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Agricultural Reforms for Sustainable Development

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By Prof HC Purohit

Special attention has been paid to agricultural reforms in the budget presented by the Finance Minister. After independence, India imported food grains for many years, but due to the Green Revolution, scientific inventions and fundamental research in agriculture, today food grains are being exported on a large scale. But, still, there is a need to take very effective steps in the agriculture sector so that the condition of the farmers can be improved and the contribution of agriculture to the country’s GDP can be increased, which has been continuously decreasing since independence. It is the moral responsibility of any democratic government to think in this direction as farming is beneficial to the marginal and small farmers. There has been a churning phase in the country for several decades regarding agricultural reforms and for this many commissions and committees were also constituted from time to time and steps were also taken by the Government on their suggestions but the expected results could not be achieved. The share of the agricultural sector is continuously declining in the GDP. The farmers’ organisations have been demanding guarantee for minimum support price on agricultural produce. Due to the farmers’ movement in the country, the farm laws were withdrawn by the central government. Now, the question is how to take reform steps in this sector? Major livelihood of the population in India is agriculture so it is important from the point of view of economic development. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a decline in manufacturing and services sector but there was a growth in the agriculture sector. This has shown the way to realising the dream of self-reliant India. In view of the sustainable growth rate of the agriculture sector, many provisions and programmes were mentioned in the budget for the improvement of the agriculture sector, such as;

1- In order to increase production of oilseeds and make the nation self reliant in edible oils, the cultivation of oilseeds and start of the National Edible Oil Mission is a welcome step, further efforts can be made to reduce the exports.

2- Government purchase of paddy and wheat will be done mainly at Minimum Support Price with an amount of Rs 2.37 lakh crore and this amount will be transferred directly to the farmers’ account. This purchase provision will empower the farmers and they will be confident about the sale of their crops. Small and marginal farmers will get relief from Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana in case of loss of their crops due to drought, floods or other natural calamities. There will be payment of Kisan Samman amount which will help them in conducting and continuing agricultural work such as ploughing, cultivating, irrigating, procurement of seeds, pesticides, insecticides or other works.

3- In the budget, emphasis has been given to agricultural universities to work together with farmers towards promoting zero budget natural and organic farming and to conduct studies and research on these subjects in the universities; this will lead to better coordination between scientists and farmers and help to improve the condition of the farm sector. Agricultural Universities will be helpful in making the farmers aware of the use of seeds, fertilisers, pesticides and use of the equipment in farming with scientific methods and necessary training to the farmers will help in building capacity and help in conducting agriculture in a scientific and professional manner.

4- Provision has been made in the budget to declare the year 2023 as the year of coarse grains. With this step, farmers will be encouraged and motivated to produce coarse grains, by adopting scientific methods of crop rotation, the fertility of the soil will be maintained, because there is less water requirement for the production of coarse cereals, therefore the farmers will be encouraged for production of coarse cereals in such areas where there is a lack of water for irrigation, especially in the mountainous, hilly areas and plateaus. Ground water will also be conserved which will protect the environment and strengthen the ecosystem.

5- For agricultural digitizsation, the government has made provisions in the budget to strengthen agricultural information system, agricultural technology and national e-governance plan for farmers and exchange of agricultural information. Under this mission, the use of artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, robotic, drone technology, etc., will help farmers maintain land records, spray pesticides and food storage. Spraying of insecticides with the help of drones will help in controlling the diseases on crops and increase the productivity and quality of agriculture produce. The use of artificial intelligence technology will be effective in increasing the quality and productivity of crops, seed improvement and improving the breeds of crop. The blockchain technology in marketing-branding and transportation of agricultural products will help farmers to know the market situation and competition.

6- The provision of promotion of agriculture-based startups will be helpful in setting up food processing enterprises at the village level, which is an important step for employment generation in rural areas.

7- Crop residues are often burnt in the fields to prepare the field for sowing other crops. In the budget, there is a provision to use these residues to make biomass fuel. This step will help prevent pollution due to burning of crop residue on the one hand and, on the other, crop residue management and its use in biomass fuel will become a means of employment at the village level.

8- Apart from being effective in stopping the use of chemical fertilisers, the scheme to promote natural and organic farming within a radius of 5 km along the Ganges will also help in saving the river water from getting polluted. At the same time, encouraging zero budget natural and organic agriculture on a large area of the country will reduce the damage to the environment, besides increasing the conservation of soil and water. It will be helpful in making the Ganga pollution free.

The provisions of agricultural reforms made in the budget will give impetus to the sustainable development of the economy and it will not only empower the condition of the farmers but also help to open the doors to increase the contribution of agriculture sector to the GDP.

(Prof. HC Purohit is currently the Head of Department, School of Management and Dean, Students Welfare, Doon University, Dehradun).