The national objective of doubling farmers’ income by 2022 requires a growth of almost 14% per annum. This is a big task and requires all-out efforts from both State and Central governments. Recently, the Prime Minister identified four key areas to achieve this — reducing input costs, ensuring remunerative prices, recycling agricultural waste and creating an alternative source of income.
During the past four years, many innovative schemes have been introduced both by Central and State governments with varied rates of success. It is now time to look back and identify schemes, which have the potential to increase farmers’ income, to replicate and scale them up nationwide. It is also important to see not just financial allocation, but also design and innovativeness to ensure the desired impact.
Of late, the Centre, Niti Aayog and other States are looking at Telangana to learn lessons from some of its innovations aimed at improving agriculture. The following six schemes are making a difference in the lives of the farmers and inspiring other States:
Traditionally, minor irrigation sources like tanks were developed, maintained and used for both irrigation and drinking water in India. However, due to lack of maintenance most of them vanished. In Telangana itself of the about 80,000 tanks, only some 46,000 exist now.
The Telangana government is implementing Mission Kakatiya to rejuvenate these 46,000 minor irrigation tanks since the last four years. Its impact is visible in improved water table, expanding cultivated area, increasing area under multiple crops and area under remunerative crops like paddy. While rejuvenation works pertaining to 15,649 tanks were completed in three phases, rejuvenation of 5,650 tanks is going on in Phase IV.
Many socio-economic impact studies show that not only farmers’ income increased significantly, but livelihoods of fishermen and washerman improved as well. The scheme received the appreciation of Central government and Niti Aayog for its effective implementation in terms of reducing costs and farm distress, increasing yields, incomes and profits. It also increased water table in surrounding villages, thereby ensuring water availability in borewells. Now 24-hour free electricity is helping farmers to reap the benefits of this increased water table by expanding the irrigated area under borewells.
Sanitising Land Records
The land records updation and ‘purification’ (rectification) programme was praised by the chief economic adviser as “heart of good governance”. The Telangana government conducted an extensive land survey from September 15 to December 15 last year, cleaned land records and uploaded details on the website called Dharani. This facilitates entry of buying and selling of agricultural land in real time, similar to core banking.
A total of 71,75,096 farm holdings with a cultivable area of 1,42,12,826 acre was recorded. Based on this land records, fictitious land transactions will be eliminated and the exact land for investment support would be decided.
New Fizz for Farms
Under the Farmers Investment Subsidy Scheme (FISS), money is directly transferred — Rs 4,000 per acre per season into farmers’ hands based on the land records updation programme. The unique feature of the scheme is its universal coverage of each acre of cultivated land. Land records will be seeded with Aadhaar and bank account and geotagged to satellite data to estimate the cropped area of each farmer.
It is easy to administer and based on readily verifiable land records data, which is linked to Aadhaar, there is no scope for leakage and corruption. Low profitability of agriculture, rising input costs, low market prices, inadequate and untimely institutional credit and exorbitant interest rates charged by private moneylenders necessitated this investment support.
To cover 72 lakh farmers with Rs 4,000 per acre per season, the government has to spend Rs 5,685 crore in kharif season. This will save farmers from falling into a debt trap and facilitate purchase of improved seed and fertilizers for higher yields.
Under this scheme, the State government distributed 45 lakh to over two lakh members of backward communities. Each beneficiary got 20 sheep and a ram. The sheep were also insured, with a separate allocation of Rs 6 crore. The government also started 100 mobile veterinary clinics with a toll-free number to advise farmers on animal health.
Special efforts were also taken to ensure fodder availability, construction of sheds and water tubs by linking the scheme to the Employment Guarantee Scheme. Apart from increasing farmers’ income, this scheme will also provide a regular income from the sale of meat and milk.
The Telangana Rashtra Rythu Samanvaya Samithi (TRRSS) will be registered as a not-for-profit corporation to support farmers’ collective action. It will have village, mandal, district and State-level committees with adequate representation of weaker sections, including women. This is intended to increase collective action by the farmers for better understanding, implementation and better utilisation of government schemes by the farmers and to increase their bargaining power.
These committees also promote crop colonies, under which different places are split into crop colonies and federated into State-level to increase the scale of operations. This will enable collaboration and competition with large multinational companies in different agricultural operations like input purchase, contract farming, branding, setting up and maintenance of cold chains and marketing of output.
Separate Farm Budget
A separate Budget for agriculture proposed by the Telangana government is an innovation, which gives an opportunity for the government to not only focus on each agricultural development scheme but also allocate sufficient funds.
The separate Budget will avoid recent criticisms raised by farmer bodies on the Union Budget for not allocating sufficient funds for increased the Minimum Support Price (MSP) to cover 1.5 times of the cost of production.
The above six schemes have great potential for replication by other States with little investment and administrative costs.
(The author is Director – Monitoring and Evaluation, National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), Hyderabad)