Agrarian distress: Loan waiver no lasting solution for farm crisis, says MS Swaminathan

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Published: November 30, 2018 12:37:59 PM

Recurrent loan waivers show that governments have failed to make agriculture economically viable. Governments need to create an environment where farmers are less dependent on the state.

“The basic difficulties of farmers can be overcome only if integrated attention is given to pricing, procurement and public distribution,” Swaminathan argues. (MSSRF)

With political parties increasingly turning to farm loan waiver to woo voters, the flurry of promises from the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party is not helping make farming economically viable. Importantly, the temporary relief offered by governments is failing to make them less dependent on the state, believes India’s leading agricultural scientist and father of the Green Revolution.

Swaminathan’s observations come on a day when thousands of protesters converged in the national capital, demanding better remuneration for their crops and waiver of loans. “Recurrent loan waiver only shows that we have not have been able to make agriculture economically viable and the governments should rather focus more on creating an environment so that farmers are not dependent on the state,” Swaminathan tells in an exclusive conversation.

Swaminathan’s remarks echo what many other agriculture economists have pointed out – loan waivers will not solve the agrarian crisis. “Loan waiver may be needed at one point of time to get the farmers out of an immediate crisis but it is certainly not a solution. The government should make the agriculture economically viable by working on pricing, procurement and public distribution system,” says Swaminathan.

Explaining the underlying problems behind the current loan relief cycle, Swaminathan says that the demand for loan waiver comes from the present unremunerative nature of farming and is indicative of the fact that their economic viability is as important to farmers as to industrialists. “Unfortunately, the then government did not take action on the National Policy for Farmers (NCF) when the report was presented in 2007.”

Drafted by Swaminathan, the national policy contained recommendations to improve the economic viability of farming and increase net income for farmers. Farming is both a way of life and means to livelihood for nearly 60 per cent of our population. However, Swaminathan can only “feel sorry that in election politics, solutions like loan waiver are given importance”.

“The basic difficulties of farmers can be overcome only if integrated attention is given to pricing, procurement and public distribution,” Swaminathan argues.

Earlier this year, the government announced the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation on minimum support price for all Rabi crops for 2018-19. However, Swaminathan says that MSP was just one of the multiple recommendations and the government has done very little on that.

“The Swaminathan Commission recommendations include many things such as irrigation, credit system, market pricing, water harvesting and affordable insurance. But the government is not implementing these suggestions in totality.”

Swaminathan also underlined the issues that are less talked about among the policymakers. The scientist said that farmers are facing serious problems from climate change. “The most unfavourable impact of climate change will be high temperature, wide variation in precipitation and rise in sea level.”

He said that the government should pay attention to the farmers and families living and cultivating in the arid zone, semi-arid dry farming areas, irrigated areas, groundwater farming and plantation crops in hilly areas. “The support extended to farmers should be according to the requirements of those cultivating in these ecosystems,” he said.

Speaking on the spate of suicides by farmers, the scientist said: “It is sad that farmers who are life givers are forced to take their own life due to economic reasons. I sincerely hope that today’s Kisan Mukti March will be a turning point in the history of public policy formulation in the field of agriculture.”

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