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Historic steps taken for farmer welfare

Across various sectors, the Modi government has enacted historic reforms and taken unprecedented steps to transform India. Farmer welfare being a priority for the government, the country has seen many revolutionary decisions taken, in the leadership of PM Narendra Modi.

Target of doubling of income of farmers

The culture of setting targets publicly and reaching them has been a refreshing change that PM Narendra Modi has brought to the government’s work culture. The government has set a target of doubling farmer incomes by 2022 and has been working towards it. As part of the path to reach this stated goal, a number of historic initiatives have been taken.

PM-KISAN

Whatever measures that the policymakers took in the form of loan waivers, subsidies and more, never reached the small and marginal farmers. Such farmers kept falling prey to poverty and moneylenders, due to lack of any income security.

To make a difference to their lives, in a historic step, the government announced the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PM-KISAN) entailing the provision of a yearly income of Rs. 6,000 to 12 crore marginal farmers at an annual expenditure of Rs. 75,000 crores.

This is a massive step forward because:

  • Assured income support of Rs. 6,000 reaches farmers every year. It is not a one-time step like a loan waiver.
  • This income support helps the poorest of farmers have some predictable support throughout the year, in three instalments.
  • Money reaches farmers via direct benefit transfer to their bank accounts, which means no middlemen can exploit farmers.

The Modi government’s schemes do not just stay on paper and PM-KISAN is an example for it. Announced in February 2019, within a month, over Rs. 5,000 crore has been transferred to about 2.6 crore farmers as the first instalment.

Record allocation for record outcomes

The allocation for agriculture defines the priorities of the government.  Sufficient investment is important to raise the long-term earning capacity of the farming community. The government has sought to remedy this by substantially raising this allocation. For instance, the budgetary allocation of Rs. 1.41 lakh crore in 2019-20 is more than the Rs 1.21 lakh crore allocated for agriculture during the UPA’s 2009-14 tenure!

The farm credit target was set at a record Rs. 11 lakh crore for 2018-19. The actual crop loans given to farmers breached the record target and stood at Rs. 11.68 lakh crore in year 2018-19.

Unprecedented hike in MSP & record procurement

For the first time in history, the government has fixed the minimum support price (MSP) of all 22 crops at minimum 50% more than the cost signalling its resolve to stand firmly behind the farmers.

Procurement is the key to helping farmers realise the MSP. In this too, the strides have been significant. For example, during 5 years from 2009-10 to 2013-14, under the UPA, only 7.28 lakh MT of pulses and oilseeds valuing Rs. 3,117.38 crore was procured at MSP. In sharp contrast, during the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19, a quantity of 93.97 lakh MT of pulses and oilseeds valuing Rs. 44,142.50 crore were procured at MSP.

The procurement of pulses and oilseeds has increased by almost 13 times during the years 2014-19 as compared to the procurement done from 2009-2014.

Water to every field and more crop per drop

Mindful of the fact that irrigation forms the proverbial lifeline for agriculture along with the need for optimum utilisation of water, the landmark Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana has already covered over 37 lakh hectares under micro irrigation since 2014. The government is also completing 99 old irrigation projects that were not completed earlier.

Firmly behind farmers in times of need

Reducing risk in agriculture is one of the important ways to offer much needed security to farmers. To ensure farmers get holistic protection, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana was launched, providing insurance at extremely nominal rates.

Earlier insurance schemes had an upper limit on government subsidy. However, PMFBY has none. PMFBY also covers risks even in cases of hailstorm in post-harvest losses, besides unseasonal and cyclonic rainfall.

On a related note, the Modi government took steps to stand with farmers in their time of distress. Relief to farmers in distress is provided in case of 33% or more damage to the crops. Earlier, this threshold was 50%. For food grains damaged due to excessive rainfall, a decision was taken to pay full minimum support price.

Revolutionising market access for farmers

Irrespective of all the measures that governments take, one of the most important reasons that the benefits never reached farmers was that their market access was constrained. A cartel of middlemen would ensure that farmers were often cheated of the rightful price for their produce. To break this monopoly of middlemen, the government started the historic initiative - e-NAM, a common electronic market to integrate 585 markets across the country.

This enables farmers to sell to anyone in any market across India and secure the best price possible for their produce while cutting middlemen out. Already, farm produce worth Rs. 61,098 thousand crores have been transacted on e-NAM through 585 Mandis. Over 1.47 crore farmers and sellers registered on the platform.

 

March 27, 2019