Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for a brainstorming session with experts, including economists and academics, and policymakers to identify ways in which the government can quickly address the ongoing agrarian crisis and work towards doubling the income of farmers according to a government official familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified.
According to the official, the Prime Minister has also invited representatives of farmers. “He wants to get the real stories from the ground from farmers’ representatives.” The initiative comes after a wave of farmer protests in key BJP-ruled states such as Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Angry farmers dumped produce on streets to protest poor returns. This prompted the government to announce — in the Union budget presented on February 1 — that it would set minimum support prices for 23 crops at 1.5 times the cost of cultivation. This will effectively mean 50% profits, which the BJP promised in its 2014 election manifesto.
The PM will sit through presentations from experts drawn from agricultural universities as well as the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). “The invitees will give national-level inputs to the PM in a structured way. The agriculture ministry will then be required to select the most realistic solutions for implementation,” the official said. The “modules” or areas marked out for discussions include agricultural marketing, farm technologies, seeds, productivity patterns and allied sectors, such as livestock.
One module each will be presented by Niti Aayog member in charge of agriculture Ramesh Chand and Ashok Dalwai, a former bureaucrat, who heads the committee on doubling farmers’ income by 2022.In the 2016-17 budget, the government had said it would raise farmers’ incomes by 100% — or double it — by 2022. That isn’t easy with small landholdings and low yields. According to calculations of the Committee on Doubling Farmers’ Income set up by the government, real or inflation-adjusted incomes of farmers’ need to grow at a compound annual rate of 10.4% for earnings to double. Compared to this, farm GDP growth is forecast to grow 2.1% in 2017-18, against a 4.9% rise in the previous year.
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