The main aim of the commission was to come up with a system for sustainability in farming system and make it more profitable and cost competitive in farm commodities
Farmers belonging to Madhya Pradesh began a 10-day strike on June 1 to seek better Minimum Support Price (MSP), a waiver for farm loans, higher compensation for damaged crops and full implementation of the MS Swaminathan report.
Earlier this year, lakhs of farmers marched the streets of Mumbai with a similar demand from the Maharashtra government. It is important to understand what the Swaminathan Commission is and how its recommendations can help alleviate farmers’ distress.
The Swaminathan Commission: Inception
On November 18, 2004, the government of India formed the National Commission on Farmers (NCF), with MS Swaminathan as its chairman. The main aim of the commission was to come up with a system for sustainability in farming system and make it more profitable and cost competitive in farm commodities. It also wanted to recommend measures for credit and other marketing steps.
The commission submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006. Its suggestions included fast and inclusive growth for farmers. The fifth and final report is considered the most crucial as it contains suggestions for the agriculture sector as a whole.
The reason farmers are demanding a full implementation of the recommendations is that it would result in reasonable MSP and small farmers would be secured. Swaminathan had requested the government to implement all the recommendations.
The Commission’s observations
Some of the major observations by the commission include farmers’ need for an assured access to and control over basic resources of farming. These include land, water, fertilizers and pesticides, credit and crop insurance. Knowledge of farming technology and markets is also key.
The committee clarified that farmers’ concerns and other agriculture-related issues must be implemented in the concurrent list, to make it a high priority for both state and central governments.Key recommendations of the Commission
- Distribution of ceiling-surplus and wasteland among farmers, prevention of the non-agricultural use of farmland, securing grazing rights and seasonal forest access to forest tribals were the mainland reforms suggested in the commission.
It also suggested establishing a National Land Use Advisory Service, which would link land use decisions with ecological and marketing factors of season and geography-specific basis.
- One recommendation was to reform irrigation resources and its distribution among farmers. The commission also suggested the use of rainwater harvesting, water level recharging to increase water supply.
- The commission recommended spreading outreach of institutional credit by reducing crop loan interest rates, providing a moratorium on debt recovery, agricultural risk fund and a separate Kisan Credit Card for women farmers, among other services.
- To address the growing farmer suicides, affordable health insurance at primary health centres in rural areas was one of the key recommendations. The recommendations included an extension of national rural health mission to suicide-prone areas. Restructuring of microfinance policies, covering all crops by insurance and social security net for support were also sought.