What are the measures that the government has taken to improve the lives of farmers and their families?
The government constituted an inter-ministerial committee on April, 2016 to examine issues relating to ‘Doubling of Farmers’ Income’ and recommend strategies to achieve the same. The committee submitted its report to the government on September, 2018 and thereafter, an empowered body was set up (on January 23, 2019) to monitor and review the progress as per these recommendations. Due to the efforts made as part of schemes/ programmes of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare which also aligns with the strategy of doubling farmers’ income, there has been an appreciable improvement in efficiency bringing about a positive impact in the agriculture sector.
Agriculture being a state subject, the state governments undertake implementation of programmes/ schemes to improve the lives of farmers and their families. The centre only supplements the effort of the state governments through various schemes/ programmes.
Various schemes of the government are:
• Implementation of distribution of soil health cards to farmers so that the use of fertilisers can be rationalised.
• ‘Per drop more crop’ initiative under which drip/ sprinkler irrigation is being encouraged for optimal utilisation of water, reducing the cost of inputs and increasing productivity.
• ‘Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)’ to promote organic farming.
• Launch of e-NAM initiative to provide farmers an electronic transparent and competitive online trading platform.
• With a view to provide better insurance coverage to crops for risk mitigation, a crop insurance scheme namely Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was launched. This scheme provides insurance cover for all stages of the crop cycle.
• Under ‘Har Medh Par Ped’, agro forestry is being promoted for additional income.
• The government has approved the increase in the Minimum Support Price (MSPs) for all Kharif and Rabi crops for 2018-19 season at a level of at least 150 percent of the cost of production.
• The government has approved a new umbrella scheme ‘Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)’. The scheme is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce.
• Beekeeping has been promoted under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH) to increase the productivity of crops through pollination and increase the honey production.
• Interest subvention of 2 per cent on short-term crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh has been introduced. Presently, loan is available to farmers at an interest rate of 7 per cent per annum, which gets reduced to 4 per cent on prompt repayment.
• The government sets an annual target for the flow of credit to the agriculture sector, Banks have been consistently surpassing the annual target. The current year’s agriculture credit flow target has been set at Rs 13.50 lakh crore.
• Under Interest Subvention Scheme 2018-19, in order to provide relief to the farmers on occurrence of natural calamities, the interest subvention of 2 per cent shall continue to be available to banks for the first year on the restructured amount. Many such schemes are introduced.
• Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) aims to provide a payment of Rs 6,000 per year, in three or four-monthly installments of Rs 2,000 to the farmers families.
Farmer suicides have been hitting the headlines for some time now. What do you think should be done to deal with this crisis?
Taking cognisance of the problem of farmers’ suicide in the country, the government had undertaken a study ‘Farmers Suicide in India: Causes and Policy Prescription’ as an all India coordinated study in the work plan 2016-17 through the Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bengaluru. The study covered 13 states of the country which included Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The study concluded that frequent crop failure due to vagaries of monsoon, absence of assured water resources and attack of pests and diseases are the most important causes of farmers’ distress. The study had made inter-alia following suggestions to address the above problems:
• Bringing individual farmers under the ambit of crop insurance;
• Judicious use of available water is required;
• Government intervention through MSP covering the cost of production plus reasonable profit margin;
• Risk hedging through crop and enterprise diversification should be encouraged to reduce farmers’ distress aiming at sustainable income; and
• Regulate informal credit market.
The biggest empowering mechanism for farmers is Kurien model where a farmer gets 60-80 per cent of the market price of his milk. What policies is the government planning to ensure that a farmer gets at least 50 per cent of the market price of his produce?
The Union Budget for 2018-19 had announced the pre-determined principle to keep MSP at levels of one and a half times of cost of production.
Accordingly, the government has increased the MSPs for all mandated kharif, rabi and other commercial crops with a return of at least 50 per cent of the cost of production for the agricultural year 2018-19. The recent increase in MSP of rabi crops of year 2019-20 to be marketed in Rabi Market-ing Season 2020-21 is also in accordance to the principle of providing at least 50 per cent return over the cost of production.
What plans does the government have in mind to deal with unseasonal rains (and effects of climate change)?
The primary responsibility for disaster management rests with the state governments. The concerned state governments undertake relief measures in the wake of natural disasters from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) already placed at their disposal in accordance with government of India approved items and norms. Additional assistance is extended from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) as per established procedure. The assistance approved under SDRF/NDRF norms is in the form of relief only and not by way of compensation for the loss suffered.
Since excessive rain is not a calamity notified by Ministry of Home Affairs and the state governments are empowered to utilise up to 10 per cent of the funds available under SDRF for providing immediate relief to the victims of natural disasters that they consider to be ‘disasters’ within the local context in the state, they do not report crop loss due to excessive rain to Government of India.
Around Rs 13,465 crore has been allocated under SDRF funds for 2019-2020. The centre has released around Rs 8, 536 crore under SDRF and funds released under NDRF is Rs 11,000 crore.