PM Modi spells out 4-point agenda to double farmers’ incomes
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said as many as 99 irrigation schemes that had been stuck for moer than two decades will be completed within a specified time-frame and Rs 80,000 crore has been allocated for the same.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday proposed a four-pronged strategy to achieve his government’s key agrarian agenda of doubling farmers’ income: reducing cultivation costs, ensuring profitable prices, processing farm waste and creating non-farm sources of income.
The prime minister was addressing 300 policy planners, farmers, economists and bankers who gathered for a two-day conference organised by the agriculture ministry to suggest ways to increase farm income.
Modi called for “hackathons” in Indian Institutes of Technology for out-of-the-box ideas in agriculture. “These really work, believe me. Their solutions have worked in other areas of governance.”
Soil health cards had cut the use of chemical fertilisers by 8% to 10%, while increasing productivity by 5% to 6%, Modi said. “Just like the entire country has pathology labs in the health sector, we could set up a network of soil-testing labs.”
Modi said an entire economy could spring up around soil testing if agricultural BSc courses prepared students to be soil technologists. Such students could then set up labs with government subsidies, he said.
Modi sat through presentations around seven major themes made by aggregating proposals in the conclave that ended on Tuesday. The government would seriously look into suggestions made in the conference, the PM said.
“Your recommendations will be analysed at every level in the government. Some may be implemented in a short term, while some will be implemented later. I desire to take these forward.”
The government is looking at several options to alleviate agrarian distress which could have serious electoral implications as the country prepares for a general election next year.
The prime minister said one of his government’s targets was to see that 99 irrigation schemes stuck for 25 to 30 years were completed within fresh deadlines. About 50% of these would be completed by this year. The government has earmarked ₹80,000 crore for this, he added.
On April 13, 2016, the Modi government had set up a committee under Ashok Dalwai, former additional secretary in the agriculture ministry, to prepare a series of reports on doubling farm income. The committee stated that doubling of farm income meant increasing real or inflation-adjusted incomes.
The Dalwai panel points out that real incomes of farmers’ need to register a compound annual growth rate of 10.4% for farmers’ incomes to double by 2022. In 2017-18, agricultural growth is expected to slow to 2.1%, compared to 4.9% in the previous year, according to official forecasts.
Some of the suggestions made in the presentations include putting agri-marketing under joint Centre-states jurisdiction, digitisation of land records and making farm produce compliant with export norms. One proposal was about launching a scheme called ‘Start-up Agri India’.
Modi said his government was looking at a target of bringing 50% of all cropped area under mandatory insurance, adding that said 100% “neem coating” of urea, a widely used input, had led to an higher efficiency and saved costs for farmers.