Less than 100 days to go before the Lok Sabha elections, and nearly a month after electoral defeats in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the government is planning a "multi-pronged" agri relief package.
In its election manifesto, the Modi government had promised to double the farm income by 2022. But the government failed to fulfill the promise and that was reflected in the state elections.
According to highly-placed sources, the key objective of the new potential measures is to reduce the input costs, improve income security and increase the minimum support price.
The centre is also planning to make changes to the government-sponsored crop insurance scheme Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana. According to the sources, the government is working to ensure better implementation and faster settlement of claims and will also add a new provision to the scheme which will cover damage to crops by animals.
The scheme has come under severe criticism after RTI data revealed that insurance companies saw their profits grow 44 percent in FY18 and 85 lakh farmers opted out of the scheme.
There have been reports of an income support scheme on the lines of Rythu Bandhu" in Telangana where farmers who own land get a direct benefit transfer of Rs 4,000 per acre. However, the government is yet to take a decision and is studying the feasibility of launching such a scheme across India which could cost upwards of Rs 2 lakh crore.
Siraj Hussain, former agricultural secretary; Yogendra Yadav, president of Swaraj India; Gopal Krishna Agarwal, spokesperson, BJP and Harish Damodaran, Editor-Rural Affairs, The Indian Express, discussed what measures the government can take to lift the agricultural sector.
Agarwal said, “There is a report from the party side and also the think tanks that some of the issues with regards to agriculture insurance, there are some implementation issues. They have to be further streamlined and the ultimate target beneficiaries should be more focused. Definitely, there will be an announcement on improvement on the procedures on the farm loan insurance sector for the farming sector.”
According to Yadav, the government has realised the agricultural crisis too late. He said, “The government has now realised that something is missing and what they did was not enough, although they would never formally admit it."
There is not much time, so the government would wish to do something which can be done in a very short term, which is very highly visible, and does not cost much money, Yadav said.
Hussain said, "I think from the administrative perspective some of the things which would perhaps be under the consideration of the government is to completely waive the interest on crop loans. It is possible that the government may announce that and it will cost something like Rs 15,000 crore."
It may be a big help to at least those farmers who avail crop loans from the banks, he said.