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HindustanTimes Sat,23 Aug 2014

Aam Aadmi Party to promise farmers the moon

Gaurav Choudhury & Brajesh Kumar, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 20, 2014
First Published: 01:41 IST(20/3/2014) | Last Updated: 03:01 IST(20/3/2014)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) will pitch for setting up of an agriculture income commission — a statutory body with sweeping powers to decide farmers’ income, oversees crop insurance settlements, fix minimum support prices and monitor access to bank credit, particularly to small and tenant farmers.

The panel is a part of AAP’s economic vision that will be likely incorporated in its Lok Sabha poll manifesto —  to be unveiled soon — a top party leader involved in the drafting of the party’s programmes told HT.

The commission will be set up by an Act of Parliament with an overall mandate to guide the rural economy’s growth with specific policy and regulatory interventions when needed.

“There is an urgent need to shift the focus away from the current fixation on agricultural productivity to making farmers’ income secure,” said the AAP leader.

The Arvind Kejriwal-led party is also in favour of widening the scope of minimum support price (MSP) to include upto 25 crops including most food-grains and pulses.
An MSP is the assured price at which government buys food produce from farmers, which also acts as a base market price.

Successive raises have been blamed for food inflation. The AAP leader, however, said that it was fallacious to blame rise in MSP for galloping food inflation.

“Farmers’ input costs have multiplied over the last decade. A safety net of assured income overseen by a statutory body will prevent farmers’ suicides,” the AAP leader said.

Over the last decade, thousands of impoverished farmers juggling debt and failed crops have killed themselves in states like Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh leaving behind families pushed deeper into poverty. The AAP leader said that a system of statutory assured income will help prevent suicides.

The proposed farmers’ income commission will also be empowered to settle crop insurance claims that are now plagued by a one-size-fit-all model as it does not take into account the micro-geographic variations.

“Today settling a crop insurance claim for a single farmer is difficult, because it has to be settled for almost the entire block,” the AAP leader said, hinting that the party was in favour of empowering gram sabhas or village councils to settle farm insurance claims.

The party’s manifesto will also define a roadmap for rural infrastructure — storage facilities, warehouses and roads—to incentivise setting up of small manufacturing units in villages.


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