The farmer's suicide issue is becoming increasingly alarming day by day. Despite the enormous progress our country has made after independence not even a minute progress has trickled down to farmers. From food to mouth policy in 1960s to self-sufficiency & highest food stock holding in 2000s through green revolution, agricultural produce has increased many fold in last 60 years but little improvement can be seen in the lives of farmers.
While on one hand some politicians, business people and big landlords are evading taxes showing crores of income as agricultural income small and marginal farmer monthly income is at most 6,500, which is lower than BPL line for a family of 4 or 5 persons.
Farmers are the last to get government support in any aspect. Agricultural contribution to our GDP has reduced to 14% (much higher than world's average of ~6%) in last 70 years of independence, but <60% of population continue to depend on agriculture, which has a twin edged knife effect having to loose on employment side (because of disguise employment) and income side (very low per capita income because of high dependence).
Recent government initiatives: PMFBY (PradhanMantriFasalBhimaYojana): Uniform insurance scheme to farmers subsuming all previous schemes, which also covers post-harvest loss. There is no limit on the sum insured. Premium paid is 2% for Kharif crops, 1.5% for rabi crops and 5% for commercial crops.
For a country like India which has 60% agricultural land is fed by rain this scheme ensures guaranteed minimum income to farmers in case of untimely rain/ natural calamities also. PMKSY (PradhanMantriKrishiSinchaiYojana): with the aim of "per drop more crop " , under this scheme government is trying to improve irrigation facilities to farmers at the same time increasing water usage efficiency.
ParamparagathaKrishiVikasYojana: Under this scheme government is trying to promote organic farming. But the initial yield might be less, so to compensate for this, government is proposing to use organic fertilizers.
This is part of "2nd or Ever Green Revolution."
e-National Agriculture Market (e-NAM): Under this government is trying to create unified agricultural market for all the farmers, where farmers can sell their produce wherever they want.
APMC (Agricultural Produce Market) also is recommended to de-list perishable items such as fruits and vegetables from compulsory procurement so as to benefit farmers with better price and control inflation.
Soil Health Card: To tackle the problem of increased fertilizer use which effects both soil & farmer's health, government has come up with this scheme.
In this soil will be tested, and based on that a card will be provided to the respective farmer with information on how much of what fertilizer should be used for which kind of crops. This also reduces input cost
ARYA (Attracting and Retaining Youth in Agriculture): Mainly through increasing farm income
Fertilizer related: Fertilizer subsidy is rationalized. Neem coated Urea is been provided in-order to reduce pilferage in subsidized Urea.
Above mentioned schemes are a big help. But M. S Swaminathan recommendations should be immediately implemented if doubling agricultural income or to reducing farmer's suicides are to be addressed immediately.
Though MSP (Minimum Support Price) is provided for 23+1 (Sugar Cane) crops, hardly 10% of farmers of aware of this. So most of the benefit goes to big landlords and maximum loan benefits under priority lending scheme also goes to big farmers due to lack of documents required with tenant farmers. All these can only be improved with creating awareness. Land reforms also did not have required effect. In contrast they have negative effect in states like Kerala where medium size farmer's fear losing their land if they give it on rent or contract. So age old land reform laws should be amended to make them more suitable for current times.
Way forward: Funds for research & Development works should be increased in government budget. More Agriculture related institutions should be opened for the same. Collaborations should be made with international organizations which have high success rates in producing high yield and low input cost crops.
GM crops can be considered to increase the yield and to reduce input cost after thorough research is done on them, after releasing all the concerned data to public & after consultation with various field experts. But care should be taken that farmers are not exploited by MNCs in the process.
But to make any of government schemes to be efficient, government should make sure that the benefits reach to the needy. Schemes like JAM trinity- DBT will be efficient only with 100% financial inclusion. Farmers should be made aware of all the schemes in-order to reduce their exploitation.
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