Farmer’s Distress Policies: Bad Implementation a Hassle

by April 24, 2018 0 comments

Farmer's Distress PoliciesAlthough the policies that aim at alleviating farmers from their distress have a positive intention, but its implementation is a hassle.  The two main concerns are a decline in profits and a rise in liability.

Farmers’ agitations, protests and demonstrations that started from Haryana a few years back are taking the shape of a national movement now. Farmers from one State after the other, like Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are joining hands in a show of strength. They are uniting to draw the attention of the establishment, which, according to them, is apathetic to their woes. Declining profitability and increasing debt liabilities are some of their problems. They are angry and disappointed with the Government on whom they had pinned hopes and now feel cheated.

With the General Election approaching next year, the incumbent Government has a lot to worry about. A temporary band-aid solution is being offered in the form of loan-waivers to evade embarrassment but such measures are proving to be a failure because the number of agitators are too large to be pacified. Also, there exists no mechanism where a fair distribution of compensation, without pilferage, is possible. Moreover, even a small percent of compensation will mean a big burden on the treasury.

As a result, a mid-course correction in the form of taking well-meaning steps that is visible and implemented in letter and spirit is the need of the hour; otherwise, protesters will come again and again in bigger numbers, in an unmanageable way.  While the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare has good policies in place, implementation is lacking. It must pull up its socks.

First and foremost, procurement of crops is the prime duty of the Food Ministry. Shockingly, procurement of rice and wheat is taking place only in two States viz, Punjab and Haryana and some parts of western Uttar Pradesh. The Government, during the Budget, announced to increase minimum support price (MSP) on crops but in reality it remains a notional figure as no procurement is actually taking place in most States.

The excuse given by the Food Ministry is lack of infrastructure and manpower.  As a result, middlemen are making hay and compelling hapless farmers for distress sale, or

pressurising them to sell their products at a price which is even less than the cost of production. Added to this is the fact that poor farmers do not have storage facilities and they have to repay loans too.

To rectify this malady, the Government can ask the States to take the responsibility of procurement. For that to happen, States require separate quota for funds and manpower. Frequent monitoring of work will guarantee results.  Acquiring warehouses and godowns and preparing them for storage purpose by cleaning and fumigation them before the arrival of new crop should be given a priority.

Additionally, middlemen, who buy the harvest below the MSP, must be penalised. Anyone found buying or exploiting hapless farmers must be treated as an offender, and must be liable for suo motu punishment. Urban buyers any way are spending many times more than the farmers are paid. The entire profit is made by traders. This should be curbed. It is also being observed that due to a lack of storage facilities, thousands of tonnes of food grains are routinely rotting, lying in the open. This must end. Any extra grain must be sold at a much subsidised rate to landless villagers, a practice that is routinely followed in Chhattisgarh.

The Agriculture Ministry, which is responsible for supplying  good quality seeds at an affordable price and in sufficient quantities to the farmers, too has failed in fulfilling its duties. Not only is the quality of seed not upto the mark, there is also no mechanism available to test the quality of seeds. Hence, farmers are not too sure about buying them and, therefore, seek help from private players who charge a much higher price for the seeds. This increases the cost of production substantially. The Government can itself procure quality seeds of popular brands and sell them to the farmers at subsidised rates. This small step will generate  confidence among the farmers.

Then comes water management. The Government must walk the extra mile to propagate and generate awareness among farmers about drip irrigation or modern methods of farming as is being done in China and Israel, where farming is done using half the amount of water. Farmers can also be taught how not to grow crops that require huge quantity of water. They must be trained to sow alternate crops that can yield  good harvest with lesser water requirement.

Farmers need a parenting hand that guide them through bad times. They could be advised by easily accessible professionals, about rotation and changing the crops rather  than sticking to the routine ones. Indian farmers are scared to experiment. The competent guidance will instill courage and confidence in them to undertake challenges. These aforementioned steps, if followed  in letter and spirit, can surely bring a change farmer’s perception. The farming community is simple and are god fearing people; it is easy to make them angry and at the same time, it’s easy to please them. It is upto the sagacity of the Modi Government to turn the tables.

(The writer is a freelance commentator)

Writer: Manjula Pal

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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