The picture of UP farmers dumping potatoes on the roads unable to send the produce to the markets as it is not a viable proposition for them in the face of plummeting prices, makes a sad reading. This is the fate of the farmers in the country. It seems the country has given them just two options - commit suicide or dump your produce and remain hungry.
The Finance Minister's office has been flooded with solutions in the pre-budget meetings and yet we do not see any being implemented with the industry getting the priority always. Since long farmers have been demanding allocations to offset impact of Central government interventions to mitigate inflation.
Another demand which came from the farmers is that a long term ‘agri exim’ (export, import) policy be adopted so that the Centre could negotiate international trade treaties for agriculture produce without consent of the States. After the 7th Pay Commission, the incomes and perks of the employees of the organised sector have increased substantially, whereas the real incomes of farmers continue to decline. It is time that a Farmers' Income Commission be set-up for securing 'income security'.
Also, the 15th Finance Commission must be asked to offer fiscal incentives to sates on certain parameters. The parameters should include aspects of rural economy like farmer incomes and farm productivity. The government should realise that the cost of agriculture inputs has increased with GST and subsequently, the subsidy component on such inputs has been neutralised due to higher taxation. Hence, the subsidy component should be increased.
Where is the Ramesh Chand Committee Report on MSP and why is it just dumped? What are its recommendations and why are they not being implemented just as the Dr Swaminathan Committee report. The government should also look into the need of offering an agricultural debt relief package with matching contributions from the States. At least 25 per cent of the amount must be earmarked to provide relief for non-institutional loans. The loans to be given at 1 per cent interest for up to two lakh rupees is another of the suggestions made.
While half the population struggles to make both ends meet every day, it is not a good idea and the growth of the country minus rural sector is not a healthy option. Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was jolted by the Gujarat verdict despite his win should realise that his promise of doubling the farmers' income by 2022 remains a mirage if he does not really power his government to become meaningful apparatus.
The median farm income remains a measly Rs 1,600 per month just a double-digit income of Rs 50 per day. Is that really doubling of farmers’ income? Just imagine the plight of the nation if farmers opt for a crop holiday? That the farm distress is a reality is evident from the National Crime Bureau records which state that 4,837 riots took place across the country in 2016 due to agrarian crisis. Better this government wakes up before being dumped just like the potatoes, onions and tomatoes by the people.