8 Oct :Concerned with farmers’ suicide in some parts of the country, the Prime Minister on July 1, 2006 after visiting some parts of the Vidarbha region in Maharashtra, announced a rehabilitation package to mitigate the distress of farmers in the identified districts.
On 29th September, 2006, Union Cabinet approved the Rehabilitation Package for 31 identified districts in the State of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra involving total amount of Rs.16978.69 crores consisting of Rs.10579.43 crores as subsidy/grants and Rs.6399.26 crores as loan.
The rehabilitation package aims at establishing a sustainable and viable farming and livelihood support system through debt relief to farmers, complete institutional credit coverage, crop-centric approach to agriculture, assured irrigation facilities, effective watershed management, better extension and farming support services and subsidiary income opportunities through horticulture, livestock, dairying, fisheries and other subsidiary activities. For alleviating the hardship faced by the debt stressed families of farmers, ex-gratia assistance from Prime Minister’s National relief Fund @ Rs.50.00 lakh per district has also been provided. The package covers the following :
a) Complete credit cover through institutional credit sources;
b) Debt relief to farmers by restructuring overdue loans and interest waiver;
c) Provision of assured irrigation facilities; d) Watershed management;
e) Seed replacement programme:
f) Diversification of activities into horticulture, livestock, dairying and fisheries etc. for generation of additional employment and income opportunities; and
g) Extension support services.
Feedback received from State Governments and other implementing agencies indicates that implementation of the rehabilitation package has resulted in substantial improvement in the ground level conditions and mitigation of farmers’ distress. However, they have suggested some amendments to the existing interventions for giving a sharper edge and increase the pace of implementation of the interventions brought about through the rehabilitation package.
The suggestions were examined and the Union Cabinet today gave its approval to the following modifications in the rehabilitation package:
(i) Extension of the period for implementation of the non-credit component of the package by two more years i.e. up to 30th September 2011.
(ii) ‘In-principle’ approval for provision of need based additional financial support to the concerned Ministries/Departments of the Government of India for implementation of the programmes/ interventions included in the package.
(iii) Increase in per farmer area limit under Seed Replacement Programme from 1 ha. To 2 ha.
(iv) Adoption of ‘Cafeteria Approach’ for participatory Watershed Development Programmes, where State Governments with prior permission of the Ministry of Agriculture have the flexibility to adopt either the models circulated by NABARD or Sujala Model of Watershed Development Programme being implemented in Karnataka under Word Bank assistance or the models in accordance with the common guidelines for Watershed Development Projects approved by NRAA subject to the condition that financial assistance will be as per the approved norms of Watershed Development Fund (WDF).
(v) Inclusion of ‘Women Farmers’ Empowerment Programme’ under extension services.
(vi) Construction of an Empowered Committee headed by Secretary, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries and consisting of representatives from Department of Agriculture & Cooperation, Planning Commission and Ministry of Finance as members for taking decision regarding medication or inclusion of new components under subsidiary income activities subject to the total financial implication remaining within the existing approved outlay for the concerned State.
The improvements in the package would give it a sharper edge and further improve the effectiveness.