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Swaminathan calls for setting up of a Farm Income Commission
Wednesday, 18 February, 2009, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, Mumbai
"Much has been done during the last five years to revitalize our agriculture and to reduce agrarian distress. Much, however, remains to be done to do justice to the genuine needs of the majority of our population who constitute the farming community," said M S Swaminathan, well-known agriculture scientist, commenting on the Interim Budget presented in parliament on Monday.

In an exclusive article published in The Financial Express, Dr Swaminathan said the Interim Budget rightly recounted the various initiatives and achievements of the UPA government in the field of agriculture during the last five years. As on the previous occasions, farmers had been referred to as the real heroes of India's success story, because of the multiple contributions they are making in the areas of food, livelihood, ecological security and national sovereignty. The finance minister has also mentioned that the Plan allocation for agriculture has been increased by 300% during the last five years and that a flagship programme titled Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana has been launched with an outlay of Rs 25,000 crore. Reference has also been made to the agriculture debt waiver and debt relief scheme covering 36 million families at a cost of Rs 65,300 crore. All these, however, cannot hide the fact that agriculture is facing serious economical and ecological crises. Obviously only the regular budget for 2009-10 that will be presented by the next government can seriously address issues relating to agrarian distress and widespread under-and-malnutrition.

"I hope that during the regular budget the recommendations of the National Commission on Farmers on the steps needed for increasing the income of small producers, as well as the need for ensuring minimum support price not only for wheat and rice but for a wide range of millets, pulses, oil seeds and tuber crops will be implemented."

Further provision needs to be made for establishing a national grid of warehouses for grains and cold storage structures for perishable commodities. The prevailing mismatch between production and post-harvest technologies should be ended.

The National Policy for Farmers presented in parliament in November 2007 makes a commitment that the government will try to ensure income and work security to farm families. The next budget should try to address the issue of converting this commitment into well-defined programmes with resource allocation.

The government has accepted the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission with improvement, providing benefit to 4.5 million central government employees and 3.8 million pensioners. He suggested that the major political parties commit themselves to establishing a Farm Income Commission which can go into the totality of the income of farmers from crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, agro-forestry and agro-processing, so as to ensure a minimum take home income to farmers.
 
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