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July 03, 2020

Essays for Competitive Exams 2020 : Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Programmes in India

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Essay on Farmer Welfare Schemes of India

Indian farmers hae always needed welfare programmes to help them survive due to the numerous problems they face in earning their livelihoods. Successive governments have implemented many schemes and programmes over the years, but farmer distress remains. That is why farmers remain poor and farmer suicides continue. Thus, we should first understand the various problems farmers face, so that we can comprehend better the prospects of success of the programmes for farmer welfare which the government has initiated.

The first problem the Indian farmers face is fragmented land holdings. Most Indian farmers are small farmers with economically unviable small and scattered agricultural land holdings. The major reason for this is our inheritance laws, due to which land belonging to the father is equally distributed among his sons after the father passes away, causing it to be fragmented. Such farmers cannot take advantage of economies of scale.

The second problem faced by farmers is scarcity of inputs or their high cost which does not determine finished product costs. Good quality seeds, manures and chemical fertilizers are either costly or their availability is limited.

The third problem is that only one-third of the cropped area in India is under irrigation. Irrigation is the most important agricultural input in a tropical monsoon country like India where rainfall is uncertain, ureliable and erratic.

The fourth problem for farmers is non-remunerative prices for their finished products, the crops. In the absense of marketing facilities, small farmers have to depend upon local traders, moneylenders and middlemen for the disposal of their farm produce, which is often sold at a throw-away price.

Another problem which causes distress to small farmers is spiraling debt traps caused by scarcity of finance. Although there has been a steady increase in the flow of institutional credit from banks and cooperative societies to agriculture over the years, it is still inadequate. The reason is inflexibility in the conditions on which loans are given and the inability of such farmers to complete the documentation required.

Some of the problems mentioned above are due to the farmers' own poor awareness and education. Most small farmers are illiterate or poorly educated. They are also not aware of details of the institutional finance available to them. Thus, completing the required documentation remains a challenge. So they take the easy way out by borrowing the required finance from the local money-lenders, traders and commission agents.

Successive governments subsequent to independence have tried to help such farmers with various schemes. The first such scheme, launched in 1952, was the Community Development Programme CDP), in which overall development of rural areas with people's participation was planned. The next was the Intensive Agriculture Development Programme (IADP) to provide loans for purchasing seeds and fertilizers to farmers in 1960. A large number of schemes and programmes of various types were implemented in subsequent years with some earlier schemes being merged with or subsumed in programmes made subsequently. Some of these were solutions to other problems faced in rural areas, including reduction of poverty, increase in employment and development of rural areas. However, many of these suffered from various flaws, due to which the intended benefits were only partially achieved. 

In the recent past, several state governments have waived agricultural loans as part of their efforts to win over farmers in distress. Political parties have also been demanding for a Centre-sponsored national-wide loan waiver. However, loan waivers have many negative consequences. First, whether the benefits of the waivers will reach those who really need them is difficult to determine. Further, the waivers could significantly impact a state government's finances. In addition, the working of banks gets affected, as the farmers willing to repay the loans may not do so in the hope that the loans will be waived soon. Thus, we need to move away fro such measures and take up concerted and urgent reforms in capacity building in agriculture by addressing issues in marketing, pricing, credit and extension services. 

With the present government coming into power in 2014, the scenario changed significantly due to a diligent analysis of the earlier failures and revamping of some of the schemes accordingly, besides introducing more practical schemes whose implementation is ongoing. In May 2018, the government made a commitment to double the farmer's income by the year 2022. In pursuit of this objective and their commitment to improve the farmers' lot, the schemes and welfare programmes introduced by the present government are as follows. 

1. Soil Health Card 

The card provides information to farmers on nutrient status of their soil after it is tested in a laboratory, as well as recommending what is required to improve its fertility. Thus, it prevents indiscriminate use and wastage of chemical fertilizers. 

2. National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) 

The scheme aims at promoting sustainable agriculture through climate change adaptation measures such as integrated farming, soil health management and synergising resource conservation. 

3. Neem Coated Urea (NCU)

NCU slows down the release of fertilizer to the soil and makes it available to the crop in an effective manner. It reduces the cost of cultivation and improves soil health management. 

4. Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sanchai Yojana (PMKSY) 

It was launched in July 2015 for providing complete solutions in the irrigation supply chain, i.e., water sources, distribution network and farm level applications. It also popularizes micro irrigation by providing a Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF) for encouraging public and private investments in micro irrigation. 

5. Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY)

It promotes organic farming in the country, as organic products fetch a higher price in the local market besides having export potential.

6. National Agriculture Market (e-NAM)

It provides an e-marketing platform at national level and supports creation of infrastructure to enable e-marketing. This innovative market process is revolutionizing agriculture markets by finding better prices for agricultural products.

7. Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY)

PMFBY is a premium based scheme under which a farmer has to pay a maximum premium of 2% for Kharif Crops, 1.5% for Rabi and Oilseed crops, as well as 5% for annual commercial  horticultural crops. The scheme facilitates prompt claims settlement in case of a crop loss due to unforeseen circumstances or natural disasters.

The above schemes are an improvement over previous schemes due to the provision of transferring the money given by the government directly into the bank accounts of the beneficiaries which are linked to their Aadhar numbers. This ensures transparency and eliminates corruption.

In the recent union budget 2020 presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman on 1st February 2020 announed 16 points action plan for farmers, towards the goal of doubling farmers income by 2022. The government allocated 2.83 lakh crore rupees for agriculture and allied activities, irrigation and rural development in 2020-21 budget. Further, she proposed comprehensive measures for 100 water-stressed districts in the country. She added that agricultural credit target has been set up at 15 lakh crore. Pradhan Mantri Kisan Urja Suraksha evem Utthan Mahabhiyan (PM KUSUM) to be expanded to provide 20 lakh farmers in setting up standalone solar pumps. The milk processing capacity to be doubled from 53.5 million tonne to 108 million tonne by 2025. Though these are small steps in the right direction, it remains to be seen how these are implemented.

In conclusion, we can definitely say that the State and Union governments must communicate better the benefits of the schemes to farmers. They should send teams of volunteers to rural areas for explaining the benefits to farmers and persuade them to apply for the schemes. Further, instead of loan waivers, they should give incentives to farmers for timely repayment of the loans. The present government has already made a start in this direction. Finally, the governments must implement the schemes effectively so as to benefit the targeted beneficiaries suitably.

Shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani

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