Context

Recently, the NITI Aayog released the Action Agenda for the government, a roadmap for reforming various sectors of the economy including agriculture.

Introduction:

  • NITI Aayog’s Action Agenda forms a part of larger Vision Document which spans a seven year strategy and a 15 years vision till fiscal year 2031-32.
  • NITI Aayog’s Three Year Action Agenda document is a comprehensive framework for policy changes to be implemented in the short term in India.
  • The action agenda has replaced the five-year plans of the erstwhile Planning Commission.
  • It covers the different sectors of the economy—agriculture, industry and manufacturing

What are the challenges faced by Indian Agriculture today?

Indian Agriculture is facing multi-dimensional challenges which are listed below:

Ecological Challenges:

  • Climate change induced frequent drought(vidarbha, marathawara, west rajashthan, south west UP) and floods(Bihar, Assam, Odisha etc
  • Declining land fertility
  • declining ground water level(Punjab, Haryana
  • frequent pest attack(whitfly-cotton)

Economic Challenges

  • declining farmer income
  • declining farm productivity
  • post harvest loss
  • huge debt

Social Challenges:

  • rising farmer suicide
  • rising male migration towards urban area lead to feminization of agriculture
  • ineffective land reform
  • Unskilled and illiterate farming activities leading to growing crop not suitable to area or weather conditions etc.

What are the objectives of NITI Aayog’s Action Plan?

  • Target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.
  • It will address the problems of increasing suicides & distress of the farmers
  • Schemes like PMKSY, E-NAM, digitalization of land-records are in the right direction in this regard.

What are the reform measures suggested by Action Plan?

  • Increasing productivity of land and water
  • Reforming agri-markets on the lines of e-NAM
  • Reforming tenancy laws
  • Relief measures during natural disasters.
  • Shift to high value commodities: horticulture, animal husbandry, fisheries.

What were the committees constituted for reforming in the realm of agri-food?

The recommendations of some important committees constituted by the current government in the realm of agri-food are discussed below:

  • The High Level Committee (HLC) on Management of Foodgrains and Restructuring FCI (headed by Shanta Kumar, January 2015).
  • The Task Force on Agriculture headed by the Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog (May 2016).
  • The four volumes (out of 14) of the Committee on Doubling of Farmers’ Income (August 2017).

What need to be done in order to boost agriculture sector?

  • The government needs to improve the profitability of cultivation by “getting markets right”.
  • It needs to invest in water to fulfill its slogan of “har khet ko pani” and “more crop per drop”.
  • The government should be focus on Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) of food and fertiliser subsidies to the accounts of targeted beneficiaries.
  • The government should ensure that the new Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) delivers compensation to farmers in time.
  • It should free up land lease markets.
  • Buying directly from farmers’ groups (FPOs).
  • Setting up logistics from grading, storage to movement, and linking them to organised retail (including e-retail), large processors and exporters.
  • An easier way to improve farmers’ profitability is to open up exports of all agri-products, without any restrictions, and allowing private trade to build global value chains, keeping the Essential Commodities Act in abeyance.
  • This would require a change from the current pro-consumer approach to one that is focussed on farmers.

What are the reasons for not achieving desired results?

  • The policy of minimum support prices (MSP) has not improved profitability of cultivation in the last few years.
  • Farmers’ returns have done down in the case of most crops.
  • The situation is worse for producers of basic vegetables like potatoes, onions and tomatoes.
  • Prices of these crops during the harvest time plunged to about Rs 2 per kg in the last season while the consumers were still paying Rs 15 to Rs 20 per kg.
  • Attempts to reform the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) markets on the lines of the model act of 2003, and now through the Agricultural Produce and Livestock Marketing Act, 2017, have not achieved much success.
  • The e-NAM scheme, which is supposed to create an all India market, in order to ensure better prices to farmers, has not succeeded in its endeavour so far.
  • Inter-mandi and inter-state transactions are very rare

What government needs to learn from other countries?

  • It is right time to accord higher priority to micro-irrigation (drip and sprinklers) to achieve the objective of “more crop per drop”.
  • Israel and the US could be good examples to follow: Israel has the highest proportion (99 per cent) of its irrigated area under micro-irrigation while the US has largest absolute area (15 m ha) under micro-irrigation
  • The third area for action should be DBT of food and fertiliser subsidies.
  • Investment in water resources and Upgrading the market infrastructure.
  • To free up land lease markets for long periods. China allows land lease for 30 years so that corporate bodies can work with farmers, bringing in their best expertise, inputs and investments.

Conclusion:

There is need to encourage more research and development and cooperation between different departments to bring the Action Agenda reap demographic dividend. Judicial reforms are needed to increase the “Ease of Doing Business”. Though the action agenda sets hopes but to achieve these targets, the collaborative effort of all the stakeholders is to be brought.

 

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