NEW DELHI: Even after several years of green revolution, the farmer across the country continue to suffer and complain of systemic neglect by the central and various governments.
The country recently witnessed a major protest by lakhs of farmers from across the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Punjab taking to streets under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union demanding a waiver for farm loans, higher compensation for damaged crops and full implementation of the recommendations made by the MS Swaminathan committee.
Although a showdown between the farmers and the government was averted after the timely intervention by the government, the crisis once again highlighted the need for full implementation of the Swaminathan committee.
On November 18, 2004, the Government of India formed the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), with MS Swaminathan as its chairman. Commission was tasked with finding solutions to the problems faced by farmers of the country. The commission submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006.
The fifth and final report is considered the most crucial as it contains suggestions for the agriculture sector as a whole. The commission called for fast and inclusive growth for farmers as it was envisaged in the Planning Commission’s Approach to 11th Five Year Plan. Dr Swaminathan had requested the government to implement the recommendations given in the report so that it could provide minimum support price for grains, safeguard the interest of small farmers and addressing the issue of increasing risk overtaking agriculture as a profession.
NCF’s Swaminathan Commission Report aimed at working out a system for food and nutrition security, sustainability in the farming system, enhancing quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities and also to recommend measures for credit and other marketing related steps.
Here are the key observations and recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission: -
Some of the major observations made by the commission include farmers’ need for an assured access to and control over basic resources of farming. These include land, water, fertilizers and pesticides, credit and crop insurance. Knowledge of farming technology and markets is also key.
The committee clarified that farmers’ concerns and other agriculture-related issues must be implemented in the concurrent list, to make it a high priority for both state and central governments.
One of the key reforms of the Commission was land reforms. It was aimed at addressing the issue of access to and for both crops and livestock.
The Commission called for distribution of ceiling-surplus and wasteland among farmers, prevention of the non-agricultural use of farmland, securing grazing rights and seasonal forest access to forest tribals.
The Commission also suggested establishing a National Land Use Advisory Service, which would link land use decisions with ecological and marketing factors of season and geography-specific basis.
Reforming irrigation resources and its distribution among farmers was another key recommendation of the Commission. Among measures to increase water supply, the Commission suggested the use of rainwater harvesting and water level recharging.
The commission recommended spreading outreach of institutional credit by reducing crop loan interest rates, providing a moratorium on debt recovery, agricultural risk fund and a separate Kisan Credit Card for women farmers, among other services.
Stressing on the need to address growing incidents of farmer suicides, the Commission called for providing affordable health insurance at primary health centres in rural areas and extending the national rural health mission to suicide-prone areas. Restructuring of micro-finance policies, covering all crops by insurance and social security net for support were among other notable recommendation of the MS Swamnathan Commission.