The Indian government has unveiled a national policy for farmers to help in rejuvenating the farm sector and bringing lasting improvement in the economic condition of the farmers.
Here are the salient features of the policy released by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
The Government had constituted National Commission on Farmers in 2004 under the chairmanship of Dr. M.S. Swaminathan. The terms of reference of the Commission included, inter alia, methods of enhancing productivity, profitability and sustainability of the major farming systems in different agro-climatic regions of the country and suggesting measures to attract and retain educated youth in farming and working out a comprehensive medium term strategy for food and nutrition security.
The Commission submitted its final report in October 2006.
Based on the recommendations made by the Commission in its Revised Draft National Policy for Farmers and the comments/suggestions received from various Central Ministries and Departments and State Governments, the "National Policy for Farmers, 2007" has been formulated and approved by the Government of India. The policy, among other things, aims to improve the economic viability of farming by substantially improving the net income of farmers in addition to improving productivity, profitability, land, water and support services and provide appropriate price policy, risk management measures.
Important provisions and features incorporated in the National Policy for Farmers, 2007 include the following:
(a) Human Dimension: Focus to be on the economic well-being of the farmers than just on production and productivity and this is to be the principal determinant of Farmers policy.
(b) Definition of Farmers: Expanded to include all categories of persons engaged in the sector so that they can be extended the benefits of the Policy.
(c) Asset Reforms: To ensure that every man and woman, particularly the poor, in villages either possesses or have access to a productive asset.
(d) Income Per Unit of Water: The concept of maximizing yield and income per unit of water would be adopted in all crop production programmes, stress on awareness and efficiency of water use.
(e) Drought Code, Flood Code and Good Weather Code: To be introduced in drought prone areas, flood prone areas and in arid areas respectively so as to maximize the benefits of monsoon and to be prepared for likely contingencies.
(f) Use of Technology: New technologies which can help enhance productivity per unit of land and water are needed. Biotechnology, information and communication technology (ICT), renewable energy technology, space applications and nano-technology to provide opportunities for launching an "Evergreen Revolution" capable of improving productivity in perpetuity without harming the ecology.
(g) National Agricultural Bio-security System: To be set up to organize a coordinated agricultural bio-security programme.
(h) Inputs and services-Soil Health: Good quality seeds, disease free planting material, including in-vitro cultured propagules and Soil health enhancement hold the key to raising small farm productivity. Every farm family to be issued with a Soil Health Passbook.
(i) Support Services for women: When women work in fields and forests the whole day, they need appropriate support services like crèches, child care centers and adequate nutrition.
(j) Credit & Insurance: Credit counseling centers to be established where severely indebted farmers can be provided a debt rescue package to help them out of debt trap. Need for both credit and insurance literacy in villages, Gyan Chaupals to help in the task.
(k) Setting up of Farm Schools in the fields of outstanding farmers to promote farmer to farmer learning and to strengthen extension services.
(l) Gyan Chaupals to be established in as many villages as possible to harness the help of Information and Communication Technology.
(m) A comprehensive National Social Security Scheme for the farmers for ensuring livelihood security by taking care of insurance needs on account of illness, old age, etc.
(n) Minimum Support Price (MSP) mechanisms to be implemented effectively across the country so as to ensure remunerative prices for agricultural produce.
(o) Market Intervention Scheme to be strengthened to respond speedily to exigencies, specific crops to be identified.
(p) Community Foodgrain Banks: To be promoted to help in the marketing of unutilized crops.
(q) Single National Market: To develop a Single National Market by relaxing internal restrictions and controls.
(r) Expanding Food Security Basket to include nutritious crops like bajra, jowar, ragi and millets mostly grown in dryland farming areas.
(s) Farmers of the future: Farmers may adopt cooperative farming, create service cooperatives, undertake group farming through self-help groups, establish small holders' estates, adopt contract farming and create farmers' companies. This is expected to increase productivity, efficiency of small farmers and would create multiple livelihood opportunities through crop livestock integrated farming systems as well as agro processing.
(t) A Cabinet Committee on Food Security is to be constituted.
Mechanism for operationalising the policy:
In order to operationalise the Policy, the Department of Agriculture & Cooperation will constitute an Inter-Ministerial Committee for preparing a suitable plan of action for the purpose.
Agriculture Coordination Committee under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister would oversee and coordinate the integrated implementation of the National Policy for Farmers.