Supporting initiatives that are an integral part of India’s AgriStack will yield significant long-term gains
Given the way the proposed reforms in the agricultural sector were aborted, the government was not supposed to come up with special measures for farmers. Political considerations ahead of crucial parliamentary elections in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh would also have prevented the government from announcing any reformist policy proposals of the type envisioned in the Farm Bills. However, given its importance as the largest employer, the sector might have been able to attract more of the FY23 budget. The rural push was also somewhat weaker than expected; expenditure on NREGA, at Rs 73,000 crore, is lower than the Rs 98,000 crore spent in FY22. Urban and rural housing expenditure remained unchanged at Rs 47,000 crore. The government is likely banking on an accelerating recovery and has forecast less demand for this employment program. However, if he wants to spend more, the funds can be raised through additional requests. Although income support for farmers was left unchanged in the budget forecast for FY23, the government is spending on purchases. The supply of food grains – wheat and paddy – in FY22 was substantial at 1,208 metric tons from 163 lakh farmers; a significant amount of Rs 2.37 lakh crore would be paid directly into farmers’ accounts.
Fertilizer subsidy spending has been cut by about 25% at a time when prices are rising globally; however, the allocation may be increased later in the year. To be fair, several initiatives are planned, such as the use of drones for crop assessment, the digitization of land records, and the spraying of insecticides and nutrients. The PPP mode that is under consideration is a good idea; public sector research and extension institutions will work with private agri-tech startups and other stakeholders.
These initiatives are an integral part of the AgriStack set up by the NDA government with data it has collected from over 50 million farmers since 2014. Data from programs such as PM Kisan Samman Yojana (PMKSY), Soil Health Card and PM Fasal Bima Yojana be linked to land records available from state governments. Once this information is integrated into a single database, AI and data analytics can be leveraged to deliver actionable insights and personalized services that can increase farmers’ incomes by addressing challenges such as capping yields, soil degradation, wastage, insufficient market and infrastructure. AgriStack is an integral part of the larger Digital India initiative which is using technology to transform the way it delivers services to the people. Through Aadhaar authentication, the government is already transferring food and energy subsidies, MGNREGA wage payments, PMKSY payments, and wheat and rice purchases in a more targeted manner.
The fact is that most farmers continue to grow farms that are shrinking in size as opportunities for migration to urban areas are limited. The need is to increase investment not only in culture, but also in livestock and fishing; there is also a need to diversify crops from cereals to high value crops to increase farmers’ incomes. Farmers need more irrigation facilities. It is necessary to prepare for extremely heavy and low rainfall and to develop drought-resistant and short-lived crops. Spending on crop science and agricultural R&D needs to be increased. According to the latest economic study, every rupee spent on agricultural R&D pays off better than one rupee spent on fertilizer and electricity subsidies, improves farmers’ livelihoods and contributes significantly to sustainable agriculture.
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