Radha Mohan Singh
The growth of the nation is deeply connected to the wellbeing of the farmer and the productivity of farming. Farmer Empowerment is thus a priority for any government that intends to push our nation to greater heights.
The current government is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a visionary who has taken strategic steps to accelerate a transformation in the farming sector with an ambition to empower farmers.
Doubling farmers’ income, securing them and their endeavours, making them tech savvy, boosting agriculture research and education, and building farm-related infrastructure are some of the major goals set and being worked upon for the growth of agriculture sector and farmers’ welfare.
The New India envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi runs on his motto of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ and farmer welfare is an integral part of it.
The initial thrust to any transformation comes from awareness. In this regard, the government’s inspiring themes of messaging such as Lab-To-Land, Har Khet Ko Paani and Per Drop More Crop have raised awareness about the need to create systems that turn the farming activity into a hub of productivity and prosperity.
The government raised budget allocation for Agriculture Ministry by 7.81 per cent to Rs. 52,655 crores for 2017-18 from Rs. 48,840.50 crores (revised estimate) of this fiscal. The total allocation for agriculture and allied sectors is Rs. 62,376 crores for next fiscal, up from Rs 57,502 crores.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has been striving to empower farmers by implementing government schemes meticulously. This work is happening at a quick pace because the government led by Prime Minister Modi is aware that a nation like us, where about half the workforce is involved in farming, cannot flourish without making agriculture sustainable.
From technology to crop insurance, from easier credit access to modern irrigation methods, we are implementing a comprehensive action plan to empower farmers throughout the farming cycle – a facilitating umbrella of Beej Se Bazaar Tak (BSBT).
The quality of crops is directly linked to seeds. Ensuring quality seeds are available in sufficient quantities to farmers especially during the sowing season is key to the health of the farming life cycle.
Through Krishi Dak, developed by Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), the government provides good quality seeds to farmers at their doorstep. After success in 20 districts, the scheme was extended in 100 districts of 14 states in association with Krishi Vigyan Kendras.
Soil Health and Fertilizer:
Healthy soil is vital for agricultural productivity. Disproportionate use of fertilisers has affected soil health. Hence our government decided to combat it by educating farmers about the importance of soil health. A soil testing kit was developed for quick analysis of soil samples to optimise the use of fertilisers and provided to 650 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs). More than 6 crore soil health cards have been printed and distributed to farmers.
Another milestone in our endeavours was provision of neem coated urea. In just one year, our government has made available 100 percent neem coated urea and curbed unauthorised use of urea by chemical factories. The efficiency of neem coated urea is 10-15 percent more as compared to normal urea.
Water and Irrigation:
Water is a precious natural resource and lack of it leads to non-remunerative farming. Ensuring its availability and proper use is crucial to reform the farming sector. PM Modi launched Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), an end-to-end solution to our nation’s irrigation woes, with the objective of “Water To Every Field”. This programme is working towards developing long-term remedies to mitigate the effect of drought. It is being implemented in mission mode by three ministries with Ministry of Water Resources, RD&GR leading the project.
As announced in the recent budget, a dedicated micro irrigation fund with a sum of Rs. 5000 crores will be set up for the achievement of “Per Drop – More Crop”. Micro-irrigation is vital to ensure optimal use of water – minimum water, maximum yield. We have managed to bring an area of 12.5 lakh hectares into micro-irrigation during the last two years.
Our achievements include fast-tracking of 99 ongoing irrigation projects for completion by December 2019. Out of these, 23 projects are targeted to be complete in 2016-17.
Finance and Security:
The availability of credit and access to capital at fair rates go a long way in empowering farmers. With our government pioneering financial inclusion at all levels, the next logical step is to help farmers access capital through formal channels. The government increased agri-credit target by 11 per cent to Rs.10 lakh crore for next fiscal and announced two dedicated funds with a corpus of Rs.5, 000 crores for micro irrigation and dairy processing.
The financial instability and havoc caused by unpredictable weather adds to farmer woes. Commitment to farmer empowerment also means securing them from uncertainty and stabilizing their income. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna focuses on providing inexpensive insurance for wide coverage, making farming as risk-free as possible. It uses an innovative mix of technological and administrative approaches to provide farmers hassle-free claim evaluation.
Budget 2017-18 has provided security coverage to agriculture sector and farmers, bolstering the feeding hands of the nation. It establishes our government’s commitment to double the farmers’ income in a span of five years.
Farmer and the Market:
Another hindrance to the growth and prosperity of farmers has been the lack of an accessible and equitable common marketplace. Often, cartels would fix prices to their own benefit and deny farmers the profits that were rightfully theirs.
E-National Agriculture Market (NAM), a pan-India e-trading platform has been launched to create a unified national market for agricultural commodities.
It creates competition and better returns to the farmers commensurate to the quality of their yield. It also ends geographical barriers and buyer-seller information asymmetry, as it brings onto one single platform potential buyers and sellers from across the nation.
Integrated Farming Approach:
Farming is not an activity that happens in isolation. It has a host of allied sectors that directly and indirectly play key roles. It is important to bring in synergy between these allied sectors by taking an integrated approach. The interest of smallholder farmers is being taken care of by bringing allied sectors under the umbrella to expand the definition of farming.
Farmers are also being educated to diversify their efforts and spread their potential. For example, horticulture. It offers varied options to the farmers who can grow fruits, nuts, tuber crops, mushroom, ornamental plants including cut flowers, spices, plantation crops and medicinal and aromatic plants. It facilitates better returns per unit of the area. The government also started the Blue Revolution to boost fisheries sector with increased investment, better training and development of infrastructure.
Technology Driven Farming:
The need to find technological solutions to problems faced by the farmers is understood well by our government. PM Modi urged researchers to think about “an inch of land and a bunch of crops” and provide instant solutions.
Foundation stone has been laid for the National Institute of Bio-Technology at Ranchi, Jharkhand to promote technological research in the field of agri-bio technology. We have made provisions to establish two new centres of National Agriculture Research Institutes – one each in Assam and Jharkhand.
Also, the network of nationwide Krishi Vigyan Kendra is being expanded and strengthened to accomplish ‘Lab to Land’ mission. In the last two years, the number of KVKs has increased to 668 from 637.
There is a multi-pronged, integrated Beej Se Bazaar Tak approach being ushered in to boost farmer welfare and enhance agricultural productivity at every stage. Under the leadership of our PM, we are positive that farming will become a lucrative profession at all levels. Farmers feel empowered and they will take the agriculture sector to great heights, contributing to the overall GDP in a bigger way.
(Radha Mohan Singh is an Indian politician having affiliations with Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He is currently a member of the 16th Lok Sabha (2014-2019). He was inducted in Narendra Modi led central government as a cabinet minister and currently holds the portfolio of Minister of Agriculture of India)
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