Economic Survey: Emphasis on women farmers for rural transformation
The Economic Survey has proposed an agricultural policy aimed at integrating women as active agents in rural transformation.
The policy seeks to ensure that women farmers get enhanced access to resources such as credit, technology and training at a time when migration of men from rural to urban areas is growing.
The survey said a gender-specific intervention to raise productivity of small farm holdings is required, as is engagement of men and women in extension services with gender expertise.
“The entitlements of women farmers will be the key to improve agriculture productivity,” it said, even as it noted that there is an increasing number of women in multiple roles in agriculture sector, as cultivators, entrepreneurs and labourers.
“Rural women are responsible for the integrated management and use of diverse natural resources to meet the daily household needs. This requires that women farmers should have enhanced access to resources like land, water, credit, technology and training which warrants critical analysis in the context of India,” it said.
The government has already started taking measures to ensure mainstreaming of women in agriculture sector. It has earmarked 30% of the budget allocation for women beneficiaries in all ongoing schemes and programmes, and development activities.
Alongside, it is focusing on women self-help groups to connect them to micro credit through capacity building activities and to provide information and ensure their representation in decision-making bodies.
The government has suggested that crop land holdings must be consolidated to reap the benefits of agricultural mechanisation including enhanced productivity, promote the rental model of farm machinery and reduce the cost of operations.
A majority of India’s agricultural land is owned by marginal farmers, with holdings below one hectare.
“There is a need to innovate custom service or a rental model by institutionalisation for high-cost farm machinery such as combine harvester, sugarcane harvester, potato combine, paddy transplanter, laser-guided land leveler, rotavator, etc., to reduce the cost of operation and it can be adopted by private players or state or central organisations in major production hubs,” the government said in the Economic Survey 2017-18.
Tabled by finance minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament on Monday, the Economic Survey said Indian farmers were adapting to farm mechanisation at a faster rate than in the recent past.
“The farming communities are showing keen interest in modern and precision farm technologies as there is a realisation that it enhances productivity and profitability. There is a noticeable shift towards the ‘organised and accountable’ rental services from the existing unorganised equipment rental services,” said Mukul Varshney, director – public affairs, at John Deere India.
Varshney said digitisation and increased access to web-enabled services are making it more convenient for farmers to pick and choose their service providers and schedule timely deployment of these ‘high technology and precision’ equipment.
The Survey said that the sale of tractors to a great extent reflects the level of mechanisation. Indian tractor industries have emerged as the largest in the world and account for about one-third of total global tractor production, the Survey added.
According to World Bank estimates, half of the Indian population would be urban by the year 2050.
“It is estimated that percentage of agricultural workers in total work force would drop to 25.7% by 2050 from 58.2% in 2001. Thus, there is a need to enhance the level of farm mechanisation in the country,” the Survey said.
Due to intensive involvement of labour in farm operations, the cost of production of many crops is quite high, it said.
“Over the year, the shift has been towards the use of mechanical and electrical sources of power. In 1960-61, about 93% farm power was coming from animate sources, which has reduced to about 10% in 2014-15. On the other hand, mechanical and electrical sources of power have increased from 7% to about 90% during the same period,” the Survey said.