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by Kavitha

ASHA’s “ASKs” related to Agriculture & Farmers’ Empowerment from upcoming Union Budget

10:47 am in News by Kavitha

To:                                                                                                                                                       February 18, 2016

Shri Arun Jaitley,

Union Finance Minister,

Government of India.

 


Dear Sir,


Sub: Our demands for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare/Empowerment in the upcoming Budget


Namaste! This is about the need to enhance and incorporate appropriate outlays for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare/Empowerment in the upcoming Budget 2016-17, without which, not only will the Agriculture Sector not be able to deliver on growth expectations and thereby impact the rest of the economy also, but will also mean serious distress and increased numbers of farm suicides in India. As a pan-Indian Alliance representing organisations and individuals from 23 states of India, the following are our demands from the upcoming budget and we hope these will be ensured and incorporated.  



1.    The first and most important thing that we ask for are increased outlays for agriculture, for all departments – these outlays should certainly be higher than 2014-15 and it is not enough that they are higher than 2015-16. India Budget 2015-16 was a serious disappointment in that it actually cut down budget allocations for Ministry of Agriculture to levels less than 2011-12, i.e., five years earlier! A quick look at the following table illustrates this. It is clear that “Farmers’ Welfare” added to the Ministry’s mandate cannot be fulfilled unless adequate public investments are made in the sector.

 

Ministry/Departments 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15* 2015-16
Ministry of Agriculture (Plan & Non Plan) 24176.72 27931.59 29772.83 31062.64 24909.78
Dept of Agriculture & Cooperation (DAC) 17522.87 20530.22 21933.50 22652.25 17004.35
Dept of Agricultural Research & Education (DARE) 4957.87 5392.00 5729.17 6144.39 6320.00
Dept of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries 1696.25 2009.37 2110.16 2266.30 1585.43

 

2.    Given that legalising land lease through mechanisms like the Licensed Cultivators’ Act in AP and Telangana is receiving serious attention from the government now (with NITI Aayog studying the subject and likely to come up with its Expert Group recommendations in a month’s time), and given that Bhoomiheen Kisan Credit scheme has taken off very well from reports available, we propose that a Guarantee Fund be set up to increase the bankers’ confidence in lending to non-land owning “licensed” cultivators, both as individual farmers and in Joint Liability Groups. Such a Fund needs to be established and can have around 5000 crore rupees set aside for the purpose in 2016-17.

 

3.    Natural Disasters that affect farming will not be one-off occasional incidents any more in this age of Climate Change. A serious overhaul of the Disaster Relief system as much as it affects agriculture is urgently needed, including the institutional machinery between Finance, Home and Agriculture Ministry streamlined and overhauled. Meanwhile, outlays have to increase to at least 25000 crore rupees, going by the drought experienced this year in various states (this is based on requests from states after their assessment of loss) for SDRF/NDRF to respond promptly to extreme weather events even as crop insurance system has to be improved drastically. This year for instance, the allocation was only Rs. 8679 crore rupees while the approved assistance was around Rs. 13549 crores which itself is much less than what is needed! 

 

4.    Investments on Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) have to increase manifold, whatever channel is used for the same (NABARD, SFAC etc.). Many analysts have shown that a communitarian approach to farming in the form of FPOs have increased profitability of smallholders and other farmers. This investment is meant for decentralized storage infrastructure, processing and value addition facilities for farmer collectives, for more direct and branded marketing by producer collectives etc. This could be taken up to 1500 crore rupees (from around 800 crores in 2015-16).

 

5.    Scaling up investments on risk-reducing ecological agriculture: The Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) is the first national level scheme of its kind which seeks to promote organic farming and thereby, resilient farming to reduce riskiness in agriculture (whether of risk related to complete crop loss that afflicts monocropped, intensive agriculture systems, by introducing biodiverse cropping systems based approach, or by way of reducing out of pocket investments and thereby indebtedness of farmers). Such is the demand for agro-ecological approaches to be scaled up and mainstreamed that PKVY targets have been exceeded in the first year of implementation. This investment is also to be seen as both a mitigation as well as adaptation effort in the context of climate change, given that this approach reduces GHG emissions, as well as captures more carbon in the soil. From 300 crores in 2015-16, the outlays may be increased to at least 1000 crore rupees. Within this, a specific component of reviving traditional crop diversity in all farms of India may be introduced, to complement the efforts of revival of traditional cattle breed and agro-ecological farming.

 

6.    Rainfed agriculture needs watershed management investments continuously; it is to be noted that in many ways, this is the only significant investment that has gone into rainfed areas of the country over the decades, and it has also had its positive impact in rainwater harvesting, checking of water and soil run-off and groundwater recharge. Watershed investments cannot be scaled down in any way and need full attention, though subsumed right now under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichai Yojana. The watershed component (IWMP) of PMKSY got 1500 crore rupees in 2015-16. This may be enhanced to Rs. 3000 crores at leastwhich should also be seen as a drought proofing effort in the context of climate change and India’s predominantly rainfed agriculture, and given dedicated support.

 

7.    For existing as well as new price support and marketing schemes, including Price Deficiency Payments (new proposal to make MSP effective and meaningful beyond procurement by government of a few commodities in some locations), Market Intervention Scheme (for perishables and those products not covered under price support schemes) or Price Stabilisation Fund (for plantation crops), we seek enhanced outlays. This is one of the most crucial aspects to farm profitability. In fact, by utilizing the concept of “Flexible Procurement Price” as has been pioneered by Karnataka Government in the recent past, the Public Distribution System should be used to procure pulses and millets too, to increase the food basket for poor consumers and to encourage farmers to diversify through assured markets. Right now, a scheme like Price Stabilisation Fund has only 436 crore rupees infused under the scheme. The recommendations of Ramesh Chand Committee report on MSP-fixing formulae should also be accepted and implemented. This aspect of Indian agriculture needs serious attention, and at least 5000 crore rupees have to be set aside for this.

 

8.    Finally and very importantly, we would like a Farm Income Commission to be set up to make all interventions accountable towards delivering minimum living incomes to farm households. To begin with, this budget can have 10 crore rupees allotted for this, for the contours of the Commission’s work to be worked out with such an outlay, with increased and adequate outlays in subsequent years. To move ahead with the Pay Commission recommendations without addressing inter-sectoral parity issues would also pave way for a highly unequal society in India.

 


Sincerely,

 


KavithaKuruganti                                                                                


Co-Convenor                                                   

Mob: (0)8880067772;                                                

 

by Kavitha

India needs a Farm Income Commission to be set up, before implementing 7th Pay Commission Recommendations: Major farm unions

5:24 pm in News by Kavitha

To:                                                                                                                                                       November 30th 2015

Shri Narendra Modi,

Prime Minister,

Government of India.

 

Dear Sir,

Sub: Addressing the need for minimum dignified living incomes to be ensured in Indian agriculture – reg.

Namaskaar! It is with a very high hope that we, representatives of many large farmer unions in the country, are penning this letter – that you will read it carefully and respond.

The 7th Pay Commission proposals are being picked up by the Government of India to benefit around one crore government employees and would also be pushing up the benchmark around salaries for many others in the private sector. In this context, it is important to note that the institutionalised disparities between agriculture and other sectors are only set to widen in an unbridgeable fashion, unless the government seeks to address this disparity.

The NSSO 70th Round data revealed that the average monthly income of an agricultural household is just Rs. 6426/- at the national level. Within this average monthly income, income from cultivation is reported to be only 47.9% (the remaining comes from livestock: 11.9%; from wage/salary: 32.2% and from non-farm business: 8%). This then means about Rs. 107/- daily earnings per adult, assuming two working adults per household. In many places, this is below minimum wages prescribed for unskilled workers, given that from July 1, 2015 the National Floor Level of Minimum Wage was raised to Rs 160 per day (which in itself is lower than many states’ minimum wage rates).

Farmers’ incomes continue to be abysmally low as well as unstable. NSSO’s Situation Assessment on Agricultural Households in the 70th Round confirmed yet again that for a vast majority of Indian agriculturists, incomes are lower than expenditure, keeping them running on a desperate debt economy. For 70% of agricultural households in India (estimated at 6.26 crore households), on an average, there is a deficit of Rs. 856/- per month per household in terms of their expenses exceeding receipts, for these households. This is more or less the same situation as reported in the NSSO 59th round from 2003, which means 12 years of high growth has not benefited them! On an average, the monthly income is only Rs. 4653/ for each of these households, lower than monthly expenses. On the other hand, the minimum pay as per the 7th Pay Commission recommendations has been increased to Rs. 18000/- per month, while the maximum pay has been hiked up to around Rs. 2.5 lakhs per month. The contrast between the highest paid government employees and this set of agriculturists is a whopping 54-times less for the agricultural households! The contrast between the lowest paid in the government sector and the lowest classes of agricultural households is worth noting too: a 4-fold difference.

Massive displacement from agriculture without equal opportunities in other sectors, and farmers’ suicides continue unabated in spite of the loan waivers and a few other measures, since the problem of securing dignified incomes is not being addressed. This, despite the fact that the government has taken an unequivocal change in its agricultural policy directions through its National Policy For Farmers 2007, of emphasising on farmers’ wellbeing and incomes and not just agricultural production and yield increases.

Any society systematically allowing such inter-sectoral disparities to build up is courting social unrest. This kind of disparity in incomes will also surely affect the demand and consumption ability of vast numbers of rural, agriculture-based citizens of the country, thereby affecting the growth plans of the government. Importantly, it is the nation’s moral imperative to give dignified lives to our farmers and food producers, who keep the nation alive.

It is with a great sense of urgency that we write to you, asking you and your government to show your commitment to ensuring minimum living incomes to farm households by taking up a few measures:

  • Announce the setting up of a Farm Income Commission which is mandated with ensuring minimum living incomes for all farm households in India;
  • Such a Farm Income Commission should prescribe minimum living incomes that would provide dignified livelihoods to all farm households to not only meet their basic needs for bare subsistence, but address the matter of inter-sectoral parity and dignity in agriculture. Mandate should include as a first step (but not be limited to) ensuring that (a) there are no negative net returns to any farm household, (b) that no adult in a farming household is earning less than minimum wages and (c) that the average incomes to farm households should be equal to at least the lowest level of government employees.
  • The Commission should also be tasked to come up with a basket of measures at the production, risk reduction/disaster relief & compensation, and marketing ends of production that net incomes of farmers are guaranteed to improve, that too with specific focus on the most marginalised farmers.
  • The same should be implemented by Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, along with various other concerned ministries, and accountability fixed in a Results Framework approach for the same.
  • The Farm Income Commission should be tasked with examining and documenting income levels realised by different kinds of farmers all over the country so that interventions can be constantly sharpened and addressed in a focused manner.

These measures, we believe, are mainly to set up monitoring and accountability mechanisms that will actualise India’s National Policy For Farmers’ main thrust on farmer well-being, to make sure that all the interventions in the name of farmers are actually geared towards delivering minimum living incomes. Otherwise, lakhs of crores of rupees being spent in the name of farmers will be of no real use to farm households. At an appropriate time, the government might consider giving a statutory framework to this income-centred approach to agricultural development interventions, by enacting a law on Farmers’ Income Guarantee.

We hope you will take up the matter with a strong sense of urgency that it deserves.

Yours sincerely,

Sd/-

 

Chamarasa Mali Patil,

Working President,

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS)

Karnataka

Ph: 9448815850

 

 

 

 
C Dharmendra Malik,

Bhartiya Kisan Union

Ph: 9219691168

 

 

 
Yogendra Yadav,

Jai Kisan Andolan,

Swaraj Abhiyan,

New Delhi

Ph: 9560092986

 

 
Vipin Chandra Patel,

General Secretary,

Gujarat Khedut Samaj,

“Mazdoor Bhavan”, Vadodara

Ph: 9909912231

 

 
V M Singh

Convenor

Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan,

W 127, Greater Kailash II,

New Delhi

Ph: 9811580131

 

 
Vikas Baliyan

Editor

Krishi  Newspaper

Muzaffarnagar,

Uttar Pradesh

Ph: 9412113453

 

 
Kavitha Kuruganti

Convenor

Kisan Swaraj Gatbandhan,

Bangalore

Ph: 8880067772

 

 
Lingaraj Pradhan

Paschim Odisha Krushak Sanghatan

Samanvay Samithi,

Sambalpur

Ph: 9437056029

 

 
Yudhvir Singh

Convenor

Indian Coordination Committee of

Farmers’ Movements (ICCFM)

Delhi.

Ph: 98-681-46405

 

 
Avik Saha

“Basudha”

West Bengal

Ph: 9830052766

 

 
Dr Sunilam,

Ex-MLA

Working President

Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and

Convenor, National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM).

Ph: 9425109770