(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
Around this time of the year, the Govt seems to strictly go by the book and calls for Pre-Budget confabulations with a cross section of the industry, trade bodies, corporate who-is-who and individuals who project themselves to be the sympathiser of the peasantry but in reality they are not even remotely concerned to streamline agriculture and make it economically rewarding and globally competitive.
If the Govt. does not even now make a distinction between the real and the fake and fails to differentiate between those who are closely linked with the agrarian well being of the country and those who are steadfastly trying to impose corporate farming, capture all growth inputs & thus endangering our food security, we can say for sure that agriculture as the age old prime livelyhood resource of our people will be doomed for ever.
The UPA Govt. is two Budget old now and the third one is very much in the offing. The pre-budget discussions have become more a routine exercise than a sincere desire on the part of the policy makers and the planners to transform India, one of the largest farming country in the world into a global agricultural entity.
Our plain speaking is likely to cause a fuss among the policy formulators and those who are never tired of using all sorts of euphemism, but it is clearly evident that the euphoria they generate are always short lived and fail to inspire the farming community.
The Govt. must ensure fast growth of agriculture. The crippling sluggishness in the implementation of the policies and programmes of the previous years and the glaring non-performance on time bound utilisation even of the insufficient budget outlay have sadly put the growth of agriculture in back gear.
The Govt should earmark substantial allocation in the budget for multipronged development of agriculture and must strictly ensure transparency in the utilisation of the fund under various heads.
It is a compulsive situation and recourse to an escape route will only lead towards economic devastation because the truth that perspective growth of agriculture is absolutely imperative for achieving economic prosperity can never be altered.
Caps like micro-irrigation, rural development, fertilizer subsidy, watershed management, recharge of water bodies and application of appropriate technologies for rain water harvesting need much greater budgetary provision than made hitherto so as to make agriculture sustainable, occupationally rewarding and strong enough to repel alien exploitation.
Agri-insurance schemes must be made very responsive and its scope should be enlarged and widened to cover all aspects of agriculture, say dairy, fishery, poultry, bee keeping etc.
Rate of interest on agricultural credit and loans should be substantially brought down and made uniformally applicable in the all the states. The effects of the allocations provided for infrastructure development are not conspicuously visible primarily because the beneficiaries are never directly involved in infrastructure development schemes.
Projections like rural electrification, development and expansion of agri-markets and giving a new thrust to post harvest technology will bolster agro-rural prosperity and therefore need not be down played in terms of budgetary allocations. If the Govt. is really serious for a sustained four percent annual growth in farm output, the constraints of funds should not be made an easy excuse and come in way of fast growth of agriculture.
(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)