Dou­ble dreams

For that, farm­ers will have to make an in­vest­ment of `463 bil­lion in the next five years

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS -

Can In­dian farm­ers' in­come be dou­bled by 2022?

ANEW IN­DIA” is the lat­est na­tional agenda. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi in his fourth In­de­pen­dence Day speech made an ap­peal with his trade­mark ges­ture of both hands point­ing to­wards the gath­er­ing: “A new In­dia that would ful­fil the dreams of the young and women, and see the in­come of farm­ers dou­ble.” Modi first promised dou­bling farm­ers’ in­come by 2022 two years ago. This is the first time he has added it to his “New In­dia” agenda. At a time when farm­ers are found more on the streets than in farms protest­ing for bet­ter pric­ing and re­lief from the agrar­ian cri­sis, it is a prom­ise ev­ery­body would des­per­ately pitch for.

Though many have doubted that this prom­ise would be ful­filled, an of­fi­cial com­mit­tee to lay the roadmap—Com­mit­tee on Dou­bling Farm­ers’ In­come led by Ashok Dal­wai—has re­cently sub­mit­ted its re­port. It re­veals the chal­lenges of ful­fill­ing the prom­ise. Start­ing from a his­tor­i­cal back­ground of progress in agri­cul­ture to what needs to be done, the re­port is very ex­pan­sive as well as spe­cific in sug­ges­tions. Go­ing by the com­mit­tee’s gen­eral ob­ser­va­tion, the tar­get is achiev­able, which this mag­a­zine also re­cently es­ti­mated.

First, the re­port says that dur­ing 2004-2014, agri­cul­ture re­ported a his­toric growth rate. The agri­cul­tural growth was an im­pres­sive 4 per cent dur­ing this pe­riod as com­pared to 2.6 per cent dur­ing 1995-2004. Four per cent growth is con­sid­ered as the gold stan­dard as far as agri­cul­ture is con­cerned. But in re­cent years, the sec­tor seems to be slow­ing down which is widely known. Sec­ond, the re­port says that this growth rate was pos­si­ble due to bet­ter min­i­mum sup­port price, in­creased public in­vest­ment and also bet­ter mar­ket price. Third, it says that the real in­come from farm­ing has to be dou­bled which is around 60 per cent of a farmer’s to­tal in­come. This means only this source of the to­tal in­come would be dou­bled as per the tar­get fixed for 2022. In­ter­est­ingly, the re­port says that this in­volves a change in the ra­tio of a farmer’s in­come from farm and non-farm sources: from the present 60:40 to 70:30 in 2022. This means that In­dia has fi­nally ac­cepted the dom­i­nance of farm in­come in farm­ers’ over­all well­be­ing. The other way to look at this is to ac­cept that the dream of adopt­ing non-farm in­come as an al­ter­na­tive to dwin­dling agri­cul­ture is now junked.

But let’s look at the cost of achiev­ing this tar­get. This is im­por­tant be­cause agri­cul­ture is a pri­vate ven­ture sup­ported by of­fi­cial poli­cies and pro­grammes. It means both pri­vate and public in­vest­ments are needed to dou­ble farm­ers’ in­come. While es­ti­mat­ing the pri­vate and public in­vest­ment re­quired, the com­mit­tee has as­sumed that the sec­tor would grow at the same rate as of 2015-2016 till 2022 with the same ef­fi­ciency. Prac­ti­cally, this means an an­nual growth of 9.23 per cent of a farmer’s in­come. For this to hap­pen, farm­ers need to in­vest `46,299 crore (at 2004-05 prices) in the next five years. Farm­ers in­vested `29,559 crore in 2015-16. For gov­ern­ments, the in­vest­ment has to be `102,269 crore; up from `64,022 crore in 2015-16.

This raises a few ques­tions: do farm­ers have the ca­pac­ity to in­vest such a huge amount of money on agri­cul­ture with­out any prof­its? A large chunk of public in­vest­ment is for spend­ing on ir­ri­ga­tion projects which, as is widely known, are not tak­ing off. Farm­ers al­ready have a huge debt. This strat­egy will just add on to their debt. In an ideal sit­u­a­tion, the agenda of dou­bling farm­ers’ in­come should have started from clean­ing up farm­ers’ debt. But the Union gov­ern­ment wants the states to take care of that. An­other round of Tu tu main main?„

TARIQUE AZIZ / CSE

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