Serving Farmers and Saving Farming; 2006: Year of Agricultural Renewal – Third Report

29 Dec, 2005


    FACTOIDS

  1. According to the National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) 59th round, the average monthly per capita consumption expenditure of farm households across India was Rs. 503 in 2003. Endemic hunger was high in families without land or livestock, and in households with small land holdings without irrigation.

  2. In the early 1990s, the rural economy bore the brunt of liberalisation policies and the globalisation and privatisation that followed. The removal of restrictions on the quantity of imports, lowering of import duties on agricultural produce, slashing of input subsidies, collapse of institutional credit, near-absence of public investment in agriculture, reduction in rural development expenditures, weakening of the public distribution system, and decline in allocations for agricultural research and farmer education put undue pressure on the agrarian economy and the health and education sectors.

  3. Besides natural disasters like the tsunami in 2004 and the earthquake in Kashmir in 2005, Indian farmers were hit by a lack of administrative support and post-harvest infrastructure.

  4. The proposed National Agricultural Renewal Year programme of 2006-07 would focus on enhancing soil health, increasing irrigated area, efficient water use, credit and insurance reform, upgrading and disseminating farming-related technology, and farmer-centred marketing.

  5. The NCF recommended adopting a ‘National Policy for Farmers’ before 2008, the 61st anniversary of India’s Independence. This policy, in the Commission’s view, needed to embody the true essence of the ‘Jai Kisan’ slogan.

  6. It suggested initiating a National Network of Women Scientists and Institutions. This action and policy research network would carry out longitudinal studies of women’s roles in agriculture and rural livelihoods in various agro-ecological regions.

  7. With more than 20,000 scientists and an expenditure of Rs. 30.6 billion (period of expenditure not specified in the report), India’s agricultural R&D wing – the National Agricultural Research System, which comprises a network of central state organisations – is among the largest in the world. However, agricultural institutions hadn’t been able to fulfil the “more food, more income and more jobs” agenda.

  8. With a domestic market of more than a billion people, only 6.18 per cent of India’s agricultural commodities (details of the commodities are not listed in the report) in 2002-03 entered the global market.

  9. The Commission emphasised the need to increase public spending on agriculture and rural infrastructure, which would create farm and non-farm employment for the rural poor, especially women. 

  10. It said that both men and women should be recognised as heads of the household, and all property be jointly held or equally shared in case a marriage ends. Land reforms and land rights for women are important, and the state must play a crucial role in their implementation.

  11. The transfer of technology to farmers could be made more efficient by considering all aspects of the cultivation-consumption-commerce chain. In the Commission’s view, farmers had to be an integral part of this process.

  12. Crop diversification programmes needed to be supported by research. They would succeed only if both research and the market were kept in mind.

  13. It was imperative to reduce interest rates for farm loans, at least to the level of loans for consumables like automobiles. The report points out that in China, the interest rate for loans to farmers was zero.

  14. The NCF asked for agricultural progress to be assessed on the basis of the annual rate of growth in farmers’ incomes – not just production or productivity data. In China, it said, the growth rate of farm incomes in 2004-05 was 6 per cent, while in India the figure was negative because of the increasing debt burden.

  15. By 2020, yield levels should be improved (over the base period of 1994-95) by 56 per cent for rice, 62 per cent for wheat, 36 per cent for coarse cereals, and 116 per cent for pulses. The production of livestock and poultry products should also be improved by 70-80 per cent by 2010 and 136-157 per cent by 2020. This would require serious efforts by the National Agricultural Research System.

    Factoids and Focus compiled 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 in two volumes). This third report discusses ‘2006-07: Year of Agricultural Renewal’, a programme to increase farm productivity and profitability without any ecological harm.

It also records the NCF team’s observations from field trips to two important agricultural locations – Punjab and Maharashtra. It highlights the role of technology and says that the effective implementation of research could help achieve a much more successful agrarian economy. As in its earlier reports, the Commission acknowledges the important contribution of women in all agricultural processes and suggests ways in which they can be empowered.


AUTHOR

National Commission on Farmers