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Agriculture in India – Issues and Reforms

For UPSC CSE aspirants, understanding the intricacies of Indian agriculture is paramount. This sector employs nearly half the workforce and contributes significantly to the nation’s GDP. However, Indian agriculture faces numerous challenges that impede its growth and modernization. Acing the exam necessitates a nuanced understanding of these issues and the ongoing reforms aimed at revitalizing this vital sector.

The Significance of Agriculture in India:
  • Employment: As per the NSSO survey (2019), agriculture employs about 46.8% of the workforce, highlighting its critical role in rural livelihoods (https://www. agricoop.nic.in/)
  • Food Security: Indian agriculture plays a vital role in ensuring food security for its vast population.
  • Contribution to GDP: Though its share is declining, agriculture still contributes significantly to India’s GDP, estimated at 15.4% in 2021-22 (https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/india/overview)
Challenges Plaguing Indian Agriculture:
  • Low Productivity: India’s agricultural productivity lags behind developed nations due to factors like fragmented landholdings, lack of irrigation facilities, and inadequate use of technology.
  • Market Fluctuations and Price Volatility: Farmers often face volatile market conditions and exploitation by middlemen, leading to low and unpredictable incomes.
  • Climate Change: Erratic weather patterns, droughts, and floods pose significant threats to agricultural production and farmer livelihoods.
  • Soil Degradation and Depletion: Excessive use of chemical fertilizers and unsustainable practices lead to soil degradation and declining fertility.
  • Farmer Indebtedness and Suicides: High input costs, coupled with low incomes, often push farmers into debt cycles, tragically leading to suicides in some instances.
Government Reforms and Initiatives:
  • Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY): A crop insurance scheme to incentivize farmers and mitigate risk.
  • Soil Health Card Scheme: Provides soil testing and recommendations for optimal fertilizer use.
  • PM Kisan Samman Nidhi: Provides income support to small and marginal farmers.
  • Minimum Support Price (MSP): A government-declared minimum price for certain crops to ensure farmers get a fair return on their produce.
  • Krishi Udan Yojana: Aims to connect farm produce with national markets through air transportation.
The Road to a More Vibrant Agriculture Sector:
  • Promoting Sustainable Practices: Encouraging organic farming, crop diversification, and soil health management techniques is crucial for long-term productivity.
  • Improving Irrigation Infrastructure: Expanding irrigation facilities and promoting water conservation practices are essential to counter water scarcity.
  • Strengthening Agricultural Credit System: Simplifying loan processes, reducing interest rates, and facilitating access to institutional credit can ease the burden on farmers.
  • Promoting Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs): Empowering farmers through FPOs can help them bargain collectively for better prices and reduce dependence on middlemen.
  • Leveraging Technology: Encouraging the use of precision agriculture, weather forecasting, and digital platforms can improve efficiency, reduce wastage, and enhance market access.

Conclusion:

The future of Indian agriculture hinges on effective reforms and a multi-pronged approach. UPSC CSE aspirants who can analyze these challenges, critically evaluate government initiatives, and propose innovative solutions will demonstrate a well-rounded understanding of this critical sector. Staying updated on current debates and developments will empower you to contribute to building a more resilient and sustainable agricultural future for India.

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