The Gist of Kurukshetra: July - 2016

The Gist of Kurukshetra: July 2016

Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare: New Initiatives and Challenges

The Union Government has taken a number of initiatives in the area of agricultural development and farmers’ welfare to boost the productivity and raise income of the farmers in the country. These initiatives may be seen in the background of low agricultural growth, a fallout of two consecutive drought years. It is also evident from the facts and figures released by Central Statistical Office (CSO) which show that the agricultural growth rate is plummeting, causing much concern among policy makers.

The new initiatives taken by the government are aimed at correcting this distortion. Finance Minister in his budget speech stressed that there is a need to think beyond ‘food security’ and give farmers a sense of ‘income security’. In order to achieve it, government is reorienting its interventions in the farm and non- farm sectors to double the farmers’ income by 2022. To achieve this, total allocation for agriculture and farmers’ welfare were raised to Rs. 35,984 crore. The new initiatives taken by the present government have been designed to economise the inputs for getting more production from less.

Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana

The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is a new scheme to develop organic clusters and make available chemical free inputs to farmers, and to improve soil health in the fields, with an outlay of Rs. 300 crore. It has open a new era for organic production system by allocating separate funds for this purpose. The PKVY will be implemented through the State Governments.

It is proposed under the scheme that groups of 50 or more farmers, having 50 acre land, would be motivated to take up organic farming under PKVY. In the next three years, it plans to target 10,000 clusters covering 5 lakh acres. To make the scheme attractive for the farmers, it is designed to provide Rs. 20,000 per acre as subsidy to every farmer in the cluster for three years towards adoption of organic farming besides market assistance.

It is interesting to note that a special scheme with an allocation of Rs. 125 crore has been launched in North-Eastern Region for promotion of organic farming and export of organic produce.

Pradhan Mantr; Krishi Sinchai Yojana

The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY) has been launched to ensure the water security in the country with the aim of ‘Har Khet Ko Paani’ (water for each field). The Scheme is based on three pronged strategy-

  • Creating sources of assured irrigation
  • Per drop-more crop
  • Harnessing rain water at micro level through ‘jat-sanchay’ and ‘jal-sinchan’

In this way, the scheme lays stress on end-to-end solutions in irrigation supply chain which includes water sources, distribution network and farm level applications. A total of Rs 5300 crore has been allocated for the year 2015-16 to roll-out the scheme.

Soil Health Card Scheme

The Soil Health Card Scheme is now being implemented with greater vigour. Farmers will get information about nutrient level of the soil and thus will be able to make judicious use of fertilizers. The target is to cover all 14 crore farm holdings by March 2017. Under the Scheme, Rs 368 crore have been provided for National Project on Management of Soil Health and Fertility. In addition, 2,000 model retail outlets of fertilizer companies will be provided with ‘soil, seeds testing facilities’ during the next three years.

National Agriculture Market

The agricultural markets are fragmented not only among the states but even at inter-state level into different market areas, each governed by separate Marketing Committee. This poses the problems of requirement of multiple licenses for trading, levy of market fee at multiple points and other monopolistic and restrictive market practices. This not only hinders the proper market access by the farmers but also the development of required infrastructure for handling the produce in the markets.

To overcome these problems of marketing the agricultural produce, the government has taken the initiative to set up a National Agriculture Market (NAM). For this purpose, the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation (DAC) is constantly in dialogue with states and UTs to carry out reforms in their Agri Market Laws. These reforms include doing away with the concept of market area and enforcing single license which is valid across the state, single point levy of market fee and electronic auction as a mode of price discovery.

Strengthening of Research

Government initiated the process to establish two new Agriculture Universities in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, and two new Horticulture Universities in Telangana and Haryana with initial budget of Rs. 200 crore. In order to give thrust to biotechnology in agriculture, Indian Institute of Agricultural Biotechnology is being established in Ranchi. National Research Centre on Integrated Farming System is to be established in Bihar. National institute of High Security Animal Diseases has been established at Bhopal to address the emergence of exotic and trans-boundary animal and zoonotic diseases. Similarly, National Institute of Veterinary Epidemiology and Disease informatics has been established in Bengaluru to study the changing pattern of emerging and re-emerging animal diseases.

The performance of Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) has been examined by a High Level Committee with a view to make them more relevant and progressive for agricultural development. The recommendations of the Committee include- upgradation of facilities such as soil testing, integrated farming system, improved seed production and processing, water harvesting and micro-irrigation, ensuring availability of electrical/solar power backup, regular and systematic monitoring and third party evaluation. Action has been initiated to implement the recommendations of the Committee.

Five new KVKs were opened in Baksa, Morigaon and Bongaigaon in Assam, Raigarh in Jharkhand and Banaskantha in Gujarat. Each KVK will organize pre-Kharif and pre- Rabi Kisan Sammelan with the consent and participation of local Member of Parliament.

It is well known that the indigenous bovine breeds of India are robust and possess the genetic potential to play an important role in the economy. However, in the absence of a specific programme for development and conservation of indigenous breeds, their potentials has also not been optimally utilized and their population has been declining.

In view of the above, National Gokul Mission, a new initiatives under ‘National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy development’ (NPBBDD) has been launched to conserve and develop indigenous bovine breeds in a focused and scientific manner with an outlay of Rs. 500 crore. For this purpose, integrated cattle development centres named as ‘Gokul Grams’ will be developed. The Gokul Grams will be established in the native breeding tracks and near metropolitan cites for housing the urban-cattle. Gokal Grams which will act as Centre for Development of Indigenous Breeds and a dependable source for supply of high genetic breeding stock. Under the scheme 25 projects from 24 states have been approved.

Under Atal Pension Yojana (APY), farmers who have opened their bank account under the Jan-Dhan Yojana, can get benefits of monthly pension. Salient features of the APY are given below-

The Scheme is applicable for citizens between the age group of 18 and 40 years.

The Government of India will pay 50 per cent of the premium subject to an upper limit of Rs. 1,000 per year, and remaining 50 per cent would be borne by the farmer.

On attaining the age of 60 years, the beneficiary farmers would get a monthly· pension ranging from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5000, depending upon their contributions.

In order to get monthly pension between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 5,000 per month, the subscriber has to contribute on monthly basis between Rs. 42 and Rs. 210, if he or she joins at the age of 18 years. For the same fixed pension levels, the contribution would range between Rs. 291and Rs. 1,454 if the subscriber joins at the age of 40 years.

A new crop insurance scheme named as Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) has been launched from Kharif-2016 season in place of existing National Crop Insurance Scheme, which had some shortcomings like- high premium for the farmers, reduced claims due to capping in premium, delay in payment of claims, its complex provisions, etc. Main features of PMFBY are as follow-

  • The maximum limit of the farmers’ share of premium as token premium is capped at 2 per cent for kharif crops, 1.5 per cent for rabi crops and 5 per cent for annual commercial / horticultural crops. Remaining amount will be borne by the Government.
  • Uniform premium for the crop in the country against the earlier different premium in different districts
  • Claims on full sum insured
  • Enhanced coverage of risks-coverage of additional risks of inundation risks, risks of post harvest losses
  • Target to double the agri insurance coverage in 2-3 years from the present 23 per cent to 50 per cent. Special attention on non-loa nee farmers
  • Localised assessment at individual farm from area approach
  • Provision for assessment of loss at individual farm level on account of losses due to hailstorm, landslide, inundation, cyclone or cyclonic rain and unseasonal rains after harvesting
  • Use of technology like mobile, satellite etc inc the accurate assessment of loss and early payment.

Two-third of our population depends on agriculture directly or indirectly for their livelihoods and thus agriculture and farmers form the backbone of our economy. Strengthening this backbone is the ultimate objective of new initiatives of the government. The deceleration in the agriculture growth rate is mainly due to three reasons-

  • inputs intensive farming like water and fertilizers
  • lack of infrastructural investment and
  • lack of unified market

The new initiatives by the government aim to redress above problems. But, there are some challenges in achieving these objectives, which have been mentioned below.

  • There were initial reactions that budget allocation under Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare was increased. But this was not the fact because increase in agriculture budget was more an account adjustment of funds.

  • Another challenge is that the Centrally Sponsored Schemes are to be financed as per the re-structured way where, the State Governments would be more involved in implementation of the schemes.

  • The centralised approach adopted in the implementation of the schemes of agricultural production, insurance, irrigation in a country which is heterogeneous and different in agro-climatic zones, may be a challenge.

  • The benefits of various initiatives in the form of credit, direct benefit transfer, insurance, etc is dependent on the tenancy reforms and modernisation of land records as commented by the Niti Aayog. Because at present, the benefits of various schemes are going to the owners of the landholdings and not to the operators (tenants) of the landholding2J In fact, the operators are bearing risks and reward is enjoyed by the owner of the holdings. It gives disincentive to de-facto farmers.

  • The benefits under various insurance schemes are useful for farming community as they reduce the risk in undertaking various agricultural activities. But that is only possible if the farmers have their accounts in banks as well as operating them regularly.

  • Agricultural research is very important for the success of lab-to-land programme in the countryside. In this sector, situation is as commented by the Economic Survey 2015-16, “In more recent years, however, agricultural research has been plagued by severe under investment and neglect.” During 12th Five Year Plan, the entire budget allocation in different years for the Education and Extension has not been spent by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

  • Given the significance of agriculture sector in the economy and society, the government of India has initiated several steps for its sustainable development and to enhance the income of the farmers in the country by way of improving soil fertility, improved access efficiency of irrigation, insurance cover to farmers and unified national agriculture market. Different stockholders have to be involved to put these initiatives into action in a sustainable mode. The challenges mentioned in this paper may be addressed so that the expectations of the people may be fulfilled.

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