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Empowering Maharashtra’s Farmers: Promises and Delivery

Maharashtra Farmers Promises Delivery

This article is part of a series on Maharashtra – Promises and Delivery

Part 1: Infrastructure

Part 2: ‘Water For All’ 

Part 3: Urban Development

Part 4: Economy and Employment

Part 5: Farmers

Part 6: Education

Part 7: Health For All

Part 8: Women Empowerment & Safety

Part 9: Cultural Heritage

Part 10: People-Centric Policies

In this fifth article, we do a fact check about the promises relating to agriculture. Agriculture has always been a bone of contention in Maharashtra given the water availability and land. We find that the Fadnavis government has managed to fulfill most of the promises.

Promise Laws will be amended to empower farmers to sell their produce directly in the market.

It was fulfilled by passing an amendment to the Maharashtra Agriculture Produce Marketing (Development and Regulation) Act, 1963. Now all agricultural produce including livestock can be sold outside APMCs.

Under the Sant Shiromani Shri Savata Mali Shetkari Athavade Baajar Abhiyaan, 115 weekly markets have been setup in cities for direct sale of agricultural produce.

This is by far the boldest reform in Maharashtra. Middlemen would be eliminated; farmers would get maximum profit on sale of produce and the issue of hoarding will reduce. This will also reduce the instances of politicization of APMCs.

Promise Every effort will be made to make agriculture profitable and prevent farmers’ suicides. Maharashtra’s agriculture growth rate fell below zero a couple of years back. We will give a new impetus to the agriculture sector and achieve double digit growth rate within a year.

While the schemes like Jalyukta Shivar, Magel Tyala Shettale, APMC Reforms and focus on micro-irrigation have resulted in increasing produce, the continuous spell of droughts has reduced agricultural growth. The drought in 2017-18 plummeted the Real Gross State Value Added in Agriculture Sector to (-)8.3%. In 2018-19, recovery happened and the sector recorded positive 0.4% growth.

Promise A special scheme for cotton farmers in Vidarbha will ensure stability and guaranteed water supply through micro-irrigation.

A scheme to subsidize drip irrigation was announced. 80% subsidy would be given to set up drip and sprinkle irrigation sets. Another 100 crores subsidy is aimed at the 19 districts of Marathwada and Vidarbha. This will benefit the cotton farmers of Vidarbha.

Moreover, the Economic Survey of Maharashtra 2018-19 states that coupled with the center’s PM Krishi Sinchayee Yojana, a total of 23.91 hectare land was brought under micro-irrigation till March 2019. Maharashtra also launched its own E-Thibak software to receive applications for subsidy. Till date, 2.24 lakh applications have been processed and subsidy of Rs 255.83 crores has been transferred in the bank accounts of 1.09 lakh farmers.

Promise We will set up a special study group for the present situation of dry-land farming and farmers which will present its report within one year. Based on the report of this study group a special scheme for modernising the dry-land farming will be designed.

A Dryland Farming Mission was launched in 2013 but nothing was done. After 2014, it has been take ahead to ensure protective irrigation and mechanism for in-situ conservation. Data gathered from economic surveys since 2015 reveal a total amount of Rs 94.91 crores has been spent till 2018.

Promise We will launch Annadata Aadhar Pension Scheme, which will support farmers in their old age. A special insurance scheme for landless farm-labour and marginal farmers will be introduced.

No such scheme has been launched. A proposal for having a state based pension scheme for farmers has been given. But the gap is filled by the recently launched PM Kisan Mandhan Scheme, a scheme for farmer pension.

Promise We will introduce the practice of producing composts from solid waste on a large scale and making it available to farmers at reasonable prices.

Partial success has been achieved. While solid waste is being treated on a regular basis in some cities, there is no certain policy on selling the green manure to the farmers. The City Compost Policy also needs improvement to show full results.

Promise Within five years, large tracts of barren land will be utilized for development of forestry, and horticulture.

Social Forestry was taken up on a large scale after 2014. The forest department reached out to people, activists, corporates and NGOs to mobilize society to plant trees. Barren patches were chosen and a target of 2 crore trees was set. By 2019, the number went to 24 crore saplings. The result was an increase of 253 square km of forests on non-forest lands.

Promise– Establishing two SEZs each for textile industry in Vidarbha and Marathwada which will benefit cotton farmers.

While SEZs have not been established, Maharashtra has sanctioned and operationalized textile processing zones, most of which are in Marathwada and Vidarbha. Moreover, a state Textile Policy was launched in 2018 which aims at subsidies to textile manufacturers in Vidarbha and Marathwada and to set up textile parks.

Promise– New centers for processing for sweet limes in Marathwada, oranges in Amravati and Nagpur, bananas in Jalgaon, mangoes in Konkan and grapes in Western Maharashtra, will be opened.

A Chief Minister Agriculture and Food Processing Scheme has been launched which aims at supporting agro-processing industries in the state. A total of 340 proposals were received till 2018-19. Also, under the mega food park scheme, food parks at Satara, Paithan and Wardha were inaugurated.

Promise Construction of farm-roads will be undertaken by integrating (MNREGA) Employment Guarantee Scheme and Agriculture. 51:49 formula to be used for Employment Guarantee Scheme.

Roads to Farms’ scheme has been launched.

Promise– Electric connection will be provided within 7 days for agriculture pumps with sufficient and uninterrupted power supply.

While electrification of pumps was not achieved in 7 days, the electrification was progressed well. The economic survey of Maharashtra says 119,300 pumps have been energized in the last two years.

Moreover, the state has launched the Mukhyamantri Saur Krishi Pump Yojana to utilize solar power for electric pumps. It aims to setup one lakh such pumps.

Promise– Reworking and changing fish farming droughts criterion will be done. A new criterion will be formed by keeping small fish-farmers in mind. Pension schemes for small fish farmers and easy access to modern trawlers and cold-storage facilities will be provided to fishermen.

Nothing specific has been done in this regard. The schemes of the earlier government were continued and results are seen in the increase in the gross value of fish production. It was Rs 3675 crores in 2013-14, which is Rs 8460 crores in 2018-19

Promise Every district will have a minimum of one cold-storage facility. New agri-exports centres will be started for fruits and processed products of grapes, mangoes, cashews, onion, oranges, bananas and pomegranates. New dry ports will be established at convenient locations to prevent extra expenses and administrative hassles.

While every district is yet to have a cold storage, for now, 27 districts do have it. Moreover, 67 projects of cold storage have been sanctioned by the center.

Also, the Maharashtra State Agriculture Marketing Board (MSAMB) has established 44 facilities across the state, which include cold storage units, pre-cooling units and ripening chambers to encourage exports. At least 20 facilitation centers have been opened for fruits and vegetables and three centers for flower exports.

Two dry ports have been planned at Wardha and Jalna with 20000 Twenty Foot Equivalent units.

Promise Soil health card scheme in collaboration with the agriculture universities in the state will enable farmers to get the report card of their farm soil. To implement this scheme, special efforts will be taken at the gram panchayat level.

The center’s Soil Health Card (SHC) scheme has been a huge hit in Maharashtra. In its First Phase (2015-17), 1.29 crore SHC were distributed while in the Second Phase (2017-19), another 1.12 crore SHC were distributed, as seen from the various Economic Surveys of the state.

Promise– The existing credit card scheme will be reformed and the credit limit will be increased to 50% against the land owned by farmers.

No specific revamp has been done. Regular loans have been advanced through the Kisan Credit Card Scheme.

Promise Promotional schemes to encourage organic farming will include a special work-group to be formed for increasing availability of organic composts.

The state has launched Dr Panjabrao Deshmukh Organic Agriculture Mission with an investment of Rs 100 crore with primary focus on Vidarbha.

Also, under the center’s Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana, the state has sanctioned 932 clusters in its first phase (2016-17 to 2017-18) and 326 clusters in the second phase (2018-19 to 2020-21), as seen from the Economic Survey.

Promise The Cow Slaughter Prevention Bill introduced by the previous Yuti (Shiv Sena – BJP) government will be effectively implemented. Special steps will be undertaken to protect cows and promote goshalas (shelters/sheds for cows).

Maharashtra Animal Preservation Bill 1995 was passed by the earlier NDA government but pending approval of the President. The nod was given in 2015.

Promise

  • State-of-the-art meteorological centers will be set up to help farmers with weather forecast for taking agricultural decisions. A rainfall monitoring system for each village and a facility of weather forecast will be made available on every farmer’s mobile phone.
  • An independent meteorological department will be established to combat droughts.

To collect timely data on various weather parameters, MAHAVEDH project is operationalized by the Maharashtra government. It has established a network of 2061 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) in each revenue circle across the State. It updates data in real time every 10 minutes. The MAHAVEDH application also provides timely weather alerts to the farmers.

Promise The `Agriculture Produce Protection Fund’ will be set up to compensate farmers cultivating crops such as onion, cotton and tomato in case of unnatural fluctuation in market rates.

No such fund has been announced. The existing MSP regime is being implemented to procure produce from the farmers at fixed rates.

Promise Farmers will be encouraged to produce and use ethanol to make farming sustainable.

Owing to the center’s policy of increasing ethanol blending to 10%, the sugar mills are investing in upgrading ethanol plants. Moreover, a proposal of setting up a dedicated Rs 500 crore fund for ethanol production has also been proposed.

Promise There will be an assessment of agriculture loan supply and a new scheme to save farmers from long-pending debts. A new Crop Loan Scheme, which will provide loans with zero percent interest for one year, will be offered.

Maharashtra announced the nation’s biggest loan waiver of Rs 34,022 crores targeting 89 lakh farmers. It is termed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Kisan Samman Yojana. It is unique because the applications were sent online, Aadhaar linkage excluded fake beneficiaries and money was transferred directly to farmers. Till date, more than Rs 24000 crores have been transferred to more than 50 lakh bank accounts.

Promise Dedicated industrial zone for post-harvest processing and for manufacturing of farming equipment will be established.

While post-harvest processing is being done in the food parks, no dedicated zone has been setup for either post-harvest processing or agri equipment manufacturing.

Promise At least one special agri-school will be set up per district which will allow students to complete the 10th and the 12th standard exam with agriculture as the core-curriculum.

While not all districts have such agri-schools, Maharashtra has adopted an Open Schooling Policy where subjects like Agriculture Science and Technology, Agriculture Allied Vocations and Animal Husbandry can be taken up for 10th and 12th standard exams for students pursuing open schooling.

Promise 90% subsidy will be provided on polyethylene used in farm ponds.

No specific subsidy has been announced.

Promise Wi-Fi internet access will be provided in every village.

Google has tied up with BSNL to launch public Wi-Fi in villages, including those of Maharashtra. Also, Maharashtra has India’s first digital district where villages have access to Wi-Fi.

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