Agriculture, with its allied sectors, is unquestionably the largest livelihood provider in India, more so in the vast rural areas. It also contributes a significant figure to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of India. Sustainable agriculture, in terms of food security, rural employment, and environmentally sustainable technologies such as soil conservation, sustainable natural resource management and biodiversity protection, are essential for holistic rural development.
Indian agriculture is plagued by several problems, some of them are natural and some others are manmade. Farmers in various parts of the country have been agitating, seeking higher support prices for their produce as well as waiver of loans among other demands.
Problems faced by Agriculture in India:
–> The critical issues that plague Indian agriculture at present are the knowledge deficit and infrastructure deficit, especially in the rural areas.
–> Problems related to irrigation infrastructure, market infrastructure and transport infrastructure add significant cost to farmers’ operations.
–> Lack of proper delivery mechanisms.
–> Government failure is a major concern in agriculture because the high risks involved make help and facilitation necessary.
–> Small and fragmented land–holdings in India.
–> Irrigation: Although India is the second largest irrigated country of the world after China, only one–third of the cropped area is under irrigation.
–> Lack of mechanization: In spite of the large–scale mechanization of agriculture in some parts of the country, most of the agricultural operations in larger parts are carried on by human hand using simple and conventional tools and implements like wooden plough, sickle, etc.
–> Soil erosion: Large tracts of fertile land suffer from soil erosion by wind and water. This area must be properly treated and restored to its original fertility.
–> Agricultural Marketing: Agricultural marketing still continues to be in a bad shape in rural India. In the absence of sound marketing facilities, the farmers have to depend upon local traders and middlemen for the disposal of their farm produce which is sold at throw–away price.
–> Inadequate storage facilities: Storage facilities in the rural areas are either totally absent or grossly inadequate. Under such conditions the farmers are compelled to sell their produce immediately after the harvest at the prevailing market prices which are bound to be low. Such distress sale deprives the farmers of their legitimate income.
–> Inadequate transport: One of the main handicaps with Indian agriculture is the lack of cheap and efficient means of transportation. Even at present there are lakhs of villages which are not well connected with main roads or with market centers.
–> Lack of Investment in Agriculture sector in India.
–> Inefficiency of Farmer Producer Organizations in India.
–> According to the UBS report factors like sluggish global commodity prices, “interventionist” government policies like restrictions on exports of certain food items like pulses despite surplus supply, ban on futures trading and imposition of stockholding limits, among others are adding to farmers’ distress despite bumper crop.
–> Consolidation of land holdings: means the reallocation of holdings which are fragmented, the creation of farms which comprise only one or a few parcels in place of multitude of patches formerly in the possession of each peasant.
–> Mechanize the agricultural operations: There is urgent need to mechanize the agricultural operations so that wastage of labour force is avoided and farming is made convenient and efficient.
–> Involvement of state governments in agriculture export related issues.
–> Allow state governments to design crop insurance as per local variability.
–> Rationalization of farm loan distribution.
–> The government should focus on supply–side reforms in the agriculture sector, including revamping supply chain management by encouraging private participation, reducing leakage, increasing public investment and improving marketing infrastructure (encouraging agri–commodities trading, developing efficient value chains).
How greater autonomy for states help revive agriculture:
–> Great variations across states: There are widespread variation in the productivity of crops, farm inputs, type of crops grown and other problems like salinity in northern Green revolution states to lack of resources in other parts.
So, there is a need for more autonomy to states to formulate policies that suit the regional needs of these states.
–> Finance commission (FC): With the recommendation of the 12th FC for more devolution of funds states now should be at the front of investment in the areas.
Indian agriculture is unique in itself so quick fixes to revive it will not suffice hence structural reforms in agriculture by involving state governments into it will help to revive agriculture in better manner.
The recommendation of NITI Aayog in terms of Tenancy reforms and irrigational reforms also needs to be visited.