Agriculture minister notes appreciable improvement in the sector’s efficiency

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What initiatives is the government taking to improve the standard of the living of farmers and their families?

The government constituted an inter-ministerial committee on April 2016 to keep a check on problems which are related to ‘Doubling of Farmers’ Income’ and advise strategies to achieve the same. The committee gave its report to the government in September 2018 and after that, an authorised body was set up (on January 23, 2019) to look after and analyse the improvement as per these suggestions. Due to the efforts made as part of schemes/ programmes of the Department of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare which also aligns with the strategy of doubling farmers’ income, there has been an appreciable improvement in efficiency bringing about a useful effect in the agriculture sector. 

Agriculture being a state matter, the state governments handle the execution of programmes/ schemes to upgrade the lives of farmers and their families. The centre only supports the attempts made by the state governments via different initiatives.

Implementing the distribution of soil health cards to farmers, ‘Per drop more crop’ initiative, ‘Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)’, Launch of e-NAM, Approving the ‘Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA)’, promoting Beekeeping under Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) are among the few steps taken by the government in order to help farmers and their families.

What about the sudden rise in Farmer suicides?

A study titled ‘Farmers Suicide in India: Causes and Policy Prescription’ – an all India coordinated study in the work plan 2016-17 through the Institute of Social and Economic Change (ISEC), Bengaluru was done by the government of India. It covered 13 states of including Karnataka, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. The conclusion was drawn that frequent crop failure due to vagaries of monsoon, absence of assured water resources and attack of pests and diseases are the vital factors of farmers’ distress. The study had made inter-alia following suggestions to address the above problems:

• Bringing individual farmers under the ambit of crop insurance;

• Judicious use of available water is required;

• Government intervention through MSP covering the cost of production plus reasonable profit margin;

• Risk hedging through crop and enterprise diversification should be encouraged to reduce farmers’ distress aiming at sustainable income; and

• Regulate the informal credit market.

Is the government aiming at any new initiative in which a farmer will get minimum half of the market price of his produce?

The Union Budget for 2018-19 had declared the pre-determined principle to have MSP at levels of one and a half times the cost of production.

Accordingly, the government has increased the MSPs for all mandated kharif, rabi and other commercial crops with a return of at least half of the cost of production for the agricultural year 2018-19. The recent acceleration in MSP of rabi crops of the year 2019-20 to be marketed in Rabi Marketing Season 2020-21 is also in accordance to the principle of giving at least 50 per cent return over the cost of production.

Unseasonal rains have become a major problem in the country. How is the government planning to deal with it?

The primary responsibility for disaster management rests with the state governments. The concerned state governments undertake relief measures in the wake of natural disasters from the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF) already placed at their disposal in accordance with the government of India approved items and norms. Additional assistance is extended from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) as per the established procedure. The assistance approved under SDRF/NDRF rules is in the form of relief only and not by way of compensation for the loss suffered. 

Around Rs, 13,465 crores have been given under SDRF funds for 2019-2020. The centre has sanctioned around Rs 8, 536 crores under SDRF and funds released under NDRF is Rs 11,000 crore.