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Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and Agriculture

In this short note, we critically examine two proposals specific to agriculture announced as part of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and the subsequent ordinances. We argue that while the investment in infrastructure is a welcome step, market reforms proposed are inadequate to improve the prospects of smallholder farmers. An enabling ecosystem that enhances the market power of farmers must be created for smallholders to take advantage of the reform measures.

Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan (ABA), India’s Rs 20 lakh crore package for economic revival announced in the context of COVID-19 pandemic, has its third tranche exclusively dedicated to agriculture and allied activities. A set of measures are proposed in the package, with the overarching objectives of facilitating better and predictable prices for farmers. The proposed measures include working capital facilities for farmers; enhanced procurement activities; measures to strengthen infrastructure, logistics, and capacity building; governance and administrative reforms such as amendments to Essential Commodities Act, agriculture marketing reforms, and quality standardisation and price assurance; and additional support to allied activities. The proposals seem to be congruent with the broad consensus among various stakeholders, including policymakers, scholars, farmer representatives and activists. Subsequent to ABA proposals, the central government promulgated three ordinances. Yet, the oft-repeated questions pop up: Are they sufficient to ensure remunerative prices for smallholder farmers who constitute more than four-fifths of Indian farming community? What additional safeguards are to be taken to make them really farmer-centric?

The purpose of this note is to critically examine two proposed measures: Agri-Infrastructure Fund and Agriculture market reforms. We argue that while the investment in infrastructure is a welcome step, market reforms need more care. For, an enabling ecosystem that enhances the market power of farmers is a prerequisite for ensuring their market access and participation. The present state of the ecosystem is not adequate for farmers to benefit from agriculture market reforms. Also, the sequence of implementation of reforms is critical for their success.

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Updated On : 3rd Sep, 2020

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