Union Cabinet recently approved new umbrella scheme “Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan” (PM-AASHA) to give major boost to pro-farmer initiatives of Government. The Scheme is aimed at ensuring remunerative prices to farmers for their produce as announced in Union Budget for 2018. The scheme was launched in keeping with Government’s commitment and dedication for Annadata.
This is an unprecedented step taken by the Government of India to protect the farmers’ income. The government has already increased the MSP (minimum support price) of kharif crops by following the principle of 1.5 times the cost of production. It is expected that the increase in MSP will be translated to farmer’s income by way of robust procurement mechanism in coordination with the state governments.
The AASHA scheme has three components, and these will complement the existing schemes of the Department of Food and Public Distribution for procurement of paddy, wheat and other cereals and coarse grains where procurement is at MSP now. The first part is the Price Support Scheme (PSS). Here, physical procurement of pulses, oilseeds and copra will be done by Central Nodal Agencies. Besides NAFED, Food Cooperation of India will also take up procurement of crops under PSS. The expenditure and losses due to procurement will be borne by the Centre.
In the Union Budget 2018, the government had relayed its commitment to the vision of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Now, efforts are on to set up a new market architecture to ensure that farmers get remunerative prices on their produce. The initiatives in this regard include setting up of Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs) so as to promote 22,000 number of retail markets in close proximity of farm gate and to robust pro-farmer export policy.
Other pro-farmers’ initiatives launched by the government include implementation of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana and the distribution of soil health cards.
Improve procurement infrastructure: The involvement of private sector in procurement will help improve the process and infrastructure of procurement.
Food security depends on whether farming remains a remunerative activity for the future. The Centre’s age-old procurement and MSP system needs a relook because of its many shortcomings. Research by NITI Aayog and other research outfits has shown that the reach of the current MSP procurement system is very poor both in terms of geography and the crops covered.
Despite thousands of crores of public money being spent in MSP operations every year, the farm crisis continues. If implemented well, the new system may help revive the rural economy by assuring better income to farmers. Unlike the current system where farmers repeatedly go for the few crops, such as paddy, wheat and sugarcane, where MSP is effective, the new scheme may ensure crop diversification and reduce the stress on soil and water.