Swaminathan Report: National Commission on Farmer
The National Commission on Farmers was chaired by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan. The findings and recommendations encompass issues of access to resources and social security entitlements.
Key Findings and Recommendations
Farmer's distress: Agrarian distress has led farmers to commit suicide in recent years. The major causes of the agrarian crisis are: unfinished agenda in land reform, quantity and quality of water, technology fatigue, access, adequacy and timeliness of institutional credit, and opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing. Adverse meteorological factors add to these problems. Farmers need to have assured access and control over basic resources, which include land, water, bioresources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets. The Committee has recommended that "Agriculture" should be inserted in the Concurrent List of the Constitution.
Land Reforms: are necessary to address the basic issue of access to land for both crops and livestock. Land holdings inequality is reflected in land ownership. In 1991-92, the share of the bottom half of the rural households in the total land ownership was only 3% and the top 10% was as high as 54%. The committee has recommended preventing diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non-agricultural purposes; ensuring grazing rights and seasonal access to forests to tribals and pastoralists, and access to common property resources.
Irrigation: Out of the gross sown area of 192 million ha, rainfed agriculture contributes to 60 per cent of the gross cropped area and 45 per cent of the total agricultural output. The report recommends: a set of reforms to enable farmers to have sustained and equitable access to water; Substantial increase in investment in irrigation sector; minor irrigation and new schemes for groundwater recharge.
Productivity of Agriculture: the per unit area productivity of Indian agriculture is much lower than other major crop producing countries. The NCF recommends: Substantial increase in public investment in agriculture related infrastructure particularly in irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research development and road connectivity etc.; A national network of advanced soil testing laboratories with facilities for detection of micronutrient deficiencies; Promotion of conservation farming, which will help farm families to conserve and improve soil health, water quantity and quality and biodiversity.
Credit and Insurance: timely and adequate supply of credit is a basic requirement of small farm families. The NCF has suggested: Expanding the outreach of the formal credit system to reach the really poor and needy; Reducing rate of interest for crop loans to 4 percent; Moratorium on debt recovery, including loans from non-institutional sources, and waiver of interest on loans in distress hotspots and during calamities, till capability is restored; Establishing an Agriculture Risk Fund to provide relief to farmers in the aftermath of successive natural calamities; Issuing Kisan Credit Cards to women farmers, with joint pattas as collateral; Expanding crop insurance cover to cover the entire country and all crops, with reduced premiums and create a Rural Insurance Development Fund to take up development work for spreading rural insurance.
Food Security: the report recommends implementing a universal public distribution system. The NCF pointed out that the total subsidy required for this would be one per cent of the Gross Domestic Product; eliminating micronutrient deficiency induced hidden hunger through an integrated food cum fortification approach; promoting the establishment of Community Food and Water Banks operated by Women Self-help Groups (SHG), based on the principle ‘Store Grain and Water everywhere'; formulating a National Food Guarantee Act continuing the useful features of the Food for Work and Employment Guarantee programmes.
Farmer's Suicides: Cases of suicides have been reported from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Kerala, Punjab, Rajasthan, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. Some of measures suggested include: Providing affordable health insurance and revitalizing primary healthcare centres; Setting up State level Farmers' Commission with representation of farmers for ensuring dynamic government response to farmers' problems; Restructuring microfinance policies to serve as Livelihood Finance, i.e. credit coupled with support services in the areas of technology, management and markets; Covering all crops by crop insurance with the village and not block as the unit for assessment;
Bioresources: Rural people in India depend on a wide range of bioresources for their nutrition and livelihood security. The report recommends: Preserving traditional rights of access to biodiversity, which include access to non-timber forest products including medicinal plants, gums and resins, oil yielding plants and beneficial micro-organisms; Conserving, enhancing and improving crops and farm animals as well as fish stocks through breeding;