One of the key demands of the farmers who have marched to Mumbai is the implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan commission’s report
GN Bureau | March 12, 2018
Thousands are farmers have marched into Mumbai to present a list of demands to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis – and things would not have come to such a pass if a 2006 report had been implemented.
Their demands include a complete loan waiver, an overhaul of the river linking scheme keeping in mind the tribal villages and implementation of recommendations made by the Swaminathan Committee report, reported Indian Express.
The National Commission on Farmers, headed by renowned geneticist MS Swaminathan who played a key role in India’s green revolution, carried out an in-depth study to find out ways to help farmers.
The recommendations of its final report submitted on October 4, 2006 said that several policies for agriculture have been developed by the government of India from time to time, the last one being in the year 2002. The decline in the growth of agriculture has now led to a climate of despair among farmer families, policy makers and the general public. Some areas in the States of Maharashtra, Andhra, Karnataka and Kerala have been affected by a serious agrarian crisis, leading occasionally to farmers’ suicides.
It said that the time is therefore opportune for revitalizing our agricultural progress by making agrarian prosperity and food security and sovereignty the bottom line for government policies and priorities in agriculture and rural development. Given adequate investment and pro-small farmer public policies, we can reverse the decline and restore confidence in our agricultural capability.
What reforms did the committee suggest?
The purpose of asset reform is to ensure that every man and woman in villages either possesses or has access to a productive asset like land, livestock, fishpond, homestead farm or income through an enterprise, or a market driven skill, so that household nutrition security is safeguarded, and children are able to go to school.
The ownership of land is highly skewed with over 60% of the rural households owning less than one hectare. Farmers owning over one hectare comprise about 28% of rural families. The landless population amounts to 11.24% of rural households. These data relate to 1991-92 and it is obvious that by now there would have been further fragmentation of holdings leading to a much larger incidence of very small operational holdings.
Prime farmland must be conserved for agriculture and should not be diverted for non-agricultural purposes and for programmes like the Special Economic Zone. Such special programmes should be assigned wastelands and/or land affected by salinity and other abiotic stresses that reduce the biological potential of land for the purpose of farming.
The ownership of a small plot of land will help the family improve household income and nutrition security. Wherever feasible, landless labour households should be provided with at least 1 acre per household, which will give them space for home gardens and animal rearing. The allotment of such land should be in the name of the woman or in the joint names of both husband and wife. Tamil Nadu’s recent example of allocation of land to the landless deserves to be studied and emulated throughout the country.
Besides, land ownership, it also went into the issue of water management.
The report said that water is a public good and social resource and not private property. Priority should be given to evolving just and equitable mechanisms to give access to water and to include local people in management of water resources. Women must have a significant 6 role in both access and management, as water users and managers. Irrigation water at the right time and in adequate quantities is now becoming a serious constraint in achieving both higher productivity and stability of farming in many parts of the country.
Livestock, including poultry, is the second major land-based livelihood, contributing 26 percent of the agricultural GDP in 2004-05. It is clear that livestock and livelihoods are very intimately related in our country and that crop-livestock integrated farming is the pathway to farmers’ well-being.
It advised setting up a National Livestock Development Council, which may be established to give integrated attention to all aspects of this important sector, such as breeding policy, feed and fodder, healthcare through Para-veterinary professionals, marketing, value addition, biomass utilization (skin, bones and blood) and efficient use of animal energy, for example, through improved bullock carts.
A National Biotechnology Regulatory Authority should be set up for this purpose, with farmers’ 17 representatives on it. It should be autonomous and professionally-led so that risks and benefits can be assessed objectively, said the report.
There is urgent need for stepping up breeding crop varieties, particularly fruits and vegetables, for processing quality. Also, research on breeding crops for high yield in an environmentally safe manner needs strengthening.
There should be a National Land Use Advisory Service that gives proactive advice to help farm families plan their sowing based on anticipated meteorological and marketing factors. In the case of marine fisheries, data available on wave heights and location of fish shoals should be transmitted to the fishermen before they move into the sea.
On banking, the report said that the need is to improve the outreach and efficiency of the rural banking system. The financial services must reach all its users effectively; the credit must be in time, in required quantities and at appropriate interest rate. The interest rate should be as low as possible. It should be possible to bring about a reduction in transaction cost by eliminating all forms of waste and inefficiency in the operation of the banking system. The inefficiencies of the delivery system should not be loaded on the interest charged. The delivery system has to be proactive and should respond to the financial needs of clients in the rural areas. The banking system needs to explore the large unmet credit potential needed to raise agriculture to higher thresholds, and for the growth of rural and agri-business enterprises and employment.
The report went on to say that coverage of farmers, particularly small and marginal farmers and landless agricultural workers, under a comprehensive National Social Security Scheme is essential for ensuring livelihood security. Such a scheme should take care of expenses up to a ceiling for hospitalization in case of illness of a family member, maternity, life insurance and old age pension. This should also include protection from occupational hazards.
The Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) should be an autonomous statutory organization with its primary mandate being the recommendation of remunerative prices for the principal agricultural commodities of both dry-farming and irrigated areas. The MSP should be at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production. The “net take home income” of farmers should be comparable to those of civil servants.
Read: The complete report on National Commission on Farmers
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