Loan waiver alone cannot solve farmers’ problem: Agri minister Radha Mohan Singh
Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said the Centre doesn’t have any plan to replicate a UP-like farm loan waiver at the national level.india Updated: Jun 11, 2017 21:48 IST
The Narendra Modi government has set an ambitious target of doubling farm income by 2022 — the 75th year of the country’s Independence. With farmer suicides continuing to haunt the country, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh told HT that loan waivers alone cannot solve farmers’ problem and focus should be on bringing down input cost of farming and providing market to farmers. Excerpts from an interview.
Has your government been able to improve the condition of farmers in the last three years?
Certainly, situation is improving. Credit for short-term crop loan — at concessional rate — has increased from ~8.5 lakh crore in 2014-15 to ~10 lakh crore for 2017-18. A record output of 273 million metric tones of foodgrain and 287 mmts of fruits and vegetables has been achieved in 2016-17. Milk production has also been at a record level. All this was possible because of a methodical planning of schemes and their proper and timely execution. But, we have a long way to go.
But, the non availability of market and proper remuneration remain a matter of concern. How is the government dealing with this situation?
We are committed to creating a unified national agriculture market. The Prime Minister launched e-NAM in April last year. As against the target of 400, as many as 419 markets have already joined this platform across 13 states and Union Territories. 80.18 lakh tonnes of various commodities, valued at Rs 19,196 crore, have been traded on the platform. We have a target to reach a total of 585 markets by March 2018.
Does the Centre have any plan to replicate a UP-like farm loan waiver at the national level?
It is a decision of the Yogi Adityanath government. We do not have any such plan at the national level.
Why is the Centre averse to funding farm loan waiver nationally?
Farm loan waivers alone cannot solve problems of farmers in the long run. On the one hand, you spend crore of rupees on waiving off loans and on the other you have 99 big and small irrigation projects pending for want of resources. Can such a situation be appreciated? We need to build capacity, make agriculture remunerative and provide market to farmers. Farmers need cheap credit in time, so as it can invest it properly and get good return. That will serve the cause much better than farm loan waiver.
Your government has promised to double the income of farmers by 2022. How do you plan to achieve that?
About 48% of India’s population is engaged in agriculture. 22.5% of the farming community is below the poverty line. Farming has to be made productive and profitable. We need to decrease input cost, increase production and ensure proper remuneration. Farmers need to be insulated from situations, such as natural calamity and bad crop, through insurance.