Policy bias against Rainfed agriculture

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Mains Paper 3: Agriculture | Different types of irrigation and irrigation systems storage

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Rainfed agriculture in India


News

Rainfed Agriculture Atlas

  1. A new rainfed agriculture atlas has been released this week to map the agro biodiversity and socio-economic conditions prevailing in areas.
  2. The Revitalizing Rainfed Agriculture Network (RRAN) has published the atlas.
  3. It has laid out the stark differences in government policy and expenditure.
  4. It also attempts to document the policy biases that are making farming unviable for many in these areas.

Rainfed Agriculture in India

  1. Three out of five farmers in India grow their crops using rainwater, instead of irrigation.
  2. Even though rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 per cent of the value of agriculture GDP of India, there is a clear-cut bias towards irrigated areas.
  3. However, per hectare government investment into their lands may be 20 times lower.
  4. Government procurement of the crops is a fraction of major irrigated land crops, and many of the flagship schemes are not tailored to benefit them.

Their importance

  1. Rain-fed areas account for 89 per cent of millets production, 88 per cent of pulses, 73 per cent of cotton, 69 per cent of oilseeds and 40 per cent rice production in the country.
  2. Besides, they support 64 per cent of cattle, 74 per cent of sheep and 78 per cent of goat population in the country.
  3. About 61 per cent of India’s farmers rely on rain-fed agriculture and 55 per cent of the gross cropped area is under rain-fed farming.

Due negligence on Rainfed Farmers

  1. There has been negligence toward rainfed areas which is leading to lower incomes for farmers in these areas.
  2. Farmers in rainfed areas are receiving 40% less of their income from agriculture in comparison to those in irrigated areas.
  3. Lands irrigated through big dams and canal networks get a per hectare investment of ₹5 lakh.
  4. Watershed management spending in rainfed lands is only ₹18,000-25,000 and the difference in yield is not proportionate to the difference in investment.

Procurement bias

  1. When it comes to procurement, over the decade between 2001-02 and 2011-12, the government spent ₹5.4 lakh crore on wheat and rice.
  2. Coarse cereals, which are grown in rainfed areas, only had ₹3,200 crore worth of procurement in the same period.

Schemes are often unfit

  1. Flagship government schemes, such as seed and fertiliser subsidies and soil health cards, are designed for irrigated areas and simply extended to rainfed farmers without taking their needs into consideration.
  2. For example, many hybrid seeds notified by the government scheme need plenty of water, fertiliser and pesticides to give high yields and are thus not useful to most rainfed farmers.
  3. Commercial fertilizers will simply burn out the soil without sufficient water.
  4. The government has no system to channelize indigenous seeds or subsidize organic manure in the same way.

Way Forward

  1. A more balanced approach is needed, to give rainfed farmers the same research and technology focus, and production support that their counterparts in irrigation areas have received over the last few decades.
  2. In the long run, cash incentives and income support like the PM-KISAN scheme announced in the budget earlier this month were better than extensive procurement.
Irrigation In India – PMKSY, AIBP, Watershed Management, Neeranchan, etc.
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