Tensions have escalated throughout India following calls from farmer organisations for the blockade of Delhi’s highways to Jaipur and Agra. The agreement between Narendra Modi government and the agitating farmers on the question of three controversial farm bills seems elusive. A large number of farmers from neighbouring states of the national capital are camping in nearby places.After several rounds of talks, the Center has now given a written assurance that Government procurement will continue at the Minimum Support Price, as well as proposals to amend laws to deal with farmers’ concerns between state-run and private mandis, registration of traders will also be included. These assurances are in response to the concerns raised by farmers, but they seem inadequate and half-baked to farming community.Now they have decided to intensify the strike, seeking repeal of controversial laws altogether. The Government has rejected the setting-up of the stage for the demonstration. Politically empowered farmers are maybe in some parts of the country, but the rest of the society lives on market forces and government policy all the time.The Center is ready to bring it to the fore amidst stiff opposition from those, most affected by the laws. In this battle of inequality, the Government should make only an honest agreement, not a political compromise. Farmers should be better off in an open market. No country serious about food security can completely abandon farming and marketing of products by market forces. Even the most free-market countries and World Trade Organisation accept this. Are the concerns of farmers justified? Today the farmers of the country are apprehensive about getting the Minimum Support Price for their produce. Other concerns include having an upper hand in negotiating agri-businesses and large retailers, causing losses to farmers. The benefit for small farmers from companies is likely to reduce the nexus of sponsors with them. Farmers also fear that companies may fix commodity prices. What the farmers need and what they are legally asking for is the guarantee of remuneration price, that the government should make under the same law for local food schemes, market intervention from the state, agri-reforms to benefit small and marginal holders must be committed to the maximum purchase of various items tied together, particularly in neglected areas, besides improving crop insurance and disaster compensation. It is also important to empower FPOs as competent players in the market and keep them out of the ambit of excessive regulation. Will export incentives strengthen the agricultural economy? Rajasthan government is examining the scope to increase exports of agricultural commodities after strengthening agro-processing units amid limited opportunities available during the COVID-19 epidemic. The State Agro-Processing, Agribusiness, and Agri-Export Promotion Policy, 2019 has been released which encourages agricultural exports and assures increase, the income of farmers. The policy also includes promoting capacity of the agro-processing sector to enhance operations through capital-infusion, technology transfer. The state government, while implementing the policy, has tried to accelerate capital investment in the value and supply chain of agriculture and allied sectors. The policy provides fund of Rs 500 crore for disbursing loans to farmers in the Rajasthan State Cooperative Bank and a grant of up to 20 lakh per year on the production of organic agriculture. The State Agricultural Marketing Board will help farmers in the export of cumin, oilseeds and isabgol. Export incentives will help strengthen the agricultural economy, which will increase productivity and employment. Efforts will be made to promote outreach of ethnic foods, organic products, and value-added agricultural products in international market. Along with all this, there is a need for improvement in agricultur marketing. India’s agricultural marketing and its cropping pattern undoubtedly need improvement. The Center should be more cognizant of the fact that both the farmer and the agricultural sector are under its protection, and cannot be free-market actors. They do not have sufficient leverage to protect their interest in negotiations with large corporations. There is no point in correcting the existing distortions in agriculture which would not infuse confidence among the farmers. As a beginner, the Center should go ahead and fulfill all the promises made to agitating farmers, not use them as a negotiating position with them. The Government should assure farmers of the guarantee and purchase of MSP. About one-third of the increase in income of farmers should be adopted by better price recovery, efficient post-harvest management, competitive value chain. It requires extensive market reforms, land leasing, and the raising of trees on private land. Most of the development initiatives and policies for agriculture are implemented by the states. Therefore, it is necessary to organise states and union territories to achieve the goal of doubling the income of farmers. To secure the future of agriculture and improve the livelihood of half of India’s population, substantial attention is needed to improve welfare of farmers and increase agricultural income. With an active focus on farmers’ capacity building (adoption of technology and awareness), states and UTs are required to achieve the goal of doubling farmers’ income.Since India is a diversified country where the majority of agriculture is dependent on the monsoon, this issue requires immediate intervention in which research, technology promotion, extension, crop management, along with the comparative advantage of each state/region and its diverse agro-climate, Processing and marketing are included. Only then can the country achieve the target of doubling farmers’ income by 2022.By Dr. Satywan Saurabh
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