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Rejuvenate farm sector

Rejuvenate farm sector
Highlights

The Supreme Court has rightly expressed its anguish over unabated suicides of farmers. As the apex court exhorted, a policy framework is of an immense importance. Even the highest court of India stated in no unequivocal terms that the government has not taken any action to address the causes behind these suicides happening for so many decades. 

The Supreme Court has rightly expressed its anguish over unabated suicides of farmers. As the apex court exhorted, a policy framework is of an immense importance. Even the highest court of India stated in no unequivocal terms that the government has not taken any action to address the causes behind these suicides happening for so many decades.

Agriculture has become a negative economic proposition due to crop failures and unremunerative prices in the market. The state intervention in the form of minimum support price (MSP) remains inadequate with middlemen largely benefiting due to nexus with officials of state agencies.

The cost of production continues to swell even as agricultural produce fails to fetch reasonable prices. Intermittent crop failures due to droughts, floods, pests etc., coupled with dismal presence of crop insurance further compound the plight.

Tenant farmers account for a large number of farmers’ suicides. Increase in the tenancy fees makes tenant agricultural operations furthermore unviable. There is no record of rights of tenant farmers and, therefore, they are deprived of access to bank credit, state subsidies and calamity relief. The flow of institutional credit to tenant farmers has been very insignificant due to lack of written agreements. Capital formation in agriculture also suffers due to short lease periods.

Insufficient institutional credit makes farmers vulnerable to rapacious practices of money lenders. Spurious seeds and fertilisers and absence of legal protection from such exploitation rob farmers of their hard-earned investment and effort.

Low growth rates in manufacturing and sluggish non-farm rural employment result in agriculture accounting for a lion’s share of total employment in India even as the share of agriculture in the overall national income is declining. Indian agriculture is still largely rain-fed and susceptible to the vagaries of nature.

Inadequate storage facilities and inefficient supply chain management result in distress sale of farm produce and unacceptable levels of post-harvest losses.

Farmers are often exposed to periodic shocks due to erratic weather conditions, soil degradation, falling water table, and water use inefficiency. Rising education and health expenses due to rampant privatisation in these sectors have also contributed to farmers’ distress.

India needs a comprehensive paradigm shift in its public policies to stimulate agriculture growth with a focus on small and marginal farmers.

The productivity of agricultural operations should be enhanced through adoption of eco-friendly technologies to ensure sustainable agriculture. Weaknesses in present extension system should be plugged to bridge the technology gap.

As several agricultural commissions recommended, rain-fed agriculture should be rejuvenated by area- and farmer-specific interventions aimed at augmenting natural resource base. In these rain-fed areas, mixed cropping and mixed farming should be encouraged to mitigate the impact of drought and ensure a sustainable livelihood.

Agriculture in India requires a massive infrastructural push such as road connectivity, transport facility to villages, agricultural fields and markets, farm assets like irrigation sources, storage facilities, farm inputs and implements, harvesting, processing and value addition facilities, seed and fodder banks etc.

The allied sectors like livestock, fisheries, forestry provide livelihood to farmers in periods of agrarian distress. The policy focus should promote inclusive, equitable and sustainable agricultural growth.

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