Meeting of the National Executive
Ranchi - November 24-26, 2004
Resolution on Agriculture
Bharatiya Janata Party's National Executive expresses deep concern over the plight of Indians farmers, caused by the systematic, sustained and structural neglect of the agricultural needs of India since Independence. The NDA government, under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee attempted to mend this situation through a number of important initiatives. Our efforts bore some fruits. However, the problems created by nearly five decades of neglect coupled with a lack of priority by successive Congress governments could not have been undone during six years of the NDA rule. As a result, many entrenched problems still remain unsolved. The situation is made worse by the steady globalization of the agriculture economy. The Indian farmer is handicapped by poor infrastructure support and myriad domestic controls and restrictions. Now, additionally, he has to face hurting competition from an unfair and iniquitous global trade regime.
Our strategic vision
The principal reason for the poor economic health of a majority of Indian farmers is the mismatch between the very high population that is still dependent on agriculture and the steadily decreasing share of agriculture in the country's GDP. 69% of our population continues to depend on agriculture and nearly 70% still lives in villages. Yet, the share of agriculture in India's GDP has come down from 61% at the time of Independence to 24% in 2001. Lack of basic amenities, combined with the paucity of gainful and yearlong employment and income-enhancing opportunities have forced large numbers of agriculture-dependent people to migrate to urban areas. This, in turn, has rapidly worsened the living conditions in urban India, as seen in the steady proliferation of slums in every Indian city and town.
Therefore, the Bharatiya Janata Party firmly believes that any strategy for India's rapid, all-round, egalitarian and environmentally sustainable socio-economic development can succeed only if it makes agriculture and agri-centred rural economy vibrant; substantially augments the purchasing power of kisans, agricultural workers and other sections of our village population; increases opportunities for employment and enterprise in rural areas; and improves the living conditions in rural India. This robust strategic vision will guide the BJP's approach towards agriculture and rural development - indeed, towards India's socio-economic development in general.
The Bharatiya Janata Party is convinced that effective long-term and short-term measures are needed to deal with the multi-dimensional crisis in Indian agriculture. In addition to the provision of bijlee, sadak, paani, revival of agriculture on a sustained basis critically hinges on five other needs - cheap credit, fair and efficient markets, inputs of science and technology, promotion of value-addition enterprises in nearby village clusters, and human resource development. Indeed, this is the perspective that formed the policies and programmes of the Vajpayee government between March 1998 and May 2004.
Achievements of the Vajpayee government
Ours was the first government since Independence to unveil a national agriculture policy. Realising that timely and adequate credit is as important to the Indian kisan as timely and adequate rainfall, the NDA Government took major steps to both expand and ease credit availability. For the first time, over 3.5 crore farmers were given Kisan Credit Cards. The total volume of agriculture credit nearly tripled from Rs. 30,000 crore to over Rs. 90,000 crore. The government also enabled every kisan credit card holder to avail individual insurance benefit of Rs. 50,000 in the case of death in mishap and Rs. 25,000 in the case of permanent disabilities. Believing that farmers too must benefit from the trend of falling interest rates, the rate of interest on farm loans was brought down from around 14-18% to less than 9%. Minimum support prices of 25 crops were raised consistently each year by margins that were unmatched during any comparable period before. Our government gave unprecedented incentives for setting up cold storages. Kisan Call Centres were established to provide information and advice to farmers. The number of Krishi Vigyan Kendras was significantly increased. A new Kisan Channel on Doordarshan was launched. Futures trading was permitted in several agricultural commodities, in order to ensure that farmers get higher risk-free prices for their produce. A National Commodities Exchange (NCDEX), on the lines of the stock exchange, was established. Its performance has been highly encouraging.
Even after 50 years of Congress party's rule, as many as 1.86 lakh villages in India - that is, nearly one-third of all the villages in the country - remained deprived of good, all-weather roads. In a revolutionary new initiative, the Vajpayee government launched the Rs. 60,000-crore Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana to provide universal rural road connectivity by 2007. In less than three years, nearly Rs. 13,000 crore were given to states and 30,000 villages were connected with model roads under the PMGSY. The National Executive expresses deep concern that the Congress-led UPA government has more or less put this project in limbo.
We expanded the scope of the crop insurance schemes. Simultaneously, in yet another innovative initiative, we launched the Farm Income Insurance Scheme. Our aim was to provide guaranteed minimum income support to farmers. This support level is based on a farmer's average income of the previous seven years. In order to make it attractive for small and marginalized farmers to participate in this scheme, the government pledged to contribute 75% of the premium amount. The National Executive demands that the UPA government should implement this pro-kisan scheme at the earliest. When implemented all over the country, this innovative scheme is expected to benefit 70% of our kisans.
In a visionary response to the recurrent problem of floods and drought in many parts of the country, the NDA government had resolved to embark on an ambitious river-linking project. The Task Force set up for this purpose had drawn up the blueprint for commencement of a few schemes initially. It is deeply regrettable that the UPA government has shelved this project, without taking the people into confidence.
Suicide by farmers: a national concern
The National Executive shares the sense of anguish and outrage felt by the Indian people at the alarming rise in the number of farmer suicides in Congress-ruled states. As per latest reports, in the last six months alone, as many 1,860 suicide cases have been reported in Andhra, far more than the total number of cases reported in the state in the previous six years. Similarly, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra have reported 419, 467 and 350 cases respectively of suicide by farmers in the past six months. That our annadata kisan has to see atmahatya as the only way out of his hardships is indeed a national indignity. It pains us deeply to see the plight of our farmers worsen under the uncaring governments of the Congress party, both at the Centre as well as in states. The BJP National Executive demands that the Central government immediately declare a socio-economic relief package for the families of all the deceased, with assured employment and education benefits to their family members.
The BJP demands that the government renounce its callous attitude, set up a high-powered national study team to comprehensively examine this unfortunate and discreditable phenomenon, and implement the team's recommendations in a time-bound manner. On its part, the BJP has decided to set up a study group, with participation of experts, to look into this problem. The team will submit its report to the Party President before March 31, 2005.
UPA government's anti-kisan and anti-rural orientation
The National Executive wishes to point out that the Congress party's traditional betrayal of the Indian kisan has begun again under the UPA government. We have already mentioned the virtual stalling of the PMGSY and the shelving of the river-linking project. Reforms in the power sector, the agenda for which was so painstakingly prepared by the NDA government, have come to a grinding halt. Deep differences within the ruling coalition have stalled the implementation of the provisions of the Electricity Act, 2003. The BJP wishes to forewarn the Indian people that the UPA government's inaction will hugely worsen the already critical power scarcity in the country. This will badly affect every sector of the economy and, in particular, our agriculture.
In the past six months, the Indian kisan has been hit the hardest by a steep rise, amounting to 30-40%, in the prices of diesel, fertilizers, pesticides and all other farm inputs. The prices of most agricultural produce have either remained stagnant, or got further depressed in real terms due to rising inflation on the one hand and the wrong policies of the government on the other. For example, prices of domestically produced soya have crashed due to reduction in import duty on it. The token hike of Rs. 10 per quintal in the minimum support price for wheat amounts to a mere 1.8% over the last year's price, whereas inflation has more than doubled to reach about 7.5%. This is nothing but a cruel joke on our kisans, for which the UPA government deserves condemnation.
Amid much official trumpeting, the Prime Minister recently launched a national Food-for-Work programme in Andhra Pradesh. This is nothing but a repackaging, with little additional allocation of resources, of the Rs. 10,000-crore Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana launched by the Vajpayee government. Under SGRY, foodgrains worth Rs. 5,000 crore were given free to state governments. Similarly, the new government's much-trumpeted Employment Guaranteed Scheme, which promises 100 days of assured employment to at least one person in every BPL family in rural and urban areas, is no more than an illusion.
Need for a National Bio-Fuel Policy
The National Executive condemns the UPA government's callous neglect of the urgent need to promote bio-fuels, for which the Vajpayee government had set up a national mission. With the prices of imported crude oil skyrocketing and India's oil import bill rising from Rs. 80,000 crore last year to over Rs. 125,000 crore this year, the BJP believes that achieving maximum self-reliance in energy must become a national priority. This is why, for the first time since Independence, the Vajpayee government unveiled a policy for the production of ethanol (a byproduct of sugarcane) and bio-diesel.
The visionary policies of the NDA government have brought our great nation at the threshold of emerging as a global economic power. As India marches ahead, its energy requirements are increasing. Looking at this steep projected growth in energy needs in the coming years, the BJP proposes the following innovative ideas in the area of energy security linked to the interests of Indian farmers. Our guiding principle should be increased harnessing of indigenous and renewable energy sources. For this, Indian agriculture must be made one of the primary non-conventional sources for the production of power and energy. Hence, cultivation of bio-mass, which can be used in power and energy generation, must be made a supplementary agricultural activity, as remunerative as cultivation of foodgrains and cash crops. Mandatory use of ethanol, as an admixture in petrol, must be increased from the present 5% to at least 10% within the next 2-3 years, with the price of ethanol enjoying a parity with the price of imported crude. Cultivation of jathropa, karanja and other plants for producing bio-diesel must be popularized in a big way, with appropriate arrangements for purchase and processing in nearby rural centres.
Cultivation of bio-fuels should be made an integral and important part of wasteland development and social forestry, with attractive incentives for private sector investment. Similarly, farmers' cooperatives and private companies should be incentivised to set up a vast network of small-scale, localized captive power generation plants using bagasse and other types of bio-mass. CSIR, ICAR, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and other wings of India's large science & technology establishment should be made to partner with auto and oil companies to focus on R&D in this field.
The BJP demands that the government unveil a comprehensive, sustainable, and stable National Bio-Energy Policy to address all the above-mentioned ideas. Implementation of this policy will not only reduce India's dependence on fossil fuels and crude imports, but also pump huge resources into the rural economy enhancing kisans' incomes.Besides, these will also generate lakhs of new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in rural India.
Time to launch a Second Green Revolution
As mentioned in the BJP's Vision Document prepared on the eve of Elections to the 14th Lok Sabha, our Party believes that the time has come to launch a Second Green Revolution to comprehensively strengthen India's rural economy. This in turn will help increase the farmers' incomes. Its scope has to be far wider than the first Green Revolution in the 1960s. Firstly, it must aim to vastly increase per acre farm productivity, which is considerably lower in India than in many other countries. This has become especially crucial in view of the shrinking size of land holdings, making agriculture unremunerative to most farmers. Extension of farm services and use of bio-technology, with the aim of reducing the gap between "Lab to Land", should be an important part of increasing farm productivity. Diversification of crops - from cereals to pulses, edible oils (the shortage of which forces India to import Rs. 12,500-crore worth of edible oil from other countries), horticulture, floriculture and medicinal plants must become a priority.
While increasing public investment in agriculture, private sector investments should be encouraged in every area of the farm economy. One of the broad aims of the Second Green Revolution should be to ensure that, besides agriculture, every kisan family has an assured second source of income that is rooted mainly in the local economy. This is best achieved, among other things, by boosting animal husbandry, dairy, poultry, and inland fisheries, which are an integral part of Indian agriculture. It has the potential to create lakhs of new employment opportunities and also to increase the income of small farmers. For this and several other important reasons, the BJP demands a law to ban cow slaughter. The Ministry of Agriculture in the Vajpayee government had prepared a bill on banning cow slaughter. However, this could not be passed due to opposition from the Congress party, communists and some other parties.
WTO: UPA is selling out the interests of Indian kisans
International trade in agriculture is undergoing a major transformation under the aegis of the WTO. This has thrown up both challenges and new opportunities. India needs to consider its options carefully because treaty obligations under the WTO will make it difficult to avoid the impact of agricultural trade liberalization indefinitely. Of paramount concern to India is the need to protect national food security and the livelihood of our 125 million farmers. The Vajpayee government had steadfastly defended the interests of Indian kisans, as also the farmers in other developing countries, against blackmail from developed nations at the WTO meetings in Doha, Cancun and Seattle. We had raised a powerful voice against unfairness in global farm products trade introduced by heavy subsidies by the European Union and the United States ($ 1 billion each day) and also against their attempts to force elimination of modest and fully justified farm subsidies in India.
In stark contrast, the UPA government has adopted a vacillating and compromising stand on agricultural trade liberalization in WTO negotiations. The BJP regards food security for the poor as an inviolable requirement of any international agreement. The Party demands a robust policy package framework to make Indian farm products competitive in global markets. Such a policy needs to be adopted quickly, before additional treaty stipulations widen the definition of illegitimate subsidies. The BJP also insists on effective protectionist measures combined with a reasonable period of transition for our farmers to face farm imports from abroad. We hold that India should agree to only such agreements under agriculture trade liberalisation which enable Indian kisans to compete successfully in the global market.
Summary of the Resolution
Summing up, the National Executive of the BJP presents the following specific demands.
1. The BJP demands that the government renounce its callous attitude, set up a high-powered national study team to comprehensively examine this unfortunate and discreditable phenomenon, and implement the team's recommendations in a time-bound manner.
2. Reforms in internal trade, especially in agricultural goods, must be implemented vigorously. Indian farmer must be liberated from all the archaic and unnecessary controls and restrictions, with elimination of all disparities between agriculture and industry. All remaining restrictions on inter-state movement of agricultural goods should be eliminated. The Essential Commodities Act should be so amended that state governments can invoke it only in emergency situations to deal with scarcities of specific goods and for specific periods, with the permission of the Central government.
3. The combined public-private investment in agriculture, which now stands at a meagre 1.3% of the GDP, should be doubled in five years. Towards this end, all restrictions on private investment in agriculture, irrigation, farm R&D and rural infrastructure development should be removed. Public-private partnerships should be vigorously encouraged.
4. Interest rates on farm loans should be lowered to 6%, which is nearly the same as the rate at which NABARD disburses its loans to state cooperative banks.
5. Urgent measures should be taken to expand the land under irrigation from the present 40% to at least 60% over the next 10 years. The river-linking project should be taken up for implementation in right earnest. All the long-pending irrigation projects should be completed in a timebound manner. Fiscal and other incentives should be given for the rapid spread of minor irrigation schemes. Drip, sprinkler and other low-cost micro-irrigation systems should get priority attention. Guided by the philosophy of "More Crop per Drop", efficient use of water through setting up of water user associations should be made mandatory.
6. The BJP condemns the shelving of the decision of the NDA government to set up the Rs. 75,000-crore Jayprakash Narayan Fund for Agriculture and Rural Development. This fund must be immediately operationalised.
7. Work on the ambitious Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) must be accelerated. There should be no delays or dscrimination of central funds to state governments.
8. The innovative scheme of PURA (Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), which was unveiled by the NDA government, should be implemented in a timebound manner.
9. Minimum Support Prices of wheat should be raised from the present Rs. 10 to Rs. 30 per quintal, and that of gram (chana) should be raised from the present Rs. 25 to Rs. 50 per quintal.
10. State governments should be persuaded and incentivised to amend the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMC) Act and abolish mandi taxes within one year to promote emergence of competitive and efficient agricultural markets.
11. The problems faced by ailing cooperative banks must be immediately attended to, with assured protection of their autonomy. Decisions taken in this regard by the NDA government, such as the fiscal support of Rs. 15,000 crore, should be speedily implemented. In addition to their early recapitalisation, norms for refinancing, accountability and capital adequacy should be brought on par with those of commercial banks.
12. Commercial and cooperative banks' procedures for lending to farmers should be made as easy and simple as loans given by private banks for purchase of vehicles or homes.
13. There should be no mortgage of immovable property on loans for purchase of farm implements like tractors etc. Government must announce attractive tax incentives for the manufacture of low-cost and high-quality farm implements.
14. As had been envisioned by the NDA government, there should be a policy for setting up grain banks, godowns, cold storages and fodder banks. Kisans who keep their produce in these should be entitled to avail bank credit with the introduction of negotiable warehouse receipts.
15. The cost of seeds has gone up steeply in recent years and is one of the main reasons for kisans' indebtedness. To bring seed prices down, seed production should be considerably augmented by selling government-owned wasteland to kisan cooperatives and kisan entrepreneurs and by giving them other incentives to set up seed farms. The Seeds Act drafted by the NDA government should be quickly enacted and implemented. Exemplary punitive action must be taken against those indulging in sale of spurious seeds, fertilisers, and pesticides.
16. The BJP demands that the government unveil a comprehensive, sustainable, and stable National Bio-Energy Policy to reduce India's dependence on fossil fuels and crude imports, and also to pump huge resources into the rural economy enhancing kisans' incomes. Mandatory use of ethanol, as an admixture in petrol, must be increased from the present 5% to at least 10% within the next 2-3 years, with the price of ethanol enjoying a parity with the price of imported crude. Cultivation of jathropa, karanja and other plants for producing bio-diesel must be popularized in a big way, with appropriate arrangements for purchase and processing in nearby rural centres.
17. Diary and poultry industries, as also employment-intensive food processing industries, should be treated on par with agriculture for provision of credit and other benefits.
18. A National Animal Husbandry Development Board should be set up with adequate budgetary support to state governments.
19. A National Commission on Fisheries and Aquaculture should be set up to boost development of marine and inland fisheries. Fishermen's cooperatives should be helped to modernise their trawlers, set up cold storages and processing plants, and establish direct linkages with domestic and foreign markets. A National Fishieries University should be established.
20. The Development and Finance Corporation for the Shepherd Community, which was set up by the NDA government, should be made fully operational.
21. The National Mission for Development of Bamboo and the National Medicinal Plants Board, also set up by the NDA government, should be strongly supported, with focus on attracting large-scale private investment.
22. Organic farming should be widely encouraged. Facilities for standardisation and marketing of organic foods should be set up at district levels.
23. Government-driven extension services in most states have collapsed. Therefore, cooperatives and private sector companies should be encouraged to provide efficient, modern and kisan-friendly services.
24. In order to overcome the problem of shrinking landholdings of most Indian farmers, leasing in and leasing out of lands within farmers should be encouraged through appropriate legislative protection. Contract farming, which is virtual consolidation of land holdings, should also be encouraged with legal guarantees that the farmer does not lose his land. The NDA government had prepared a model act to legitimise leasing of farm land. This should be expeditiously implemented.
25. Food Corporation of India (FCI) should be completely restructured in such a manner that the government's subsidy burden comes down without any impact on food security. FCI should be directed to procure foodgrains from all states, rather than from only a few states as at present.
26. Effective steps should be taken to reach technologies and innovations developed by the ICAR system of agriculture to kisans. For this, agricultural extension services should be completely overhauled with private sector participation.