AGRICULTURE, FARMERS, AND FARM LABOUR
Many years ago, Jawaharlal Nehru had said, ‘Everything can wait but not agriculture.’
In the last 5 years, under the BJP Government, the agriculture sector has been driven into deep crisis. Adequate MSP was denied for 4 years; the procurement machinery was non-existent or weak; debts of farmers mounted; prices of inputs increased steadily; credit was inadequate; demonetisation devastated the cash-based agricultural economy; co-operative credit societies and the apex co-operative banks were denied the right to convert their deposits, thereby choking co-operative credit to the farmer; the terms of trade moved decisively against agriculture; the crop insurance scheme robbed the farmer and enriched the insurance companies; and with little or no support from the government, farmers and farm labourers were left to fend for themselves.
Congress has heard the cry of anguish of farmers, and feels the pain of their acute distress.
- Immediately after forming governments in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, the 3 Congress Governments waived the loans of farmers - as had been promised. Congress promises to waive the outstanding farm loans in other States as well.
- We will not stop with just providing “Karz Maafi” or a loan waiver. Through a combination of remunerative prices, lower input costs, and assured access to institutional credit, we will set our Kisans on the path to “Karz Mukti,” or Freedom from Indebtedness.
- Debt is a civil liability, and we will not allow criminal proceedings to be instituted against a farmer who is unable to pay his/her debt.
- In order to ensure priority to the issues affecting the agriculture sector, we will present a separate “Kisan Budget.”
- Congress promises to establish a permanent National Commission on Agricultural Development and Planning consisting of farmers, agricultural scientists, and agricultural economists to examine and advise the government on how to make agriculture viable, competitive and remunerative. The recommendations of the Commission shall be ordinarily binding on the government. The Commission will subsume the existing Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices and recommend appropriate minimum support prices.
- Congress also promises to establish a Commission on Marginal Farmers and Agricultural Labour to advise on policies and programmes that will help them earn income from higher wages, and from non-crop based agriculture such as horticulture and floriculture, dairying and poultry.
- We will completely re-design the BJP government’s failed Fasal Bima Yojana (Crop Insurance Scheme) that has only enriched the insurance companies at the cost of the farmers. We will direct insurance companies to offer crop insurance and charge premiums on the principle of ‘no profit, no loss.’
- Congress promises to work with State Governments to digitise land ownership and land tenancy records and, in particular, recognise ownership and tenancy rights of women farmers and ensure women get the benefits of agriculture-related schemes.
- Congress will promote Farmer Producer Companies/Organisations to enable farmers to access inputs, technology and markets.
- We will review the prices of agricultural inputs, extend subsidies where necessary, and establish facilities to hire farm machinery.
- Congress will repeal the Agricultural Produce Market Committees Act and make trade in agricultural produce — including exports and inter-state trade — free from all restrictions.
- We will establish farmers’ markets with adequate infrastructure and support in large villages and small towns to enable the farmer to bring his/her produce and freely market the same.
- Congress will formulate a policy on export and import of agricultural products that will support farmers and Farmer Producer Companies/Organisations and enhance their income.
- Congress promises to formulate a policy to enable the construction of modern warehouses, cold storage, and food processing facilities in every block of the country.
- We will revive, strengthen and improve the old system of ‘Agricultural Extension Services’ and bring the best knowledge and best practices to every agricultural holding in the country.
- Congress will encourage farmers to diversify into the production of local varieties of millets and pulses that can be procured for the PDS, Mid-Day Meals Scheme, and the ICDS programme.
- Congress promises a major programme to promote horticulture, pisciculture and sericulture for diversification and greater income for farmers. We will launch a national project to double the value of production in 5 years in dairying and poultry.
- Congress will promote organic farming, encourage farmers to use mixed fertilizers and pesticides, support verification of organic products, and help them secure better prices for organic products.
- Congress promises to double the funding in 5 years for teaching, R&D, agriculture-related pure sciences and applied science and technology in the agricultural sector. We will establish a College of Agriculture and a College of Veterinary Sciences in every district of the country.
- Congress promises that the distortions that have crept into the text and the implementation of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006 will be removed and the original purposes of the Acts restored and enforced.
- The Essential Commodities Act, 1955 belongs to the age of controls. Congress promises to replace the Act by an enabling law that can be invoked only in the case of emergencies.
- Building on past experience, Congress will re-design MGNREGA and provide for:
- Increasing the guaranteed days of employment up to 150 days in cases where 100 days have been achieved in a block/district;
- Use of labour in the Waterbodies Restoration and the Wasteland Regeneration Missions;
- Building village-level assets such as primary health centres, classrooms, libraries etc.