Serving Farmers and Saving Farming; Jai Kisan: Revised Draft National Policy for Farmers
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.
The Commission had 37 formal meetings between 2004 and 2006 as well as technical consultations with individuals, groups and government officials in various parts of the country. It produced five reports (the fifth of these in two volumes) and presented two drafts of the National Policy for Farmers to the government.
The first draft policy was discussed widely with central and state government departments, farmers, farmers’ organisations, tribal families, women’s groups, academia, civil society bodies, political parties, panchayat institutions, mass media representatives and individuals. Based on these discussions, the revised draft policy was prepared.The aim of this revised draft policy was to stimulate action and assess agricultural progress in terms of the incomes of farm families – not the quantity of farm commodities produced. It suggested that agrarian prosperity, food security and sovereignty be the underlying principles of all government policies related to agriculture and rural development.
The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) came up with a comprehensive and gender-neutral definition of ‘farmer’. It included landless labourers; sharecroppers; tenant farmers; small, marginal and sub-marginal cultivators; farmers with large holdings; fisherfolk; livestock and poultry rearers; pastoralists, rural and tribal families engaged in apiculture, sericulture, vermiculture, shifting cultivation and collecting non-timber forest products; and Farm and Home Science graduates doing any kind of farming activity.
The revised draft policy said that asset reform was needed to ensure that every man and woman in rural areas had access to a productive asset like land, livestock, a fishpond, a homestead farm, income through an enterprise or a marketable skill so that household nutrition security could be safeguarded and children could attend school.
Frontier technologies like biotechnology, information and communication technology, renewable energy technologies, space applications and nanotechnology would help launch an ‘evergreen revolution’ that could improve productivity in perpetuity without ecological harm.
The National Agricultural Biosecurity System would safeguard the income and livelihood security of farm families and the food, health and trade security of the nation. It would do this by introducing mechanisms that would protect crops, farm animals, fish and forest trees.
A National Land Use Advisory Service would give proactive meteorological and marketing advice to farm families. Data on wave heights and the location of shoals of fish could be given to fishermen before they moved out to sea.
The increasing feminisation of agriculture necessitated that all education, research, development and extension programmes in agriculture become gender-sensitive.
A special Agriculture Credit Policy was required, as was an improved rural banking system. Financial services should reach all rural users effectively, and credit must be timely, in the required quantities and at the lowest possible interest rates.
The widening gap between scientific knowledge and field expertise needed to be bridged in order to enhance the productivity and profitability of small farms. Local training centres with modern technologies could empower rural women and men, and provide information on how to improve the efficiency of small-scale agriculture.
A comprehensive social security scheme for farmers in the unorganised sector was necessary to ensure the livelihood security of their families.
Educated youth could be attracted to farming with low-interest loans and wasteland allotments to set up agri-clinics and production-processing centres. These centres could take up outsourcing jobs in agriculture and make India a major agricultural outsourcing hub.
Policies needed to be crafted for special categories of farmers (pastoralists, small plantation, island and urban farmers), particular kinds of farming (organic, green, genetically modified, protected greenhouse) and farming in specific regions (distress hotspots, megabiodiversity areas, islands), taking into account their distinct characteristics.
The NCF’s broad national policy would have to be tailored to suit different agro-climatic, socio-economic and socio-cultural factors in different parts of the country. The State Farmers’ Commissions could implement the National Policy for Farmers on a location-specific basis.
Focus and Factoids by Samyukta Shastri.
National Commission on Farmers
The Commission’s chair was Prof. M.S. Swaminathan and its members were R.B. Singh, Y.C. Nanda, Atul Sinha, Atul Kumar Anjan, Jagadish Pradhan, R.L. Pitale and Chanda Nimbkar.
Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, Government of India
04 Oct, 2006