Scrap food subsidies and focus on the price paid to farmers, says agriculture economist Ashok Gulati

Eminent agriculture economist Ashok Gulati said the government policy of pushing food subsidies over the price paid to farmers has fueled agrarian distress across India. “All the resources are going towards food subsidies. Something costs you Rs 30 and you sell it at Rs 3,” Gulati said. “Food subsidies to the tune of Rs 1.70 lakh crore have been given. But investment in agriculture is only about Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000 crore.”

Gulati pointed out that the system prioritises the consumer needs and practices like the dole model, export bans, the Essential Commodities Act, and the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee Act restrict the farmers’ freedom to sell their produce. He emphasised in fewer subsidies and higher investment in agriculture research, irrigation and better infrastructure.

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In the light of the recent long march and farmers' demand of the complete waiver of loans, Gulati said, "For the Congress or the Left, asking for only loan waivers will not solve the problem. That’s a short-term solution." On the NDA government's promise of doubling farmers' income by 2022, he observed, "You need a growth rate of 13 per cent for the next five years in agriculture. A 13 per cent growth is not being achieved in the economy, and we are unable to reach a growth rate of 2.5 per cent in agriculture, then how can farmers’ income be doubled by 2022? It cannot be achieved till 2030.”