Agricultural Sector and Marketing Reforms – eNAM, Model APMC Act, Eco Survey Reco, etc.

Government must promote crop diversification by setting MSP for other crops as well

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : NA

Mains level : Read the attached story

Farmers’ genuine concerns must be addressed as soon as possible so that they can continue producing food and fibre needed for the ever-increasing population.

Green revolution and farmer’s contribution to the food sufficiency in India

  • In the early 1960s, near-famine conditions prevailed in India and some 10 million tonnes of wheat had to be imported from the US under the PL480 programme. The country’s situation was like“ship-to-mouth” existence.
  • High-yielding dwarf wheat varieties brought from Mexico were provided to Indian agricultural institutes.
  • The consequent miraculous gains in wheat yield and production ushered in the “Green Revolution.”
  • The Green Revolution occurred due to a confluence of favourable government policies, efforts of agricultural scientists and the adoption of new wheat varieties/selections by farmers.
  • Also, the contributions of farmers of Punjab (Haryana included) was also very important and they became the backbone of the revolution.
  • By 1974, the industrious farmers of the “food-bowl” states of Punjab, Haryana, and western UP had brought about self-sufficiency in foodgrain production, ridding the country of the “begging bowl”.

Practice Question: What are the concerns of the farmers after new agriculture reforms and how they can be addressed?

Farmer’s concerns

  • Consultation with farmers is important before drafting policies
  • There will be resistance no matter which organization enact the policies/rules without taking the affected people on board. A proactive approach is always better than a reactive one.
  • From the farmers’ standpoint, the ordinances were unfairly promulgated in June 2020, during the COVID-19 lockdown, without consulting them.
  • Loss of Income in the lockdown – Farmers could not sell their vegetables and fruits because of the lockdown causing the loss of income and then the imposition of the new laws aggravated them.
  • Uncertainty in the minds of farmers about the continuation of MSP
  • Farmers have been selling food grains (mainly wheat and rice) at Minimum Support Price (MSP) since the mid-1960s.
  • This has helped to create a central pool of food grains and the Public Distribution System to help poor people.
  • But MSP has not been guaranteed in the newly enacted farm laws, which is the major bone of contention.
  • The APMCs are under threat from the new farm laws as MSP and APMC go hand-in-hand.

New Middleman –

  • The central government has indicated that the new farm laws are meant to eliminate the “middlemen”.
  • But the farmers feel that a new class of middlemen, that is, lawyers belonging to big companies would emerge.
  • Thus, small farmers would be at a distinct disadvantage — more than 80 per cent of farmers own less than five acres of land.

Contract farming

  • According to the central government, the new laws will ensure contract farming.
  • The farmers fear that big companies might usurp their land and might not pay them an agreed price on the pretext of “poor quality” of produce.
  • They feel that big companies might become monopolies, and exploit both farmers and consumers. Farmers fear being made into labourers.

Way forward

MSP is a must

  • A clause should be added in the law to the effect that no matter who buys the produce (government or a private entity), the farmer must be given an MSP.
  • The National Farmers’ Commission’s recommendation of providing an MSP of 50 per cent over and above a farmer’s input expenses must be implemented.
  • APMCs should be continued – The fees that “Mandi Boards” collect (for example the Rural Development Fund) have helped build link roads. No private organization will do this.
  • MSP should be determined on the basis of grain quality.

Crop diversification is needed

  • The government must promote crop diversification by purchasing crops produced other than wheat and rice at MSP. This could help conserve the dwindling supply of underground water.
  • To encourage farmers to grow high-value crops, such as vegetables and fruits, the government should set up the adequate cold-chain infrastructure.
  • The farmers’ staying power must be improved so that they don’t have to sell all of their produce immediately after the harvest.
  • India has produced a number of World Food Laureates, including M S Swaminathan, Gurdev S Khush, Surinder K Vasal, and Rattan Lal. Such intellectuals should be in the “Agricultural Think Tank.”
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