Farm crisis: Short-term palliatives are futile -G Chandrashekhar

-The Hindu Business Line

To help farmers, a long-term plan to improve input delivery, irrigation and rural infrastructure is a must

Some 60 years ago, the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said: “Everything can wait except agriculture”. But for the last two decades, agriculture has been waiting even as the economy has continued to make rapid strides.

The country is today paying a price for the omissions and commissions of successive governments over the last 20 years. Instead of improving, the lot of the farmers has deteriorated with the passage of time; and there are no positive signs of a progressive transformation.

Policymakers then and now continue to look for facile options to keep farmers ‘pleased’ or in the least, not complain. The most critical reforms — structural reforms — have remained largely untouched.

As a result, farm sector growth is stymied and competitiveness of Indian agriculture stands substantially eroded. Farmers remain mired in an artificial world of make-believe security through largely cosmetic policies including announcement of higher minimum support price (unrelated to market conditions and not adequately backed by efficient procurement mechanism), farm loan waiver, and a plethora of programmes and schemes whose implementation and outcomes are far from clear.

Sops and palliatives might have done the trick so far; but will perhaps do no more. There is increasing scepticism among growers about the intentions of policy-makers, and realisation among the farming community that they are being short-changed. Problems of inputs, water, extension services, agri-infrastructure, marketing and lack of capacity to face risks continue to characterise the farm sector.

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The Hindu Business Line, 6 January, 2019,

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