by Akhilesh K Prasad,
In 1950, the agriculture sector contributed 51.9 per cent to India’s total GDP. Currently, that share has declined to a low of around 13.9 per cent. While some believe it is an inevitable progression as the economy shifts from being agrarian-centric to industry-centric, the significance of the agriculture sector cannot be undermined.
While 60 per cent of the country’s population was dependant on agriculture as a source of livelihood in the 1950s, around 50 per cent still depends on it despite dwindling returns. Infrastructure costs are higher. Maintenance costs and capital investments are hardly manageable by farmers today. The recovery rate of investments is said to be a paltry 30 per cent. Needless to add, that agriculture is no longer a profitable sector.
With an aim to reorient the agriculture sector, the government of India has shifted the focus from the erstwhile production-centred approach to income-centred. To that extent, the Ministry of Agriculture has implemented Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme, Neem Coated Urea, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY), Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), National Agriculture Market Scheme (e-NAM), Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Interest Subvention Scheme.
Budget 2016-17 also proposed to bring 2.85 million hectares under irrigation. The target may not yet have been achieved, but, there has been progress in the right direction. In 2018, the government achieved its set target of 100% rural electrification. This is definitely going to prove a boon for farmers, especially with respect to irrigation.
The government also had plans to provide energy-efficient irrigation facilities to farmers over the next 3 to 4 years. The plan was to distribute 30 million energy-efficient pump-sets to farmers with a total investment outlay of Rs. 75,000 crore. It was said this move would save about 46 billion kWh of power and create roughly 20 lakh jobs. However, progress on the same is awaited, even as we go into fresh elections.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has also approved the Blue Revolution. With an approved budget of Rs. 3,000 crore for 5 years, the objective is to increase the productivity and profitability of aquaculture and fisheries. The target is to maintain an annual growth rate of six to eight per cent of aquaculture and allied sectors.
With a budget of Rs. 221 crore the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has announced 42 dairy projects that seek to improve the yield per milk-producing animal with a special focus on major milk-producing states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu etc.
Through the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana the government endeavours to support and improve organic farming practices in India. The scheme follows a cluster approach mode where at least 50 farmers would form a group having 50 acres of land to implement organic farming within 3 years.
Above all, there has been a much-needed leap in the budgetary allocation for the agricultural sector. While the budget for agriculture in 2009-14 was Rs. 1, 21, 082 crores, it was increased by a whopping 74.5% to Rs. 2, 11, 694 in the 5 years of the BJP government. Much of it was used for the development of agricultural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, mechanised farming and warehousing.