New Delhi: The Centre has told the Supreme Court that though the country has become self sufficient in production of cereals, it is dependent on imports to bridge the gap between domestic production and demand of edible oil and pulses.
Responding to a PIL on increasing farmer suicides in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture said in an affidavit, "India has not only ensured self-sufficiency in most of the agricultural crops but has also built sufficient buffer stocks of wheat and rice and is also in a position to export to other countries."
"We are not self-sufficient in edible oil and pulses," the government conceded and added that it has initiated programmes such as National Food Security Mission, Accelerated Pulses Production Programme and National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm to increase production and productivity of pulses and oil seeds to bridge the gap of domestic requirements and minimize the need for their import.
In respect of all food items including processed ones, the country has "sufficient surpluses" and it is in a position to export them to other countries, it said, adding exports are on rise. The Centre also rubbished the view that agriculture was still dependent on monsoon and said that approximately 48 per cent of the land, used for food grains production in the country, is irrigated.
Further, it said, India accounts for only 2.4 per cent of the world's geographical area and four per cent of its water resources but has to support 17 per cent of the world's human population and 15 per cent of world's livestock. The affidavit said that a Working Group on Agriculture was constituted in 2010 by the Standing Core Group under the chairmanship of the then Prime Minister, making several recommendations which are at various stages of implementation.
The affidavit said, "In its report, the working group, made wide ranging recommendations, which inter-alia, included, measures to improve yields, expand winter rice cultivation in Eastern India, electric power availability, water control, improved farming system, new varieties and hybrid seeds, highest seeds replacement rate, fertilizer use, agri-business, private sector investment, marketing, insurance and other related areas."
It also said that government has considered and examined the recommendations of National Commission of Farmers, set up under the chairmanship of Prof MS Swaminathan and finalized the National Policy for Farmers (NPF), 2007. "The policy provisions include, asset reforms in respect of land, water, livestock, fisheries and bio-resources; supply of good quality seeds and disease-free planting material, issue of soil health passbooks to the farmers and integrated pest management system...
"...support services for women, timely adequate and easy reach of institutional credit at reasonable interest rates and farmer-friendly insurance instruments, support services and inputs like application of frontier technologies, agricultural bio-security system, use of information and communication technology and setting up of farm schools to revitalise agricultural extension...," the affidavit said.
Other provisions include enhancing Minimum Support Price (MSP) across the country and establishing community food grain banks, curriculum reforms in agricultural universities, special categories of farming like organic farming and contract farming, it said. It said that many of the schemes/programmes were being implemented by Central and state governments as per the NPF provisions.
The government's response came on a PIL filed by Punjab-based NGO, Youth Kamal Organization, through its resident GS Happy Mann, which had highlighted the issue of farmer suicides in the country, saying various problems faced by farmers compel them to take their lives. It had said farmers are forced to buy seeds every planting season which increases poverty and indebtedness, compelling them to commit suicide.
The NGO had also told the court that so far nothing has been done by the Ministry of Agriculture for the benefit of farmers.