The Centre has told the Supreme Court that it aims to double the income of farmers by 2022 to tackle suicides among them. The Ministry of Agriculture also proposed to make special efforts to ensure adequate flow of credit in under-serviced areas, eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. “It is submitted that the government is addressing the low income of the farmers. Agrarian distress as manifest from a large number of farmers living below poverty line and unfortunate incidents of suicides can be addressed by enabling farmers to increase their income.
“With this understanding, the government is targeting to double the income of farmers by 2022. To achieve this, department of agriculture, cooperation, and farmers’ welfare has constituted an inter ministerial committee to examine various dimensions of farmers’ income and to recommend an appropriate strategy,” the status report said. The matter was listed before a bench of justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta which took on record the status report in which the government said it was implementing and promoting schemes to reduce cost of cultivation in order to realise net positive returns for farmers and the National Policy for Farmers (NPF), 2007 was also being reviewed by it.
The report, which came on a PIL filed by Punjab-based NGO Youth Kamal Organization, through its president G S Happy Mann, seeking steps to prevent farmers’ suicides, said “a plan of action was prepared by an inter-ministerial committee set up by the government for operationalisation of NPF, 2007.” “After carefully analysing the differential between the action points as contained in the NPF and action were already taken by the government, the committee prepared a plan of action and identified 201 action points, where action was to be taken,”
It said that as of now, out of 201 action points only nine action points remain for further action. “This (inter-ministerial) committee has also been entrusted to review the NPF, 2007 which would also include the unresolved nine action points.”
The report said that in order to increase production, the government was implementing schemes such as National Food Security Mission (NFSM), National Mission for Oilseed and Oil Palm (NMOOP), Mission of Integrated Development for Horticulture (MIDH), National Mission on Agricultural Extension and Technology (NMAET) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
It further told the court that in Budget 2017-18, the government has increased the target for agricultural credit to “a record level of Rs 10 lakh crore from Rs nine lakh crore allocated during previous financial year.” “Government will make special efforts to ensure adequate flow of credit to the under serviced areas, the eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir,” the report said.
It further apprised the apex court about Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, introduced in 2016 at a very low premium rate which aims to address agricultural risks and shortcomings in earlier schemes. “It ensures full insurance cover at all stages of crop cycle,” it said, adding that 390 lakh farmers were covered under the scheme and 386.75 hectare area was covered with a sum of Rs 1,41,883 crore during Kharif 2016.
It also referred to its Kisan Credit Card scheme under which a farmer could purchase agricultural inputs and draw cash to fulfill their consumption needs. “In order to ensure all eligible farmers are provided with hassle free and timely credit for agricultural operations, the government has introduced Kisan Credit Card scheme which enables them to purchase agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilisers, pesticides etc and draw cash to fulfill their consumption needs,” it said.
Further, the Reserve Bank of India has allowed the banks to take a lenient view on the rescheduling of loans if a farmer loses 33 per cent or more of his crops. “The banks have been advised to allow maximum period of repayment of up to two years (including moratorium period of one year) if the crop loss is between 33 per cent and 50 per cent,” it said, adding that if the crop loss is 50 per cent or more, then restructured period for repayment is extended to five years.
The government also said it was enhancing the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to provide price support to farmers. “In order to provide the much-needed price support and de-risk farming, the government has been enhancing Minimum Support Prices(MSP) for various crops based on recommendations of Commission of Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP),” it said.