Confident Of Doubling Farm Income; Focus On Making Agriculture Income-centric: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh
In an exclusive conversation with Suman K. Jha, Singh lists the measures the government has taken to empower the farmers, which he says will positively meet the target of doubling farm income by 2022
Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh prefers to stay low key. Singh is working towards improving the state of Indian agriculture with active support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In an exclusive conversation with Suman K. Jha, Singh lists the measures the government has taken to empower the farmers, which he says will positively meet the target of doubling farm income by 2022.
How confident are you of doubling farm income by 2022? What is the distance you have travelled since the government came to power four years ago?
Of course, we are confident. To achieve the target of doubling the income of farmers by 2022, the government has constituted an inter-ministerial committee to examine issues relating to doubling of farmers’ income. The strategy is to achieve doubling of farmers’ income in real terms during 2016-17 to 2022-23, 2015-16 being the base year; prioritise to increase farm income including from farm link activities; change ratio of farm income: strengthen prominent sources of income growth; adopt farm-to-fork approach in production system as well as a sustainable production system and determine sub-sectoral growth rates at both national and state levels.
The committee has identified seven sources of income growth and it is also looking at investments in and for agriculture. There is also a need for policy support to enable investments by the corporate sector in agriculture.
The budgetary allocation for agriculture in our regime has substantially increased compared to the figures in the previous regime.
You have undertaken a number of measures including hiking MSPs, crop insurance. Yet the Indian farmer is distressed. Why, and what is the way out?
Agriculture is a state subject and state governments take appropriate measures for development of agriculture in their states. Keeping in mind the dependence of a large section of India’s society on agriculture, and also the need for ensuring food and nutrition security, the government supplements the efforts of the states through appropriate policy measures and budgetary support.
During the last three years, the strategy of the government has been to focus on farmers’ welfare by making farming viable. The department has therefore been implementing schemes like Soil Health Card scheme, neem-coated urea, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojna (PKVY), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY), National Agriculture Market Scheme (eNAM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna and Kisan Credit Scheme.
In Budget 2018-19, the government had announced that MSP for all kharif crops will be 1.5 times the cost of production. Giving a major boost to the farmer, the CCEA (Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs) in its meeting on 4 July approved the increase in MSPs for all kharif crops for 2018-19 to at least 150 per cent of the cost of production.
The government is aiming to reorient the agriculture sector by making it income-centric rather than purely a production-centric activity. The government revised the old schemes and initiated the world’s largest farmer friendly crop insurance schemes.
Why do we see farmers taking to the streets whether it’s Maharashtra or Madhya Pradesh?
The government’s initiatives have been yielding positive results as seen from the record foodgrain output of 277 million tonnes, record horticultural output of 305 million tonnes and record milk output of 165 million tonnes. The surplus output has unfortunately coincided with a slide in global commodity markets.
The Union government has changed the duty structure to protect Indian farmers. It is focusing on market reforms to ensure that farmers get competitive rates for their produce in a transparent manner. We have also met our commitment to provide minimum 50 per cent profit margin on the cost of production. We are now working on broadbasing procurement operations. We have also given a package of Rs 8,000 crore to help clear sugarcane arrears.
The aspirations of the farmers are increasing and if they raise a demand, the Modi government will respond.
Don’t you think that raising MSPs benefits rich farmers and not marginal or small farmers?
More than 85 per cent of marginal farmers are going to be benefited. Take the purchase of sunflower seeds recently in Haryana, for instance – they were all small farmers. This is unprecedented for all whose products were purchased. There is also a limit, which puts a cap on sale by one farmer.
Many states have started using new technology to keep track of the sales. This scheme actually belongs to marginal farmers. If there were anomalies, then states have overcome them. So, the real benefits are accruing to farmers like the ones growing millets. Who produces pigeon pea? And other pulses? It is the small farmer! So, it is a boon for 85 per cent of marginal farmers.
Various state governments waive off farm loans. Is it the right way to help farmers?
Well, if the state government does it, it is most welcome. Our government has one fundamental motive, strengthening the farmer, and we have strong belief in it.
PM Modi has called for a second Green Revolution, especially in eastern India. You also come from this region. What do you think?
His vision is for an evergreen revolution. The nation has witnessed the Green Revolution. After the White Revolution (upping milk production), we came up with the Blue Revolution (on fisheries), and then, the Sweet Revolution (bee keeping). It is time for an evergreen revolution. It is time to address the climate change issue. Our scientists have come up with integrated farming and some 45 models have been developed. This is how we will meet the challenges of the future. Now, lakhs of farmers are moving towards integrated farming – fishery with agriculture , bee keeping and poultry. Guess how much the increase has been in terms of production in last four years? We have invested in it as well. So, it is an evergreen revolution. And it has given results as well; horticulture production has been highest since Independence. So, it is the result of this evergreen revolution.
Today 17 states have reformed their APMC Acts. How do you look at the agricultural marketing reforms’ future?
The National Agriculture Market Scheme (eNAM) is an innovative market process to revolutionise agri-markets by ensuring better price discovery, bringing in transparency and competition to enable farmers to get better remuneration for their produce moving towards “one nation, one market”.
The Model Agricultural Land Leasing Act, 2016 was issued to states and is a very important step in agri reforms. Under this Act, landholders can legally lease the land with mutual consent for agriculture and allied sectors. It has been ensured that under no circumstances, the leaseholder can make any claim on the agricultural land.
A new model, enshrined in the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing (Promotion & Facilitation) Act, 2017, has been released on 24 April 2017 for adoption by states and Union territories. The Modi government issued the Model Contract Farming and Services Act, 2018 connecting farmers and agro-based industries for the first time. Under this Act, farmers can get fair price for their produce as well as reduce post-harvest loss. Tomato, onion and potato are being consumed throughout the year in India. For the first time, a new scheme has been announced – Operation Greens, which will enable the farmers to get the right price for their produce and they will be available at reasonable prices to the consumers.