“View farmers as agri-preneur looking for new forms of engagement with other stakeholders”
Recognising the impact of schemes such as the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), President Pratibha Patil on Thursday called for their further utilisation in the agriculture sector in the emerging scenario of “farm labour shortage and food security.”
The President's comments are significant in the context of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's recent letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to suspend the MGNREGS during crop harvesting seasons as farmers were facing labour shortage and this could impact the sector.
The MGNREG Act guarantees 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
Addressing the Committee of Governors on Farmers-Industry Partnership at the Rashtrapati Bhavan here, Ms. Patil said the MGNREGS had made a major impact on rural India. It had opened up many opportunities for work and employment, which was very important and its further utilisation for agriculture needed to be looked at “in a deeper way.”
Calling for a change in approach to view a farmer as an “agri-preneur,” who was eager to look at new forms of engagement with other stakeholders to enhance productivity and profitability, she said linking industry and farmer was a “viable option.”
“Much like the industrial entrepreneur, the farmer takes risks, sows seeds and puts in tremendous effort in manning it. The farmer today requires inputs of knowledge and scientific research, access to markets, credit support and insurance coverage and management techniques for effective utilisation of various resources. These are very much the inputs for running a successful business operation. So linking industry and the farmer is very much a viable option.”
Outlining her views on the farmer-industry partnership, she said it could include crop-specific and region-specific models by making farmers' associations, shareholders or cooperatives or organising farmers into primary producer bodies, or any other desirable and viable model. These agreements should, on one hand, safeguard the ownership of farmer's land and, and on the other, ensure tenure security during the agreement period for the industrial establishment. “This would create a conducive environment for the establishment of a viable industry-farmer partnership.” Observing that a growing nation like India required constant review and renewal of commitments, Ms. Patil said for agriculture, “it was time for another great leap forward.”
The Committee of Governors met to examine measures to enhance productivity, profitability, sustainability and competitiveness of the farm sector with special reference to rain-fed farming.
The meeting was attended by Governors of Punjab, Maharashtra, Goa, Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Karnataka, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Nagaland, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and Mizoram and the Lt. Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.