Debating India


Renewed focus on agriculture

Tuesday 26 December 2006

The Karnataka Government’s unveiling of a farmer-centric agriculture policy only fits into the national trend of paying greater attention to the farm sector. The objective of the Janata Dal(S)-BJP coalition regime may be not just to double farm production in 10 years, but also demonstrate its commitment to the farming community. From the Planning Commission and the Government of India to the State Governments, there has been a clear tilt in policy pronouncements towards reviving agricultural growth. It is obvious that the Indian economy can sustain an 8 to 10 per cent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP), only if the farm sector can notch up a 4 to 5 per cent rate of growth. To achieve that, the Central and State Governments, along with the scheduled banks and the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), have to ensure not only adequate investment in agricultural infrastructure but make available enough resources to the farmers to step up production. The National Commission on Farmers, headed by Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, has already submitted its report, which needs to be implemented in consultation with the farming community. It is in this context that Tamil Nadu’s decision to write off cooperative loans of farmers amounting almost to Rs.7,000 crore, and Karnataka’s agriculture policy have to be viewed.

Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy has aimed for an ambitious 4.5 per cent growth in agriculture sector over the next 10 years. Given the Government’s commitment and bountiful monsoons, this does seem achievable. Over the past decade and more, because of successive droughts, growth in the farm sector in Karnataka has dropped progressively to a mere 1.5 per cent of the State Gross Domestic Product by the close of the Tenth Plan - from 3.2 per cent during 1980-1996 and 2.1 per cent during the Ninth Plan. The decision to set up a Rainfed Agricultural Commission to evolve appropriate strategies for this segment of farmers, and a drive to improve soil health are appropriate in this context. The proposed Cabinet sub-committee to monitor the implementation of this policy package and ensure the promised 10 per cent share for agriculture in the development budget has its task cut out. But the key to achieving anything close to the targeted 4.5 per cent growth lies in development of irrigation facilities, water management, coping strategies on droughts and natural disasters, enhanced yields, and a dependable marketing mechanism to secure remunerative prices for farm produce. The rural sector has long suffered from inadequate investment, and it is time the imbalance was set right.

See online : The Hindu

SPIP | template | | Site Map | Follow-up of the site's activity RSS 2.0