Friday, 7 July 2017

Farmers woes: Relevance of Swaminathan Commission Report

National Commission on Farmers (NCF)’s Swaminathan Commission Report is aimed at working out a system for food and nutrition security, sustainability in farming system, enhancing quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities and also to recommend measures for credit and other marketing related steps. 
  • The government of India constituted the NCF on November 18, 2004. The NCF was chaired by Professor M.S. Swaminathan. It submitted its fifth and final report on October 4, 2006. 
  • The reports had suggestions for “faster and more inclusive growth” for farmers and agriculture sector .
  • M.S. Swaminathan had requested the government to implement the recommendations given in the report so that it could provide minimum support price for grains, safeguard the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession.
  • The Commission observed that farmers needed to have an assured access to and control over rightful basic resources that includes land, water, bio resources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets.
  • Agriculture must be implemented in the concurrent list from the state list — hence putting it as a matter of concern for both the Union and the states.
  • The commission said that the inequality in landholdings in shown starkly in land ownership. It said that in 1991-92, the share of the bottom 50 per cent of the rural households in the country’s total land ownership was only 3%. The top 10% owned as much as 54% of land.  
  • One of the key reforms was land reforms. It was aimed to address the issue of access to and for both crops and livestock.
  • Land Reforms: Distribution of ceiling-surplus and waste lands; prevention of diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural use; to ensure grazing rights are provided and seasonal access is allowed in forests to tribals and pastoralists. It recommended access to common property resources. One main case was establishing a National Land Use Advisory Service. The purpose of this service would be to connect land usage decisions with ecological meteorological and marketing factors.
  • Irrigation Reforms: It recommended framing a set of reforms to provide farmers with sustained and equitable access to water for irrigation. Ensuring boost in water supply by rainwater harvesting, water level recharging by mandatory aquifers; Million Wells Recharge programme to be initiated targeted at private wells. To target increase in investment in irrigation sector under 11th five year plan.
  • Productivity Growth: NCF said that with the objective of achieving higher productivity growth, it recommended substantial increase in public investment in agriculture-related infrastructure particularly in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research development and road connectivity etc. It also recommended a national network of advanced soil testing labs with an aim to test areas for apt micronutrient levels.
  • Credit and Insurance: Expand outreach of formal credit system; reduce crop loan interest rates to 4%; provide moratorium on debt recovery; agricultural risk fund; kisan credit cards for women farmers; integrated credit-cum-crop-livestock human health insurance package; crop insurance across country for all crops with reduced premiums; sustainable livelihoods for the poor, investment in human development; institutional development services etc.
  • Food Security: The commission recommended implementation of a universal public distribution system; reorganising delivery of nutrition support programmes on a life-cycle basis with panchayat participation and that of local bodies; elimination of micronutrient deficiency induced hunger and food cum fortification; community food and water banks to be operated by women self-help groups; help small and marginal farmers; formulate national food guarantee act with features as food for work and employment guarantee programmes.
  • Prevention of Farmer Suicides: Providing affordable health insurance at primary healthcare centres in villages; national rural health mission to be extended to suicide hotspots on priority basis; state level farmers’ commissions with representatives of farmers, restructuring of micro finance policies that may serve as a sort of livelihood finance; covering all crops by crop insurance; village to be the assessor and not the block, social security net that gives old age support with health insurance and aquifer recharge and rain water conservation; plans for decentralised water usage etc.

The first right on all resources rests with poor, peasants & workers.

My View:
Even today, agriculture employs over 1.3 billion people throughout the world, or close to 40% of the global workforce. The ratio of farmers has declined from 35 to 4% in developed nations between 1950 and 2010, and from 81 to 48% in developing countries. In India, the workforce in agriculture was 76% in 1961. The number decreased to 51% in 2010. Still agriculture provides the bulk of employment in the rural areas. Post liberalization, cutbacks in agricultural subsidies increased the costs of inputs but market prices have not seen a corresponding increase. The rising of costs of production and the falling prices of farm commodities have transformed agriculture from a positive economy into a negative economy for peasants. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalization. Today they barely make enough to feed themselves. Over three lakh farmers have committed suicide since 1995, mostly in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. Farmer suicides have largely been attributed to debt, drought, crop failure and poor returns. Debt is a reflection of a negative economy. Their main source of capital for farming remains loans. While bank's share is 60% only, most farmers depend on moneylenders, at exorbitant interest rates. Swaminathan commission recommended sweeping reforms and massive investments for viability of agriculture, successive governments makes promises for winning elections and forgets thereafter. Occasionally, they announce farm loan waivers as temporary relief but agriculture problems remains as they are and farmer suicides continue unabated, which is a national shame. During 2014 election campaigning, Modi made categorical promise to implement Swaminathan commission report with MSP of inputs cost plus 50% profit margin and doubling farmer's income in 5 years in real terms, with unforgettable rhetoric for garnering rural votes, and after getting the votes, he never bothered to do anything during the past three years and is following same style as Congress. His desperate attempt to win UP elections by announcing farmer loan waiver, much against BJP's stated policies, and after winning the scheme announced was scaled down to less than 25% is an outright atrocity on UP farmers and had ignited violent agitations in many states endangering national economy. In addition BJP's new "Anti slaughter rules" had destroyed dairying, along with beef export & leather industry, which is the second and last source of income for rural masses. Instead of alleviating farmer's woes, generating new jobs and improving economy, Modi successfully destroyed agriculture, dairying & rural economy and his acts of insanity resulted in loss of millions of jobs and millions of dollars of export income.

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