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UPSC Sansad TV: Spotlight- Government’s Efforts & Initiatives for Farmer’s Welfare.

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Need for agrarian reforms:

  • The current government has always emphasized the crucial role played by farmers in India and calls them one of the major pillars of our economy.
  • Agriculture currently contributes justabout 15% to the national output and about 50% of the population directly or indirectly depends on it for employment.
  • Farmer distress is a real and pressing problem, as evidenced by the protests currently taking place in various parts of the country.
  • In the past, Government strategy primarily focused onraising agricultural output and improving food security rather than recognising the need to raise farmer’s income.
  • Low global prices have affected exportsand the cheaper imports have hurt domestic prices in the country.
  • Natural disasters and crop loss leading to impoverishment of rural households.
  • Increasing demographic pressure, disguised employment in agricultureand conversion of agricultural land for alternative uses, have drastically reduced the average land holding.

Initiatives by the government

  • Per Drop More Crop : Centre set up a Micro Irrigation Fund under NABARD with a corpus of 2000cr and 3000crfor 2019 and 2020 respectively.
    • Assistance to states will be given at concessional rates.
    • The target is to bring 10 million hectares under Micro-Irrigation.
  • Diversification towards high value crops: IFPRI and ICAR are promoting horticulture crops such as pomegranate and mushroom farming with adequate skills training to farmers.
  • Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH): Enhance horticulture production, augment farmers, income and strengthen nutritional security; Improve productivity by way of quality germplasm, planting material and water use efficiency through Micro Irrigation.
  • Soil Health Cards: The objectives of the Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme are to issue soil health cards to farmers every two years so as to provide a basis to address nutritional deficiencies in fertilization practices.Soil testing reduces cultivation cost by application of right quantity of fertilizer. It ensures additional income to farmers by increase in yields and it also promotes sustainable farming.
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana:
    • In order to promote organic farming, the government has started the Paramparagat Krish iVikas Yojana (PKVY), under which 2 lakh hectareshas been made suitable for organic farming thereby benefitting 5 lakh farmers.
    • It is to to ensure a successful “Organic Farming Revolution” in India on the lines of “Green Revolution” so that the farming community benefits from it.
  • Ensuring Credit availability to enhance productivity
    • Kisan Credit Cardsprovides agriculture credit to farmers at subsidized rates, with a 2% interest subvention (IS) and Prompt Repayment Incentive (PRI) of 3% so as to make the effective rate of interest as 4%.
    • PM-KISAN:With a view to provide income support to all farmers’ families across the country, to enable them to take care of expenses related to agriculture and allied activities as well as domestic needs, the Central Government started a new Central Sector Scheme, namely, the Pradhan Mantri Kisan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)
      • The scheme aims to provide a payment of Rs. 6000/- per year, in three 4-monthly installments of Rs. 2000/- to the farmers, subject to certain exclusions relating to higher income groups.

Challenges faced by Agriculture sector

  • Institutional vis-à-vis Non-Institutional Agricultural Credit:Traditionally, rural agrarian credit needs were met primarily through money-lenders, which led to large scale indebtedness.
  • Small land holdings: It is fragmented and 87% of farmers are small farmers doing subsistence farming.
  • Low productivity: Indian farms are smaller (1-2 hectares on average), making it harder to achieve economies of scale.
  • Low mechanization:It is relatively low and Indian farmers do not utilise many high-yield input varieties used in other agri-producing countries.
  • High logistics costs:India’s cost of logistics is currently around 14% of GDP – higher than developed country exporters like the US (9.5%).

Conclusion

The government should shift its focus from providing only price support to farmers and focus on building better infrastructure, minimizing the gap between farmers and the market, land reforms, policy reforms to increase flow of credit to farmers, establishing food-processing industries for perishable goods, providing better irrigation facilities etc so, that agriculture emerges as a viable means of sustenance.