Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

Farm sector needs more policy priority-Dr. Swaminathan

Posted by Ramoo on February 17, 2009

THE interim budget rightly refers to farmers as the ‘real heroes’ of India’s success story, because of the contributions they are making in the areas of food, livelihood and ecological security.

The finance minister also said that the Plan allocation for agriculture has been increased by 300 per cent during the last five years and that a flagship programme, R a s h t r i y a Krishi Vikas Yojana, has been launched with an outlay of Rs 25,000 crore. Reference has naturally been made to the agricultural debt waiver and debt relief scheme covering 36 million families at a cost of Rs 65,300 crore. All this, however, cannot hide the fact that agriculture is facing serious economic and ecological crises. Obviously, only the regular budget for 2009-2010, which will be presented by the next government, can seriously address issues relating to agrarian distress and malnutrition.

There are some issues that need attention. Major political parties should commit themselves to establishing a farm income commission that can go into the totality of the income of farmers from crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, agroforestry and agro-processing, and suggest ways to ensure a minimum takehome income to farmers.

An allocation of Rs 30,100 crore has been made for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme during 2009-2010. The scheme is designed to use labour for important activities such as water harvesting, watershed management, control of soil erosion and develop ment of irrigation struc tures. All these are impor tant for sustainable agri culture. Hence, it would be appropriate to refer to the participants as “defenders of India’s eco logical security”. Awards could be given to teams that have developed the best watershed and water h a r v e s t i n g programmes.

The allocation for Bharat Nirman has been raised to Rs 40,900 crore and a part of it will go to bringing new areas under irrigation. The enhance ment of the productivity of rainfed areas holds the key to the future of rural livelihood security as well as national food security.

The regular budget should consider the rec ommendations of the National Commission of Farmers on the steps needed for increasing the income of small produc ers, as well as the need for ensuring minimum sup port price not only for wheat and rice but also for millets, pulses, oilseeds and tuber crops. Provision needs to be made for establishing a national grid of warehous es for grains and cold stor age structures for perish able commodities. The mismatch between pro duction and post-harvest technologies should end.

Much has been done during the last five years to reduce agrarian dis tress. Much, however, remains to be done to do justice to the genuine needs of the majority of our population who con stitute the farming com munity.

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