to produce and sell crops with net better remuneration, govt has allocated Rs 15,722 crores for next three years. As per official statement “The main objective of the scheme is making farming a remunerative economic activity through strengthening the farmer’s effort, risk, mitigation and promoting agri-business entrepreneurship”. Through this scheme the states will be incentivized to link farmers to the market and also to produce more value-added crops.
- Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA): Main aim of SAMPADA is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease agri-waste. SAMPADA is an umbrella scheme incorporating ongoing schemes like Mega Food Parks, Integrated Cold Chain and Value Addition Infrastructure, Food Safety and Quality Assurance Infrastructure etc.
- Neem coating of urea: One most important step taken by Modi government is that of neem-coating of all urea supplies meant for use by farmers. This has not only helped in better results for crops but also resulted in elimination of diversion to chemical industries and smuggling to neighboring countries.
- Inter linking of rivers: Other important task taken up by Modi government is that of inter linking of rivers. This will surely help in resolving the issue of scarcity of water. Also, more emphasis is laid in drip system and rain water harvesting to help farmers.
With many good initiatives, hard work and good intentions, Modi government will surely achieve its stated objective of doubling the farmer’s income. Government is fully committed to the mantra of “Nothing is impossible” and the day is not far when our self-dependent farmers will proudly say that they don’t want loans anymore.
What government needs to do further:
- To develop an integrated, easy to use platform through which even a novice farmer can get every single information about every single scheme of govt. In other words, we need to make a Google for Indian agriculture.
- To provide efficient connectivity to each village. Through efforts of Modi government, fibre optics cable has reached most of the villages but still villagers are unaware of making use of it. Free internet connectivity to limited government sites would be very helpful. This will advertise the new government schemes as well as would help in direct connect between government and farmers.
- Use of technology and modern methods must be advertised extensively. Along with direct income from farming, government should put more efforts in educating our farmers of earning indirectly using poultry, fisheries, forestry etc. Educating farmers about other farming products which can be grown on their land and are much in demand can help them increase their income. Agriculture universities need to get involved more in educating farmers rather than performing only agricultural research. Agriculture fair and festivals should be organized in rural areas to educate farmers about new tools, technologies, researches etc.
- Last but not the least is that farmer-consumer gap must be reduced. An honest start has been made in the form of e-NAM by Modi government.
Pravinda Sahu @pravisah
Views presented here are of the Author.