By-Radha Mohan Singh
To improve the economic condition of Indian farmers, prime minister Narendra Modi has set the target of doubling their income by 2022. The agriculture ministry is working on a seven-point strategy towards this end. The first step is to increase productivity. It means focusing on irrigation, and that is why we have increased the irrigation budget. India has 142 million hectares agriculture land, out of which only 48% is under institutional irrigation. With the objective of providing water to every field, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana was launched on July 1, 2015, and, to provide an end-to-end solution in irrigation supply chains, water resources, network distribution as well as farm level application. We have adopted a comprehensive approach, one that combines irrigation with water preservation. The objective is More Crop Per Drop. In addition, the aim is to complete pending medium and large irrigation projects on a priority basis in the next four years. Water harvesting, management, and watershed development projects have been put on the fast-track.
The second factor is effective use of inputs, which means increasing production through improved seeds, planting materials, organic farming, soil health card and other schemes. For the first time, a scheme has been launched for organic farming. Similarly, the government has curbed illegal use of urea and ensured its adequate supply through Neem-Coated Urea scheme. In addition, the Soil Health Card Scheme has helped reduce cultivation cost and increase production by curbing misuse of fertilisers. Farmers are also getting timely information and advisory services through new technologies such as space technology and online and telecom facilities via the Kisan Call Centre and Kisan Suvidha App.
The next critical factor is reducing post-harvest losses. One of the biggest problems of farmers is storage after harvesting; as a result, they are forced to sell their products at a lower cost. Therefore, the government is encouraging farmers to use warehouses and avoid distress sales. Loans against negotiable warehouse receipts are being provided with interest subvention benefits. The focus is on storage facilities and integrated cold chains in rural areas.
Value addition is being encouraged as a critical factor for augmenting income. The government has launched the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana. Under this, food-processing capabilities will be developed by working on forward and backward linkages of agro-processing, benefitting 20 lakh farmers and creating employment opportunities for about 5 lakh.
In agriculture marketing, The electronic-National Agriculture Market has been launched with three reforms and so far, 455 mandis have been linked to it. Online trading has begun on various mandis. In addition, a model APMC Act has been circulated, which includes private market yards and direct marketing. Farmers are also being organised as Farmer Producer Organization. This helps them achieve economy of scale and increase bargaining power.
The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) helps reduce the possible risks. The scheme is a shield for farmers’ income. The lowest rate has been fixed for kharif and rabi crops. Maximum rate is 2% and 1.5%, respectively. The scheme covers standing crops as well as pre-sowing to post-harvesting losses, and 25% of the claim is settled immediately online. Under PMFBY, many states are using remote sensing technology and drones to estimate losses and settle claims. To reduce climate change impact, various tolerant species and animal species have been developed. Contingency plans for affected districts have also been prepared.
Focus on agri-allied activities is critical. We are focusing on horticulture, dairy, poultry, beekeeping, fisheries, white revolution, blue revolution, agroforestry, integrated farming and rural backyard poultry development to increase the income of the farmers. We will increase the income of farmers through allied activities. Partially, it will be done through poultry, beekeeping, animal husbandry, dairy development, and fishery. We are encouraging farmers to utilise uncultivated areas for peripheral and boundary plantation to grow trees for wood and to produce solar cells.We are also emphasising on horticulture, agro-forestry, and integrated agriculture.
The author is Union minister for agriculture and farmers welfare.