Government and other Financial Agencies as the promoter of Fish Culture
Fish culture, an important component of primary sector of India is an important source of livelihood for a large section of rural masses. Its contribution to SDP of Assam, employment and source of nutrious food to the people of Assam has been tremendous. However, this sector has been suffering from varied economic and non-economic problems. One important economic problem is finance. In this paper, an attempt is made to explore the role of various financial sources as well as Central and State Government in developing fish culture of the state of Assam on the basis of both primary and secondary data. Keywords: Fish culture, pen culture, credit-deposit ratio.
The farming of fish is an ancient practice. Assam is endowed with vast and varied resources for aquaculture. There were 391368 hectares water spread areas comprising 205000 hectares river fisheries, 100815 hectares beels/ ox-box lakes, 5017 hectares forest fisheries, 29240 hectares derelict water bodies/swamps, 1713 hectares reservoirs fisheries, 39583 hectares ponds/tanks in 2009-10 . Assam is rich in aquatic biodiversity with 217 identified fish species, genetic river dolphin, turtles, aquatic lizards, frogs, crabs, insects etc. along with many aquatic vegetation and in numerous zooplanktons and phyto planktons in the vast flood plain wet lands, rivers and streams of Assam . Assam stood 6th position in the inland fish production among all the states and union territories in India and first among all the NorthEastern States in 2004-05 (Government of India, 2005-06). Production of fish in Assam was 2.18 lakh tonnes in 2009-10 which is more than 70 per cent of total N.E. states production of fish . Rice and fish is the staple food of the people of Assam. For about 90 per cent of the population of the state, fish is an important source of dietary protein offering the crucial nutritional security. Total number of family members engaged in fishing occupation including male, female and children both in rural and urban areas in Assam was 390400 in 2003-04 which was 1.41 per cent of total population of the state . It indicates the enormous potential, which the inland fishery sector offers. However, this potentiality is not fully utilised to the best advantage of farming communities in Assam (Das and Bayan, 2011). Finance is the key to the success of any economic activity. The provision of adequate finance at appropriate time is of basic importance for the smooth working of the economic activity and for its success. Economic activities need various types of credit, namely, short term, medium term and long term credit depending upon the level and type of investment. But simply, credit is not sufficient. Along with the credit, terms and conditions as well as the rate of interest at which loan is available is also important. The availability of credit enhances the productive capacity of any enterprise, whether small or big. The small entrepreneurs, who often suffer from the lack of credit, can also operate efficiently under suitable market structure and other socio-economic conditions and even can pay reasonably high interest rate and also grow. It has already been proved by Prof. Yunus through his continuous efforts in Bangladesh which is appreciated and acknowledged worldwide. The conventional
notion of inability of the small and poor entrepreneurs to repay the loan, on the basis of which they are discriminated against the big entrepreneurs in granting loan by the established banking authorities in many places, has been proved wrong and hence credit should be extended to all the motivated hard working entrepreneurs who want to extend their economic activities.
The financial sources can be broadly divided into two categories, namely, institutional and non-institutional. The institutional sources are commercial banks including the Regional Rural Banks (RRBs), Co- operatives and the Government. On the other hand, non-institutional sources consist of moneylenders, traders and commission agents, landlords and relatives.
As very limited studies have been done on the economic aspects of fishculture, available literatures on it are very few. Most of the available studies are found mainly on mainly zoological aspects of fishculture. Some of them are Fishery Science and Indian Fisheries (Srivastava, 2002); A History of Fishes (Norman, 1958); The Fishes (Lanham, 1962); Inland Fisheries of India and Adjacent Countries (Volume-1 and 2) (Talwar and Jhingran, 1991); Fishculture in India (Alikunhi, 1957); Fish and Fisheries of India ( Jhingran, 1982); An Introduction to Fishes (Khanna, 1988); Fishes (Chand, 1991) and Fishes of the World (Nelson, 1984). However, Das and Bayan (2011), Kumar et al (2009), Pazhani and Isabella (2009), Sharma et al (2008), Goyal and Saran (2009), Shinoj et al (2009), Kumar (2004), Hapke (2001), Sharma and Khajuria (2009), Goswami (2009) studied different aspects of fishculture in different parts of India. However, there is no study on the role of government and different financial institutions in providing financial assistance to fish rearers of Assam. Hence, the present study is expected to fill the research gap.
The prime objective of the present study is to find out the role of government and financial institutions in advancing financial assistance to the fish rearers of Assam as a whole and in the district of Barpeta in particular.
The study is based on both primary and secondary data. For the purpose of analysis, secondary data on number of bank branches, credits and deposits in Assam and in the district of Barpeta, financial assistance given to the fish rearers by state and central government, etc have been collected from Directorate of Fishery, Government of Assam, Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Government of Assam, Government of India and other official reports. Consultations with the experts of the said fields were also made for gathering relevant information.
Also for the study, primary data have been collected from 120 families chosen by multistage sampling procedure from the district of Barpeta. There are 12 Community Development (CD) blocks in the district. Fish culture is practised in all blocks, but mainly concentrated in the CD blocks of Bhabanipur, Mandia and Pakabetbari. Therefore, these three CD blocks were selected out of these total 12 CD blocks of the district of Barpeta. Within these three CD blocks, nine villages namely Dabaliapara, Dhakaliapara and Kajirmill from Bhabanipur CD block, Kayakuchi, Keotpara and SakirBhita from Pakabetbari CD block and 1 No. Bardoloni, Digirpam and Nalirpar from Mandia CD block were selected by stratified random sampling method. From the nine villages, total 120 sample families are selected on the basis of the proportion of families of the three blocks engaged in such activities in the respective villages. From each village, the sample families are picked by simple random sampling without replacement from all the families practising fish culture.
From each selected family, information regarding production of fish and seed fish in a year, number of people engaged in this occupation, cost of appliances of rearing, price of seed fish and table fish at which these are sold, labour hour required in production, cost of production, the problem faced by rearers, other occupations of the family members, total annual family income, their educational status, etc. have been collected through a pre-tested questionnaire. Interview method was adopted in the collection of data. The survey was conducted during July 2010 to April 2011. Several
subsequent visits were also made to some of the sample households to clarify some doubts and confirm some findings.
SOURCES OF FINANCE IN ASSAM:
Almost all the financial institutions have been operating in Assam. The major financial institutions operating in Assam are commercial banks. Almost all the nationalised banks including SBI, RRB and other scheduled commercial banks have been operating in the state. Apart from Indian banks, one foreign bank has also been running its banking business with only one branch in the state. Total number of bank branches, their deposit mobilisations and their deployment of credit in Assam are presented in table-1. Total number of bank branches operating in Assam was 1434 as in March 2010 . On an average total deposit of a bank branch was Rs.34.55 crore in March 2010. Out of these deposits, credit granted per bank branch on an average was Rs. 12.77 crore in the same month. The credit deposit ratio was about 36.96, which was comparatively much lower than in the developed regions. Not only that, the credit deposit ratio for the RRBs was only about 47.47 in March 2010 which indicates that the loans advanced by RRBs to the rural sector is not significant. Apart from these banks, some Non- Banking Financial Institutions (NBFIs) like LICI, GICI, SIDBI, IDBI, IFCI, ICICI, NABARD, etc are also operating in Assam. Along with these institutional sources, some noninstitutional sources have also been engaged in credit market in the state.
INSTITUTIONAL AND NON-INSTITUTIONAL SOURCES OF FINANCE IN BARPETA DISTRICT:
Most of the major commercial banks have been in operation in the district. The number of commercial banks operating in the district was 11 with 43 branches in March 2011. Out of these branches, 20 branches are in rural and only 23 branches are in urban areas. The major scheduled commercial banks are UCO Bank, Syndicate Bank, PNB, etc. Apart from these commercial banks, one RRB called Assam Gramin Vikas Bank has been operating with 18 branches (13 are in rural and 05 are in urban areas) in the district as in March 2011. Along with this, one co-operative bank called The Assam Cooperative Apex Bank Limited has also been running its banking business in the district with three branches. Also, there is Land Development Bank in Barpeta district with only one branch whose prime objective is to provide long-term loan to the primary sector of the
economy. The aggregate deposits mobilised by 58 scheduled commercial bank branches in the district were Rs.1113 crore, out of which Rs.480 crore was advanced in the form of credit as in March 2010. Similarly, the aggregate deposit mobilised by 17 RRB branches in the district were Rs.197 crore, out of which Rs.103 crore was advanced in the form of credit as in March 2010 . Therefore, poor credit-deposit ratio of scheduled commercial banks and RRBs is an indication of limited role of these banks in the general economic activities and particularly in the rural development of the district.
Along with the various institutional sources of finance a number of private sources of credit are also operating their businesses within the district of Barpeta. The major noninstitutional sources of finance, operating in the district are moneylenders, traders, commission agents and relatives. Although it is not possible to have appropriate figure of their number and their credit deployment over the years, it is noticed that they have been playing a pivotal role in financing both productive and unproductive activities of rural and urban people. It is also observed that the rate of interest charged by these private sources ranges from one per cent to fifteen per cent per month, which is quite high in comparison with the institutional credit sources.
FISH CULTURE AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN BARPETA:
Fish-culturists need short-term as well as long-term credit as it is a costly venture. They require short-term loan to purchase seeds, feeds, rearing appliances and for meeting other dayto-day expenses of rearing like payment of wages to the hired labour (if any), etc. At the same time, the rearers need long-term credit to purchase land for fishery, construction of eco hatchery etc to make the occupation commercially viable and profitable and expand the activities.
Although a number of institutional sources is available in Barpeta district as mentioned earlier, there is a dearth of financial institutions to supply credit to fish culturists. During the field survey, the poor and needy entrepreneurs reported that they were unable to obtain institutional finance because of the tedious and lengthy procedure of sanctioning loans and rigid terms and conditions. Besides, they have to prepare and submit scheme and project report (which is very difficult for them as most of them are either illiterate or semi-literate), obtain nonencumbrance and valuation certificates from land record officers for collateral security, search for guarantor of loan etc, and what is more, the value of land offered as security in most cases falls far short of the norms insisted on by the institutions for the required amount of advance as they are the owner of very small land. It was also found that some of the entrepreneurs or needy rearers were not aware of the availability of institutional finance due to information gap or ignorance on their part. However, noninstitutional sources like money lenders /traders are always ready to advance credit to the needy rearers. It is because of the fact that they can take away the major portion of income generated in fish culture in the form of interest . Table-2 provides the distribution of sample families according to the source of credit in the study area.
From table-2, it is observed that out of total 120 fish culturist families, 39 (32.5 per cent) families are dependent on their own source of finance. It indicates that self-finance is the major source of finance in fish culture. Out of the three communities' developments blocks, maximum fish culturist families of Pakabetbari (33.33 per cent) are dependent on their own finance. Mandia and Bhabanipur blocks occupy second (with 32.5 per cent) and third position (with 32 per cent) respectively with respect to self-finance in fish culture.
Next important source of finance in fish culture is bank. It provides loans to 33 (27.5 per cent) rearers. Though it is not unsatisfactory, they have been providing loans only to the rich rearers. Poor rearers are betrayed from bank loan on the ground of collateral. The role of Village Mahajan in the study area is quite high which is 30 (25 per cent). The most important drawback of this private source is that they charge very high rate of interest. Also, in few cases the rearers take loan from their own relatives. Only 18 (15 per cent) of the fish culturists families take advance from this source. It is also because of almost same deplorable financial condition of their relatives. However, the rearers like to borrow from their relatives because most of the times they need not pay interest to the lenders. Of course, sometimes they pay a nominal interest (in the form of gift) when their business becomes a successful one.
FISH CULTURE AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FROM GOVERNMENT:
Government of Assam and Government of India have been advancing financial assistance to the fish rearers of Assam for various purposes under various schemes. Assam Agriculture Competitiveness Programme (AACP), Integrated Fish Farming (IFF), Assam Vikas Yojona (AVY), Fish Farmers Development Agency (FFDA), Rastriya Krishi Vikash Yojona (RKVY), Tribal Sub Plan (TSP), District Development Plan (DDP), etc have been launched by government of Assam for the development of Fishery sector of Assam. Financial assistance are given to fish rearers for development of existing tanks, construction of new tanks, creation of nursery tank, creation of rearing tank, Indian major carp hatchery, conversion of low lying area to community tank, pig cum fish farming, development of pen culture, ornamental fish breeding, boat for fisherman, development of beel and open water fisheries, etc. Apart from that, financial assistance is also given for construction of dwelling houses for fisherman. It is observed from table-3 that during 2001-02, government of Assam advanced Rs.870.38 lakh to 2217 fish rearers of Assam (also shown in diagram-1). Financial assistance given by Assam government to the fishery sector increased in terms of financial benefits and number of beneficiaries by many fold. The number of beneficiaries increased to 56856 in 2010-2011 with minor ups and downs in the middle of the years. Similarly, amount of financial benefits given to the rearers also jumped up to Rs.2729 lakh in 2009-10. However, the aid given to the fish rearers is not sufficient in comparison to the total number of fish rearers of Assam. Financial aid given to fishery sector by government under different schemes/ programmes in the district of Barpeta during 2003-04 to 2010-11 is presented in table-4.
It is observed from table-4 that only 16 fishermen received financial aid amounting to Rs.9.80 lakh during 2003-04. The aid was given for construction of houses to fishermen under National Welfare Fund for Fisherman and for the development of derelict water bodies. Number of beneficiaries increased to the highest level 659 in the year 2008-09 with the largest water area 131.20 hectares and the highest financial assistance of Rs. 147.907 lakh. It may be because of inclusion of Rastriya Krishi Vikash Yojona (RKVY) under which 140 fish rearers were benefitted in 2008-09. But in the immediate next two years, number of beneficiaries decreased to 423 in 2009-10 and to 172 in 2010-11.
In any modern commercialised economy, availability of cheap credit at appropriate time helps any economic activity to grow in a proper way. Although institutional and non-institutional sources are there in Assam in adequate number, their role is very much limited in financing fish culture. Still now, we do not observe any major step taken by the financial institutions towards the development of fish culture in Assam. Though non-institutional sources are observed plenty in the district of Barpeta, the fish culturists are not willing to take credit from them as rate of interest charged is very high that reduces their profitability significantly and makes it nonremunerative. Therefore, this age old sector though still existing but not growing at a desired rate. The fish culture activity is mainly constrained by the limited resources of the rearers themselves.
Government has been providing grants in aid to the rearers. But, the grants are either insufficient or mis-utilised and in some cases even misappropriated by the corrupt government officials in the name of rearers. Therefore, the actual rearers are not benefited at all. Proper policy should be framed to identify the actual rearers and also to monitor the programmes for the proper utilisation of whatever resources are available, by the fish rearers that can make them more competitive.
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