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Sustainable agri report aimed at policy reorientation and action plan
Thursday, 03 October, 2019, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
Policy reorientation and making an accelerated action plan for achieving sustainable agriculture for improved livelihood of smallholder farmers as well as addressing the issues of poverty, hunger and malnutrition that continue to prevail in India, despite various agricultural revolutions (Green, Blue, White, etc.) over the past few decades, were the objectives of a new report on Policies and Action Plan for Secure and Sustainable Agriculture

It was presented by a committee, chaired by R S Paroda, and tasked with the aforementioned objectives, to K Vijayraghavan, principal scientific advisor to the Government of India.

The report highlighted how adoption and scaling of new technologies and innovations through an enabling policy environment, with inclusiveness of all stakeholders, can accelerate agricultural growth.

It spelled out a clear strategy and road map that can lead India to achieve sustainable, innovative and profitable farming approaches to remove the triple burden of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, while ensuring conservation of natural resources, as enshrined in the agenda of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report had some transformative suggestions that encompass policy, institutions, infrastructure, market, science, technology and innovations, which together contribute directly or indirectly to agricultural output, and thereby, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.

More importantly, it has kept farmers in the centrestage, while suggesting reforms that would address their distress and enhance income as well as well being.

Some key institutional reforms recommended included review of existing agricultural policies and forming a new policy on agricultural development and farmers’ welfare to meet emerging challenges; needed reorientation of on-going missions/national programmes, including urgency for initiating some new missions; strengthening of ICAR/SAUs/KVKs/PRIs with urgency for doubling current public funding for research; the establishment of a new National Agricultural Development and Farmers’ Welfare Council (NAD&FWC) under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister to ensure effective coordination and convergence so critical for agriculture, being a state subject; establishing farmers’ welfare commissions both at the Central and state level; an independent strategic planning, monitoring, and evaluation unit expanding the mandate of KVKs as Knowledge-Skill-Innovation Centres and to facilitate the establishment of agri-clinics, and finally the empowerment and motivation of women and youth to remain in agriculture and become important game-changers.

The report also suggested needed policy reforms to increase capital investment in agriculture (both public and private); increase in credit access to the farmers and young entrepreneurs at low interest rate (four per cent), and creation of more financial institutions such as Kisan Banks, provision of pledged warehouses, availability of farm machinery on custom hire basis etc.

The committee has strongly recommended that henceforth, the subsidies in agriculture be rationalised as incentives for good agronomic practices through direct benefit transfer (DBT) mechanism.

It is recommended to convert existing subsidies as incentives for both farming efficiency and environmental services at Rs 10,000 per acre per annum up to a maximum of 10 acre (four hectare) per farming family.

It is also recommended that the farmers be henceforth paid minimum support price (MSP) at 1.5 times of cost C2 and the procurement be extended to all important agricultural commodities.

Also, there is a need to enhance markets intensity in rural areas and ensure market linkages through e-NAM requiring the uniform adoption of the Agriculture Produce and Livestock Marketing (APLM) Act and the Contract Farming Act by various states.

Further, the Mandi tax has also to be rationalised at about 5-7 per cent only. The Essential Commodities Act (ECA) and Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Act also need to be reviewed for their relevance in the present context when we want one national market for e-NAM (electronic National Agriculture Market) and for global exports.

The concerns of the seed industry with regard to implementation and harmonisation of Biological Diversity Act and Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Act (PVP&FRA), unresolved issues relating to access and benefit sharing (ABS) for use of genetic resources, besides intellectual property (IP) protection on innovation such as genetic modification (GM), genome editing, etc., pricing policy on seeds and the long-awaited revision of the Seed Act need to be addressed on priority.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) will now be linked to efficient technology dissemination through active involvement of youth (including women) as technology/extension agents, input and/or service providers and for the establishment of agri-clinics involving young entrepreneurs. Export-import (EXIM) policy needs to be made long-term and foresight-oriented, for which APEDA needs to be strengthened.

The Seed Bill, the Pesticide Management Bill, the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, and other important Bills/Acts relating to agriculture and rural development need to be cleared by Parliament on priority.

National Policies on Biotechnology, Livestock Breeding, and Land Utilisation should be considered for quick decision and implementation by all the states concerned.

Finally, it is the committee’s resolve that the growth of agriculture sector can be accelerated to help achieve SDGs much faster provided the recommendations given in the report are implemented through both a missionary zeal and as a package by the Government.
 
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