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Agriculture to figure at plan panel meet

delhi Updated: May 13, 2007 18:07 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Farmers may expect some government assistance in improving yields on Monday when the full Planning Commission headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets to discuss the proposals to provide better technical and financial assistance to the agriculture sector.

Planning Commission has submitted a detailed plan to the government after examining reports of the National Farmers Commission, sub-committee of the National Development Council and the working groups for the 11th five-year plan. "We have pointed at a clear technological fatigue where new varieties of major crops are not showing higher yield," a commission official said, highlighting that the yield of these crops has not increased since 1997.

A major loss for Indian agriculture has been in the rain-fed areas, where the output has witnessed a deceleration. In Kerala the output has fallen by 3.54 per cent, in Tamil Nadu by 1.36 per cent and in Madhya Pradesh by 0.33 per cent. In many other states, the growth is lower than two per cent, although in irrigated areas the increase in output has been of about four per cent. The commission, however, feels that the trend can be reversed if proper 'strategic research' is put into place.

The commission is also alarmed at the food grain situation in the country. Per person production of cereals has fallen from 192 per kilogram every year in 1991 to just 174. That of pulses has gone down from 15 kilogram to 12. The availability of other foodgrains per person has fallen from 205 kilogram per person to just 186. This is despite the fact that the government subsidy for the agriculture sector has increased from 5.17 per cent to 7.42 per cent in the corresponding period.

In wake of these statistics, the commission has warned of the danger of food security as various state governments is looking at diversification of agriculture to improve earning of farmers. But the intensive use of new technologies and providing access to scientific research to farmers can bring in the change, the commission stated.

PM Singh is expected to discuss a proposal for restructuring Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR) with other cabinet ministers at the commission meeting. The National Farmers Commission had recommended correcting the focus of ICAR and developing area specific technologies.

To implement the recommendations, the Commission has suggested increasing the funding for agriculture to one per cent of the GDP (Rs 2.21 lakh crores) by end of the 11th plan period. "Most of the additional money should go for strategic research," the commission had said, while recommending setting up of an expert body to set research priorities.

The commission also wants to bring in equity in agriculture by way of providing land rights to women and better access to the credit facility to women. The commission has told the government that women could turn the dipping agriculture growth upside down, if provided with 'right' incentives. "They should have access to technical knowledge and marketing outlets like other farmers," the commission told the PMO, recently.

For the poor farmers, the government is considering a scheme where the poor can access land from those who wish to leave agriculture. To enable this, the government wants to provide credit facility to the poor to take the land on lease. "We should ensure that the poor do not get further excluded as result of contingencies, whether natural or part of economic growth strategy," a commission official said.