Vice-President Hamid Ansari stressed on the need to take “bold steps” for putting in place a ‘Grow in India’ programme to transform the socio-economic fabric of country’s agricultural sector.
He was speaking at the national seminar on ‘Public Investment and Subsidies on Agriculture and upliftment of Agrarian Economy’ organised by All India Kisan Sabha in Hyderabad.
“Time has perhaps come for us to consider putting in place a ‘Grow in India’ programme to transform the socio-economic fabric of our agricultural sector as much as we need a ‘Make in India’ programme,” said Vice President.
Mere infusion of funds might not be enough unless the underlying social gaps and divisions remain in place, Ansari noted, adding “we need a social corrective along with the economic correctives to redress these challenges in development of rural sector.”
“We have the resources and the ability to bring happiness to the life of our farmers. It would take persistent, continuous action but it is not impossible. The government needs to take bold steps to translate the good intentions into action to tackle the deficiencies,” Ansari said adding this would, however, require a strong political will and the need to develop a wide political consensus.
Barriers growing from caste and other identities, that have seemingly hampered progressive measures such as farmers cooperative movement in most parts of the country barring a few regions, need to be dismantled and ground created for collective action, the Vice President said.
Enhanced public expenditure in agriculture – in form of increased investments, rather than un-targeted subsidies- is thus required to bring about technical change in agriculture, and higher agricultural growth. In addition, concerted reforms are needed to achieve equity in terms of higher growth in disadvantageous regions like rain-fed and tribal areas and benefit small and marginal farmers, he added.
Quoting a survey commissioned by Bharat Krishak Samaj on ‘The State of the Indian Farmer’ in 2014 , Ansari said the survey reported that some 62 per cent of agriculturists were willing to quit farming to move to cities and that only 20 per cent of the rural youth was keen on continuing agriculture.
The survey found that more than 40 per cent farmers were dissatisfied with their economic condition. The figure was over 60 per cent in eastern India. These are disturbing trends, he observed.
Pointing out that nearly three lakh farmers have committed suicide since 1995, Ansari said this was a complex issue bringing to focus the stress that the agricultural sector is now subjected to.
“The recent mobilisation in support of demands for caste based reservations in government jobs, and not for betterment in Agro sector by communities that have traditionally benefited from agriculture also indicates the growing stress within Indian agriculture,” he said.
More than 800 million people of India’s total population live in rural areas. One quarter of this population lives below the official poverty line. The search for economic justice for a population of this magnitude cannot be addressed by relying on migration to the cities, he said.
Rural-urban migration and absorption of labour in the urban economy has slowed due to the slow growth of employment in manufacturing. The rural labour force will therefore have to find a way to improve their incomes ‘in situ’.
Strengthening of agriculture, thus, becomes a national imperative, the Vice-President added.