1. Agriculture Key for Promoting Inclusive Growth:
NITI Aayog has identified 117 aspirational districts for transformation through development of education; health and nutrition; agriculture and water resources; skill development; financial inclusion; and basic infrastructure. The indicators under the ‘agriculture’ focus area are targeted to measure improvement in water storage and availability, de-risk farmers, finance farming, offer remunerative prices, diversify and increase agricultural productivity, soil and animal health.
For successful implementation of agricultural initiatives in 27 of these districts for which NITI Aayog is the nodal body, a statement of intent was signed with ITC on 25 April 2018. Under this, while ITC focuses on capacity building of relevant government officials, ensures baseline and end-line data collection and impact documentation, government schemes map the improvement in delivery efficiency.
Under capacity building, block-level extension officers are skilled as master trainers to cascade the practices till the Gram Panchayat level. Training includes site-specific package of practices (PoPs) and templates for seasonal planning. ITC also facilitates easy-to-follow communication material in different media, including IT-enabled digital services, along with tracking tools to enable farmers to undertake timely operations, and extension officers to send timely intimation and reminders to farmers.
2. Operation Greens:
NITI Aayog took a lead role in finalizing the Operation Greens programme of the Ministry of Food Processing Industries. NITI Aayog Member Dr Ramesh Chand steered the consultation to decide interventions related to tomato, onion, and potato under Operation Greens. It was emphasized that more focus needs to be made on ‘operations’ rather than infrastructure and strong market intelligence. Facilitation of operations—such as aggregation, transport, storage and professional management—by farmer producer organizations, and post-harvest facilities—such as storage at the farm level, collection centres/packhouse, value addition infrastructure, storage facilities at aggregation, sorting, grading, packing facilities, and others—are included under this programme.
3. Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) and Glanders Disease in Cattles and Equines:
The development of a national programme as well as strategies required for elimination of FMD in cattle and Glanders Disease in equines, with specific timelines and action plans, were discussed with experts. The strategies thus drawn were submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office.
4. Action Plan on Oilseed and Oil Palm:
The capacity utilization of the oil processing industry in India is about 40%, which reflects issues related to inefficiencies in the processing of oilseeds. NITI Aayog held discussions with the industry to seek suggestions for increasing capacity utilization to 70%–80% to reduce cost of supply and improve domestic competitiveness. It was suggested that there is an immediate need to invest in oilseed technology for local research development to promote high oleic seeds in soybean, canola, and sunflower seeds. More industry participation was also sought in procurement schemes. Import duty is an artificial way of boosting competitiveness as there are domestic reasons for high prices and it is also evidenced that higher productivity may not lead to lowering of average prices. The cultivation of oil palm is to be recognized under the plantation sector, as in the case of tea and coffee to pull in private investment and for economies of scale. High freight charges have kept the competitiveness of the industry low. A study to analyse the chain of use of soybean, a cheap source of protein, for animal feed in the poultry and dairy industry is to be undertaken.
5. Promotion of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF):
Following the successful implementation of ZBNF in Andhra Pradesh, a meeting was held on 9 July 2018 to discuss the scope for promotion of natural farming in the entire country to bring down the cost of farming; enhance the profit margin for farmers; and sustain inherent soil properties. So far, as many as 50 lakh farmers are working on ZBNF in different states.
NITI Aayog VC Dr Rajiv Kumar presided over the conference and Governor of Himachal Pradesh Acharya Devvrat was the special guest. The conference concluded with action points related to:
- The scientific evaluation of ZBNF under multi-location testing by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and development of a standard protocol. ZBNF projects to be implemented in every state under Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY).
- ICAR scientists might be deployed in each project to compare ZBNF with organic farming and inorganic farming. Specific crop-research institutes to take up ZBNF studies for scientific validation and protocol to be acceptable for all agro-ecological regions for kharif and rabi crops.
- (iii) Trainings and assistance for appreciation of ZBNF to be provided in state agricultural extension systems. NITI Aayog to support scientific research for setting standards and protocols for implementation of ZBNF.
6. Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana in Madhya Pradesh:
Under Madhya Pradesh’s innovative Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (BBY), the state government pays farmers the difference between the price received by the farmers and the minimum support price for the produce sold in notified markets of the state.
NITI Aayog conducted a study of the scheme; it was found that the yojana incentivized soybean farmers to sell their produce in notified mandis. The scheme resulted in increased proportion of groundnut sale through mandis without any significant effect on prices. A substantial increase in marketing through notified mandis was noticed in the case of arhar, following the introduction of the yojana.
Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana has helped farmers get better market price. It has diverted farmers to sell their produce from unorganized markets to organized ones. Market arrivals for other commodities also increased in Agricultural Produce Market Committee mandis due to implementation of this scheme in Madhya Pradesh.
7. Agriculture Subsidy on Area Basis:
The total amount of agricultural subsidy, including power, was estimated at Rs 2.16 lakh crore in 2015–16, with power subsidy comprising 43% and fertilizer subsidy 34%. Per hectare subsidy during this period on power and fertilizer was estimated as Rs 6,173 and Rs 5,168, respectively.
Fertilizer subsidy availed by the farmers varies from zero in Sikkim to Rs 19,973 in Puducherry. The top states and union territory incurring highest per hectare fertilizer subsidy are Puducherry, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, and Bihar. Similarly, power subsidy varied from zero in Sikkim, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, and Himachal Pradesh to Rs 20,359 in Tamil Nadu. The top states and union territory incurring highest per hectare power subsidy are Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Telangana, Punjab, and Puducherry.
The present system of input subsidy, being at source, is simple and does not require any record-keeping or registration. Rationalization of the existing system of subsidy is the best way to address concerns arising out of diversion of input subsidy. However, shifting from input-use subsidy mechanism to area-based mechanism would require many changes that may favour large-holders rather than small landowners. Farmers should be provided kisan input cards, entitling them to use the given subsidy amount to buy a wide range of inputs. This can be easily adopted to replace the present system of subsidy on fertilizers, seeds, and other inputs. If the Centre and state governments collaborate, then power subsidy given by the states can also be added to it; however, this would require putting in place power meters on all electricity-backed pump-sets. Other important subsidies, namely, interest subvention and insurance, are already in the category of area-based direct benefit transfer (DBT). It will be desirable if both the Centre and states join hands in pooling the subsidies and then adopt alternative mechanism like DBT.
8. Crop Diversification Plan for Tobacco:
The Prime Minister’s Office had requested NITI Aayog to analyse the cost benefit of tobacco cultivation and prepare an action plan for implementing a crop diversification programme for the adoption of alternative crops instead of tobacco farming. The draft crop diversification plan was developed using inputs on cost benefit of tobacco cultivation from ICAR-Central Tobacco Research Institute, Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, and Tobacco Board as well as NITI’s own analysis.
Tobacco is a low-volume, high-value commercial crop grown in about 0.433 million ha area, which is just 0.2% of the total cropped area but largely concentrated in seven states and an important source of livelihood in those areas. Tobacco farming is an individualized decision based on assessment of gains from alternatives.
The challenge is the high profitability of tobacco crop. Policy incentives for alternative crops need to focus on both subsidies and output prices to promote non-tobacco crops, while maintaining the goal of doubling farmers’ income. According to an analysis of cost of cultivation and net returns of tobacco vis-à-vis other crops, it was found that horticulture crops—potato, sweet potato, sugarcane, cabbage, brinjal, banana, mango and watermelon—provide a higher net return than tobacco. A conscious economic effort was recognized to be made to increase the yield/productivity of alternatives and creating complete farm-fork-farm value chains for income realization at grassroots.
A draft crop diversification plan with distinctive components for value chain development of alternative crops and an in-transition component for farmers was developed and shared with the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare for comments. A research study to identify alternative crops in six tobacco dominant districts was been institutionalized.
9. Efficiency, Efficacy and Penetration of Micro-Irrigation in India:
Micro-irrigation beneficially impacts water saving and enhances the efficiency of other critical inputs. It economizes about 25%–30% of water as compared to conventional methods of irrigation. Although it yields good results, it has limitations related to credit, energy, application and above all, post-installation care and support. Besides, a huge amount of private investments in this sphere has not been so far captured in any database.
To get first-hand information on micro-irrigation, its impact, reach and the other characteristics that make it the most successful in some states and the least in others, NITI Aayog commissioned a study to ICAR-National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research, New Delhi. The study is expected to be completed by March 2019.
10. Soil Health Card Scheme:
The Government of India launched the Soil Health Card (SHC) Scheme on 19 February 2015, with the aim to issue soil cards to farmers with crop-wise recommendations for nutrients and fertilizer use to improve productivity. Around 14 crore soil health cards were to be distributed to farmers across the country in a phased manner.
Soil cards provide the status of 12 parameters - N, P, K (macro-nutrient); S (secondary nutrient); Zn, Fe, Cu, Mn, Bo (micronutrient); and pH, EC, OC (physical parameters). They also contain fertilizer recommendations for kharif, rabi and summer crops, and advice on various fertilizers and other soil amendments.
During Cycle I, achievements were 100% for soil sample collection and analysis as reported by the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare (DAC&FW); Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW). The Cycle II is also implemented satisfactorily and 41.4% printed SHCs (out of the analysed samples) are distributed to farmers under the Cycle I. Similar printed SHCs are distributed to 37.8% of farmers under the Cycle II and the distribution of remaining SHCs are in progress.
Agriculture Vertical, NITI Aayog and ICAR-National Bureau of Soil Survey and Land Use Planning jointly conducted a study in six states—Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh—to gather ground information from all stakeholders and evaluate the sampling and analysis processes adopted.
11. Impact Assessment of Bundelkhand Package:
The Bundelkhand package has been implemented since 2009. Nabcons conducted a quick evaluation study in 2012–13 to find out the mid-term impact of the package. NITI Aayog commissioned an impact assessment study to TERI in 2017. The study revealed that the package had meaningful impact on improving last-mile delivery of water in irrigation canals, income and employment of beneficiaries and farmers, and reduced outmigration. The package created indirect employment of 856 lakh man-days in UP and MP. Small and marginal farmers reported an average increase of Rs 32,000 return per ha due to increase in the production of rabi crops.
The study recommended the following future strategies:
- Mapping of all waterbodies and geo-tagging of all dug wells, tube wells, check dams, drinking water, major, medium, and minor irrigation projects, etc.
- Water availability and demand modelling based on micro-watershed delineation for the region
- Groundwater quality analysis and atlas for the purpose of sustainable groundwater management
- Water users’ association to be evolved further into water-help groups, with members trained to take care of water conservation activities—rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge structures to manage the seasonal water stress
- Feasibility of piped water supply linked with a perennial source of water
- Establishment of ‘advanced’ milk processing centres, one each in UP and MP equipped with facilities to create various processed products such as milk powder, cheese, butter, etc.
- Defunct milk cooperative societies to be revived
- Dairying loan/bank guarantee through milk cooperative societies for the purchase of milch animals to the farmers
- Local handicrafts and activities to be promoted by supporting self-help groups, extension of credit facilities, development of market mechanism, etc.
12. Agriculture Sector Reforms:
12.1 Implementation of MSP for notified crops
NITI Aayog in consultation with Central ministries and states developed a mechanism for implementation of minimum support price for different crops on 9 March 2018.
Under the chairmanship of NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman, three concepts were discussed:
- Market Assurance Scheme
- Price Deficiency Procurement Scheme
- Private Procurement and Stockists Scheme
As a follow-up, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare launched the Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan (PM-AASHA) in September 2018, which included three mechanisms:
(i) Price Support Scheme or Market Assurance Scheme
(ii) Price Deficiency Payment Scheme
(iii) Pilot on Private Procurement Stockists’ Scheme
12.2 Model Act on Contract Farming:
In a first, the Union government provided farmers an opportunity to decide prices of their produce and negotiate with buyers through a model act on contract farming. Called the ‘State/UT Agricultural Produce and Livestock Contract Farming and Services (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2018’, it was formulated in consultation with NITI Aayog and launched by the Union Agriculture Minister in a meeting with state agriculture marketing ministers on 22 May 2018.
The Act covers the entire value and supply chain from pre-production to post-harvest marketing, including services contract for agricultural produce and livestock. There was unanimity among the states to adopt this model act.
12.3 Business Model for Doubling of Farmers’ Income:
NITI Aayog constituted a task force on 3 January 2018 to develop a new business model to relieve farmers’ distress while implementing pilot projects to demonstrate the doubling of farmers’ income.
Initially, 10 pilot projects, preferably through social entrepreneurs, in different agro-climatic regions of India have been planned to be rolled out. The key principle is to make the effort market-driven, encourage the application of science and technology in agriculture production, minimize farmers’ risks and use modern business practices for value addition in agriculture sector.
The task force identified and studied existing successful business models in operation during the last three to four years for upscaling based on four tiers for testing. Extensive consultations were held with social entrepreneurs and other stakeholders from the private sector for scaling up successful models. The final draft has been submitted to the chairman of the task force.
12.3 Agriculture Export Policy:
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MoC&I) formulated a Draft Agriculture Export Policy, 2018, and consulted NITI Aayog for appropriate inputs to finalize the document. In order to make the export policy more comprehensive, inputs from NITI Aayog were provided to MoC&I stating that the policy must contain a section on global export environment and emerging demand. It shows that the world export of agriculture produces is increasing in volume but declining in value in recent years because of the fall in global commodity prices since 2011. According to the projections for the next 10 years, export volume will grow at a slower rate. This implies that exports are becoming more competitive globally.
12.4 Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAM):
Budget 2018–19 announced its intent to develop and upgrade existing 22,000 rural haats into Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs). Toward this end, an agri-market infrastructure fund with a corpus of Rs 2000 crore was set aside. These GrAMs, electronically linked to e-NAM and exempted from regulations of agricultural produce marketing committees, will enable farmers to directly sell to consumers and bulk purchasers.
12.5 Model Act on Agricultural Land Lease
NITI Aayog’s expert group suggested a model act on agricultural land leasing in 2016, which was shared with the chief ministers and chief secretaries of states in 2017 for enacting their own land-leasing laws.
Eight chief ministers responded positively to NITI Aayog’s Model Act. The governments of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand modified their tenancy laws to promote land leasing. The Madhya Pradesh Assembly passed the Bhumiswami Evam Bataidar Ke Hiton Ka Sanrakshan Vidheyak, 2016, for agricultural land leasing.
12.6 Special Package for Drought Mitigation in Bundelkhand Region:
The Union Cabinet approved a special package for drought mitigation in the Bundelkhand region on 19 November 2009 at a cost of Rs 7466 crore. Of this, Rs 3149.48 crore was released to Madhya Pradesh and Rs 3107.87 crore to Uttar Pradesh till FY2017–18. On 29 March 2018, Rs 917.20 crore and Rs 359.53 crore were released to UP and MP, respectively, as one-time special grants. About 70% of the allocations under the package were made for water-positive activities and projects.
The advisory committee constituted in NITI Aayog met on 11 September 2018 under NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman. MPs of the Bundelkhand region participated in the meeting. While appreciating the outcomes of the package, the members suggested making the project more participatory and aligned to protect the natural flow of water.