New Delhi: In a bid to provide a thrust to agriculture, the government is proposing to hike outlays, particularly with respect to water management and agricultural research.
The move, likely to be included in the Budget, comes when agriculture has been stagnating. Growth in agriculture production is almost non-existent and is projected to grow by 2.7% in the current year—well below the target of 4%. Outlays on the Accelerated Irrigation Benefit Programme is expected to touch Rs3,730 crore, an increase of 58% over the current fiscal. “This is also consistent with the 11th Five Year Plan’s objective of improving water management and doubling the rate of growth of irrigated area,” an official told Mint.
The outlay on agriculture research and education may be hiked by 20% to Rs1,620 crore. On 22 February, finance minister P. Chidambaram had signaled the Centre’s intent to enhance investment in agri-research centres, while rationalizing staff strength at these centres and increasing remunerations to honorarium staff. The approach paper of the 11th Five-Year Plan also suggests the need for energizing agricultural research to develop innovative technologies to suit current requirements.
Outlays on the National Horticulture Mission and Ministry of Agro and Rural Industries are expected to grow by 15% each. The Backward Region Grant Fund may get an outlay of Rs5,800, , an increase of 16%. Agriculture insurance is another area that the government may address. “States will be made the nodal agencies for implementing crop insurance programme and government will monitor crop wise insurance coverage from time to time,” said the official. Currently agriculture insurance is a part of National Agriculture Insurance Scheme which was introduced in 1999-2000. It covers all food and commercial crops. However, as of now, less than 10% farmers have benefited from crop insurance.
According to the mid-term review of the Tenth plan (2002-07) by the Planning Commission, the agriculture ministry has called for higher expenditure to achieve the objectives of providing better infrastructure to the sector.