Due to the painstaking efforts of the laborious Indian farmers, the country has become self-dependent by producing adequate foodgrains. In fact nowadays, our country’s storage houses are spilling over with large stockpiles of wheat.

However, the farmers have always lived in a state of financial despair, and still are because farming has never been a cash-rich profession.

Now, the new government-led by Narendra Modi has set the goals to raise the revenue of farmers and to make farming an economically rewarding profession.

To accomplish its goals, the government is now working on a scheme that would promote money-spinning agricultural practices like gardening, organic farming, animal husbandry and dairies.

Apart from this, the government is also doling out ‘Soil Health Cards’ to farmers to make them aware of the right kinds of fertilizers for their crop growing lands.

Modi government is also coming up with a new insurance scheme for the farmers. The new scheme would save the farmers from the perils of natural calamities.

In a detailed but candid one-to-one with Dainik Jagran, Agriculture Minister Singh touched upon several such topics that directly or indirectly concern the day-to-day lives of farmers.

Here are some of the excerpts.

Question: To test the quality of the soil, announcement of ‘Soil Health Card’ has been done with much fanfare. Are testing labs for them available in the country?    

Singh:  For the good health of the farming land, the government has decided to provide every farmer a ‘Soil Health Card’. This scheme would be implemented in a mission mode. In the current fiscal year, the government plans to dole out around 3.5 crore cards to the farmers. In the next two years, the ruling dispensation has planned to give out 5 crore cards to the farmers per year.
This scheme would be completed in time and it’s an important step of the government to improve the fertility of farming land. Within a year, the government will make available more than hundred mobile soil health laboratories to the states.

Question: Inflation goes up when the gap between demand and supply increases. What steps government is taking to tackle this menace?

Singh: To ensure proper supply of food products, the government has amended the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act. Mandi act will not be applicable for fruits and vegetables. The process to establish special farmer mandi is already in progress. These steps have been taken so that the farmers get higher prices for their produces and the consumers get to buy products at reasonable prices.


Question: What is the current situation of Rural Godown Scheme (RGS) meant for maintenance of perishable crops?  

Singh: The implementation of the RGS is taking place swiftly.  In the current financial year, the government within three months only has given a go ahead to provide allocated budget to all the pending projects. It’s a significant step to curb inflation.


Question: By what time the proposed Farm Income Insurance Scheme (FIIS) will be implemented?

Singh: There is a plethora of discrepancies in the current crop insurance schemes and the viewpoints of states over this have been asked for. Some of the states have already sent in their suggestions. The proposed Farm Income Insurance Scheme will include farmers’ crop, productivity and income. There are plans to implement this scheme in this fiscal.


Question: The cooperative sector in the country is in abysmal condition. What’s the government plan?  

Singh: In this regard, the government has started to provide information related to multi-state cooperative registration online. There is scope of improvement in this. A significant decision will be taken after holding discussion with all the stakeholders.


Question: Narendra Modi government seems to be bereft of any policy over organic farming. Due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the soil fertility is taking a severe hit. What is the government’s course of action in this regard?

Singh: In order to make organic farming more influential, the Agriculture Ministry has planned to launch the Agricultural Development Scheme. After proper discussions, the government would soon prepare the National Organic Farming Policy, which will be implemented this year, will reduce the dependency on chemical fertilizers. The new policy will further increase use of natural products in farming. A separate mandi would be developed for these kinds of organic products.


Question: Much has been said about the Minimum Support Price of the crops in BJP’s election manifesto. What steps are being taken in this direction?

Singh: To strengthen the country, the farmers need to be empowered first. For this to happen, the productivity of crops needs to be further augmented. The famers’ income can be increased through reducing farming cost. Our priority is to trim down the cost of farming first. The farmers can be empowered by providing them high-quality seeds, modern technology and water in every farm. Agricultural research and farmer awareness are also equally important.


Question: What is the government’s vision for Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) reforms?

Singh: The Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is a statutory body which recommends the Minimum Supporting Price of crops to the government. Generally, the government accepts CACP’s recommendations. The government is determined to help farmers reap rich dividends for their crops.


Question: Neither is the yield nor the productivity of pulses and oilseeds going up.

Singh: The country is still not self-dependent when it comes to pulses and cooking oil. For the upcoming season, we have prepared the agenda for the National Conference on Agriculture for Rabi Campaign where discussions would take place with state agriculture ministers.

The Rabi season is apposite for the cultivation of pulses and oilseeds in different parts of the country. Since the monsoon has been good too, we expect good yield of pulses and oilseeds. We expect that the farming of pulses and oilseeds would take prominence and we are in touch with states over this.


Question: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has always been raising questions over the credibility of statistics in agriculture. What steps are being taken to improve it?

Singh: We have always been guided by agriculture-related statistics. Its importance is going to ascend further in the proposed Farm Income Insurance Scheme. Complaints about these figures are time and again received. It’s natural if doubts are raised on the credibility of data received from state agencies.


Question: What steps are being taken in the direction of improving Agricultural science in the country?

Singh: There are 639 Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) in the country. Out of which, around hundred of KVKs are run by organisations affiliated to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Around the same number of KVKs are also run by NGOs. Rest of the KVKs functions under the state agricultural universities. However, they are in poor condition. Despite getting technical and monetary support from Central government, they are still devoid of basic amenities. Within the next two years, the Centre will provide tractors, motorcycles and jeeps to these KVKs.


Question: The ICAR has been coming under scanner. What steps the government will make to improve ICAR’s functioning?

Singh: The agricultural scientists from ICAR and its affiliated organisations have done remarkable work in the field of farming. Several kinds of high-quality seeds and agricultural technology have been developed which has helped in improving the productivity in farming. It has also contributed to the field of Human Resources Development.

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