In the last year of its mission to double farmers income, the Centre admits that no actual assessment of farm income has been carried out since 2013.
Ashok Dalwai, head of the committee on doubling farmers income, told The Hindu that only the implementation of strategies is being monitored, rather than actual outcomes. He cautioned that the impact of the pandemic could have a dampening effect on reaching the income target.
In response to multiple pointed queries on the topic in Parliament this week, the government did not provide any details on what the base year for this goal is or what the targeted income to be achieved by the 2022 deadline is.
Shiv Sena MP Krupal Balaji Tumane raised the issue in the Lok Sabha, asking what the base year was on the basis of which doubling would be calculated and if the government has fixed any income target for farmers for 2022. The Agriculture Ministry did not answer either question, instead responding with a brief on the Committee for Doubling Farmers Income, constituted in April 2016, and the strategies it recommended.
In response to his request for State-wise, year-wise income data, and the annual growth percentage required to achieve the 2022 targets, the Ministry responded that the National Sample Survey Office’s last survey on agricultural households was conducted in 2013. “There has been no further assessment of the farmers income thereafter,” it said.
Asked whether the target can be achieved at the present annual growth rate, the government said it was “pursuing the target” adding that its “comprehensive interventions” were “having positive impact on growth of agriculture and income of farmers”.
Another question in the Lok Sabha, from a group of Congress and Trinamool MPs, asking for specific details on the progress of the mission received similarly vague answers. They asked whether any annual surveys to measure farmers’ expenditure and incomes was being carried out and were pointed back to the same NSSO survey data, with the added detail that “the average monthly income per agricultural household from all sources was estimated to be ₹6,426.”
Asked how the Centre intended to monitor progress without such surveys, they were told that the “government has constituted an ‘Empowered Body’ to review and monitor the progress”.
Senior Agriculture Ministry official Ashok Dalwai chaired the committee responsible for framing strategies, as well as the body to monitor progress. “The only methodology for assessing income is the NSSO surveys. We have to rely on them for that. Instead, we are monitoring the implementation of our strategies. We have identified monitorable parameters,” said Dr. Dalwai.
Seven strategies had been identified: improvement in crop and livestock productivity, savings in production cost through efficient use of resources, higher cropping intensity and diversification towards high value crops, better price realisation and a shift from farm to non-farm occupations.
“We presume that if the State and the Central governments are making progress on these strategies, then incomes also must be increasing,” said Dr. Dalwai.
His committee had used the NSSO’s 2013 income data and extrapolated it for 2015-16, which was chosen as the base year. The base income in that year was estimated at more than ₹97,000 per annum. “We estimated that the target income should be about ₹2 lakh per annum, from both farm and non-farm income, by 2022,” he said,
He was cautiously optimistic about reaching the target, though he warned that COVID-19 could have an impact. “The NSSO is now carrying out another survey...We are moving in the right direction, but now we have to take into account the impact of corona also,” he said. “There is always a lag period between planning and implementation. The early years are for roll out and strategy. The later years can be expected to see accelerated implementation and growth. We will have to see if the pandemic has had an impact on that.”