On the face of it, the government’s Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is unobjectionable since it seeks to promote sustainable agriculture, using traditional materials instead of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. This includes gou mata kheti, bio-farming, Vedic farming, zero-budget farming, etc. What is not clear, however, is whether such farming is sustainable in the sense of whether yields can match those from modern farming, the profits for farmers and the impact on prices if such cropping results in lower yields. What is clear, though, is that the government can’t afford too many farmers switching to it. Also, at a time when the government is struggling to find a solution to the problems of the farm sector, it is not clear why it is even looking at solutions that can, at best, apply to a handful of farmers.
The maths makes this clear. India has around 200 million hectares of gross cropped area, of which around 20-25% would be less than one hectare—the policy is applicable only for up to one hectare. So, at least 50 million hectares of land will be eligible for this; it can be much higher since a farmer with 10 hectares will also be eligible, but will get a subsidy for only one hectare. Under the scheme, a total subsidy of Rs 48,700 per hectare will be given for three years—Rs 17,000 in the first, Rs 15,600 in the second and Rs 16,100 in the last. If all 50 million hectares is to switch to such farming, the first year subsidy bill will be Rs 85,000 crore.
Contrast this with the Rs 111,000 crore that the MSP-based deficiency payment scheme was to cost for the entire country. Based on the current acreage the country has, this translates to an annual deficiency payment of around `5,500 per hectare. If the government can’t even afford to pay Rs 110,000 crore, and is struggling to come up with a sharing mechanism with state governments, why is it planning schemes that cost more than three times as much and where the yields are likely to be much lower? Whatever the benefits of Vedic farming practices, it is clear that for a country as populous as India, it is chemical fertiliser-based farming that is critical. The government needs to find and implement a workable solution for that first.