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Transforming India's rural landscape

| | in Oped

Recent poll wins in Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are a testimony to the fact that a farm-centric approach has been the mainstay of Modinomics. The emphasis has been on empowering and enriching scores of farmers who till our soil so that we don't go to bed on an empty stomach

It is said, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and for an elected Government, getting a pat on the back from the electorate is the biggest endorsement of credibility. This was amplified by the stunning result of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly poll in 2017, where the BJP romped home to victory in a defining moment. The fact that more than 16 crore people, who account for more than 18 per cent of India’s rural population, live in Uttar Pradesh alone, and that this State voted virtually en masse for the BJP, is a telling comment of how a farm-centric approach has been the mainstay of Modinomics.

Again, despite what critics may say, the hard truth is that the BJP’s sixth consecutive victory in a row in Gujarat is in no small measure a result of the fact that average agricultural growth in Gujarat has been 11 per cent in the last decade, despite a drought once every three years.

Be it the accreditation to 60 State agricultural universities in the last three years; rise in budgetary allocation for higher agricultural education by 47 per cent; or the opening of 162 new experiential learning units, investment in agricultural education and research has been the clarion call of the Modi Government. It is not surprising, therefore, that food grain procurement in 2016-17 broke all records at 273.38 million tonnes, a  8.67 per cent jump over 2015-16!

What has largely gone unreported by a Left-leaning media is the fact that  under the aegis of the Modi Government, the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) increased its reach in 2016-17 — from 438 to 638 districts in India, a rise of 24.45 per cent over 2015-16. Again, presently, seven crops (rice, wheat, pulses, coarse cereals, sugarcane, jute and cotton) are being covered under NFSM from the three crops (rice, wheat and pulses) that were covered during an inept Congress-led UPA dispensation  between 2011-2013. So much for empty rhetoric by the Congress that has been screaming from the roof-top about its love for all things, agrarian.

Committed to doubling the income of farmers by 2022, the Government has organised 2.21 lakh demonstrations in farms through its Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) to impart training to farmers to use modern technology to increase pulses and oilseeds yield. Besides, KVKs, the ‘Mera Gaon Mera Gaurav’ scheme, started in 2015-16 to enhance the ‘scientist-farmer’ interface via modern farming techniques, is now spread across more than 13,500 villages and is growing rapidly. Also, 52 new technologies, including soil testing and organic farming packages, have been developed for agricultural advancement by the Central Government.

The Electronic National Agriculture Market or eNAM, a key initiative of the Modi Government to improve farm incomes, is on the course to connect 585 mandis by March, with 17 States having already fully or partially amended their agricultural marketing acts to allow for electronic trading.

Till date, over 160,229 farmers, more than 47,000 traders and over 26,000 commission agents have been registered in 250 plus mandis across more than a dozen States that have joined eNAM. Currently, 69 commodities are traded on eNAM.  Minimum Support Price, in decades of Congress rule was both a sham and a scam. Middlemen pilfered away the benefits, leaving hapless farmers with nothing. The Direct Benefit Transfer scheme, alongwith Jan Dhan, have empowered rural India, thanks to the Modi Government, there have been savings of more than Rs 60,000 crore in subsidy leakages so far.

In another first of sorts, the Livestock Insurance Scheme, as part of the National Livestock Mission, now covers more than 50 indigenous and hybrid milch animals in more than 300 districts, versus only two milch animals in flaky schemes under the UPA dispensation.

As a corollary, it is worth mentioning that dairying is an important source of income for about seven crore rural households  and a large part of the family income comes from selling milk. The Government, keeping in mind this data, has started setting up 14 Gokul Grams under the National Gokul Mission for the development and conservation of indigenous breeds. It is no coincidence, therefore, that despite spending Rs 226 crore between 2014-2017 under the National Gokul Mission, milk production has risen from 398 million tonnes in 2011-2014 to 466 million tonnes in 2014-2017, making India one of the leading milk producers in the world. Ditto goes for fisheries where Gujarat ranks amongst the biggest fish exporters from India.

A moot point worth noting is:  India is home to 17 per cent of the world’s  population and 11.3 per cent  of the livestock population, but has just four per cent of the world’s water resources! Speaking of water, brings to mind the revolutionary Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY), kickstarted in 2015 with an allocation of Rs 50,000 crore to be spent over five years, to develop an irrigation supply chain, water resources, distribution network and farm-level application solutions to achieve the target of water for every farm and the idea of ‘Per Drop More Crop’.

The worst legacy of a corrupt Congress Government is the fact that only 48 per cent of the cultivable land is irrigated. Vagaries of nature apart, drought and farmer suicides have happened over the years due to poor water management. PMKSY aims to not only create irrigation resources but also create protected irrigation by harnessing rainwater at micro level through ‘Jal Sanchay’ and ‘Jal Sinchan’.

In 2016-17, more than 56,226 water harvesting structures, over 1.14 lakh hectares of irrigation capacity and 675 district irrigation schemes were consummated. During 2014-17, a total of 18.38 lakh hectare area has been brought under micro-irrigation, which is the highest so far, with 8.39 lakh hectares brought under micro irrigation, in 2016-17 alone.

 PMKSY scheme is being implemented on a war footing with the help of Command Area Development, to complete 99 major and medium irrigation projects covering 76.03 lakh hectares in a phased manner till December 2019. This is a game-changer that is transforming India’s rural economy. Modinomics is about better roads, expressways, sanitation, creating world class entrepreneurs, a liberal FDI regime, a robust services sector and effectiver tax compliance with no room for benaami and ill gotten wealth. Modinomics is about empowering and enriching scores of farmers who till our soil so that we don’t go to bed empty stomach. Jai Jawaan, Jai Kissan surely works.

(The writer is an economist and chief spokesperson for the BJP, Mumbai)

 
 
 
 
 
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