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Radha Mohan Singh

"Modi Government is working for the farmers with utmost integrity"

 

One of the focus areas of the present government has been agriculture. India is passing through an elongated agrarian crisis, and steps need to be taken on war footing if this has to be stopped from turning into a complete disaster. Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Radha Mohan Singh, is the most important cog in the wheel of that turnaround. Singh took out time from his whirlwind tours to sit with Pramod Kumar for a full and frank interview. An excerpt...
PRAMOD KUMAR | Issue Dated: November 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Radha Mohan Singh | Soil Health Card | Neem-Coated Urea | Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation Scheme | Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme and National Agriculture Market scheme |
 

How do you see your two-years tenure? What’s the prevailing condition in agriculture?

The Agriculture Ministry has done exemplary work in the last two years. The Kharif harvest for the year 2016-17 is expected to be in the tune of 135 Million Metric Tonne. This will be a record. The harvest this year shall be about 11.02 Million Metric Tonne more than the previous year. And that’s not all. Kharif harvest will also top the average Kharif harvest of last five years, which is to the tune of 127.38 Million Metric Tonne. We are positive that farmers will achieve the set target of 270.10 Million Metric Tonne for the year 2016-2017 combining both Kharif and Rabi harvest. Farmers’ future is much safer under the Modi government than any time in the past.

How do you see policies of Modi government in contrast with the previous UPA governments?

There’s a huge difference in the thinking and the way of functioning of Congress led governments and the present dispensation. Our government is working for the benefit of villages, farmers and poor. Congress did not walk its talk on farmers. Congress has in fact neglected the farmers for over five decades. Had it done work for the benefit of farmers, the farmers would not have been in such a miserable condition. The Modi government is working for the farmers with utmost integrity. Some of the programs initiated by our government include Soil Health Card, Neem-Coated Urea, Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation Scheme, Prime Minister Crop Insurance Scheme and National Agriculture Market scheme, which have already started to bear fruits.

How do you plan to deliver on the promise of doubling the income of farmers by the year 2022?

The Honourable Prime Minister has set-up the target of doubling the income of farmers by the year 2022. The government has opened multiple fronts to achieve this ambitious target. These include decreasing the agriculture input cost, increasing the productivity and availability of goods, and a big market for the products.

How will you deal with achieving this increment in productivity and decrease in input cost?

For this, our major schemes dealing with the productivity of farms are Soil Health Card Scheme and Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation Scheme. Apart from this, we are also providing good quality seeds and agro-equipment and tools to the farmers. To decrease the input cost, the government is focusing on availability of Neem-Coated urea and implementation of organic farming methods. Government has also decreased the cost of DAP fertilizer by Rs 2500 per Tonne, and of MOP by Rs 5000 per Tonne. This has got converted into a reduction of Rs 150 per sack of DAP and Rs 250 on the similar sized sack of MOP.

How are you planning to give access of good markets and Mandis to farmers?

We have opened E-NAM (or the online National Agriculture Market) in order to give access to farmers. Farmers are selling their products at good prices. We are also focusing on allied activities such as animal husbandry, dairy, horticulture, pisciculture, beekeeping and similar activities. We are also offering financial help for these activities. We are also very serious on the development of infrastructure support base such as godowns and cold storages. The ministry has constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Dr Ashok Dalwai, who is an Additional Secretary rank officer. This committee will work in tandem with other ministries to achieve the goals. Apart from these steps, we are also looking at the price augmentation option, where productivity and marketing of a product will be done in tune with its demand, in order to control overproduction.

What other allied activities are being targeted apart from agriculture?

Apart from traditional farming we are also looking at other means and activities. The dairy sector is being taken seriously. To conserve and promote indigenous breeds of cattle, government is establishing National Gokul Gram. The first one is already functioning in Mathura, which was inaugurated by me in September. Two Kamdhenu Breeding Centres will be opened; one each in North and South India. We are also serious about the “Blue Revolution” in pisciculture. We are empowering the fishermen by promoting both inland and sea fishery.

What steps are being taken to safeguard the interests of small farmers, seasonal farmers and share-croppers?

The Government wants small and seasonal farmers to gain access to big markets. They need to benefit from financial institutions and facilities. Farmers need to unite under the principle of cooperatives and benefit from the schemes. We are speeding up the organisation of Farmers’ Producers Organisation. These FPOs are proving to be very beneficial for the small and marginal farmers. Because of the collective power of these FPOs, farmers are now negotiating with private firms and institutions from the position of strength; something which was impossible for an individual farmer to even think about. We have identified as many as six lakh such farmers who are being organised under 600 such FPOs.

What about availability of water for agriculture? We cannot forever depend on monsoons... or should we?

Your apprehensions are valid. We cannot forever depend on having good monsoons. That is why we have started the Prime Minister Agriculture Irrigation Scheme to bring water to every field. As many as 99 projects which were pending for several decades will be completed by the year 2019-20. Of these, as many as 23 will be completed by the end of this year alone. We have constituted a fund of Rs 20,000 crore with the help of NABARD for this project. This scheme will bring 76.03 lakh hectare of land under irrigation. Apart from this, Rs 2340 crore has been released additionally by the Ministry, which is 50 percent more than the
last year.

How will the Soil Health Card work?

The Soil Health Card is very beneficial for the farmers. This will help him in adequately nurturing the soil of his fields. Only after knowing the exact nature of the soil can he finalise what fertilisers, urea and other chemicals will be suitable for his field. We distributed as many as 3 Crore Soil Health Cards last year. We have set the target of 4 crore such cards every year. There are close to 14 crore farmers in India. This means that we’ll be able to reach out to about 50 percent of the farmers by the end of year 2017. As mentioned earlier, we have also arranged for Neem-Coated urea for farmers. This boosts the productivity by 15-20 percent. Input cost goes down by around 20 percent as well. This has also clamped down on the illegal urea business.

What benefits can be taken from PM Crop Insurance Scheme?

As evident by the name, this is a crop insurance scheme. This scheme was very successful during the Kharif season this time. There was an increment of 60 percent in the year 2016 and the total fund was increased to Rs 1.18 lakh crore. In 2015, Rs 69,360 crore were spent on insurance. As many as 3.09 crore farmers 

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017