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ASHA Kisan Swaraj
28
Feb

Budget in denial mode about Indian farmers’ crisis

“The Indian Budget 2013-14 ignores the core problems being faced by the nation’s cultivators and doesn’t even acknowledge the deep agrarian crisis, let alone address its causes. While farmer suicides across the country continue unabated (16,000 to 17,000 every year), the Budget continues the same policies instead of a major course correction which assures sustainable incomes to small farmers,” said Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) in response to the Budget presented today in the Parliament.

“The Economic Survey focuses mostly on the production numbers and not the net returns to the farmers – and even on the production front the target growth rate of 4% was not met. The MSPs are mentioned but not the fact that in many states they are below the Cost of Production. The Price Support Scheme and Market Intervention Scheme are given lip service, but they were used minimally in just 5 states, that too in just 1 or 2 crops in each state. It is necessary to have a Price Guarantee policy and a Farmers’ Income Commission to make the incomes of farming families as the central concern of the agricultural policy. The Budget should have announced at least Rs.2000 crores for Price Stabilization or Market Intervention fund – that would have incentivized the farmers to meet production targets as well as helped them make a decent living. The farmers’ crisis is strongest in the rain-fed areas which are more than 50% of the cultivated area but receives less than 10% of the benefit of subsidies and support systems. A massive program of focused attention is needed for rainfed areas in a new paradigmatic approach, but it doesn’t find any mention,” said Kirankumar Vissa, co-convenor of ASHA.

“While the target for loans has been increased, the critical reforms required in credit sector have not been addressed such as ensuring that the tenant farmers receive institutional loans, and that majority of the priority lending goes to small farmers rather than high-end farmers, companies and non-agricultural activities. We welcome the increased outlay for SC & ST sub-plans and hope that they would be partly used to improve the agriculture-based livelihoods of these communities. A National Mission on Agricultural Extension was mooted in the 12th Plan document to strengthen the extension system but it has not been announced. The farmers across the country are suffering due to lack of support systems and extension – ASHA demands a revamped extension system which is highly accessible to farmers through farmers’ service centres for every 5 villages, which preserves farmers’ knowledge systems, and which is focused on ecologically sustainable agriculture based on local inputs including seed,” said Dr.Ramanjaneyulu, Executive Director, Centre for Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) and co-convenor of ASHA.

“While the fertilizer subsidy is being phased out and costs of cultivation are skyrocketing, there should have been a concerted program to promote low-cost sustainable agriculture – this would have been a win-win on all fronts. The answer is not in “diversification” which is again monocrop-centred, but diversity-based agro-ecological approaches to farming. This needs a programmatic thrust and reorienting support systems including research and extension. The 12th Five Year Plan recommends almost tripling the outlay for Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana compared to 11th Five Year Plan. But the allocation in 2013-14 shows only marginal increase to Rs.9954 crores from Rs.9217 crores. The support to Farmer Producer Organizations in the form of equity matching and Credit Guarantee is welcome, but care should be taken so that these FPOs do not simply become supply channels for big retail. The focus should be on promoting farmers’ collectives where the production and marketing are planned by farmers and their representatives and localised business models are incentivised,” said Kavitha Kuruganti, co-convenor of ASHA.

ASHA demands that the Ministry of Agriculture and the ministries of allied sectors should hold wide consultations on how to address the core causes of the agrarian crisis, and move away from the current path which is pushing small and even medium farmers into crisis and paving the way for corporate control of agriculture. The few measures and small increases in allocations announced in this Budget are not just inadequate but they don’t even begin to chart the new path that is necessary and demanded by Indian farmers.

Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) is a nationwide network of more than 400 organizations and many more individual analysts, activists and experts, focused on small farmer livelihoods, ecologically sustainable agriculture, protecting people’s rights to seed, land, water and forests, and ensuring safe, nutritious food for all.

Web: www.kisanswaraj.in

Contacts:
Kirankumar Vissa: 09701705743, kiranvissa@gmail.com

Dr.G.V.Ramanjaneyulu: 09000699702, ramoo@csa-india.org

Kavitha Kuruganti: 09393001550, kavitha_kuruganti@yahoo.com

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