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Are MP farmers better off today than 5 years ago?
Posted: Wednesday, 10 July 2013 at 4:51 PM
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Growth rate figures in agriculture are a debatable index when judging the relative prosperity of the rural populace. So with state assembly elections round the corner it is difficult to say whether farmers in Madhya Pradesh are intrinsically better off than what they were five years ago. Which, of course, is no reason for the Chouhan regime to stop tom-tomming its 13 per cent (18.91 per cent last year) agricultural growth rate or that the state has come out of the list of  ‘bimaru’ states.

MP produced 2.31 million metric tonnes (mt) of foodgrain in 2012-13 compared to 2.30 mt in 2011-12, roughly accounting for 9.50 per cent of the country’s total output. This enabled it to pip Haryana to become the third highest grain producing state after Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Adding to the sense of well being is that MP already tops the country in gram and pulses production (31.99 lakh mt and 46.89 lakh mt respectively).

The Chouhan regime also earned bragging rights by becoming the only one to extend  loans at zero per cent interest to farmers. While loans worth Rs 10,800 crore were handed out to farmers last year, the bar has been raised to Rs 12,000 crore this year whatever be the long-time economic consequences of the debt burden. The irrigation cover too has gone up in the last six years from from seven lakh to 26 lakh hectares as has the area under agriculture from 196 lakh hectares to 223 lakh hectares.

Economist RS Tiwari, however, feels that while the state government was welcome to extract as much electoral advantage it could on the basis of improved economic readings in agriculture, the hard fact is that it made no difference to the lot of small farmers who constitute 50 per cent of the community. 

A good harvest, he argued, largely benefits rich farmers and helps the state government to procure more. But there is no direct co-relation between the size of procurement and economic wellness. For in the final analysis the credit for agricultural growth in India must necessarily be attributed to the kindness of the rain gods (read monsoon). Twiddle their fingers is all that the farming community can do if the skies fail to deliver on time, the policies and efficiencies of government agencies notwithstanding. THE END

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