NEW DELHI: Doubling of farmers’ income by 2022 is an ambitious target of the Modi government. But the Niti Aayog, the government’s premier think-tank that is meant to provide “critical knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurial support,” has not held a single meeting on how to go about it since 2015.
All that the Niti Aayog has done is to bring out a policy paper called “Doubling farmers’ income: Rational, strategy, prospects and action plan.”
It was prepared in March 2017 by its member, Ramesh Chand, and unveiled at the third meeting of the Niti Aayog’s governing council on April 23, 2017 in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, chief ministers and Governors.
“(The) Niti Aayog did not conduct any meetings on doubling of farmers’ income since 2015,” it said in a reply to an RTI application by this newspaper. It has also “not held any meetings with state governments or CMs on the matter,” it admitted.
In reply to a question if any state had doubled the income of farmers, it said the “Niti Aayog has not made any assessment so far in this line.” To yet another question, the Niti Aayog said it had not conducted any study to assess the impact of the government’s initiative to double farmers’ income.
But the think-tank, the RTI reply said, did hold three meetings of the task force it constituted for doubling of farmers’ income under the chairmanship of Ashok Dalwai, chief executive officer of the National Rain-fed Area Authority. These meetings took place in January, March and April 2018.
However, the task force does not have any representative of Niti Aayog, so the meetings it conducted cannot be termed as its own.
Efforts to reach the Niti Aayog vice chairman’s office for comments through an e-mail did not yield any response. Ashwani Mahajan, the national co-convener of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an RSS affiliate, expressed surprise at the Niti Aayog not holding any meeting.
“The Niti Aayog can coordinate with Union ministries and state governments on this issue and can also ask them to take it forward effectively,” he said. “It’s a big issue related to farmers’ welfare. The PMO and many other ministries have done many things. It’s truly encouraging,” he added.
The goal to double the income of farmers was first announced in February 2016. In April the same year, the government decided to set up an inter-ministerial committee under Dalwai to examine issues facing the farm sector and recommend a strategy.
The committee submitted its report in September 2018, which said the average annual income of farmers was Rs 96,703 at the base year 2015-16.
The targeted annual income should be `1,72,694 (at 2015-16 prices) or `2,42,998 at prices in 2022-23, the report said. While it remains a huge task, the government has launched several schemes to achieve the target by 2022.
Among them are the Soil Health Card scheme; the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana and the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Siddhi.