Madhya Pradesh concentrated on agriculture, which employs the largest share of the state’s workforce (54.6% in 2015-16 as per the Labour Bureau). Over the last decade, MP has made rapid strides in agricultural production. The state’s wheat production increased from 6 million metric tonnes (MMT) in 2005-06 to 17.1 MMT. Horticultural productions increased spectacularly, indicating agricultural diversification. Between 2009-10 and 2015-16, horticultural production increased from 6.4 MMT to 22.5 MMT.
The state government has completed several unfinished irrigation projects. Between 2009 and 2014, over 1,400 minor irrigation projects were completed in MP, increasing the state’s irrigated area by 4.8 lakh hectare (ha). But efficient utilisation of groundwater irrigation required provision of uninterrupted power supply. Electricity was, therefore the next target. Uninterrupted power supply to fields was ensured during the wheat season. Agriculture’s share in total electricity sold rose to 36% in MP in 2014-15 from 32% in 2007-08 as against 18% in Uttar Pradesh. The irrigated area in MP, thus, increased from 30% of the cropped area in 2005-06 to 41.2% of such area in 2014-15.
The MP government also incentivised wheat production by giving a 10% bonus above the Centre’s minimum support price (MSP) from 2007-08 to 2014-15. The procurement system (sarkari khareed) was strengthened considerably. A digital app called e-Uparjan was developed to systematically manage procurement operations and payments.
Roads were built to enable farmers to tap markets that were far and wide. Total road density in MP, between 2005-06 and 2014-15, increased from 535km/1,000 sq km to 937 km/1,000 sq. Km. The proportion of surfaced roads increased dramatically from 50% to 81%.
This bijli-paani-khareed-sadak formula did wonders for MP’s agriculture. Agriculture’s share in the GSDP increased from 28% to 37%. Rural poverty fell from 53.6% in 2004-05 to 35.7% in 2011-12. While some may view this growth with scepticism, the fact that sales of private sector tractor companies showed a four- fold increase in seven years (2007-14) is a pointer to this growth.
Thanks to the state government’s focus on agriculture, MP witnessed more than 20% growth rate in agriculture in the past few years. Various pro farmer measures have been taken by the state government which include providing full interest subsidy on farm credit, Rs 4,500 crore subsidy on energy to farmers and about 10-hour uninterrupted power supply to farm sector. Also, there was a phenomenal increase in irrigation potential in that state and this has greatly helped the agricultural sector. The state government is also planning to set up a price stabilisation fund to ensure remunerative prices for all crops. It has also undertaken the pioneering project of bringing Narmada water to river basins of Malwa and already linked Narmada with the Kshipra River. A network of more than one lakh kilometre of rural roads has been built to enable farmers to quickly transport their produce to agricultural markets. The state is also providing the largest insurance coverage for farmers. Claims worth Rs 4,060 crore for rabi and Rs 4,416 crore for kharif were received.
What went wrong
This is the second year running that the state has had a bumper onion crop. Throughout the month of May, many farmers were forced to sell their produce at Rs 2 to Rs 3 a kg as the government delayed announcing the procurement price which was Rs 8 a kg and was only announced in June.
MP’s current problem arose due to a glut pertaining to increased production of crops like cereals, pulses, onions and soya bean and lack of remunerative prices. Currently the government has agreed to 11 of the 13 demands put forth by the farmers’ organisations. The government has already announced a compensation of Rs 1 crore each to the kind of those killed in firing and a job to an eligible member from each family.
In Indore, farmers had left truckloads of onions on the streets in protest. According to one estimate, one third of the state’s onion crop has rotted away because of inadequate storage facilities.
The prices of pulses too have fallen sharply in Madhya Pradesh. While the central government has raised the minimum support price of tur dal from Rs 4,500 to a little over Rs 5,000 a quintal, the state’s agencies have failed to procure any significant amount of the produce at the assured price. Demonetisation struck another lethal blow. Traders who had been hit by the note recall either remained absent from the market or were willing to pay far less.
Problems facing farmers in other states and their solution
35 farmers commit suicide per day in India on an average. Over five lakh farmer suicides have been reported since 1995. Lack of irrigation, costly fertilisers, non- availability of quality seeds and unreasonable prices, irregular electricity supply, faulty marketing of agri-products and above all, remunerative prices are some of the other problems. The Minimum Support (MSP) is many times less than the market price and does not even meet the cost of production. Crop insurance is not insurance to the farmer but insurance to the bank which is lending to the farmer. The farmers are facing nature’s wrath every year, besides the risks of middle men after the crop yielding.
The Dr. M.S. Swaminathan Commission has drawn attention
to completing the unfinished agenda of land reforms, technology access, adequate and timely institutional credit, remunerative marketing, etc. The Dr. Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations need to be adopted. It is
the right time to implement them.
The central government had promised a MSP that will provide a 50% net profit to the farmer over his production costs. During the last few years, this has not been implemented. The two government agencies, FCI and NAFED are not in a position to but the farm produce even at the existing MSP and this forces the farmer to distress.
— The author is an IPS officer and currently the Inspector-General of Police, Police Directorate (West Bengal).