ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Dilemmas of Agricultural Diversification

The NDA’s stance on agricultural diversification is contrary to farmers’ well-being.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s (interim) budget for the agriculture-allied sectors—animal husbandry and fisheries—is a wasted opportunity for inclusive agricultural diversification in the country. With the livestock and the fisheries sectors contributing almost 25% and 6% of the agricultural gross domestic product (GDP) respectively, the ruling government would have demonstrated some sincerity in designing the perks, if it had the genuine political will to take “doubling farmers’ income by 2022” beyond mere rhetoric. But, who can deny that the distress and delight of farmers, especially the smallholders, today, is as much a matter of the political expediency of the ruling class as it is of the vagaries of nature. Thus, declarations of increased outlays for the Rashtriya Gokul Mission and setting up of a Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for cow welfare, are nothing but brazen incentives for keeping up the momentum of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) contagious cow politics in the Hindi heartland, instead of any real development in the animal husbandry sector. And, a rather nondescript declaration of a separate department for fisheries is potentially more conducive for buying political allegiances to the current government in the upcoming polls, than in providing any real respite to the fisherfolk in plight.

In fact, the government’s sops to the fisheries sector are belied by its enthusiasm for the coastline infrastructure projects that endanger the lives and livelihoods of various fishing communities. How will the creation of a separate ministry resolve such (deliberately) paradoxical policies? Of what relevance is a Kisan Credit Card (KCC) and a 2% interest rate subvention on its loans, when the beneficiaries are being pushed out of their very livelihoods? Media reports, however, indicate potential benefits of the policies for the organised players in the sector, for instance, the seafood export industry. This is in tandem with the fact that since the 2000s there has been an upsurge in the share of direct agricultural advances with a credit limit of over ₹ 1 crore, mostly made towards financing large agribusiness-oriented enterprises. An interest rate subvention on production credit might help these exporters endure the stiff price competition from Ecuador, Indonesia and Vietnam in the global market. Similarly, any administrative or institutional change will matter only to these players who can clout to influence decision-making.

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Updated On : 26th Feb, 2019
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