Krishna Raj, minister of state for agriculture and farmers welfare, on the budget and its impact on the farm sector
There were several announcements for farmers and the farm sector in the union budget 2018. Which among them would be most important in realising the target of doubling the farmers’ income by 2022?
The government under the leadership of prime minister Narendra Modi is committed towards doubling the farmers’ income by 2022. The finance minister has announced a number of steps to achieve this goal in his budget speech.
Firstly, it was a part of our election manifesto to provide input cost plus its 50 percent as MSP to farmers. The government is taking necessary steps in that direction. Secondly, we are trying to develop agriculture as an enterprise. Third, the government has announced to develop 22,000 Gramin Agriculture Markets to provide better market to farm produce. Fourth, we have increased the agriculture credit target to Rs 11 Lakh crore. Fifth, the finance minister has announced to double the budget of food processing sector. Sixth, budget has promised to develop 42 Mega Food Parks. All these steps would help in doubling the farmes’ income by 2022.
What all had the centre done to provide relief to farmers in case of disaster/drought? Have the disaster/drought-affected farmers actually got the relief amount?
Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana is being implemented to provide relief to disaster-affected farmers. It’s a matter of great pleasure for the government to inform that this scheme is providing effective relief to farmers at cutting edge level. In 2017-18 budget, the target was to increase the coverage of this scheme to 40% of cropped area. We are about to achieve this target. Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme is also there to ensure that farmers feel secure against natural calamities. As far as agriculture insurance is concerned, we had allocated Rs. 9,000.75 crore for 2017-18, Rs ,8058.75 crore has already been released /utilised so far.
Many farmers have committed suicide in the past two years. It seems that relief does not reach them. How can this trend be stopped?
This government is committed to stop this. We are addressing the core issues related to it. It happens because of farmers’ inability to pay back loans taken from local moneylenders at exorbitant interest rate. The government has committed Rs. 11 lakh crore as farm loan for next financial year to provide easy access to formal credit. We are committed to double the income of farmers. The government is also developing agriculture as an enterprise. These steps will address the core issues related to farmers’ suicide.
Loan waiver schemes have been launched by many states. Do you think it is a long term solution?
The prime minister is committed to develop a New India by 2022. In order to achieve this goal, the government is addressing the fundamental issues. There should be no doubt about it that the loan waiver is not a long term solution. It brings some immediate relief to distressed farmers. But to address the core issues, we have to improve the income of farmers without any further increase in input cost. It would make agriculture a profitable economic activity.
How is the proposed second green revolution different from the first one?
The government of India is committed to making agriculture a profitable as well as sustainable activity. On the one hand, we are focusing on doubling farmers’ income but on the other hand, we have announced a number of steps to promote organic farming. Finance minister has announced that organic farming by Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) and Village Producers’ Organizations (VPOs) in large clusters, preferably of 1,000 hectares each, will be encouraged. Budget is also talking about promotion of cultivation of medicinal plants. It is also announced that a Fisheries and Aquaculture Infrastructure Development Fund (FAIDF) for fisheries sector and an Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) for financing infrastructure requirement of animal husbandry sector will be set up with total corpus of Rs. 10,000 crore. So, I would say that newer version of green revolution is more holistic.
India’s agriculture export is much lower in comparison to its potential. What steps is the government taking to improve agriculture export?
Currently agriculture export is at $30 billion, but the potential is of $100 billion. It is announced in budget to liberalise the export agri-commodities to bridge this gap. 42 Mega Food Parks would also help in providing export quality processed agri-products. The budget has also proposed to set up state-of-the-art testing facilities in all Mega Food Parks. We are hopeful that these steps will improve our agriculture export.