The much awaited Budget announcements saw a sharp focus on agriculture, wherein a large sum of money has been allocated for rural infrastructure, irrigation, long-term rural credit and short-term cooperative rural credit refinance.
The focus on Swachh Bharat will greatly benefit the health of our farmers, as also create employment. The reiteration of soil health cards and microirrigation will address the very fundamental issues on which the success of our agri productivity is based. These are great positives, and I pray we succeed in our plans.
The Budget also announced the 'JA', namely the 'Jan Dhan Yojana, Aadhaar Card and Mobile' for the direct transfer of subsidies. A very ambitious, but an extremely effective instrument if it gets implemented rightly. I do believe that if our rural agri subsidies can be delivered right, not only will they reach the right hands, but the government would end up with substantial savings.
The announcement for a Unified Agri Produce Marketing is highly welcome, but the proof of the pudding shall be in devising the right policies therein, and ensuring that the ills of the APMC Act are mitigated. The states must rise above politics and give farmers the right to sell their produce to whoever they like.
The growth in agriculture has slumped to 1.1 per cent of GDP, and the challenge of enhancing rural incomes continues to stare us in our face. Taking this to 4 per cent is, indeed, a very significant challenge and requires a major revamp in our agriculture-related research and development, extension services, delivery of rural credit, rural infrastructure of power & roads, post-harvest management, mechanisation and the introduction of newer and more effective technologies. I, for one, would strongly propose a greater focus on the training and mindset change of all, starting from the policymakers to the last-mile deliverers who must totally focus on serving the farming community of India.
All organisations have to "reinvent" themselves without which they cannot remain relevant, dynamic and growth-oriented: and this holds equally true for government functionaries who need to reorient themselves to serve the rural sector. Similarly, a greater sense of trust and confidence is needed to work with the private sector in the entire value chain of agriculture, animal husbandry and all connected agricultural activities.
The potential of synergy are tremendous. Can we, therefore, find substantial sums for this training, mindset change and reinvention?
The author is Chairman, PI Industries