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New incentives for women and poor farmers

india Updated: May 07, 2007 20:23 IST
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In a bid to bring in equity in agriculture, the government has proposed providing land rights to women and better access to the credit facility. It also wants a separate economic growth strategy for the rural poor. The proposal is likely to be discussed at the next full Planning Commission meeting slated for May 14.

Planning Commission has told the government that women could turn the dipping agriculture growth upside down, if provided with ‘right’ incentives. In a recommendation submitted to Prime Minister’s Office, the commission vice-chairperson Montek Singh Aluwalia has suggested the government should provide infrastructure support to women farmers. “They should have access to technical knowledge and marketing outlets like other farmers,” the commission told the PMO.

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.

The government officials feel such incentives would improve government input in the agriculture sector which has fallen from 3.39 per cent in 1976-1980 to just 1.89 per cent in 2001-2003. Although the private investment has increased to 4.8 per cent from 3.6 per cent during the period, the agriculture is still dependent on huge government subsidies, the commission’s note to the PMO says.

The government has proposed to increase investment in the agriculture sector in the 11th five year plan. From Rs 96,724 crore in the 10th plan, it is likely to be increased to Rs 2.21 lakh crores. By doing this, the government would cover 118 million hectares of land for irrigation under the state or central government schemes.

Most of the area, the official said, would be rain fed agriculture land as it has witnessed the worst negative agriculture growth in the last decade or so. “The irrigation facilities have not increased in pace with the increasing rain-fed agriculture zone,” the official point out. If agriculture has to grow at four per cent rate, he said, the rain-fed areas would have to be targetted.

The government is also expected to discuss new policy initiatives in the next Monday’s full Planning Commission meeting. The agriculture ministry is expected to bring in a proposal in this regard.