3rd February – Thinking beyond farm sops

The first half of the year 2019 saw the launch of a grand farm sop in the form of the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) with a record allocation of Rs 75,000 crores.

Despite such populist schemes, the agriculture sector remains woeful. What must be done to bring it back on track? Let us see.

A fine blueprint –

  1. Subsidiary sectors expenditure –
  • The disparity in agriculture expenditure and growth drivers, mainly the subsidiary sectors, must be addressed. Despite higher growth in livestock and fisheries sector, only moderate to low expenditure was recorded.
  • Expenditure on livestock and fisheries must be increased, as they are mainly connected with resource-poor families in rural areas and also to raise the decelerating growth rate.
  • The expenditure on research and development in agriculture needs to be raised from nearly 0.40% of agriculture GDP to 1% as it pays huge dividends in the long run in ameliorating poverty and improving livelihoods compared to any other investment.

2. Strengthening the market –

  • The Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs), which are currently facing operational and structural issues governed by different Acts and funded by various sources, may be strengthened by bringing them under one institution, preferably an FPO Development and Regulatory Authority.
  • A structured impetus must be given to build block chain based e-market places connecting farmers, traders, agencies, institutions and exporters on a common platform to check price fluctuations and harness decentralisation.
  • Affordable technologies must be developed and deployed particularly in rural and remote areas where digital literacy of farmers has improved considerably.
  • Key farm institutions and organisations in the front line of farm service, dealing with perishables and low shelf life commodities, must digitalise so that they are efficiently managed.

3. Bring private investment –

  • Small-scale investment measures or an incentive-based system is essential to scale up sustainable practices such as agroforestry, climate-smart agriculture, ecosystem services, conservation agriculture and others.
  • Increasing corporate social responsibility will help to tap more private investments besides encouraging private players in potential areas where production sustainability is possible.

4. Build on data –

  • The government must establish a farm data agency, which can consolidate, collate and maintain farm data available at various platforms.
  • Ongoing efforts of digitisation of land records must also include farmer-centric advisories.
  • The farm data agencies can also facilitate beneficiaries identification, better targeting of subsidies, support systems of various developmental programmes.
  • Access to farm agency data for scientific institutions and all other relevant stakeholders can hasten the process of technology dissemination and aid research systems for better policies.

5. Ease of farming index –

  • The commissioning ease of farming index is necessary to ascertain the progress made by national and State governments on the key indicators of farming. Possibly, the exercise can be done with active involvement of proven private/public institutions or international agencies.
  • The exercise may foster cooperative and competitive federalism besides encouraging States which are lagging behind to catch up.

6. Welfare commissions –

  • The need of the hour is setting up two institutions; one, a national agricultural development council on the lines of the Goods and Services Tax Council under the chairmanship of Prime Minister for effective coordination and convergence of States on key reforms and policies;
  • Secondly, farmers’ welfare commissions (both at the Centre and State level), as an independent institutional mechanism which will act as a neutral platform for assessing all agriculture-related issues and schemes.
  • Involvement of centrally-funded research organisations as knowledge partners would help to coordinate and refine existing developmental schemes in agriculture and allied sectors.

SourceThe Hindu

QUESTIONDespite several populist sops to the farmers, the agriculture sector remains marred with issues. Suggest a way forward to ensure comprehensive development of the agriculture sector.

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