Monthly Archive June 30, 2019

Indian agriculture has reached a stage where more the govt intervenes, lower will be the growth: NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand

NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand says time has come to free farm sector from controls, shift from input subsidies and procurement to income support and deficiency payments, and create an enabling environment for greater corporate investments in agriculture
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NITI Aayog member Ramesh Chand with National Editor (Rural Affairs and Agriculture) Harish Damodaran at The Indian Express newsroom in Delhi. (Express Photo: Abhinav Saha)

Ramesh Chand, member of the NITI Aayog: Agriculture has been in focus for both positive and negative reasons. “The sector provides livelihood to close to half of India’s population and it is very important for inclusive growth, which also matters for this government’s agenda of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas. Sometime back, I did a study on how much decline in poverty was witnessed when there was 1% growth in agriculture and 1% growth in non-agriculture. I found that agriculture growth had much more significant impact than non-agriculture growth. We should recognise some of the positive changes that have taken place in the agricultural sector. In the 1970s, we were producing 1 kg of food per person per day — and food here includes not just foodgrains, but also fruits, vegetables, milk etc. At that time, our population was about 56 crore. Now, that has gone up to more than 130 crore, but our per capita food production today is roughly 1.74 kg food per day. This has its own implications, as we are no longer living in scarcity.
Why Ramesh Chand?
A member of the NITI Aayog, Ramesh Chand is seen as key to the Narendra Modi government driving agriculture sector reforms, especially in its second innings. A farm economist of repute, he has been an advocate of dismantling provisions under the Essential Commodities Act and APMC laws that enable restrictions on stockholding, domestic movement and exports, besides preventing large retailers from buying directly from farmers. These views may find resonance in a context where food inflation and shortages have ceased to be a major worry, with the focus now shifting to addressing agrarian distress and doubling farmers’ incomes
HARISH DAMODARAN: Do you think the Narendra Modi government in its first innings was excessively pro-consumer and not pro-producer?
I doubt the government was pro-consumer at the cost of producers. We draw this conclusion only because producer prices have risen at a very low rate after 2014-15, when this government came to power. But agricultural prices historically move in cycles. During 2006 to 2012, there was a sharp increase in global agricultural prices, which fell just around when this government came. In 2012, they were at their peak. But still if one looks at the terms of trade for agriculture — the prices that farmers pay and what prices they receive — these had been improving up to 2015-16. Only in the last two years, the prices paid by farmers have increased at a slightly higher rate compared to the prices received. But overall, the terms of trade figure for 2018-19 is higher than 2011-12… This government has tried hard to keep these prices high with a new formula for fixing MSP (minimum support price) and also through procurement. So it is a combination of factors — international prices, demand and supply cycle — that is responsible for the current agrarian distress. It is very difficult for the government to influence prices beyond a point.

Niti Aayog, Ramesh Chand, Niti Aayog Ramesh Chand, Indian economy, rural economy, agriculture, economic growth, farmer issues, farmer income, MSP, indian economy, indian express
In 2016, the Union government passed an order, after which there are no real restrictions on food commodities with regards to stocking, movement or exports, said Ramesh Chand.

HARISH DAMODARAN: As you say, the scarcity of the past is over. Is it time now to scrap the Essential Commodities Act (ECA), export controls and other restrictions that are clearly anti-farmer?
The farmer is a consumer too. But I agree, the sector’s interest today lies in scrapping these restrictions. In the last (June 15) meeting of the NITI Aayog’s Governing Council, we proposed some reforms, including on the ECA, APMC (agricultural produce market committee) reforms and enabling contract farming. The Prime Minister announced that a high-power committee of chief ministers would be constituted to examine these reforms. In 2016, the Union government passed an order, after which there are no real restrictions on food commodities with regards to stocking, movement or exports. But people say that a similar order was issued in 2002, but when prices increased in 2006, the controls were brought back. So they believe that unless the Act changes, the government will always find ways to bring back control if things are seen as going against the consumer. The NITI Aayog has suggested a way out — classifying commodities into two categories: foodstuffs and others. There are some commodities such as drugs where the ECA is needed, but not in case of agri produce. If the ECA has to be used, let us clearly define the conditions. If, say, there is a 20% decline in production because of natural calamity of an extraordinary order, or a war, only then can the provisions be brought back.
RAVISH TIWARI: How do you deal with political opposition to these reforms being suggested?
The supply situation is much better than in the past. The need for ECA to stop hoarding or black marketing does not arise in the case of most commodities, where even exports are happening. When we meet politicians, we give them examples by asking them if they ever felt the need to have ECA on eggs or milk (which are non-perishable and cannot be hoarded). Price volatility may be extreme in onions, but not in most other commodities. The best way to address volatility is through buffer stocks, not by ECA. Recently, West Bengal, for example, imposed movement controls in potatoes under ECA, but that only did a lot of harm to its farmers. Today’s India and its agriculture situation are very different.

Niti Aayog, Ramesh Chand, Niti Aayog Ramesh Chand, Indian economy, rural economy, agriculture, economic growth, farmer issues, farmer income, MSP, indian economy, indian express
Caricature of Ramesh Chand. (Illustration: Unny)

PRABHUDATTA MISHRA: How does the NITI Aayog plan to make MSP more effective on the ground?
Everybody wants only the Centre to act. But agriculture is a state subject. It can only be the joint responsibility of the Centre and the states. The total production of all commodities where MSPs exist will be about 300 million tonnes. If the Centre is taking care of rice and wheat, whose production is about 200 million tonnes, can’t all the states combined take care of the remaining one-third production? Under PM-AASHA (Pradhan Mantri Annadata Aay Sanrakshan Abhiyan), states were given the option to implement MSP by procuring up to 30 per cent of the produce (similar to what the Centre is doing for rice and wheat). If in the process of procurement and disposal, the states incurred a loss, the Centre would bear it up to 30-35%. But the states did this only at a very small level. When the financial cost is being borne by the Central government, the states should come forward and take advantage of PM-AASHA by putting in place a procurement mechanism.
HARISH DAMODARAN: But instead of physical procurement, why can’t we have direct benefit transfer and simply pay the difference between MSP and market prices into farmers’ accounts?
The NITI Aayog has suggested this as well. If you take the MSP of wheat today, it is actually 30% higher than the international price. So if you procure wheat at MSP, you will only distort the market and exports will be hit, as domestic price is very high. Stocks, too, will pile. Direct benefit transfer is a very good idea and under PM-AASHA, we have the option of physical procurement as well as provision of deficiency price payments. In this case, we don’t have to look at the price received by each and every farmer. Farmers just have to register the area they are sowing under different crops before the season’s start on a portal. For every state, the harvest season is defined. So, at the end of the season, we monitor the actual price received by farmers in every district. Every district has 3-4 mandis. We take the average price at these mandis for the produce of Fair Average Quality. If that price is lower than the MSP, the difference can be paid for the area that has been reported by the farmer on the portal and taking the average yield for the crop in the district. I think the Madhya Pradesh government’s Bhavantar programme, despite the criticism it faced from some economists, was a good initiative. Today, the Food Corporation of India incurs a cost of Rs 700-800 per quintal in the process of paying Rs 1,600 as MSP to farmers. That can be avoided through direct payment of the price difference.
PRASANTA SAHU: Following the implementation of PM-KISAN, should the government now use this scheme to replace fertiliser and other input subsidies to farmers?
Income support and subsidies are two different things. PM-KISAN is the former. Subsidy was originally meant to promote the use of a particular input to ensure increase in productivity. When Dr C Rangarajan was the chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council (2009-2014), he asked me to find out the impact on the country’s food security and agriculture production if fertiliser subsidy was completely withdrawn and it was sold at market price. At that time, I calculated that if we do it suddenly in a knee-jerk manner, there will be 10% decline in foodgrain production. I look at PM-KISAN in a different way. It was brought in as some sort of income support, as crop prices remained low, and farmers in many places could not get the MSP. Subsidies are a different issue and they exist in many countries. We must try to make subsidies more efficient than they currently are. Subsidies in water and power are serious issues and must be addressed. Agricultural power subsidy for the country as a whole is about Rs 1 lakh crore. We did calculations to find how many irrigations a farmer would apply in case he is charged for power or if he is not charged anything. They will use 40% less irrigation on paddy alone if power is fully priced. Also in most cases, the yield will not fall.

Niti Aayog, Ramesh Chand, Niti Aayog Ramesh Chand, Indian economy, rural economy, agriculture, economic growth, farmer issues, farmer income, MSP, indian economy, indian express
According to Ramesh Chand, it is not proper to use agriculture and rural synonymously today.

SANDEEP SINGH: Rural consumption is slowing down. The government had talked of doubling farmers’ income. Where are we on that?
It is not proper to use agriculture and rural synonymously today. In rural India, only one-third of the income now comes from agriculture and two-third from non-agricultural activities. The last five years have been unique. For the first time in 65 to 70 years, we have had five consecutive years of less than average rainfall and the current one could even be the sixth. But Despite that, the annual growth rate of the value added in agriculture has been 2.9%, which is not bad. If growth rate becomes 5%, prices will crash and farmer incomes may decline by 30-40%. The slowdown in rural demand may be due to many reasons. One of it could be that loan waivers have reduced the flow of bank credit to rural areas. Industry people were happy when rural demand was good. But much of this demand was debt-based, with people taking loans to buy commodities. But families don’t have internal income to buy resources. As far as agriculture is concerned, for doubling farmers’ income, you need it to rise by over 10% every year. In the last three years, the growth rate, according to my calculation, has been 6%. We can still achieve the target if we are able to do something to prices. If farmers get 10% more than what they are getting, the income elasticity with respect to price would be 1.6. Then, farmer’s incomes will increase by 16%.
RAVISH TIWARI: How can we improve the current level of private and public investment in the agriculture sector?
If you look at public investment in agriculture as percentage of the GDP, the latest available data for 2016-17 shows it at 2.35%. For most of the recent period, it was 3%. Almost 85% of public investment in agriculture comes from the states. The Centre invests about 15% and that includes investment on irrigation and agriculture technology. Within private investment, the bulk of it comes from farmers themselves. If investment has to go up, that should now come from the corporate sector, which is currently very low. That is why the Prime Minister said last week in Parliament that corporates should not only see investments in agriculture in terms of making and selling tractors. They should make investments in agriculture, including in backend extension and working directly with farmers. This government wants to create an enabling environment for corporates to invest in agriculture. That will also require making changes in the regulatory environment, particularly facilitating contract farming.
RAVISH TIWARI: The private sector can invest in technology. But given the kind of protests against GM technology, how can the private sector be confident about investing?
GM technology is not the only technology through which countries have made progress in agriculture. There is public sensitivity about GM technology. But the biggest damage was done when Jairam Ramesh (former environment minister) took the issue of whether GM technology should be adopted to the streets and not leaving it to be decided by an expert body. On GM crops, the NITI Aayog’s stance has been — there should not be a blanket ban on the technology. It should not be encouraged in areas where we are able to get success through conventional means. The other thing that we emphasised was to finance public sector research in GM technology in a big way. This was mainly to allay the fears of people that private sector developers were charging hefty royalty. Some of our public sector research institutions were very close to developing a GM chickpea. Moreover, there are many more opportunities for the private sector other than GM. That includes GE or gene editing, which is different from modification (through introduction of alien genes).
RAVISH TIWARI: Cattle trade rules enforced two years back disrupted the market. Do such rules help farmers or create trouble for them?
The livestock sector grew by more than 6% in the last five years. If there were so many problems, it would not have been growing so fast. On the other hand, the crop sector, particularly cereal, oilseeds and pulses, is growing at just around 1.15%. This is why the overall agricultural growth rate comes down to 2.9%. But on the whole, I would say that Indian agriculture has now reached a stage where more the intervention by government, the lower will be the growth. The more the sector is liberalised, the higher will be the growth rate.

Disaster Compensation to Telangana Farmers for heavy rains damage in August, 2018

190629 G.O Rt.No.11 Disaster payment
Telangana Government has released Rs. 2234.15 Lakhs towards input subsidy  (disaster compensation under natural calamities) for 51,518 farmers who lost their crops in 28,200.71 ha due to heavy rains between 11th to 23rd August, 2018 across 12 districts of Telangana.
The payment of input subsidy will be done directly to the bank accounts of the farmers which should be aadhar linked as far as possible
payments would be made within 90 days from release of funds
every farmer would be eligible only for one disaster compensation in the same agricultural season.

NITI Ayog: Water Index Report-2018


  • The NITI Aayog report on Composite Water Management Index said that India is facing its ‘worst’
    water crisis in history.
  • The think tank ranked states across nine broad sectors with 28 different indicators covering ground
    water, restoration of water bodies, irrigation, farm practices, drinking water, policy and

Key Findings in the Study

  1. About 60% of the States were marked as “low performers” and this was cause for “alarm”.
  2. The report has predicted that by 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the
    available supply, implying severe water scarcity.
  3. Nearly 600 million Indians faced high to extreme water stress.
  4. About 2,00,000 people died every year due to inadequate access to safe water.
  5. 52% of India’s agricultural area remains dependent on rainfall so the future expansion of irrigation
    needs to be focused on last mile efficiency.
  6. Twenty-one cities, including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad will run out of groundwater
    by 2020, affecting 100 million people.
  7. Critical groundwater resources, which accounted for 40% of India’s water supply, are being
    depleted at “unsustainable” rates and up to 70% of India’s water supply is “contaminated”.
  8. If the present situation continues, there will be a 6% loss in the country’s GDP by 2050.
  9. The combination of rapidly declining groundwater levels and limited policy action is likely to be a
    significant food security risk for the country.


  1. Ranking of states/UTs will ensure that principle of competitive and cooperative federalism is
    actualised in India’s water management system.
  2. It will help build pressure on states that have not performed well to improve their water
    management techniques.
  3. It will provide useful information for States and concerned Central Ministries and Departments
    enabling them to formulate and implement suitable strategies for better management of water

Present Water Crisis

  1. Taps in Shimla went dry this summer, posing an unprecedented water crisis in the hill town.
  2. Failure of State governments to check unplanned development and exploitation of water resources.
  3.  The vegetation pattern has changed, tree cover is shrinking and unscientific dumping of debris in
    water streams is rampant.
  4. The debris blocks the natural course of water bodies.
  5. Increasing number of tube wells resulting in depletion of groundwater.
  6. Changes in farming patterns lead to consumption of more water for irrigation and also change the
    soil profile because of the use of fertilizers.
  7. The states ranked lowest – like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Jharkhand – are home to almost half of
    India’s population along with the majority of its agricultural produce.


  1. India’s water crisis has implications for the health of the entire population.
  2. Farmers suffer crop losses.
  3. Decrease in tree cover, shrubs and grass in the catchment areas.
  4. Queues for government water tankers and public taps are already a common sight in Indian slums.
  5. Policies like giving free electricity to farmers or financial support for groundwater extraction results
    in uncontrolled exploitation and wastage of resource.

Concerns / Challenges

  1. Primarily water is not valued in India. “People think it is free.”
  2. There is great awareness now about air pollution; however, India’s water crisis does not get that
    kind of attention.
  3. Inter-State river disputes.
  4. Adverse climatic conditions are believed to be the main factor for reduced flow in streams.
  5. Drying up of the streams and increasing erratic pattern of rainfall.
  6. In cities and towns, lack of infrastructure to deliver piped water to homes.
  7. Poor data management and an abject failure to properly price water.
  8. Where data is available, it is often unreliable due to the use of outdated collection techniques and

Way Forward

  1. Deepen our understanding of our water resources and usage and put in place interventions that
    make our water use efficient and sustainable.
  2. Augmentation of watersheds that can store more good water, for use in agriculture and to serve
  3. Strict pollution control enforcement.
  4. Decentralisation of irrigation commands, offering higher financial flows to well-performing States
    through a National Irrigation Management Fund.
  5. Groundwater extraction patterns need to be better understood through robust data collection.
  6. With steady urbanisation, augmenting sources of clean drinking water supply and treatment
    technologies will encourage reuse.
  7. Pollution can be curbed by levying suitable costs.
  8. Poor maintenance of pipelines, consistent leakage and illegal tapping of water are some of the
    issues that need to be addressed on a war-footing.
  9. Adopting rainwater harvesting techniques is the need of the hour.
  10. A legal mandate will work better than just competition and cooperation; it would make
    governments accountable.
  11. These forward-looking changes would need revamped national and State institutions, and updated

Why India does not have enough water to drink

A Niti Aayog report released last year predicts Day Zero for 21 Indian cities by next year. Day Zero refers to the day when a place is likely to have no drinking water of its own.

Image for representation (Source: Reuters)


  • About half of India is facing drinking water crisis as monsoon got delayed and arrived without a brimming bucket
  • A Niti Aayog report released last year predicts Day Zero for 21 Indian cities by next year
  • The government has created a new Jal Shakti ministry to deal with drinking water crisis
About half of India is facing drinking water crisis with Chennai and Bengaluru bearing the brunt as monsoon got delayed and arrived without a brimming bucket. A Niti Aayog report released last year predicts Day Zero for 21 Indian cities by next year. Day Zero refers to the day when a place is likely to have no drinking water of its own.
According to the Niti Aayog’s Composite Water Management Index (CWMI), Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi and Hyderabad are among the most susceptible. The government has created a new Jal Shakti ministry to deal with drinking water crisis.

But why a water-surplus country is facing water crisis today?
Over-exploitation of groundwater
India is the biggest user of groundwater. It extracts more groundwater than China and the US the next two biggest pullers of groundwater – combined. Groundwater meets more than half of total requirement of clean water in the country.
In 2015, the standing committee on water resources found that groundwater forms the largest share of India’s agriculture and drinking water supply.
About 89 per cent of groundwater extracted in India is used for irrigation making it the highest category user in the country. Household use comes second with 9 per cent share of the extracted groundwater followed by industry that uses only two per cent of it.
Overall, 50 per cent of urban water requirement and 85 per cent of rural domestic water need are fulfilled by groundwater.
This kind of use has caused a reduction in groundwater levels in India by 61 per cent between 2007 and 2017, according to report by Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), presented in the Lok Sabha last year.
The report prepared under the ministry of water resources cited rising population, rapid urbanisation, industrialisation and inadequate rainfall as reasons for sharp decline in groundwater volume in the country.
According to another study by a team from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, and Athabasca University of Canada, Indians use an estimated 230 km3 of groundwater per year – over a quarter of the global total.
Based on their study of 3,907 wells across states, they found that northern India lost more groundwater than eastern parts during 2005-13 (8.5 km3/year to 5 km3/year).
Unequal distribution and availability
It is estimated that while 81 per cent of all households have access to 40 litres of water per day through some source, about 18 to 20 per cent of rural households in India have connections for piped water supply. This has created mismatch in water availability and supply.
According to the Composite Water Management Index of the Niti Aayog, 75 per cent of households do not have drinking water on premise and about 84 per cent rural households do not have piped water access.
Water is not properly distributed where it is supplied through pipes. Mega cities like Delhi and Mumbai get more that than the standard municipal water norm of 150 litres per capita per day (LPCD) while others get 40-50 LPCD.
The World Health Organisation prescribes 25 litres of water for one person a day to meet all basic hygiene and food needs. Extra available water, according to the WHO estimates, is used for non-potable purposes like mopping and cleaning.
Jal Shakti ministry mandated to deal with water issues including drinking water availability with a holistic and integrated approach. It has already set an ambitious task to provide piped water connections to every household in India by 2024. This is likely to regulate drinking water usage.
It will have another challenge, however, to plug leakage of piped water in urban areas. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of piped water in India is lost to leakage.
Wastage of water
Arithmetically, India is still water surplus and receives enough annual rainfall to meet the need of over one billion plus people. According to the Central Water Commission, India needs a maximum of 3,000 billion cubic metres of water a year while it receives 4,000 billion cubic metres of rain.
But the problem is India captures only eight per cent of its annual rainfall – among the lowest in the world. The traditional modes of water capturing in ponds have been lost to the demands of rising population and liberal implementation of town planning rules.
India has been also poor in treatment and re-use of household wastewater. About 80 per cent of the water reaching households in India are drained out as waste flow through sewage to pollute other water bodies including rivers and also land.
On the other side of the spectrum is Israel, a country that is located in desert and has learnt to deal with water crisis situation.
Israel treats 100 per cent of its used water and recycles 94 per cent of it back to households. More than half of irrigation in Israel is done using reused water.
Law regulating groundwater
It is a curious case but the Easement Act of 1882 that gives every landowner the right to collect and dispose groundwater and surface water within his/her own limits is still in operation. This law makes regulation of water usage by a person on his/her land.
Further, water falls under state list of the Constitution meaning only the state governments can frame a regulatory law. In 2011, the central government published a Model Bill for ground water management for the states.
But not all the states have passed a matching legislation which endorses the doctrine that resources meant for public use cannot be converted into private ownership.
And, finally, loss of wetlands, water bodies
Almost every single city and village in the country has lost its wetlands, water bodies and even rivers to encroachment to meet the needs of rising population.
Chennai that is facing acute water shortage had nearly two dozen water bodies and wetlands but most of them are out of use today. A recent assessment found that only nine of them could be reclaimed as water bodies.
A survey by the Wildlife Institute of India reveals that the country has lost 70 80 per cent of fresh water marshes and lakes in the Gangetic flood plains, the biggest river plain the in the country.
The Standing Committee on Water Resources, which submitted its report to Parliament in December 2015, found that while 92 per cent of the districts in the country had safe level of groundwater development in 1995, it came down to 71 per cent in 2011.
On the other hand, the percentage of districts with overexploited state of groundwater level increased from 3 in 1995 to 15 in 2011. The water security has only worsened since then.

Water crisis: Getting the priorities right

Water crisis: Getting the priorities right

More than piped water connections to all rural households by 2024, the imperative is adequate and safe drinking water supply and institutional mechanisms to ensure that

Photo for representation
In 2018, the Niti Aayog declared that India was staring at the worst water crisis in its history with 600 million people facing high-to-extreme water stress and about 200,000 people dying every year due to inadequate access to safe water. As many as 75 per cent households lacked supply of water in their premises.
It warned that the crisis would worsen with demand outstripping availability by a factor of two by 2030, which would lead to 6 per cent loss of India’s GDP. A 2018 World Bank report also said there was a direct link between the availability of water and poverty, quoting a study in India which estimated poverty rates to be higher by 9-10 per cent in districts where groundwater tables were below 8 metre.
A year after the alarming Niti Aayog report, the Central government has announced a new Ministry of Jal Shakti for an integrated approach to water conservation and management with the aim of providing piped water to every rural home by 2024.
This is a marked departure from its 2017 mission of providing tap water on a sustained basis in every household by 2030 and that of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP) of 2009 which promised to provide safe and adequate water…to every rural person on a sustainable basis by 2017.
Past experience: Lack of planning and delivery mechanisms
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) did a performance audit of the NRDWP and observed (in 2018 report) that lack of necessary focus and prioritisation keeping in view the deliverables that were to be achieved by 2017 resulted in their non-achievement.
The report said the overall coverage of rural habitations increased only by 8 per cent at 40 litre per capita per day (lpcd) and 5.5 per cent at 55 lpcd after incurring expenditure of Rs 81,168 crore during 2012-17. Portable piped water could be provided to 18.4 per cent rural households (against a target of 50 per cent) and household connections to 16.8 per cent (against a target of 35 per cent).
One of the critical observations of the CAG was that 4.67 lakh habitations (17.26 lakh total habitations ) had slipped from fully covered’ by provision of safe drinking water to partially covered’. The reasons being excessive extraction of ground water, inadequacy of efforts to address quality related aspects, lack of sustainability of water sources and inadequate/non-maintenance of water supply schemes.
As much 98 per cent of water-related schemes, including piped water schemes, continue to be based on ground water with little attention being paid to use surface water. The ground water is depleting fast. The Central Ground Water Board data shows water levels fell in 61 per cent of wells in the country between 2007 and 2017.
The Niti Aayog too, in its 2018 report, drew attention to a growing national ground water crisis with 60 per cent states performing poorly in recharging aquifer. The low performers are the northern states of UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, Haryana and others with a population of 600 million people. Contaminated water is another worry as it affects three-fourth of the population, contributing 20 per cent of the country’s disease burden.
More than half of India’s districts are threatened by ground water depletion or contamination, said a 2019 World Bank report.
As for the CAG report on NRDW, it blamed the programme’s failure to lack of planning and delivery frameworks.
It said, 21 states did not frame water security plans and the annual action plans of the states did not bother about stakeholder and community participation. Institutions critical to planning, execution or coordination, like the National Drinking Water and Sanitation Council, State Water and Sanitation Mission, State Technical Agency, Source Finding Committee, Block Resource Centres etc. were either not set up, remained dormant or did not perform their assigned functions.
Water is a state subject and the NRDWP is a centrally sponsored scheme funded by both centre and states.
Primacy to water harvesting, adequate and safe water supply
Chennai is a classic case of mismanagement of water resources. Taps have gone dry here, and other parts of Tamil Nadu, as it faces one of the worst summers this year. While this is not new, Chennai has also witnessed catastrophic flooding due to heavy rain in 1943, 1976, 1985, 1998, 2002, 2005 and 2015. Among other things, a CAG report of 2017 found laxities in planning and water management, including failure to harvest rainwater, for its predicament.
Going by the CAG’s findings on the 2009 NRDWP and the Niti Aayog’s 2018 report on water crisis a similar fate may befall for the entire country if the priorities go wrong.
The NRDWP’s objectives and goals were to provide adequate and safe drinking water on a sustainable basis, to achieve which the CAG advocated institutional frameworks for planning and delivery and water security plans and annual action plans prepared with community participation to ensure that schemes are aligned to community requirements and ensure optimum and sustainable utilisation of water resources.
The National Water Policy of 2012 and other Central government policies from time to time have put a premium on rain water harvesting, conservation of water, judicious use of ground water and efforts to recharge of aquifer, among others, to augmenting availability of adequate water.
Reliable and adequate data
The key to overcoming the impending water crisis is adequate and reliable data, which remains a big challenge. The Niti Aayog says data systems related to water in the country are limited in their coverage, robustness and efficiency. While detailed data is not available for domestic and industrial use, the data that is available can be of inferior quality, inconsistent and unreliable due to outmoded methodologies in data collection.
The task for the Ministry of Jal Shakti is, therefore, cut out: a collection of reliable data, putting a premium on ensuring adequate and safe drinking water and institutional mechanisms to achieve those goals.

AP Money Lenders Act, 2017

Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly today passed a bill aiming to regulate the private money lending business.
The act provides that money lending cannot be done without a license, and the government may, from time to time, specify the maximum rate of interest chargeable by money lenders for any local area.
As per the act, accounts of money lenders shall be audited at least once a year and punishment for charging a rate of interest higher than that shown in the account is up to one year and may extend up to three years.
2017 AP Farmers management of irrigation systems L A Bill No 21

Direct Income Support measures across states in India

One significant shift in agriculture policy discourse in the country is a shift towards direct income support measures. Several states have already announced their own versions of the scheme Telangana (Rytu bandhu), Odisha (Kalia) and Andhra Pradesh (Annadata Sukhibava). The latest to join the race is the Central government with the announcement of “Pradhan Mantri KIsan SAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN)”.
While the basic principle of all these schemes is to provide direct income support to farmers, each one of them vary in design, scope and there by impacts.
Rytu Bandhu (Telangana): Telangana governments calls it as Investment Support Agriculture and Horticulture crops by way of grant of Rs. 4,000/- per acre per farmer each season for purchase of inputs like Seeds, Fertilizers, Pesticides, Labour and other investments in the field operations of Farmer’s choice for the crop season. Telangana govt has allocated Rs. 12,000 crore for the scheme.
Some features and issues
1.      It is disbursed in two instalments.
2.      Only land owners are considered as beneficiaries
3.      No cap on the maximum land holding hence no cap on amount paid.
KALIA (Odisha): Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation was announced by the Odisha government with a budget allocation of Rs. 10,000 cr. The scheme has five different components.
 1.      Support for Cultivation: 30 lakh small and marginal farmers will be provided Rs 10,000 per family as assistance for cultivation. Each family will get Rs 5,000 separately in the kharif and rabi seasons, for five cropping seasons between 2018-19 and 2021-22
2.      Support for Livelihoods: 5 lakh landless households, and specifically SC and ST families will be supported with a unit cost of Rs 12,500 for activities like goat rearing, mushroom cultivation, beekeeping, poultry farming and fishery.
3.      Financial Assistance: up to Rs. 10.00 lakhs to vulnerable agriculture households and land less labour
4.      Life Insurance cover: of Rs. 2.00 lakhs and additional personal accident cover of Rs. 2.00 lakhs to 57 lakh households of cultivators and landless agricultural labor.
5.      Interest free crop loans: to all farmers upto Rs. 50,000
Annadatha Sukhibava (Andhra Pradesh): on the lines of Telangana AP government is proposing to pay Rs. 10,000 per year (Rs. 5000 per season) per acre from next financial year. This year farmers may be payed Rs. 2500/acre. About 96 lakh farmers are expected to benefit from the scheme. The state government is considering to distribute this amount equally between land owner and the tenant farmers. The details of the scheme are awaited.
PM Kisan (Central Government):  Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of `6,000 per year.
1.      This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of ` 2,000 each.
2.      Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.
3.      The programme would be made effective from 1 st December 2018 and the first instalment for the period up to 31st March 2019 would be paid during this year itself.
4.      This programme will entail an annual expenditure of ` 75,000 crore.
The limitations of these initiatives
While shift towards Direct Income Support measures is in itself an innovation, not enough care has been taken in designing these measures and institutional mechanism for determining the quantum of support, mechanism to identify and deliver to targeted community and plans to long term sustainability is missing. For example
·        Income Support vs Investment Support: Direct Income Support measures can to cover the gap in income which the families fall below a minimum income level needed for a dignified living, while Direct Income Support measures for investment support a livelihood activity is when such activity becomes unremunerative and the gap is supported.   While the Telangana and AP initiatives fall in investment support category, the Odisha and Central govt initiatives fall under the livelihood support.
·        Determining the quantum of support: In either case, there seems to be no data or rational number crunching to arrive at the magic figure of the support. Like why Rs. 6000/- per family per year or why Rs. 4000 per acre per year. There should be an institutional mechanism to make an assessment of the quantum of support and link it to inflation to have annual upgradation like the dearness allowance for employees. In case of Telangana as it took per acre approach, small farmers who have less than an acre also got very little amount in proportion to their land. Rather it should be a fixed amount below a 1 ha and above that it can be proportional to the land size. There is also need to fix a maximum ceiling else land accumulation would be encouraged.
·        Identifying the target community: The main objective of the direct income support is to support the short fall in income. In that case, it should focus on cultivators irrespective of their land ownership status. Telangana state has completely gone wrong on this front while AP govt said they will ensure 50% sharing (why 50% share to land owner is not clear). The Odisha govt said they will target the cultivators and yet to see how they do it. In case of PM Kisan it also seems to be based on land ownership. There is a requirement for developing approaches for better targeting.
Why this shift is needed?
NSSO 70th Round shows the monthly income (from all sources including labor, livestock, farming etc.) of farmers who own less than one hectare of land and who make up about 81.83% of the total farming population, is less than their monthly expenditure.
§ The economic crisis in agriculture is caused by
·        Increasing costs of agriculture: The costs of cultivations are increasing at a significant rate. More dependency on external input, deregulation of input prices, general increase in cost of wage labor and land prices led to increasing costs of cultivation many folds.
·        Increasing risk in farming:  due to climate, and ecological unsustainability of current agriculture
·        Decreasing government support: deregulation of inputs, shift towards high ticket subsidies, subsidies being imbedded in inputs and inaccessibility of support systems like institutional credit for tenant farmers etc have led to increased cost burden on the farmers.
·        Un-remunerative prices and small farmers being disadvantaged in the market. Non-remunerative prices, without sufficient margins above the cost of cultivation, have been a major reason for farmers not earning sufficient income. Many improvements have been made in the CACP and the system of Minimum Support Prices (MSP), however many issues remain with determining and delivering MSP. There is also a limitation on increasing prices of agricultural commodities, particularly on food items, considering the needs of the consumers and industry.
·        Increasing costs of living: due to general inflation, with drawl of public services in the area of primary health and primary education have led to increase in costs of living
Now each individual farmer is left to balance between all these factors and is suffering with negative income. But it should be the government’s responsibility at a policy level to balance these factors of costs, risks, subsidies, prices and costs of living – so that a minimum positive income is assured.
Therefore, there is a need to look at a farmer Income Security as a Policy framework rather than depending solely only on pricing policy for farm produce or direct income support or loan waivers in order to improve the quality of life of farmers. The Policy should focus on bringing economic sustainability in farming, ensuring secure incomes. This will not only address the distress among farmers, but also generate a positive dynamic in the entire rural economy by enabling farmers to make positive investments into agriculture, by increasing their purchasing power, and by retaining more youth in rural areas.
The policy frame work should ensure that the incomes of the farmers are adequate and assured. This can only be assured when all support systems for farming including extension services, affordable access to productive resources like land, water and seeds, credit, insurance, marketing, infrastructure are ensured to all the farmers. This also needs a lot of improvements in the governance of current support systems, improving the last mile delivery and better targeting.
Farmers Income Security and Direct Income Support
·        The Farmers’ Income Security system should be established through an Act which derives from the Article 21 of the Constitution establishing the Right to Life. This ensures that the institutional systems are responsive and accountable to the farmers. A Farmers Income Commission should be established to implement Income Security. This should be a permanent, statutory body which includes farmer representatives. Income Assessment of agricultural families should be done on a regular basis, tracking the incomes of farming households in terms of various regions, crops and categories.
·        Even while the Act may take time to be passed, an immediate step would be to revamp the existing Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices, to include the mandate of Incomes in addition to costs and prices. The Commission should immediately put in place the mechanism for annual Income Assessment.
·        The commission should identify Minimum Living Income which needs to be ensured. All the initiatives should target at achieving this. This is also important to fix the Direct Income Support measure. We can look at different ways of determining the desired minimum income level.
·        Minimum Wages approach: As per the Minimum Wages announced by the Central government (Order, September 30, 2016), the minimum wages for a Highly Skilled Worker is Rs.259 per day. Farming being multi-skilled work which combines several diverse operations and complex decision-making should be definitely categorized as Highly Skilled Work. Assuming 2 working persons per family, the minimum monthly household income is Rs.15,540. Note that this figure just considers it as wage labour and does not have any component for the managerial role and the risk-taking financial investment.
·        Parity approach: Pay commission’s definition considers two major points: living expenditure and ability to attract talent; but when it comes to agriculture government considers consumer affordability.
§ The A.P. government, while revising employee salaries in 2014, listed the expenditure on food, water, clothes, education, transport, health, consumables, and so on, to determine the Minimum Pay for employees. This came to Rs.13,000 per month for a household of 3 persons, Rs.17,333 for 4 persons and Rs.21,667 for 5 persons. In addition, the government allocated a school fees allowance of Rs.2500 per child, house rent allowance (12.5%), employees health insurance, etc. Considering a bare minimum family of 4 persons with school allowance for 2 children and no other allowance, this comes to Rs.22,333 per month.
·        Target real cultivators: The real cultivators should be identified who might be tenant farmers or sharecroppers, and they should benefit rather than absentee landlords. Recognition of tenant farmers, women farmers and Adivasi farmers who are currently left out of support systems is a must. Any support is made contingent on actual cultivation. Since the system is based on a minimum income level per household, it will benefit small farmers instead of disproportionately benefiting large farmers.
·        Direct Income Support: Direct Income Support has to be calculated as the short fall of real income than the Minimum Living Income, it can be paid as Direct Income Support.   This also needs to be indexed to the inflation.

Untested and Unapproved pesticides mandatory for seed treatment

190519 FAW outbreak
In a shocking incident the Seeds Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India has issued a directive signed by Mr. Dilip Kr. Srivatsava, Asst. Comm (QC), making compulsory seed treatment with cyantraniliprole and thiomethoxam , we are shocked to see that such a direction is given in spite the formulation not registered in India and also not been evaluated in AICRP program and purely based on the feed back from seed growers feed back that the seed treatment giving protection for 2-3 weeks after germination. This is violation of Insecticide Act

we are amazed that the chemical seed treatment of an un-evaluated and un-registered formulation has been given more prominence in your advisory than all the collective wisdom and established field experience of farmers, organizations and state governments on Non Pesticidal Management, Natural Farming and Organic Farming.  monitoring and scouting measures to be taken up other than cultural, mechanical and bio-control measures being recommended. Furthermore, it has been made compulsory and we are keen on understanding the scientific basis for the same.
Biosafety issues with the chemicals recommended
Even if we assume that the emergency situation, it is illegal to make it compulsory to use chemicals which are not tested and registered in India.  As per the Central Insecticides Act, 1968[1] the Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC) under the Directorate of Plant Protection, Quarantine & Storage, Department of Agriculture & Cooperation is supposed to register each pesticide in the country after scrutinizing their formulae and claims made by the applicant as regards its efficacy and safety to human beings and animals. The Registration Committee is also expected to specify the precautions to be taken against poisoning through the use or handling of insecticides.  The recommendations made has not taken into account the international published information which show the following serious concerns with cyantraniliprole and Thiamethoxam.
Cyantraniliprole is a systemic insecticide belonging to the diamide class of pesticides. Cyantraniliprole works by binding with insect ryanodine receptors, which leads to unregulated activation of ryanodine receptor. Insects exposed to cyantraniliprole “first exhibit lethargy, followed by muscle paralysis, and then death.” says the CYANTRANILIPROLE RISK ASSESSMENT by US Environmental Protection Agency[2]. It further states that
As a systemic insecticide, translocation of cyantraniliprole through the xylem and phloem results in expression of the chemical throughout exposed plants, resulting in multiple routes of exposure for various non-target organisms, including mammals, fish, invertebrates and plants.
Cyantraniliprole biodegradation proceeds more slowly in aerobic conditions than anaerobic conditions, suggesting that it could be fairly persistent in the agricultural environment and adjacent ecosystems.
Degradation times in soils and sediments reached 89 and 25 days, respectively, showing an extended period of activity after application. When the total toxic residues were calculated (including degradates), a range from 88 to 1327 days was identified. Cyantraniliprole is also characterized as moderately mobile, meaning that it can move off-site and affect nearby terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Some of the degradates of cyantraniliprole are more persistent and mobile than the parent compound, a concern for ecological effects as some may be more toxic than the parent and may accumulate over time.
Thiamethoxam is a second-generation neonicotinoid compound that belongs to the chemical subclass thianicotinyls and acts on target pests by interfering with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor[3].  It is known to impair honeybee flight ability[4]. There are also evidences and published data which shows that TMX. as it is called, may also pose reproductive risks on mammalian reproductive health[5]. The American Bird Conservancy (ABC) report, The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds[6], concluded that it would take only six corn seeds coated with thiamethoxam to achieve a 50 percent chance of lethality (LD50) given sensitivity at the 5% tail of bird distribution, assuming an avian body weight of 50 g – somewhere between a large sparrow and a blue jay. Like-wise only 0.3 (roughly a third) of a treated seed would be enough to impair reproduction.
Adverse Impacts of Cyantraniliprole Products Co-Formulated with Thiamethoxam
While independently both the chemicals have their own biosafety problems, the co-formulated products may have much more severe impacts.  EPA conducted a specific risk assessment of this mixture and concluded that “the typical end-use products with thiamethoxam are also modeled because they presented more sensitive toxicity values than their technical-grade counterparts.”  In other words, this mixture of these two pesticides is more dangerous than the pure, technical grade active ingredient in isolation. EPA’s own initial analysis determined that “cyantraniliprole-thiamethoxam mixture would require buffer in excess of 1000 ft for all uses.”[7]
As the Fall Army Worm is a polyphagous pest, the order amounts to making the seed treatment with cyantraniliprole-thiamethoxam mixture for almost every crop mandatory, which can be an ecological disaster.
Hence, we request the Plant Protection Division, Directorate of Plant Protection Quarantine & Storage to retract this decision by the seeds division as it a violation of law a potentially dangerous chemicals are introduced without any basic research and registration.  This will set a serious bad precedence to violate the law.

Moving towards Agroecological Approaches
It is clear that the incidence of and losses due to FAW are largely due to increasing monoculture of maize and excessive use of chemical pesticides which is leading to disturbance of the ecological balance.
The major pest outbreaks in the last three years, if we consider, are Pink Boll Worm in Cotton across the country, Brown Plant Hopper in Odisha, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Fall Army Worm across the country.  All these outbreaks are in the areas of high monoculture of these crops and high use of chemical pesticides.  Whereas, the areas under agroecological approaches like Non Pestidical Management (NPM), Organic and Natural Farming, Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) have not shown any high incidence of the pest. Therefore, the solution lies in moving towards agroecological approaches which can restore back the ecological balance rather than doing more of the same with monocultures.  The experiences across the world proved the same.
The Non Pesticidal Management experience in Andhra Pradesh (united) between 2004 to 2010[8] showed that if farmers can be trained well on understanding their agroecosystem and trained on effective use of local resources, pests can be managed with a combination of scouting, preventative care, use of locally available botanicals and animal waste and without out using chemical pesticides.  While number of studies on these experience shows that the chemical pesticide use is reduced, neither major pest out breaks nor yield reductions were recorded.  In villages where Centre for Sustainable Agriculture ( Maize is grown and could be managed with minimalistic damage. The emphasis on deep summer ploughing, pheromone traps, prophylactic sprays of 5% NSKE, inter-cropping and using of trap crops, erection of bird perches, effective weed control, release of Trichogramma for bio-control, spraying of Bt powder formulations, application of dry sand into affected whorls etc. are all to be taken up with equal emphasis, that too on community-based, and area-wide approach for proper management.
The Zero Budget Natural Farming[9] model in Andhra Pradesh where large no of farmers also cultivates maize, the crop could be managed with the ZBNF + practices.  FAO was also involved in training farmers on agroecological approaches through Farmer Field Schools.
Similarly, the organic farmers across the country who grow maize as intercrop/mixed crop with organic farming practices have not reported any serious damage with Fall Army Worm as it happened in the monoculture maize crop under high input intensive cultivation.
Several studies from Africa observed that FAW damage was found to be lower for maize crops established through zero-tillage compared to maize crops established through conventional tillage[10], The lower FAW damage was also found when manure or compost were applied.  Similarly, the push-pull system, a stimulo-deterrent cropping strategy consisting of intercropping cereals with herbaceous legumes and surrounded by fodder grasses, is presented as a promising crop diversification strategy contribute to maize stemborer suppression, while improving soil fertility and providing feed for livestock[11].
Similarly, National Institute for Plant Health Management (NIPHM) has come out with what they call as ecological engineering[12] based on the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) model.
All these experiences show that a scientific approach to manage any pest including the Fall Army Worm is shifting towards agroecological approaches and not blindly recommend couple of toxic chemicals which may provide protection only for the initial 2-3 weeks of the crop.  The experience with a similar chemical Imidacloprid is still in front us, the bee collapse it has caused due to indiscriminate use.
It is this lack of balanced emphasis on cultural, mechanical and biological control measures with an over-emphasis on chemical approaches that has led to the current crisis, which then becomes the basis for further unscientific and unsafe technologies to be ushered in, like transgenics.
It is clear that timely, coordinated management practices will certainly help in checking the spread of FAW, and that the current urgency should not be used for promoting any untested, unproven and potentially hazardous solutions.
We urge the Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare to kindly refrain from promoting any unreasoned and unscientific recommendations – Thiamethoxam, for instance, has been banned on field crops in the European Union, given its adverse impacts on bees. The chemical is being considered for phasing out in Canada, where it is used as a seed treatment chemical (including on corn) after a review of impacts on aquatic insect species.
Thank you
(G V Ramanjaneyulu)
Executive Director
[2] CYANTRANILIPROLE RISK ASSESSMENT–joint-cyantraniliprole-registration-comments–final_16053.pdf

Ragi Laddoos in ICDS in Odisha to be supplied through Women SHGs

2019 Millet food in ICDS odisha
The Odisha State Cabinet under chairmanship of Hon’ble Chief Minister of Odisha has approved inclusion of Ragi ladoos in ICDS supplied through women SHGs in 1st Cabinet meeting.

New pesticides approved for managing Fall Army Worm

You all may be aware about the recent discussion about unapproved and untested pesticides being recommended by the Government for Fall Army Worm and making them mandatory. In CIBRC 401st meeting which happened on 15th May. 3 insecticides including Spinetoram 12%SC, Chlorantraniliprole 18.5%SC and Thiamethoxam + Lambda cyahalothrin have been approved and given recommendation for FAW management in India.