Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has always worked for farmer welfare in a methodical way. The government assesses farmers’ needs diligently and ensures that steps are taken to fulfil their needs. Modi government’s important work can be seen in each of the sectors that impact agriculture.
The budget set aside for a sector show the priorities of a government. For years, previous governments kept speaking highly of the need to work for farmers.
However, speaking about farmers is not enough. Governments must invest in them, build infrastructure for them and take enabling steps for their welfare – and all of these need a good budget to be set aside for the sector.
In the year 2013-14, the budget allocation for Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare was Rs. 21,933.50 crore. This has increased by more than 5.5 times to Rs. 1.23 lakh crore in 2021-22.
Agri-credit has been increased from Rs. 7.30 lakh crore in 2013-14 to Rs. 15.18 lakh crore in 2020-21 – an increase of 108%.
To cover more farmers under Kisan Credit Card, a special saturation drive was launched. Around 2.10 crore new KCCs have been issued with sanctioned amount of Rs. 2.04 lakh crore.
Sustainable Farming and Soil Health
If the farmer’s future has to be secure, governments must focus on sustainable farming techniques.
Soil health cards provide farmers the nutrient status of their soil and its composition. It helps decide the dosage of fertilisers and other changes needed for good soil health. Nearly 23 crore soil health cards have been given to farmers across various cycles.
100% Neem Coated Urea introduced in 2015-16 helped reduce use of chemicals and improved soil health. It also reduced diversion of urea for non-agricultural purposes.
Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana was started in 2015-16 to promote organic farming. Support is provided for farmers for procuring inputs and certification.
To help farmers grow more with lesser water, ‘Per Drop More Crop’ component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana enables precision micro irrigation techniques i.e. drip and sprinkler irrigation.
An area of 60.63 lakh hectare has been covered under micro irrigation from 2014-15 to 2020-21.
Modi government not only does its own work but also ensures completion of incomplete works of previous governments. 99 such projects to irrigate 76.03 lakh hectares with an investment of Rs 77,595 crore were taken up.
Help During Distress
Agriculture is a risk-laden activity, more so because some of the risk associated with natural causes beyond the control of the farmer. Sometimes, farmers put their blood and sweat into farming but adverse natural events and natural disasters wreak havoc.
Modi government understands that there is no one-size-fits-all model, and that even natural calamities can have localised impact and the government policy must be flexible.
To ensure that relief measures cover more farmers in their times of distress, major changes were made in disaster relief standards. Assistance amount of all categories was increased by one and a half times. The eligibility for assistance during distress situations was raised from one hectare to two hectares, bringing more farmers into the safety net.
Percentage of crop loss for which compensation is paid was 50% or above earlier, but this was changed to 33% or above by Modi government.
Further, even during the pandemic, the government has procured record amount of produce from farmers at MSP and ensured farmers’ income is not affected adversely.
Minimum Support Price (MSP)
The Minimum Support Price (MSP) acts as a safety net for farmers where it will assure them their produce will bring them certain income. Modi government had promised timely increases in MSP and delivered on it with multiple increases.
However, the difference between Modi government and previous governments is not merely in regular announcement of MSP hikes but more importantly in multi-fold increase in procurement of crops at MSP.
No matter what a farmer grows, without access to avenues to sell produce, income cannot grow. For better market access, farmers need more markets as well as better infrastructure to access these markets.
Now, Modi government has freed Indian farmers to sell both in APMC mandis and outside. If farmers want to sell in the mandis, they are free to do so. If farmers find a willing buyer at their doorstep, they can take advantage of that as well. Earlier, if farmers sold outside APMC markets, those transactions were often deemed illegal and they did not get any legal cover in case the buyer cheated them.
Now, when farmers sell outside the markets, they have a legal framework assisting them so that they are not cheated by unscrupulous buyers.
Modi government is developing and upgrading existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs). In these GrAMs, physical infrastructure is being strengthened by integrating it with MGNREGS works.
Additionally, PM Modi launched a new Agriculture Infrastructure Fund of Rs 1 lakh crore to support farmers, FPOs and agri-entrepreneurs in building community farming assets and post-harvest agriculture infrastructure. These assets will enable farmers to get greater value for their produce as they will be able to store and sell at higher prices, reduce wastage, and increase processing and value addition.
Allied Sectors and Additional Income
Often, agriculture does not generate income round the year. But this can be supplemented by regular sources of income such as milk production, fisheries, honey production and many such activities.
By focusing on the Blue Revolution, by running initiatives to protect native breeds of cattle as well as make them more productive, by taking measures to save livestock from disease, the government has helped farmers maintain a steady source of income.
To protect cattle from diseases, PM Modi launched National Animal Disease Control Programme for eradicating the Foot and Mouth Disease and Brucellosis. The government aims to control the disease by 2025 and totally eradicate it by 2030 by vaccinating 500 million livestock.
India is among the world’s top five honey producers. Compared to 2005-06, honey production has risen by 242% and exports shot up by 265%. Even small and marginal farmers can adopt beekeeping since investment is low and returns high. It also does not need much land and inputs. To give direction and strength to this mission, National Bee and Honey Mission was launched in June 2020 as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan.
Further, by resorting to unique initiatives such as ethanol blended petrol, which use excess sugarcane or damaged food grains, even things considered as excess or wastage are becoming sources of income for farmers. Ethanol procurement has increased from 38 crore litres in 2013-14 to over 195 crore litres in 2019-20, almost a 5-fold jump.
One of the most important steps taken to secure farmers is the PM-KISAN (Kisan Samman Nidhi) programme. Under this initiative, every year, the Modi government transfers Rs 6,000 directly to the bank accounts of crores of farmers. This is an income that farmers can surely count on, every year.
This could be used to buy agricultural inputs or for any other needs that arise – by putting money in the farmer’s hands, the government has also provided the freedom to use this money as the farmer sees fit. Further, the direct transfer of this amount to their bank accounts ensures there is no chance of leakages or exploitation.
Additionally, PM Kisan Maan Dhan Yojana was launched, as promised, to secure farmers with pension. At minimal premium, it promises upto Rs 3,000 per month pension. Beneficiaries can also route their income support amount from PM-KISAN to this pension scheme.