Article by - Kapil Mishra
About 70 per cent of the population in the country depended on agriculture and related activities, it is unfortunate that there is no separate budget with policies and welfare measures for the benefit of the farming community.
If we look at the Present Agriculture Scenario in India, we observe that Agriculture is Primary sector and backbone of Indian Economy but total plan allocations are only 3.9% in 10th plan which are down by 1% over 9th Plan. More than 65 crores population directly dependent on agricultural for its livelihood, but still we do have a separate budget for Agricultural in India, whereas with only 5 crores travelers, Railway has a separate budget. The logic is difficult to understand. Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh has announced a target of 4% annual growth for agriculture sector during his independence day speech this year but the actual growth in last quarter is into negatives and there are no signs of recovery in near future.
Farmers suicides in Vidarbha and other parts of country are just symptoms of larger problem of ignorance and insensitive attitude of policy makers towards Indian Agriculture in general and farmers in particular.
Public Investment in agriculture has been on a decline and is currently estimated only 1.5%. The flow of capital is not increasing as stipulated in the Credit Policy of Govt. of India. Farm loan interest rates are still very high and the process of availing a loan from bank is too complex and time taking for small farmers. Large scale corruption in schemes like Kisan Credit Cards is a well known fact. Good quality seeds and other inputs are not easily accessible to the farmers. Most irrigation projects are pending since 1970s. Power supply is a major worry for most of the farmers across country. There is no consistency on Export- Import Policy on agricultural products and inputs. All these factors together makes Agriculture as least desired profession in India which proudly claims to be an Agricultural Economy. According to a survey done by National Farmers Commission, 50% of Indian farmers do not want their children to take up the profession. Agriculture as a profession has lost its dignity and respect in India because of low profitability, physical drudgery and high risk involved in it.
India has most varied agro-climatic conditions but so far we have not exploited its potential and our exports are only 1.1% of global trade.
To deal with changes in world economy and climate and to manage food security while ensuring sustainable development, India needs to focus on Agriculture. This is high time when we should have a separate budget for Agriculture in India. A separate budget may hep in prioritizing the needs of agriculture sector and may provide much needed relief to 600 million small farmers of India. The separate presentation of budget will get exclusive focus and new initiatives. As per recommendations of National Round table on Farmers Issues and agriculture, The Budget for Agricultural should be increased to Rs. 25,000 crores from its present level. By special measures the Gross capital formation in agriculture shall be increased to 15% from its present level of 10%. This would call for more budgetary allocations, greater investments, more credit flow, better prices for farm produce, increased savings and more economic activities and enterprises at village level. Given the size of agricultural operations, the scope for value addition and need to accelerate growth, the public investment in agriculture has to be taken to 5%.
Time has come for making Indian farmers Globally Competitive, like service and industry sectors, Indian farmers also have the potential to compete at Global level while meeting the needs of food security of country, only a focused approach and farmer centric policies are needed. A separate Budget for Agriculture will be a right step in this direction.