HOPE TAKES ROOT

From a slow, drought-af­fected start, the Modi gov­ern­ment’s ini­tia­tives for farm­ers are fi­nally begin­ning to show re­sults

India Today - - 30 YEARS OF MODI GOVERNMENT | FOOD & AGRICULTURE - By Ajit Ku­mar Jha

OR IN­DIAN AGRI­CUL­TURE, IT is the best of times, it is the worst of times. No cen­tral gov­ern­ment has passed so many re­forms in such short time, be it crop in­sur­ance, soil health cards, na­tional mar­kets for agri­cul­ture, re­viv­ing ir­ri­ga­tion projects stuck for the past two decades, new seeds, tech­nol­ogy and mech­a­ni­sa­tion or post-pro­duc­tion ini­tia­tives.

Yet, av­er­age agri­cul­tural growth was just 1.7 per cent be­tween 2014 and 2017, com­pared to 3.6 per cent in the last three years of UPA-II (2011-14). The re­sult has been huge ru­ral in­debt­ed­ness and ris­ing farmer sui­cides.

Ask Union agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Radha Mo­han Singh and he at­tributes it to the back-to-back droughts soon after the NDA gov­ern­ment took over. “Since In­de­pen­dence, never have four crops (two Kharif and two Rabi) been de­stroyed con­sec­u­tively,” he says. “De­spite this, the agri­cul­tural growth rate shot up to 4 per cent in 2016-17 after a sys­tem was put in place.” Pub­lic ex­pen­di­ture by the NDA gov­ern­ment on dif­fer­ent as­pects of agri­cul­ture—ir­ri­ga­tion, in­sur­ance, fish­eries, dairy, agri­cul­tural ed­u­ca­tion—has been much higher than it was un­der the pre­vi­ous two UPA gov­ern­ments.

How­ever, the tardy agri­cul­tural growth rate of the first three years, ac­cord­ing to ICRIER pro­fes­sor Ashok Gu­lati, is “likely to lead to a fail­ure in dou­bling of farmer’s [real] in­comes (by 2022)— the main aim of the Modi-led NDA gov­ern­ment”.

Agri­cul­ture min­istry of­fi­cials, how­ever, beg to dif­fer. They claim that states such as Mad­hya Pradesh and Gu­jarat show that the right re­forms can lead to dra­matic im­prove­ments in agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity. “In­stead of em­pha­sis­ing food se­cu­rity like the pre­vi­ous UPA regimes,” says Ashok Dal­wai, ad­di­tional sec­re­tary in the min­istry, “the NDA gov­ern­ment has ini­ti­ated struc­tural re­forms—largely tech­no­log­i­cal and mar­ket-friendly—aimed at in­creas­ing agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tiv­ity. Such re­forms are bound to dou­ble farmer in­comes in the long run.”

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