Serving Farmers and Saving Farming; Jai Kisan: A Draft National Policy for Farmers – Fourth Report

13 Apr, 2006


    FACTOIDS

  1. According to the Planning Commission (now the NITI Aayog), the growth of GDP in agricultural and allied sectors in the first three years of the 10th Five Year Plan (2002-2005) averaged at only 1 per cent per annum – while the target was 4 per cent.

  2. The NCF said that the implementation of its recommendations from earlier reports would help achieve a 4 per cent growth rate in agriculture and, in turn, an 8 per cent growth rate in the country’s  overall GDP.

  3. To make farming a viable activity, five core areas need attention: land, water, credit and insurance, technology and markets.

  4. A total of 65 per cent of the population earned its livelihood from agriculture. This number was increasing by 1.84 per cent every year. However, land holdings were shrinking and farmer indebtedness was on the rise. A recent NSSO survey stated that nearly 40 per cent of Indian farmers would quit agriculture if they had the option to do so.

  5. Nearly 75 per cent of children were underweight due to inadequate nutrition. To address this, NCF said it is imperative to revive traditional nutrition-centred farming systems. It suggested that dying crops and dying wisdom be harnessed for local-level, community-managed food security systems like ‘Community Food Banks’.

  6. Farmers had not gained from trade liberalisation and access to international markets after India signed the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture (1994). Instead of benefiting from increased competitiveness and higher returns through exports, farmers had been adversely affected by an influx of foreign farm commodities, which shrank their domestic markets. The NCF proposed the creation of an ‘Indian Trade Organisation’, which would institute its own support models for farmers.

  7. After 1996-97, almost every sector experienced lower growth. Even in 2003-04, an excellent monsoon year, per capita output was less, except in horticulture. The overall growth in employment was very slow and real agricultural incomes were either stagnating or declining.

  8. National Accounts data showed that the real per capita consumption of cereals, pulses, edible oils, sugar, milk, fruits and vegetables was lower in 2003-04 than in 1998-99. The NCF said that agriculture would progress only if demand (both home consumption and export) increased. It recommended that consumption be increased through nutrition programmes and accelerated non-farm employment. 

  9. The percolation of gains from land redistribution stopped at the middle level of peasantry. Only 40 per cent of the total distributed land was given to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, and lakhs of acres were still with the courts for settlements of disputes because owners refused to hand over the land to Dalits.

  10. Unequal and inadequate access to land adversely impacted small and marginal farmers. Shrinking land availability was attributed to the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, increasing urbanisation, excessive mining and other factors, and further aggravated by restrictive land markets, and anomalies and loopholes in land tenancy laws.

  11. Only 40 per cent of the net sown area was irrigated. The expansion of irrigation infrastructure was sluggish because of a flawed land acquisition machinery, delayed implementation of relief and rehabilitation polices, political and hydrological concerns in water transfer, and the declining capital share of irrigation in the Five Year Plans.

  12. The NCF recommended the creation of a proactive, pro-poor and gender-sensitive National Policy on Livestock, as well as a National Agricultural Biosecurity System to help protect the livelihood security of farm and fish worker families.

  13. When the report was written, 1.24 million hectares were classified as ‘agroforests’ or land on which trees and shrubs are grown alongside arable crops. The NCF recommended (like the Planning Commission had in 2001) that an additional 28 million hectares could be converted into agroforests over a 10-year period. Agroforestry, it said, could address some of the major land-use problems faced by rainfed and irrigated farming systems in India.

  14. The NCF felt that it was important to move towards a singular and consolidated Indian market for farm commodities and reduce the risks of diverse and unstable markets.

    Factoids and Focus by Samyukta Shastri.

FOCUS

The eight-member National Commission on Farmers (NCF), chaired by Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, was set up in 2004 by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to assess the extent of India’s agrarian crisis. It produced five reports (the fifth report was in two volumes).

This fourth report of the series, submitted to the then Minister of Agriculture  Sharad Pawar on April 13, 2006, summarises the recommendations made by the Commission in its earlier reports. In this report, the NCF presents a Draft National Policy for Farmers that focuses on the ‘human element’ in agriculture, and rejects the idea that agricultural progress must be measured only through the quantity of foodgrains and farm commodities.

It highlights the immense contribution of over 650 million women and men in India’s agricultural sector to ensuring food and livelihood security and national sovereignty. The NCF reminds readers that Lal Bahadur Shastri’s ‘Jai Kisan’ slogan is yet to be converted into policies that recognise the pivotal role of India’s farming communities. 


AUTHOR

National Commission on Farmers