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The state government is taking steps, including use of emerging technology, to increase the income of agriculture labourers under its project to double farm production and income of farmers by 2022. Of the total 52 per cent rural population working in the agriculture sector in Maharashtra, 25 per cent are cultivators and 27 per cent agricultural labourers, and the state government believes doubling the income and production cannot become a reality unless the concerns of agricultural labourers are addressed.
A source said, “Almost 75 to 80 per cent of agricultural labourers come under the category of small and marginal farmers with land holding of less than two hectares, who often scout for alternative farm activities facing financial burden and crop losses.”
The government has decided to work on a district-wise micro module to increase the income of the 27 per cent farm labourers. Among the measures includes providing them economically feasible agriculture and allied activities to bring them sustained livelihood. Agriculture labourers with small land holdings would be brought under cluster farming along with giving them financial aid. The group farming model, complete with market tie-ups, is being considered to reduce expenditure and increase returns, sources said.
According to the state agriculture census, almost 78.6 per cent of the 1.37 crore farmers have an operational land holding less than two hectares. Therefore, it was felt that agriculture reforms for double production and income can be attained only if agri-labourers’ concerns are addressed.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, during his tour to Canada and the US, dwelt at length on application of emerging advanced technology to bring greater precision in farming. Fadnavis said that along with state’s financial support, Artificial Intelligence in agriculture would be specially devised to help small and marginal farm labourers.
According to a source in the agriculture department, “The per household annual income of a farmer works to Rs 91,501 (100 per cent). The income from farming is Rs 46,385 (51 per cent); livestock Rs 9,308 (10 per cent), non-farm business Rs 10,044 (11 per cent); wages/ salaries Rs 25,764 (28 per cent).”
Considering the challenges, the state government is focusing on key parameters such as adopting new agri-technology to improve productivity, enhancing use of resources and bringing down cost of production, stressing on intense cropping and crop diversification.
A source in the ministry of water resources said, “Unlike states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Punjab where water is surplus and irrigation is 68 to 98 per cent, Maharashtra’s 40 per cent area is under rain shadow. This means the government will have to optimise its limited resources and geographical areas to attain the target of double production and income with an average irrigation potential not exceeding 27 per cent.”