Harish Gupta. NEW DELHI
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh seem to have shifted gear and the focus of the economy is shifting to agriculture. In a major development which raised eyebrows, the Prime Minister has directed Union Agriculture and Food processing Minister Sharad Pawar to present a comprehensive report card on the “State of Indian Agriculture” in Parliament.
The “State of Indian Agriculture” will be an annual feature like the Economic Survey, Railway Budget and the Union Budget during the 12-week long Budget session in February. This will be first time when status paper on agriculture will be presented.
Highly placed sources in the Prime Minister’s office confirmed that the step has been taken to focus on the rural India where more than 70% population is dependent on agriculture. Though Economic Survey of India presented by the Union Finance Minister every February does a chapter on agriculture and also Annual Reports of the departments
Concerned, it was felt that there had hardly been any serious discussion and debate in the house on the agriculture.
The decision also stems from the fact that despite falling investments in the agriculture and allied sectors to the total of the GDP over the past ten years and agriculture land shrinking at a faster pace, the sector has shown resilience. The review undertaken by the Prime Minister with Sharad Pawar and concerned ministries revealed that investments in agriculture has fallen in real terms. If it was 24% of the GDP in 2001-02, the investments went down to 14.62% during 2009-10. Yet, the foodgrain production jumped to a record 242 million tonnes – almost 11% more than last year. With food security bill becoming a reality sometime next year, the country’s needs would jump to 300 million tonnes. This will be possible only when huge investments are made in the agriculture and allied sectors.
Thus, Dr Manmohan Singh decided to focus on the agriculture for the growth story keep going in a big way as manufacturing, mining, electricity, gas and power sectors have slowed down. The state of agriculture report will contain inputs from all the allied sectors such as Ministries and departments of fertiliser, water resources, power, rural development, science and technology, harvest management and food processing etc.
It has been admitted by government’s policy makers that if the target of 9% plus GDP growth is to be achieved, the focus has to be on the agriculture sector. Even in the present 8.5% GDP growth achieved this year, the contribution of agriculture sector had been 6.6%. With the current monsoon season on track and satisfactory so far, the agriculture ministry expects that the crop will be all time high and agriculture growth would touch 7% mark.