The Indian economy is highly dependent on the agricultural sector. A huge population essentially translates into a need to address the growing food demands each year. This dependency is best seen in a year when a below-normal monsoon sends prices of food items ratcheting up.
Over the past years, fears of the El Nino phenomenon have kept farmers and economists worried. A number of farmer deaths have also been recorded across the country. Most of these are linked to crop failure followed by lack of rainfall and inadequate irrigation. Food and retail inflation are natural corollaries to the situation and this hurts the economy. In 2014-15, foodgrain production in the country dropped by about 5.3 per cent.
In an attempt to improve the agricultural productivity, the government of India has come up with a new scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). According to news reports, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), which is chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, finalised the details of the scheme.
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the cabinet has “decided that in 5 years, INR 50,000 crore from the central budget would be utilised for the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana. States’ share will be over and above this”. The money shall be spent entirely towards improving farm yields and productivity, he said. The spending target, under the scheme, for the current financial year is about INR 5300 crore. This is almost twice the corpus set aside for any agricultural irrigation scheme in earlier budgets. Over and above the central government’s allocation, states shall add their funds to the scheme.
If the scheme turns out to be a success, economists and rural managers believe that the crop production could witness a manifold growth.
Details of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana
According to current estimates, out of the 142 million hectares of agricultural land in India, only about 45 per cent has any arrangement for artificial irrigation. The rest of the agricultural farm is dependent solely on rainfall for its water needs. A delay in rainfall or a failure spells disaster for the farmers and shortfall in crop is the subsequent worry faced by the people. The government of India estimates that by spending about INR 5300 crore this fiscal, an additional 6 lakh hectares of agricultural land can be brought under irrigation. Apart from this, 5 lakh hectares of land will also receive the benefits of drip irrigation as a result. Micro-irrigation projects (“Har Khet Ko Pani”) and end-to-end irrigation solutions will be the key focus of this scheme.
The scheme shall also assume responsibility for various irrigation projects that were poorly implemented by previous governments despite adequacy of funds. These projects shall be improved based on strict quality guidelines. About 1,300 watershed projects that have remained in limbo shall now be completed.
According to news reports, the Finance Minister said, “The major objective of the PMKSY is to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation, improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance adoption of precision-irrigation and other water-saving technologies”.
Apart from the irrigation projects, INR 200 crore from this scheme will be earmarked as Agri-Tech Infrastructure Fund (ATIF) – the corpus required to promote the National Agricultural Market (NAM). This will give farmers easy access to the markets for sale of their produce. The FM also said that the budgetary allocation for this scheme may tie into the material component of the MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act).
Irrigation and Water Conservation
Water conservation and cutting down on wastage is key to bringing irrigation facilities to every farm in the country. This makes introduction of sustainable water preservation practices and optimisation of water resources (More Crop Per Drop) just as important as introduction of new irrigation facilities. The PMKSY shall also explore a number of methods to treat and re-use municipal water for these irrigation projects. Water recycling shall hold much importance in the success of the scheme, said the FM. Private investments in these plans shall also be solicited by the government.
The planning and implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana has been decentralised and the states shall now draw district-level plans for its successful execution.
The long-term adherence to these District Irrigation Plans (DIP) and State Irrigation Plans (SIP) will be supervised by a National Steering Committee (NSC) with representation from the various ministries involved and shall be monitored by the Union Ministers. The Prime Minister himself shall chair the committee.
The implementation of the scheme shall be overseen by a National Executive Committee (NEC), which shall be chaired by the Vice-Chairman of the NITI Aayog.
PMKSY and Pro-farmer Schemes
The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana is part of a group of pro-farmer measures that the NDA government endeavours to implement. Earlier, the Cabinet led by Modi agreed on various amendments to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, which are likely to benefit those farmers whose lands are acquired by the central government for implementation of various projects. Apart from these, the NDA government has launched a number of social security schemes (pension, insurance schemes etc.) targeted at improving the lot of the poor masses in the country, with specific emphasis on the rural poor. Earlier this year, the government had launched the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana – a scheme to support organic farming endeavours.
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