RURAL DEVELOPMENT: STILL A LONG WAY TO GO
Socio –economic structure of India can be observed from the fact that the majority of the country’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood. According to census 2011, 68.9 percent (83.3 crores) population is still rural. The agriculture sector contributed more than half the output of the Indian economy when the country started with its First five year plan in 1950-51. Over a period of seven decades, the share of agriculture has gradually declined to less than 15 percent.
The performance of the agriculture sector remains a matter of central concern to policymakers and the public at large. The main reasons for this are
- More than half the total workforce in the country remains employed in this sector and it is a source of livelihood for a majority of the population.
- The performance of agriculture is much more important than other sectors for inclusive growth and for reducing poverty.
- The performance of agriculture determines the food and nutrition security of the population of the county.
- The growth of agriculture has a significant bearing on food and overall inflation and macroeconomic stability.
- Much of trade, commerce and industrial activities are linked to agriculture.
The agriculture sector grew by 4.1% during the 11th Five Year Plan period (2007-08 to 2011-12).But for the last 3 years, it has been crawling between 1-2%. Now even if the government achieve 8% growth rate and the agriculture sector doesn’t improve, the country can never achieve its social sector targets. It may create a dangerous rift between rural and urban India as around 65% of Indian population still depends on agriculture for livelihood.
The union budget 2015-16 has paid special attention to rural development and growth of agrarian economy. It allocates Rs 79,526 crores to rural development initiatives and schemes. In addition Rs 70,000 crores has been apportioned for development of infrastructure including rural infrastructure.
The following four schemes have been introduced in the year 2014-15.
- Soil Health Card Scheme: Issuance of Soil Health Cards to every farmer of the country during the remaining three years of the 12th year plan (2014-15 to 2016-17) has been approved. State wise allocation has been made for establishing 100 mobile soil testing laboratories in 2014-15.
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana: The scheme is being formulated with a view to take irrigation water to each and every agricultural field in the country.
- Price Stabilization fund for Cereals and Vegetables: Government has established a Price Stabilization Fund of Rupees 500 crores in order to reduce price volatility in perishable agricultural commodities (onions, potatoes & tomatoes etc.).
- National Agri-tech Infrastructure: An Agri-Tech infrastructure fund has been proposed to create a common e-marketing platform for agri-commodities.
On the rural credit front, the budget sets an ambitious target of 8.5 lakh crore of credit during the year 2015-16. To focus on small and marginal farmers Rs 1 Lakh crore has been allocated to NABARD (National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development).
Various funds have been set up in NABARD to support agriculture and rural development like
- Rs 25,000 crore has allocated to Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF).
- Rs 15,000 crore to Long Term Rural Credit Fund.
- Rs 45,000 crore to Short Term Cooperative Rural Credit Refinance Fund.
- Rs 15,000 crore to Short Term RRB Refinance Fund.
Thus the government is trying hard with holistic policies to help the farmers who are the most vulnerable group of the society. It cannot be denied that there are problems that need to be addressed quickly and firmly to explore the full potential of agriculture and allied sectors. Acceleration of growth in this sector will not only push overall GDP, but also promote inclusive growth.
Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan and jai vigyan.
Author: Ashwani Kr