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As Political Parties Race For Loan Waivers, Here Are 5 Concrete Solutions By Swaminathan Commission To Mitigate Farmers’ Distress

21 December 2018

Sangita Agarwal

Bhubaneswar: As the Congress led governments in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan announced a waiver of short-term loans taken by farmers from cooperative banks and loans of upto Rs 2 lakh from other banks, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar on Wednesday said farm loan waivers are just a palliative and not a long-term solution for the farming community.

Following close on the heels of these loan waivers by the recently sworn-in Congress governments, the BJP government in Assam approved Rs 600 crores farm loan waiver, while the Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat announced a decision to waive electricity bills of connection holders in rural areas to the tune of Rs 650 crores.

"Farm loan waiver is not a solution. It's just a palliative. This is a state government prerogative whether they want to give the farm loan waivers, as agriculture is a state subject," Kumar said on the sidelines of release of NITI Aayog's "New India - 2022" strategic document.

"The states have to look into their own fiscal resources and go ahead with what they want to do. In states, where there is a genuine and real farm distress, some short-term measures would have to be taken. This is in that nature, it's not a long- term solution for the farmers' problem or for agricultural modernisation," he said.

Pressure is mounting on Odisha government for waiver of farm loans and hike in minimum support price (MSP) of paddy, but a question arises, what is the long-term solution for the farmers’ problem?

On November 18, 2004, the government of India formed the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), with MS Swaminathan as its chairman. The main aim of the commission was to come up with a system for sustainability in farming system and make it more profitable and cost competitive in farm commodities.

The commission submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006. Its suggestions included fast and inclusive growth for farmers.

The key recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission were:

1: Land Reforms –

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 were the mainland reforms suggested in the commission. It 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.

2: Irrigation Reforms –

It recommended to reform irrigation resources and its distribution among farmers by providing them with ‘sustained and equitable’ access to water for irrigation. The commission also suggested the use of rainwater harvesting, water level recharging to increase water supply.

3: Credit and Insurance –

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.

4: Food Security –

The commission recommended Implementation of a universal public distribution system; reorganising delivery of nutrition support programmes on a life-cycle basis with panchayat participation and that of local bodies; elimination of micronutrient deficiency induced hunger and food cum fortification; community food and water banks to be operated by women self-help groups; help small and marginal farmers; formulate national food guarantee act with features as food for work and employment guarantee programmes.

5: Prevention of Farmer Suicides -

To address the growing farmer suicides, affordable health insurance at primary health centres in rural areas was one of the key recommendations. The recommendations included an extension of national rural health mission to suicide-prone areas. Restructuring of microfinance policies, covering all crops by insurance and social security net for support were also sought.

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