Mumbai: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday laid bare the priority of the government, saying agriculture will have to grow "fastest" for the country to get rid of poverty and push the overall GDP expansion.
"If India is to grow and get rid of poverty, the agriculture sector has to grow the fastest... Agriculture is critical to the economy," Jaitley said at a seminar on the recently-announced Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) at Nabard here.
With two successive bad monsoons, the finance minister said a poor rainfall this year will put the "system to test".
PMFBY, he said, will be rolled out in a "mission mode" from April to cover kharif or summer crop from this year itself.
The scheme has the potential to reduce distress in the farm sector and "end the scar of farmer suicides" affecting parts of the country.
Jaitley today said we have had "modestly successful" crop insurance schemes in the past, the efficacy of which was debated, but the just launched PM's Fasal Beema Yojana (PMFBY) will be different.
Unlike the earlier schemes which focused on protecting bank loan taken by a farmer, Jaitley said the new scheme focuses on protecting farmers against vagaries of the nature which can affect his crop.
The farmer will have to pay a lower premium and will get higher compensation in the scenario of crop damages, he said, adding the sheer number of the covered will make it possible for companies to deliver the benefits.
The minister said the target is to cover up to 50 percent of the farmers who take bank credit in a some time, starting from the rain-fed areas.
Union agriculture secretary S K Pattanayak said only 20 percent of farmers who take loans are covered under the crop insurance schemes at present, which the government is targeting to take up to 50 percent over the next three years.
Jaitley said the scheme has the potential to help the farmers in distress and also prevent farmers from committing suicides.
"If this scheme is be succeed, then the scar on us that the indebted farmer commits suicide... We need to wash away this scar from the face of our society. The success of this scheme can actually ensure that," he said.