Surging ahead to prosperity
Development of agricultural infrastructure is imperative for the welfare of the Indian farmer
Under the guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, enthusiastic and positive results of the sustained efforts made for the betterment of agriculture sector and farmers are visible. The Modi government is committed to welfare of farmers. As a result, there has been a qualitative improvement in their lives. For the development of the country, Modi government has set new standards for transparency.
Under the guidance of the Prime Minister, the government has transformed the targets meant for the implementation of farmers' welfare schemes in a mission in a time-bound manner. Our government has laid the foundation of a modern and future-oriented India with new dimensions, innovations and reformist approach to good governance. Modi government has been successful in bringing about awareness amongst farmers through new initiatives taken for the development of agriculture sector in the country. In this tenure, there has been a concerted effort to bring qualitative changes in the life of farmers and rural areas.
The President of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) Dr. Swaminathan had advised the then government through its recommendations in his report in 2006 that proper attention should be given to welfare of farmers along with agro-based approach. Farmers provide an important direction to the efforts made for economic reforms.
Therefore, to make radical changes in the system, proper emphasis should be given to post-harvest marketing and related arrangements. Keeping in view the unabated erosion of natural resources and climate change, the Agriculture Commission had also brought to attention the management of science-based natural resources and sustainable production and development.
On August 6, 2018, Dr. Swaminathan, in his article published in the Times of India said that "Although the NCF report was submitted in 2006 very little action was taken until the present government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office. Fortunately, over the last four years, several significant decisions have been made to improve the status and income of farmers."
The government has taken a number of initiatives for the development of agriculture sector, remunerative returns for farmers' produce and reducing the cost of production. These efforts have resulted in significant transformation in their lives. Establishing the nationwide soil health card scheme is an important aspect of this thought.
The government has made the use of neem coated urea mandatory in order to reduce the cost of agriculture and enhance the nitrogen utility competence. Since it has led to enhancement in the productivity and thereby reducing the cost of agriculture, it has also extended a helping hand in preventing its misuse in the non-agriculture sector. Organic farming has been linked with Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PMKY) for sustained agricultural development and soil health, including the in-situ management of rice straw. The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) is a very important scheme to ensure proper water management in agriculture practices. After making an extensive study of the previous schemes and reforming them, it has initiated the world's largest farmer friendly Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna and Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme in 2016. These schemes provide extensive coverage for every sort of risks involved in the agriculture sector.
The National Commission on Farmers had made a number of recommendations for enhancing the income of farmers. Keeping these recommendations in mind, the government has implemented a lot of reformatory schemes. The government has released the Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016 to all states which is a very important step in agricultural reforms. The interests of both, the landholders and the recipient of the lease are protected. The implementation of market reforms has led to the enhancement of transparency in the market. The e-NAM scheme links agriculture markets across the country. Apart from 585 mandis of the country, the government has also set up the National Agricultural Market by focusing on open trade between the mandis. The budget 2018 has highlighted the much-needed new marketing structure. The government has also made arrangements for small and marginal farmers to sell their produce in the nearby markets. There are 22,000 rural markets across the country thereby reducing the gap amongst them. Small and marginal farmers while linking themselves with APMC and e-Nam will be able to sell their produce in an effective way. With the establishment of rural agriculture markets, farmers will be able to sell their produce directly to consumers or retailers and will get remunerative prices. To achieve a strong and competent agricultural market with proper judicial framework, the Modi government has formulated and released a model "Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act 2016" to states. Also, Agriculture Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2018 has been sent to states for adoption.
The decision to give MSP at 50 per cent and more of production cost is a significant step for the farmers. The government is also committed to implementing MSP. Since the start of Green Revolution, procurement was confined only to paddy and wheat. Sometimes, procurement of other commodities was also being made. After the Modi government assumed charge, there has been tremendous enhancement of procurement of pulses and oilseeds. We are determined to extend profits to the farmers of pulses, oilseeds, coarse cereals etc. through the state governments. With procurement of these crops at MSP, it will extend benefits to the farmers who have been deprived since long. These crops are climate-oriented and are tolerant to climate change in the future. The Hon'ble Prime Minister has set the target of doubling the income of farmers on the 75th year of Independence in 2022. For determining the minimum support price and by providing assured returns, including equality and farmers' welfare, the government is providing a new direction. In Dr. Swaminathan's recent article, he said that "The recent announcement of a remunerative price based essentially on the recommendation of NCF is a very important step to ensure the economic viability of farming. To underline, government has ensured in its notification that from kharif 2018 onwards MSP of the notified crops would be minimum of 150 per cent of the cost of production; it ranges from 150-200 per cent for coarse cereals."
In addition to farming, the government is also emphasising on livestock, fisheries, and development of water bodies. The Rashtriya Gokul Mission, based on the conservation and development of indigenous bovine species, is an integral part of the overall development of agriculture sector. This will benefit a lot of small and marginal farmers including landless agriculture labourers who possess these indigenous species of bovines. It is a matter of great pride that 161 indigenous species across the country have been registered and for this purpose ICAR is actively working. The development of fish production development, including marine and freshwater fishes, is improving the lives of the fishermen community. Fish production has achieved more growth rate than all other areas of agriculture.
For small farmers who cannot earn enough income for their family, allied farming is being promoted. Agriculture based collaborative schemes of the government includes beekeeping, mushroom production, agro-forestry and bamboo production etc. The production of natural resources from the farm will help in creating additional employment and income in agriculture. Keeping in view the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers to increase the productivity and eliminate malnutrition, a total of 795 improved varieties of crops have been developed in the last four years by the ICAR out of which 495 varieties are tolerant to climate change. These have been handed over to farmers so that they can take advantage of these advanced varieties. For the first time, a historic initiative has been taken by the government in order to overcome the problem of malnutrition which has long been a part of Indian society. Under this, 20 biofortified varieties were developed and released for cultivation. In order to increase the income of families of marginal and small farmers, 45 Integrated Farming System (IFS) models have been developed. This will help increase soil health, water usage effectiveness and conserve agricultural biodiversity. On economic evaluation, these models have been found to be beneficial in different states. This model is being set up and displayed in every KVK in order to help farmers so that they can be motivated to adopt it by looking at its success thereby helping them earn more income.
In order to implement policy reforms and new schemes in agriculture, adequate budget is provided. In the past few years, Modi government has taken measures to implement and strengthen these schemes and a budgetary provision of Rs 2,11,694 crore has been made. Apart from this, the government has created corpus funds for improving the infrastructure for dairy, cooperative, fisheries and aquaculture, animal husbandry, agriculture market, and micro-irrigation. The government has adopted an income-oriented approach towards sustainable production keeping in mind the welfare of agriculture, farmers and the consumers.
To improve the economic condition of the farmers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set a target of doubling the income of farmers by 2022. For the first time in the country, a Prime Minister has put forward a target for the overall wellbeing of the farmers.
In pursuance of this vision, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare will adopt a concrete strategy based on the recommendations of the constituted committee to achieve the goal of doubling the income of farmers till August 2022 when our country will be celebrating 75th Independence Day. The outcomes are also being visible.
(The author is Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, Government of India. The views expressed are strictly personal)