Indian farmers want reforms, not concessions

Tuesday, 30 June 2009, 05:06 Hrs   |    1 Comments
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Hyderabad: Reforms, not concessions, hold the key to agricultural growth in India, farmers' representatives told the finance ministry in the run up to the budget 2009-10.

Farmers want financial reforms to ensure credit flow, a good risk mitigation system, an efficient extension services mechanism and fair prices, the Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations (CIFA), an apex body of various farmers' groups, told Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in pre-budget discussions recently.

They also urged the government to raise public spending and allow private investment in agriculture and take steps to curb the rampant cheating in markets.

"Indian farmers want respect and dignity. They don't want to go on begging. Year after year, state or central governments go on making us look like beggars," P. Chengal Reddy, secretary general of CIFA told IANS.

He feels that Indian farmers has the capability to become globally competitive provided the government liberates agriculture from its clutches.

"(Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh wants liberalisation but he and his team men deliberately tried to avoid liberating the agriculture sector from controls," Chengal Reddy said. "You still have essential commodities act, you don't allow inter-state movement, free value addition, exports and contract farming on long sustained basis and you are also not able to do procurements."

If the proposed reforms were undertaken, the farm sector could achieve 4 percent growth rate, Chengal Reddy said.

He added that farmers were being treated as "second class citizens" in the country. "We toil, we take risk and suffer but at the end of the day we don't get good price."

Added S. Malla Reddy, Andhra Pradesh Rythu Sangham secretary: "Indian farmers are unhappy today because the successive governments have failed to implement minimum support prices (MSP) for their produce." Rythu Sangham is an Andhra Pradesh-based farmers' organisation.

"The middlemen are cheating them in the market and the government is not able to do anything about it," he complained.

According to Malla Reddy, most of the government's farmer-oriented schemes are not reaching the deserving hands.

"The crop loans are not available to small and marginal farmers. The eligible farmers were not benefited even under the massive loan waiver scheme announced by the government last year."

The authorities have also failed to ensure supply of uninterrupted electricity and quality seeds, he added.

"After 1997, the seed sector has been dominated by multi-national companies, which are supplying spurious and sub-standard seeds. The farmers who are suffering huge crop losses are not getting compensation from these corporations," said Malla Reddy.

Calling India's agricultural condition "pathetic", Chengal Reddy said the country has to take lessons from China.

"China's growth rate in agriculture is 7 to 9 percent, whereas India's agriculture growth rate is pathetic for the last 15 to 20 years. We never crossed 2 percent," he said.

Though the government has claimed that more credit is being released for farmers, it is not reaching tenant or landless farm families which constitute 50 percent of the country's 120 million farm families.

The share of small farm loans (25,000 or less) in agriculture credit has come down from 50 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2007. During the same period, the share of loans worth 1 crore has or above skyrocketed by more than 400 percent.
Source: IANS
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