ASSOCHAM has underlined the need for formulating a well thought out comprehensive policy action plan for mitigating the adverse consequences of drought which will impact employment, income and increase prices of food items, despite comfortable food stocks.
The chamber has proposed a 15-point strategy to overcome enormous challenge of containing the socio-economic consequences associated with drought and accomplishing the policy action required in this regard.
ASSOCHAM action plan includes:
1. Incentivise Farming: It is a known fact that there has been a sharp escalation in the cost of production of agricultural commodities. Also, as in the case of any other product, there exists an inverse relationship between real cost of production and productivity. Therefore, MSP fixation must meet the increasing costs of production and agricultural productivity as well.
Till the country makes use of techno-managerial advances for its agriculture sector, the MSP must incentivise farming activity. Further, the MSP of alternative crops to be cultivated in drought hit areas also need to be attractive. Instead of reducing MSP, the government must reform the distribution system to bring down the gap between farm prices and retail prices.
2. Prevent Hoarding and Curb Speculation: Imposing stock limits on various agriculture commodities like sugar, pulses, onions, paddy and edible oils to control the rising prices would help prevent hoarding. Also, Forward Markets Commission (FMC) must keep a close watch on key agricultural commodities to curb possible speculation and price increase in the backdrop of poor monsoon. These measures need to be continued till there is improved supply and higher production.
3. Review of export policy on food products to curb exports of essential food grains needs to be taken up.
4. Distribution of pulses through public channels at subsidized prices as was done in 2008 to all the households.
6. Creating Relief Employment Programmes: As drought directly affects all those dependent on agriculture in terms of both income and employment, drought management must essentially aim at creation of new employment avenues. Governments, both local and centre, must partner together to prepare relief employment programmes in the affected areas. The convergence of various existing employment schemes is a must for better drought management.
7. The scope of MGNREG scheme needs to be modified in the drought hit areas to meet the needs of the people like increasing the number of man days and the eligibility criteria. The objective must be to generate employment for wider section of people for greater number of days and create permanent infrastructure capacities in the area.
8. Preparing alternative cropping plan and providing financial and technical help for the farmers is required. Ensuring the availability of seeds and other inputs as well as creating awareness among farmers need to be a plan component. Also, the government must provide buyback agreements for these crops thus raised.
9. Advice banks and financial institutions to settle crop insurance claims in the drought hit areas without delay.
10. Financial loans to tenants must be rescheduled to avoid farmer suicides.
11. Fuel subsidy that enables farmers to provide supplementary/alternative irrigation through pump sets in the drought and deficient rainfall areas to protect the standing crops needs to be announced. Emphasis must be put to provide quality power for agriculture in drought hit areas.
12. Dedicated Railway Compartments: In all passenger trains, two compartments be added for carrying perishable goods at very nominal charges. Goods which can be carried can be restricted to vegetables, cereals, fish, fodder and water etc. The process of traveling with these goods should be very simple.
13. CSR activities of the corporate sector: ASSOCHAM advocates the need for strong corporate participation in drought relief activities under their corporate social responsibility. As corporates have made notable contributions in the past to the post calamity rebuilding activities, similar way they can adopt villages in the areas that fall in their operational purview. The corporates can provide drinking water and medical facilities as well.
14. Grazing of cattle in the forest and government lands needs to be allowed. Further,establishing fodder banks can also be looked at.
15. Water conservation through water shed management and rain water harvesting must get special focus in drought prone areas.