We will crackdown on moneylenders
Promising tough action against charging exorbitant interest rates to farmers by moneylenders, which has driven several farmers to suicide, the Karnataka state Agriculture Secretary Manjunatha Prasad in an interview to Smart AgriPost, says the government will intervene to prop up support prices for crops, which is a major reason for distress of farmers
How has Karnataka’s climate influenced its agricultural policies?
Karnataka has been divided in to 10 agro climatic zones considering the rainfall pattern-quantum and distribution, soil types, texture, depth and physio-chemical properties, elevation, topography, major crops and type of vegetation. About 77% of the total geographical area of the State, covering interior Karnataka is arid or semi-arid.
Frequent droughts in the State present a serious problem with about two-thirds of the State having 750mm or less annual rainfall. The severity and extent of drought not only depends on low rainfall but also on other hydro-meteorological factors like soil moisture, infiltration and moisture-retention capacity of the soil.
To tackle this, Karnataka introduced its own Agricultural Policy in 1995, becoming the first state to do so. The Policy emphasized mainly on Industrial approach to agriculture, Restructuring and re-vitalizing the credit institutions, Reforms in irrigation sector and Dry Land farming, Prices and Market Reforms, Re-vitalizing Research, Technology and Extension, Policy towards Horticulture, Floriculture, Aquaculture, Dairying & Animal Health and Agriculture Exports.
The “Karnataka Agriculture policy 2006” was designed as a “Farmer Centric” policy, based on the “Panchasutra”, namely, Protect and improve soil health, Conservation of natural resources with special emphasis on water & micro-irrigation, Timely availability of credit and other inputs to farmers, Integrate post-harvest processing with production process and Reduce the gap between the lab to land in transfer of technology.
What is the Kshethra Dharmasthal Rural Development Project (SKDRDP)?
SKDRDP develops 3 aspects of farmers. These are Knowledge and Capacity Building via Training Programmes, Financial Support via Pragathi Nidhi and Banking Correspondent and Social support via Pragathi Bandhu Groups(PBG), Krishi Melas and Farmers Clubs.
Pragathi Bandhu promotes Joint Liability Groups to mobilise savings and provide credit. “Pragathi Bandhus” are unique models of male-member Self-help Groups that center around the cultivation of waste lands through labour sharing.
For help in animal husbandry, SKDRDP constructs low cost sheds, compost and vermi units and gobar gas units. The organization also introduces modern technologies and exotic breeds and high yielding fodder grass varieties such as Azola in order to increase the income of farmers. SKDRDP advocates individual farm development planning annually, which sets targets that provide the direction for the next five years. Plans are drawn with the active involvement of the beneficiary, experts and the project staff. SKDRDP also promotes water management through the construction of wells and assists financially with the installation of pump sets and irrigation facilities in the field. Loans are also provided for the purchase of sprinklers, wells, purchase of pump sets and other equipment’s. The Pragathi Bandhus share labour for digging and repairing the wells. This long-term investment helps to optimize the usage of scarce water resources.
What are the main crops of the state?
Karnataka can be called “Museum of Crops” as almost all cereals, pulses, oilseeds, commercial crops and horticulture crops are grown here. Cereals like Rice, Jowar, Bajra, Maize, Wheat, Ragi and Minor Millets are cultivated in an area of about 50 lakh hectares. Pulses, such as Tur, Bengal gram, Horse gram, Black gram, Green gram and Cowpea are grown in an area of about 25 lakh hectares. Oilseeds which include Groundnut, Sesamum, Sunflower, Soybean, Safflower and Linseed are grown over an area of about 15 lakh hectares. In addition, the state also grows Commercial Crops like Sugarcane, with an area under cultivation of 6 lakh hectares, Cotton, over an area measuring 7 lakh hectares and Tobacco, grown on 1 lakh hectares.
Karnataka stands 1st in the production of Sunflower and Coarse cereals (Jowar, Ragi, Maize, Bajra & Minor Millets) and 2nd in production of Maize, Jowar and Tur in the country. Karnataka accounts for more than half of the Sunflower production in the country. The State ranks 3rd in Sugarcane production in the Country.
Annual average production (2010-11 to 2014-15) of Cereals, Pulses, Oilseeds, Cotton, Sugarcane and Tobacco in the State was 111 lakh tonnes, 114 lakh tonnes, 10 lakh tonnes, 15 lakh bales, 390 lakh tonnes and 0.94 lakh tonnes, respectively.
What is the government doing to promote horticulture in the state?
Horticulture is a upcoming sector in Karnataka, with an area under cultivation measuring 18.35 lakh hectares with a production of about 150 lakh tonnes.
The diverse agro-ecological conditions prevailing in Karnataka have made it possible to grow different types of horticultural crops such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, spices, plantation crops, root and tuber crops, medicinal and aromatic crops etc. Karnataka is the 3rd largest producer of fruits and is ranked 5th in area and production of vegetable crops. It has the largest area under flower cultivation, and has the third highest produce of flower crops. It occupies 2nd and 3rd position with respect to area and production of plantation crops. It’s is also the largest producer of Spices, Aromatic and Medicinal crops.
Karnataka stands first in export of flower crops and gherkins. Flowers worth Rs. 50 Crore and gherkins worth Rs. 300 Crore are exported from the state..
To promote and develop horticulture, University of Horticultural Sciences, Bagalkote has been established with the main objective of advanced research in Horticulture, education and extension activities for the welfare of farmers and people as a whole. New Horticultural Colleges have been established in Bidar, Bagalkote, Kolar, Mysore, Sirsi, Hiriyur and Koppal districts.
The state government has also established 28 Horticulture clinics at district level and 1 at directorate level to help the farmers and entrepreneurs in seeking full information of horticulture developments & boost the growing horticulture industry using all resource persons under one roof and linking to the relevant organizations.
How do you plan to improve irrigation scenario in the state?
Considering the ground water estimates, the total potential in the State from all sources is estimated to be 65.54 lakh hectares comprising 45 lakh hectares using surface water resources (35 lakh hectares through major and medium irrigation projects and 10 lakh hectares from minor irrigation sources) and 20.54 lakh hectares using ground water resources. Accordingly, the present state of development of irrigation resources is about 65% of the estimated potential, thereby indicating the scope for further expansion of irrigation infrastructure for strengthening and stabilizing agriculture production with greater emphasis on improved irrigation efficiency and better demand management strategies.
For efficient & effective water management under the Command Areas of Major & medium irrigation projects, Water Resources Department has established about 2400 Water Users’ Co-operative Societies.
About 33% of the cultivable area is under irrigation and rest of the 67% is dependent on rainfall. Canals and Tube/Bore wells account for 36% each, respectively of the total irrigated area.
Micro Irrigation programme is being implemented since from 2003-04. Under this programme, drip and sprinkler irrigation systems are being distributed to the farmers on subsidy. Government of India is also providing funds for implementation of micro irrigation programme from the year 2006-07. Since inception, a total 4.78 lakh ha area has been covered under Micro Irrigation by providing a subsidy of Rs.680 crore. The Agriculture Department is providing 90% subsidy for micro-irrigation system to all category of farmers.
To improve water use efficiency in agriculture, guidelines have been formulated by the Water Resource Department in the Water Use Policy. This includes exercising strict control on the use of water and to prevent any wastage, adoption of “Warabandi” under which the time for irrigation of every field is computed and the concerned owner of the field is intimated in advance, formation of Water Users Societies in villages for implementing the warabandi system, arresting the depleting groundwater level in the State through artificial groundwater recharge measures like construction of check dams and rain water storage structures. Under Minor irrigation schemes and Jal Samvardhan Yojana de-silting of tanks and recharge of wells is taken for rain water harvesting.
Farmer suicides are happening regularly in Karnataka. Why? And what are the measures being taken to address this issue?
Indebtedness of the farmers irrespective of the crop they have grown is the largest cause for the suicide. Apart from fall in sugar price, the fall in the prices of other agricultural commodities like maize, cotton have also caused distress to the farmers. Farmers have availed loans from multiple sources. Highest interest rates are charged by the money lenders and the non-banking financial companies.
Based on the recommendations of a committee chaired by former Vice Chancellor of the University of Agricultural Sciences Dr. G.K. Veeresh which studied the problem of farmer’s suicides and submitted its report in April 2002, the State Government has been providing compensation of Rs 1.0 lakh (Rupees One lakh) to the families of farmers who have committed suicide due to the burden of debt from financial institutions.
There is a Time bound process of verification and compensation, to provide relief to the farmers’ families within two weeks. Compensation has been doubled to Rs 2 lakh from April 2015. The state government has also taken a strict view on the exorbitant interest rate charges by moneylenders and pawnbrokers by ensuring the monitoring and effective enforcement of the existing acts pertaining to money lending, pawn broking and chit funds, as well as the charging of exorbitant interest. A great deal of publicity has been given to these Acts as well as to the formation of these committees, in the form of newspaper advertisements, posters, local media so that the public, and especially the farmers who may be in distress due to the activities of moneylenders, are sufficiently informed about the legal remedies available.
In addition, we are providing Counselling for Farmers in Distress, through a 24-hour, 365-day/year Medical Counseling Facility in the form of the already operating Aarogyavani -104, to counsel any farmers who may be in distress and build confidence in them. The Department of Agriculture has taken steps to create awareness among farmers at district, taluk and hobli level about the counseling helpline.
Further, technical suggestions are given to the state’s farmers through the Raitha Sahayavani Helpline 1800-425-3553 of the Department of Agriculture. In case the farmer is also in need of technical advisories, calls received at the Aarogyavani-104 helpline may be transferred directly to the Raitha Sahayavani after psychological counseling.