Manifesto for Agricultural Sector: Agenda for Future
‘If farming fails nothing else succeeds in this country.’ Economic growth of this predominantly agrarian country depends on agricultural growth.
Target 6% growth of farm sector for an assured double digit sustainable growth of the economy.
Allocate Budget – at least 10% of the outlay should be devoted for agricultural sector.
Present Agricultural Budget in all the predominantly agricultural States preceded by Agricultural Survey.
Public Expenditure for farming should be significantly scaled up to cover the agri-related infrastructure, soil health management with localized soil mapping and solution matrix within the knowledge of the farmers and soil clinics widely dispersed and ICT solutions.
Targets to setting up bio-villages to take biotechnology closer to the farmers should be spelt out annually in the Agricultural Budget with allocable resources and monitoring mechanisms.
MNREGS should be linked with farming activity through a Voucher system administered by the Gram Panchayat where 75% of the wages would come through MNREGS and 25% from the farmer during the guaranteed 150 days of work under the scheme.
Direct cash subsidy shall be introduced for inputs and machinery.
Introduce certification courses in agricultural disciplines both online and offline – Agricultural, Horticultural and Veterinary Universities should work out such courses to develop skilled force in the villages, enrolling students after Tenth standard, akin to paramedical services.
Set up Disaster Mitigation Fund to engineer write-off of interest and principal amount of loan depending on the nature and intensity of the disaster.
Weather Insurance shall be provided by the Government – both the State and Central Governments should share equally the related premium.
Crop Insurance should be refined to make the claim process more transparent.
Set up an empowered Coordinated Forum for Farm Policy and Implementation at the State level and District Levels with participation from the Farmers’ Associations to free the farmer from the bondage of fifteen Ministries governing agriculture.
Rain-fed agriculture occupying nearly 60% of arable lands, it is eclipsed by the ineffective policy interventions and poor monitoring mechanisms. It is important that micro irrigation, tank desilting and protection of all lakes from any encroachments, specific cropping and credit plans need aggressive implementation drive with farmers’ associations’ involvement.
Since 82% of the holdings are with small and marginal farmers, ensure credit to at least 50% of them through Agricultural Credit Monitoring Mechanism under priority sector dispensation in terms of number of new accounts accessed within the next two years and to reach 75% in the subsequent two years through the Kisan Credit Card linkage with Rupiya/Master/VISA. There should be only two accounts for the farmer – one for investment credit and the other for short term expenses with outflow to get linked only through KCC comprehensive credit limit.
Interest subsidy should be credited online direct to the farmers’ accounts with the help of ICT solutions.
Computerisation of all Agricultural market yards should be done with the help of Agri-Infrastructure Bonds. Spot markets should be set up in all such markets with the help of MCX or NCDX to enable farmers’ price discovery. All the AMYs should have multi-level storage and cold storage facilities or should be tied up with the accredited warehouses.
Warehouse receipt financing at the doorstep of the facility should be available at the hands of the financing institutions.
De-bond the Agriculural Market Yards from the clutches of market wolves by instituting governance practices with only farmers’ participation. No person with political party affiliation should be heading these Market Yards.
Elections to the Market Yard Committees, PACS and Water Users Societies should be held by the State Election Commission once in every five years and the contestants should be independent of political affiliations.
97th Amendment to the Constitution Act 2011 should be implemented.
Farmers should Social Security of farmers should be provided through:-
1. Pension of Rs.3000 for farmer family from the age of 60 of the farmer for all the small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and women farmers, for which purpose the farmer should contribute 2% of the sale produce of the farm product – agriculture per se, animal husbandry, poultry, fisheries, bee-keeping, sericulture etc.- with matching contribution from the State Government through the National Pension Scheme.
2. Health Insurance of all these farmers shall be provided both through the existing schemes like Arogya Sree/Kutumba Sree etc.,, and through contributory premium from the farmer at 2%. Farmers’ participation would give him the right to claim the legitimate services and would not leave him to the mercy of the state government.
3. Women farm labour should be paid equal with their male counterparts for all activities on the farm.
*The Author is Member, Board of Governors, Farm And Rural Science Foundation. This document has been prepared for the FRSF, Hyderabad. Published in India Microfinance April 2014.