To transform agriculture in Uttar Pradesh, the Niti Aayog’s Joint Working Group (JWG) has recommended a slew of measures to the state government that include emulating Madhya Pradesh’s strategy for the development of Bundelkhand region; raising at least 10 per cent electricity supply for agriculture every year; creating at least one centre for artificial insemination in each veterinary dispensary; encouraging contract farming by adopting new Contract Farming Act and promoting balanced use of fertiliser based on soil health cards.
The recommendations have been made by the JWG in its ‘Action Plan for Uttar Pradesh’ for various sectors, including agriculture. “An important reason for low private investment in agriculture and low use of modern inputs in the state is low availability of institutional credit. On per hectare basis the state receives 30 per cent lower credit as compared to the other states and only 38 per cent of per hectare credit supplied for agriculture in the state of Haryana. State should take up this matter with the Ministry of Finance and seek a share in institutional credit in proportion to state share in agriculture output,” according to the action plan.
The JWG was formed after Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman Arvind Panagariya-led 17-member delegation held day-long deliberations on the way forward for UP with Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and other top state officials in Lucknow on May 10. The JWG was set up with six members — three members each from Niti Aayog and the state government. “The JWG will prepare a road map and identify action points for the development of UP within the next 15 days. Respective departments of the state government will then implement these action points,” the Niti Aayog stated on May 10.
In one of its action points, the JWG has recommended that UP should develop a three year contract with seed supplying agencies – whether public or private – for assured seed supply. It has asked the state to “prepare contract document” with seed agencies and “ensure assured availability of quality seeds at block development offices” by September, 2017 and before Rabi season of 2018, respectively. Quality of the seed largely determines the efficacy of all other agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation as well as the impact of agro-climatic conditions.
The JWG has suggested the state to conduct pilot surveys of the beneficiaries of various agriculture schemes, particularly soil health cards and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), to “evaluate the effectiveness of the scheme implementation and accrued benefits”. The JWG action plan has set the target of March, 2018, to achieve 100 per cent targets of the schemes like soil health card, PMFBY, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY) and Pradhan Mantri Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PMPKY).
On October 7 last year, while talking to farmers from Agra, Aligarh, Mathura and Bulandshahr districts of UP, Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh stated that the pace of implementation of central agriculture schemes in the state is “very slow”. Citing the example of soil health card scheme, the minister said there is a target of 263.91 lakh card distribution in UP during 2015-17. “However, only 34.78 lakh cards have been given away by now which is 87 per cent below the target,” he added. Samajwadi Party was in power in UP till March this year. BJP won the state elections on March 11, 2017.
The action plan stated that the UP government, just like MP government, should consider direct and part payment to farmers from whom the seed is procured by the suppliers. It recommended that the state should include the provision of Direct Benefit Transders (DBT) in the contract document with seed suppliers by September this year only.
“Uttar Pradesh should focus on reviving the state agriculture research system,” the JWG stated recommending following measures: constitute a task force for restructuring state agricultural universities and research institutes by September, 2017; implement the recommendations of this task force by March, 2018; hold meeting with the concerned institutes and prepare a list of usable agricultural technologies for different agro-climatic zones of the state by September, 2017; disseminate proven agricultural technologies by including them in government schemes by March, 2018; sign an MoU with Israel for collaboration on increasing the number of “centre of excellence” in UP from existing 2 to 10 by December this year.
The action plan mentioned the “need to take note” of decrease in canal irrigated area in the state. The canal irrigated area in UP has decreased from 32.1 lakh hectare in early 1990s to 25.5 lakh hectare presently. Therefore, the JWG has recommended that there should be an identification of reasons for declining canal area in the state and a plan should be prepared by UP’s irrigation department to reverse this situation. This plan should be made by December this year and implemented by March, 2020, according to JWG.
For last few years, farmers across the country have been raising their voices for adequate market prices for their yield. Whenever there is a high crop yield, the market prices crash, and the farmers have to sell their yield at that lower price. Understanding this situation, the JWG noted that the state needs to ensure minimum support price (MSP) for wheat and paddy “through procurement” and it must adopt mechanisms like “deficiency price payment” in crops like pulses, oilseeds and potatoes.
Deficiency payment is made to a commodity producer and it represents the difference between the market price and the guaranteed MSP price. According to the JWG, the state needs to conduct pilots by December this year on deficiency price payment mechanism for selected crops — such as maize, rapeseed, mustard and gram — and then evaluate its applicability across UP.
Before next sugarcane harvesting season, UP should adopt a fair and remunerative prices (FRP) based on recovery percentage. Moreover, to attract private sector to agricultural market, the JWG recommended that the state government, based on the new Model Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) Act, should implement the APMC reforms across the state by September this year. To create favorable price environment for farmers, it has asked the state to encourage contract farming by adopting new Contract Farming Act.
For agriculture development of Bundelkhand, the action plan has recommended preparing a roadmap by September, 2017. “The state should consider the development strategy adopted by MP in their region of Bundelkhand in UP. Annapratha in Bundelkhand can be reduced by Area approach. Ensure sowing on 70 per cent area in kharif to reduce the practice. For first 3-4 years, give free seed kit to farmer for kharif crops. This will create interest group against free grazing and ultimately control lose cattle grazing in kharif,” the JWG added.