ASHA deeply disappointed with agri-related Budget proposals for 2012-13

ASHA believes that Indian Agriculture can be revived and farm livelihoods improved if the government guarantees income security for all rural households, ensures environmental sustainability in our farming, protects and upholds the rights of farming communities over productive resources like Land and Seed and guarantees adequate, safe, nutritious and diverse food for all Indians. Towards that end, a Kisan Swaraj Neeti, including detailed proposals have been already submitted to the Government (available also at https://kisanswaraj.in/2011/12/13/kisan-swaraj-neeti/).

We believe that the Government of India is not doing enough to address the root causes for the agrarian distress and farm suicides in terms of addressing the issue of adverse markets for farmers’ produce, increasing costs of cultivation with technologies that are also degrading/depleting productive resources and covering risks for farmers in case of natural calamities especially in the era of climate change, with the majority of Indian farmers being rainfed smallholders. In this background, we are deeply disappointed with the Government of India’s budget proposals for 2012-13. The budget does not offer much hope and support to millions of our farmers.

The following is a more detailed response from ASHA on the budget proposals related to Agriculture:

We are deeply dismayed to see that the allocation to Agriculture and allied sectors as a percentage of the total GoI allocations is decreasing in the country. Where the share of spending was 1.55% in 2010-11, it is now 1.38%, though it reflects a marginal increase from last year and a small increase in absolute terms. Given that a majority of Indians live off farming and that Indian agriculture is in a deep crisis, with a fresh spate of farm suicides rocking the country even now, it is unfortunate that the proportion of the budget to agriculture and allied sectors is in fact coming down, while we in ASHA believe that it should be at least 20%. This is the only way by which the rural economy can be revived and our MDGs can be met.

It is unfortunate that some token allocations have been made to several new initiatives without a 12th Plan document in place and it is apparent that our planners and policy-makers have failed on this front.

ASHA believes that any increase in allocation for BGREI (“Bringing Green Revolution to Eastern India”) will be counter-productive in the medium and long term especially, if such a Green Revolution is not expressly shaped to create debt-free, poison-free, ecological farming in Eastern India. Increasing the dependence of poor adivasi, women and smallholder farmers in the eastern states of India on external seed inputs and chemicals in addition to a focus on rice and wheat alone as in the earlier Green Revolution only spells disaster in future. A recently concluded Farmers’ Jury on the future of agricultural development and improvement of farm livelihoods in the region expressly had farmers ask for a Debt-Free, Poison-Free, Self-reliant, integrated and empowering agriculture to be strengthened in eastern India (more details at www.kisanswaraj.in). We ask for such funds to be utilized for integrated ecological farming to be set up on a large scale in addition to improving seed self-reliance even as productivity is increased.

A quick analysis of the past few years shows that expenditure has been below budget outlays as revised estimates have shown and therefore, any increase in budget outlays per se do not give us hope.

ASHA is disappointed that the government did not make express allocations for increasing budgets under ecological farming, while it welcomes the allocations for the Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana under the Ministry of Rural Development’s Aajeevika programme (National Rural Livelihoods Mission). We hope that these proposals will be shaped to look at agriculture as a livelihoods issue and not just as functions of production and yield.

Increased outlays for agriculture credit are by themselves not going to be benefit farmers since it has been observed that more and more, even industry gets to benefit in the name of agriculture credit, while the burden of any credit on farmers is very real unless net returns improve and debt repayment capacity exists.

While it is unclear at this stage what the “Integrated Scheme for Farmers’ Income Security” is, which has received a token allocation of one crore rupees, ASHA has been asking for a Farmers’ Income Guarantee Act, with Farm Income as an accurate measure for the state of farm livelihoods in the country and to ensure that only yields and production do not become the measure of agriculture growth in the country at the expense of farmers’ indebtedness and negative net returns. If this Integrated Scheme can be developed along the many proposals that ASHA had put forward, we welcome this new initiative. We have also asked for a Price Compensation mechanism to be put in place since we believe that adverse markets are one of the root causes for the current crisis in farming.

Connected to the above are missing parameters in Agriculture Census (which has lesser allocation than last year of around 1.88 crores) where we believe that Income should be an important measure to understand the State of Indian Agriculture. This should be part of the Situation Assessment Survey of Farmers also.

When it comes to Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, while the increased outlays are welcome, it has to be seen where the funds actually get spent. In the past, we found that out of all the projects sanctioned under RKVY only 2.7% is for Organic Farming and when it comes to the outlays, only 2% is meant for organic farming. On the other hand, more than 200 crores of rupees were spent under RKVY to procure proprietary seed from corporations like Monsanto and others to be distributed amongst farmers, creating ready and expanded markets for such corporations. In RKVY, district level planning should be done effectively which we feel is missing now. Ecological agriculture, farmers’ collectives including for value addition and marketing should be invested upon.

The National Mission on Seeds and Planting Materials should be geared towards making farming communities self-reliant when it comes to seeds and planting material and invest heavily on building capacities of farmers to revive diversity, to take up participatory plant breeding and to ensure that seed banks are set up in all villages. In the past, funds were spent for creation of seed processing plants in the private sector. It is unclear why public sector agencies cannot be invested upon, and whether these private corporations are giving back a share of their profits to the government or farming communities after taking public funds for their own development.

It is unfortunate that the outlays for development of oilseeds have been reduced in this budget, while there is a dire need for India to become self-reliant on this front.

We do not believe that increasing the budgets for agri-research will pay off by itself, unless such research is geared towards farmers’ real needs on the ground, does not promote hazardous technologies, and does not assess all technologies against a sustainability framework and risk/vulnerability analysis framework. However, such outlays offer a little hope of Indian public sector institutions coming out of the clutches of research funded by private corporations for their own profits. We are concerned that Climate Change will be made into the latest justification for bringing in unproven transgenic technology, while the need of the hour is to promote resilient farming by reviving mixed cropping systems that adopt agro-ecological approaches and by improving agri-insurance.

Crop insurance outlays of 1136 crores is very inadequate for ensuring that farmers do not suffer setback due to various calamities; in fact, this is lower than the Rs. 1419 crores released for settlement of claims in 2011-12. 1180 crores of rupees was the outlay in 2011-12 and this year’s budget for this head is actually lower! ASHA in fact believes that the government should insure all crops of all cultivators in this country by paying up the premium on behalf of the farmers.

Construction of Rural Godowns: 60.94 crores actual in 2009-2010, around 60 crores in 2010-11 and a budget of 150 crores in 2011-12. An increase to 636 crores this budget year is a welcome measure.

We are disappointed that the Village Grain Banks scheme got an outlay of only Rs. 8 crores in 2012-13 and believe that this should be strengthened further. In 2009-10, 17.33 crores has been spent on this scheme and there was a decrease in subsequent years!

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