The scientists who have come here from across the country, the farmer-friends and all the dignitaries present here,
We have gathered here to discuss upon an extremely important, serious and a pertinent topic.
I have viewed your presentation and have heard your views. I would like to congratulate you all for this painstaking exercise. It is true that agriculture is a subject that has been shaping and strengthening our civilization for thousands of years. Our scriptures say-
'Krishi dhanya, krishi medhya
Jantonav Jeevanam krishi'
This means that agriculture provides property and intellect and is the basis of human life. Therefore, it is an age-old concept. Indian culture and Indian techniques have shown the direction to the entire world in this regard; India has aquatinted the world with innumerable techniques used in agriculture. While talking about this topic, we should keep in mind the history, the present as well as the future.
You will find this sort of description in history when people from abroad used to be surprised to see India's agricultural practices. Such advanced practices and technologies were used in our agriculture which was taught to the world! The great farmer poets such as Ghaagh and Bhaddari used to guide farmers regarding the weather conditions vis-a-vis farming through their poems. However, during the long colonial rule, all these experiences and agricultural infrastructure were wiped out. After Independence, our farmers again took control of the agriculture with their hard work. After Independence, the farmers who were yearning for grains had made India self-sufficient in food grains. Last year our farmers with intense hard work had increased the yield of food grains and vegetables like never before. The immense capability and strength of the farmers resulted in the increase of production of pulses from about 17 million tonnes to 23 million tonnes in just 1 year. After Independence, although the agricultural sector had expanded, the development of the farmers kept on shrinking. The income from agriculture started reducing compared to other sectors. The subsequent generations left farming in search of better job opportunities in cities and started doing small odd jobs. The income security of the farmers, who were providing food security to us, started eroding. You all are aware of these situations, in fact better aware than me. Yet I am talking about the past circumstances because sometimes analysing the past situations leads us to new pathways and we can find out new approaches to deal with them. We realize that there were flaws in previous approaches that led to the failures and thus there is a need for improvement. These analyses should form the basis of doubling the income of the country's farmers. This goal would be such that couldn't be fulfilled by old approaches and for which there was a need for overhauling the agricultural sector.
Just as these small problems were being solved, this goal expanded into a full-fledged agricultural movement.
Friends, we have seen that whenever a bull is tied in the fields with a long rope, it starts moving round and round. It thinks that it is moving ahead but the fact is that it gets tied up and starts running within that confinement. We have a great responsibility of liberating the agricultural sector from a similar confinement.
Decisions are being taken regarding issues ranging from seeds to the market for the development of farmers and to increase their incomes. In the era of self-sufficiency, efforts are being made to create an ecosystem that will be beneficial to the farmers. The Government has formed an inter-ministerial committee comprised of NITI Aayog, several scientists like you, farmers and other stakeholders in agricultural sector to come up with solutions and the government has accordingly fixed a direction and is moving on that path.
In the recent Budget, the government has announced an important decision to give the farmers right price for their crops. Pasha Patel has also mentioned about that scheme very enthusiastically. Under the scheme, the farmers will be assured of 50% more than their production costs i.e. one and a half times the value of their crops. The Government is closely working with the state governments so that the farmers get the entire benefit of the scheme.
We need to remove the limitations of the previous schemes and turn it into a fool-proof arrangement.
Brothers and sisters,
The government has focused on 4 different stages to increase the income of the farmers.
First, steps required to reduce the costs of farming; second, steps required to give them fair price for their crops; third, how to reduce the wastage during the transportation of the crops from farm to markets; and fourth, efforts to arrange for additional income of the farmers. All the policy decisions, technical decisions and legal decisions of the Government are based on these four levels. We have tried to link more of our decisions with techniques and therefore today we are getting positive results.
The decision of Neem coating of urea has reduced the input-cost of farmers drastically. 100% Neem coating of urea has increased efficiency. Today, the farmers use less urea for the same piece of land. Less use of urea reduced their input cost and increased the productivity. Therefore, there has been an increase in income. This change was possible due to Neem coating of urea.
Brothers and sisters,
Till date, more than 11 crore farmers have been given Soil Health Cards. There has been an increase in productivity due to Soil Health Card. Now the farmers are aware of the amount of fertilizers required depending on the soil. According to a study in 19 states, there has been a decline of about 8-10% in the amount of chemical fertilizers used and an increase in productivity by 5-6% due to the use of soil health card in agriculture. However friends, the complete benefit of the soil health card scheme can be realized only when every farmer will avail the benefit of the scheme. This will be possible when the entire ecosystem is completely developed. I would suggest that the package of products provided to farmers based on the results of soil health testing should be included in the training module of B.Sc agriculture course in the Agricultural universities. This module should also be linked to skill development.
We are thinking of providing a special certificate to students passing this course. With the help of the certificates, the students can set up their soil testing laboratories inside the villages. We are making efforts so that they get loans under MUDRA Yojana. When all the labs will get linked to the Central Database and the statistics of the soil health will be available on the central portal, both the scientists and the farmers will be benefited. A System should be developed by which the agricultural scientists can inform the farmers about soil health, availability of water and climate by using the information from the central pool of Soil Health Card.
Our government has tried to give new direction to the country's Agricultural Policy. The method of implementation of the scheme has changed. For example, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana; under this scheme, the focus has been on two different areas. First, increasing the scope of micro-irrigation in the country and second, to strengthen the existing irrigation network.
Therefore, the government has decided to first complete the 99 irrigation projects that have been suspended for 2-3 decades. For this, more than 80 thousand crore rupees have been allocated. As a result of the continuous efforts of the Government, about 50 projects will be completed by the end of this year and the rest will be finished by next year. This means that efforts are being made to complete the projects pending for 25-30 years in 25-30 months by this Government. The irrigation projects that are getting completed are reducing the cost of cultivation and the stress of the farmers. More than 20 Lakh hectares of land have been covered under micro-irrigation by Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana.
You are well aware of the insurance situation in the agricultural sector. The farmers had to pay more premiums for insuring his crops. The scope for the insurance was also limited. The government has not only reduced the premium but has also increased the scope for the insurance scheme under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana.
I was told that the claimed amount of Rs. 11thousand crore has been dispatched to the farmers under this scheme. The claimed amount given per farmer or per hectare has doubled. This scheme is saving the lives of several farmers. It is saving several families. Unfortunately, this achievement will never become a Headline and will be ignored. Therefore, it is everyone's responsibility to link the scheme with more and more farmers.
The government is making efforts so that at least 50% of the sown crops are covered under the scheme by the year 2018-19.
Brothers and sisters,
Our government is developing market architecture in the country's agricultural sector. The farmers can benefit even more if the centre and the state governments come up with joint decisions upholding the spirit of cooperative federalism.
Therefore, for the welfare of the farmers, the state governments have been asked to implement the modern Acts. The government is trying to come up with a Land Lease Act associated with agricultural produce and livestock marketing, simplification of the warehousing guidelines and several such decisions to strengthen the farmers.
The centre and the state governments will have to work together to double the income of the farmers by 2022. Efforts are being made under Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana to prevent the loss of harvest during transportation. There is a special focus on strengthening the agricultural sector. The entire supply chain will be reformed with the help of dry storage, cold storage and warehousing.
The 'Operation Green' announced in the budget is also linked to supply chain infrastructure. It will be highly beneficial to the farmers growing flowers and vegetables. Just as Amul model was successful in increasing the yield of milk and the income of lakhs of farmers; similarly the 'Operation Green' will also benefit 'TOP' (Tomato, Onion and Potato) growers.
Friends, it is essential to integrate the rule and returns market and the APMC at village level with the global market.
I was told that a commission was formed during British rule. Even that commission had recommended the formation of a market for farmers at every 5-6km. I am fortunate to implement the idea that was envisaged 100 years ago. In the Budget, the concept of Grameen Retail Agriculture Market i.e. GRAM is a result of this. Under the scheme, the infrastructure of 22 thousand rural markets will be developed and upgraded and will finally be integrated into the APMC. This means that the farmers will have a system at a distance of 5, 10 or 15 kilometres that will help him connect with any of the markets in the country. Farmers will be able to sell their produce directly to the consumers through these rural haats (markets). In the coming days, these centres will become the focal points of farmers' income, employment generation and Agriculture based rural economy. The government is giving a boost to the Farmer Producer Organisation (FPO) to strengthen this system. The farmers can also connect with rural haats and big markets in the area by forming small organizations at their level. By becoming a member of such organization, they will be able to buy in bulk, sell in bulk, thus increasing their earnings.
In the Budget it was announced that just like the cooperative societies, the Farmer Producer Organisations will also be exempted from Income Tax. Connecting the women Self Help Groups with the aromatic, herbal and organic farming with the help of FPO will be an important step towards increasing the farmers' income. Friends, today the need of the hour is integrating water revolution, blue revolution, sweet revolution and organic revolution along with the green and white revolution. These are the fields which can be the source of additional income for the farmers. The farmers also have several modern alternatives such as organic farming, beekeeping, seaweed cultivation, solar farming and so on. There is a need to make them aware as much as possible.
I would like to have a digital platform to spread the message about these, especially about traditional and organic farming. The farmers should be made aware of the market demand, big customers, supply chain and organic farming through this digital platform.
The government is also working towards providing easy loans to the farmers working in these sub-sectors of agriculture. In the Budget, an Infrastructure fund was formed with 10 thousand crore rupees keeping in view the fisheries and animal husbandry sectors. The loan amount in the last 3 years has been increased from 8 Lakh crores to 11 Lakh crores in this budget so that the farmers do not have to face any problem for getting loans from different Institutions and banks.
Apart from ensuring easy loans to the farmers, the government also wants to ensure that they get the right amount on time. It has been observed that often the small farmers find it difficult to get loans from cooperative societies. Therefore, it has been decided by our government that all the Primary Agricultural Societies across the country will be computerized. After 63 thousand societies are computerized, the lending process will be more transparent.
The Jan Dhan Yojana and Kisan Credit Card have also made the road easier for the farmers to provide loans. Friends, I was told that according to a decades-old law, bamboo was considered as a tree and hence could not be felled without permission. I was surprised to hear that! Everyone knew the value of the bamboo in the construction sector. Bamboo is used in making furniture, handicrafts, incense sticks, kites and also for match sticks. However, the process of seeking permission for felling bamboo was so cumbersome that the farmer used to avoid the cultivation of bamboo in his field. We have now changed this law. This decision will help bamboo farmers to increase their income.
We are making another change which is related to Agro-species. Friends, the production of timber in our country is much less than the requirement. The gap between demand and supply is huge. Therefore, the government is emphasising upon the plantation of multipurpose tree species keeping in mind the protection of the trees. Just imagine how much the farmers can benefit in terms of income if he has the freedom of planting such trees that can be felled after 5 years or 10 years or 15 years as per his requirement.
The concept of planting trees on boundaries will not only fulfil the necessity of the farmers but also benefit the country's environment. I am happy that 22 states of the country have applied these changes. The maximum use of solar energy in the agriculture sector will also increase the income of the farmers. Keeping this in view, in the last 3 years, the government has approved about 3 lakh solar water pumps for farmers. For this, an amount of about 2.5 thousand crore rupees has been approved. This has saved a substantial spending on diesel. Now the government is focusing upon providing the farmers with a grid connected solar pump so that the extra electricity generated can benefit the farmers financially.
The by-product that is generated from the agricultural fields can also be a good source of income. Earlier this was not given enough attention but our government is emphasising on turning the agricultural waste to wealth. We are well aware of the wastage. For example, the fruits of a banana tree are sold but the leaves and the stems which can be put to use are wasted. The stems become headache for the farmers. They are forced to pay thousands of rupees to dispose of these stems. Even after that, these stems are thrown away somewhere on the roadside. However, these stems can be used for manufacturing industrial paper or fabric.
There are several campaigns that are going on in different parts of the country which are working on agricultural waste, coir waste, coconut shells, bamboo waste and the left-overs in the field after harvest. All of these can help the farmers in increasing their income.
In the Budget the government has also launched the Govardhan Yojana. This scheme will not only help in increasing the rural hygiene but also the income of the farmers and farmers engaged in animal husbandry with the use of biogas in the village. It’s not only the by-product that can be turned into wealth but also the main crop which can be used differently to increase the income of the farmers. For example, Ethanol is produced from sugarcane. Our government has made a major change in the ethanol policy and has now approved 10% of the ethanol blending in petrol. This means that the surplus sugarcane after meeting the demand of making sugar can be used in ethanol production. This has improved the condition of the sugarcane farmers.
Our government is changing the way the agriculture sector operates in the country. A new culture is being established in the agriculture sector. This culture will be our strength, comfort and will be a medium to fulfil our dreams. This culture will help us complete the journey of 'Sankalp se Siddhi' or attainment through resolutions by 2022. India will rise only when the country's villages rise. When the country will be empowered, the farmers automatically will be empowered.
Therefore, the ideas that I have heard today through the presentation will be examined by the government closely. Pasha Patel was complaining that only 8 minutes were given to him. Even though it is true that you had to present your views in a very short time but the way you have collected all the information and analysed everything in small groups and all the hard work done by you, will not go in vain. At the government level everything will be re-examined carefully. Probably some of the ideas will be implemented immediately and others may take time but there was an authentic effort and hard work put into it. This was needed to change the mind-set in the government sector to understand the basic issues etc. of the farmers. The more we connect with them, the more will we have a better understanding of their problems! Therefore, we have tried to discuss these things with the experienced people like you.
Secondly, I would like to know how to take it forward. First of all, all the related departments of Government of India, their officers and the ministers are present here. How can we co-ordinate between these Ministries based on all the recommendations under the leadership of Niti Aayog? How can we come up with actionable points after discussion and how to set priorities? I believe that no work gets stuck due to lack of resources.
Secondly, we believe that we have to come out of the cycle of old traditions. We have to accept Science and Technology and also get rid of the science of destruction. We will require it at some point of time but if it gets outdated then we need not hold it back. We must come out of that. But for that we need to put extra efforts. For example if we talk of start-ups, is it possible for them to work on the subject of Agricultural universities? Similarly, can we arrange for programmes like Hackathon for the students of agriculture? Few days ago, for the Hackathon programme, the students from the Engineering colleges had come up with about 400 issues of the Government. About 50-60 thousand students started discussing and debating on these issues continuously for about 36 hours and gave suggestions to the Government. These youngsters provided perfect technological solutions to the problems that some of the departments had been facing for years.
I would like our agricultural universities to arrange Hackathon. The IITs, IIITs and engineering colleges celebrate robotic week or nano technology week. This is a good thing. Similarly, can't these institutions also celebrate agri-tech week and festival too? All the technical brains of the country can have debate and discussions on issues relevant to India. An element of competition can also be included in it.
We can carry this forward. Similarly, all the issues mentioned in my speech like the soil health card. Today the Pathology Laboratory where we go for blood tests has now developed into a big business. There are private pathology laboratories. Why can't we have soil testing labs in every village? Is it possible? The universities should provide certificates for the same and they should get loans under MUDRA Yojana. They should get access to technology equipment. In this way the farmers will be encouraged to get their soil tested and seek guidance. We can develop the systems and if we emphasize on soil testing Labs in every village then lakhs of youngsters will get employment. This will also act as a catalyst in multiplying the Agricultural activities and the scientific temperament.
Just like Soil test is necessary, there is also a need to test water in the same lab. It is because of the way the farmer thinks - if last time he had purchased seeds in a cloth bag he would prefer that only instead of the seeds in plastic bag. He considers only these facts while purchasing.
The farmer can be guided using digital animation in his mobile phone. He should be told about the things that he should keep in mind while purchasing seeds. He will understand and start asking questions.
In Gujarat and in the entire country we have more number of mobile phones than the people. There is digital connectivity. We should think about how we can take these things to the farmers using animation. I believe that we can bring about a great change with these suggestions and all. Like, I was talking about animal husbandry. There are several areas regarding which we don't have laws.
I would like to urge all the concerned departments to make laws so that these things are boosted, the flaws are eliminated and a standardized system is developed. All the suggestions were really informative for me. I could learn a lot. I have always been keenly interested in these topics. However, today there were many things that were new to me. These will be useful to you as well as to our departments. I believe that this discussion was definitely fruitful.
Can we organize such a programme in the states where presentations will be made, the farmers working on the fields will be present, or there will be people with the expertise in this field? Such an exercise can be conducted there too. This is because our country is so vast that sometimes one experiment works in one state but the same experiment fails in the other. There are one set of beliefs in one and yet another in the other states.
If we can carry it forward state-wise or say agro-climatic region-wise, it will be extremely beneficial. Thirdly, can we have university-level debates on all of these issues for final year or last-but-one-year students at least? Till we have a 'meeting of minds' and the discussion trickles down to the lowest level we cannot get results.
Therefore, to take it forward we can have a roadmap which will include the universities, students and expertise. Probably these things will not be useful there, but how to make them useful in the places where these are needed?
We could not do value addition extensively. In Gujarat when we had launched Jyoti Gram Yojana for 24 hour electricity supply, it was considered as one of the revolutionary events in our country. How could the 24 hour electricity supply benefit the villagers? Was it for watching Television or just for using it at night? That's all? We had organised an event to make them understand the way they could use the electricity to change their lives.
There is a village close to Gandhinagar where chillies are cultivated. Now there is one problem in our country. Whenever one farmer cultivates a crop then every other farmer in that area would cultivate the same crop, like the chillies. Consequently, the prices fell. The income of that village never rose higher than 3 Lakh rupees after selling all the chillies. It was not possible. So the villagers decided to form a society. Since they would have 24 hour electricity supply they purchased electricity connection and thought of processing the chillies for making chilli powder. They bought processors and finally completed the packaging. The chillies that were to be sold in 3 Lakhs brought 18 lakh rupees of income to them after a planning of 3-4 months.
What I mean to say is that the farmers should be told about value addition in a lucid language. Export and import in the world are going on at a rapid pace. These are the things that are purchased due to shortage.
India is a vast country. A long distance needs to be covered between the fields and the port. Yet the produce will be rejected. You might be aware of some of the things. If India has manufactured a good quality mat, it will be rejected on the ground that it was made by a child labour. That's it! The business ends then and there. So, we have to strengthen investigation through paperwork to get rid of these obstacles. We have to explain these things to our farmers. I am fighting against this injustice with several countries. I am struggling to make them understand that their rules are wrongly interpreting the export of the produce of our farmers. This interpretation is wrong and their bases are wrong.
Because of that we had to make great efforts so that our mangoes could be exported to the other countries. However, we have to explain to our farmers that there is a strong lobby in the international market but we will have to standardize our system and processes globally.
Therefore, I had once talked about 'Zero defect, zero effect' concept in manufacturing sector from the ramparts of the Red Fort. We have to follow the global standards, be it for the agricultural product or its packaging. If we don't form labs and institutions for certifying organic farming then our organic products will not be accepted in the international market.
I have been told that today the growth of aromatic business is 40%. The entire base for this 40% growth is provided by agriculture. Since agriculture is the base of aromatic business, it can provide employment to so many people in a country like India. We can link so many things with the aromatic world. Therefore, I believe that India is full of diverse possibilities in the field of fragrance. We can contribute a lot in the field of fragrance and provide natural products. Therefore, we have to think about how we can help the farmers keeping in mind the international market. The other day I was interacting with the people of Gulf countries. I asked them to suggest us the type and quality of fruits and vegetables they desire. We would provide the needed technology and process accordingly to our farmers in order to maintain that quality. But kindly purchase the product from his field only. You may also develop your cold storages, warehousing, transportation system and it is the responsibility of the farmers of my country to feed the entire Gulf region.
I have been discussing these topics with different countries these days. However, I want to tell you that your hard work is going to benefit greatly. I don't know what the case was earlier but I asked the officers since they know about it more than anyone else. They were telling me that sir such a thing has never happened before. This is the first time that people from agro-economics, scientists, agriculturists, progressive agriculturists and policy makers together have done this churning through debates and discussions and with a lot of input.
I believe that this effort has been in the right direction. Please don't be disappointed if something is not implemented. Probably that might take time to get implemented. It's such huge government machinery. If you want to move a small scooter, it hardly takes any time; but if it is a huge train, it will obviously take some time! But rest assured, we will certainly make it together.
This job has to be done with you all. I can tell you with full confidence that we will definitely fulfil it. We will work together to increase the income of the farmers. We have to fulfil our resolution of doubling the farmers' income by 2022. That could be from agro-products, animal husbandry, sweet revolution or blue revolution. We have to traverse all the paths connected to the farmers’ development. With this hope, I am extremely grateful to you all for your contribution.