State government's cash incentive for Sikkimese farmers seeks to remedy their many crises

State government's cash incentive for Sikkimese farmers seeks to remedy their many crises
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Sikkim made its mark in the agriculture sector nationally when in early 2016 it was declared as a fully organic state by the Prime Minister. Farmers of Sikkim were branded as producers of organic quality produce. However, branding of products was not enough as felt by the present administration since the farmers were left out of cash support which could otherwise facilitate pre-agriculture investment such as buying seeds, paying for agricultural labour, transport charges, other allied activities such as making assets that supplement production.

It is here KAPM organised by the Agriculture and Horticulture department becomes important. Under this scheme, the department aims to provide credit support to farmers based on their production of 5 selected commodities and the cash incentive is based on performance-based payment which the Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang Golay believes would enthuse farmers.

Krishi Avam Pashudhan Mela (KAPM) held with the theme “Development through Credit” a month-long programme was held at Rangpo Mining ground to provide cash incentives for farmers producing five types of commodities through a bank subsidy. The state government has promised 17 crores as an annual allocation for the same.

Cash incentive as per production announced include:

 ₹ 20 per kg for cardamom.

₹ 10 per kg for ginger

₹ 5 per kg for buckwheat

These incentives will be given to farmers procured through (FPO) Farmer Producer Organisation, multi-state cooperative society, with 1400 forms for loan subsidy distributed in the East district alone. Self Help Groups (SHGs) have also been called for a role in educating and sensitising farmers. 

But a question arises over those farmers which have been left out of production due to bad cropping season or lack of timely access to seeds due to pandemic, or farmers of other categories engaged in perishable commodities such as vegetables, fruits (excluding oranges). Cold chain facilities which were earlier promised as a part of organic Sikkim is yet to see any result.

Amidst the parallel tractor rally being planned by farmers on Republic day, currently surrounding the critical choke points at Delhi, back in Sikkim, the state government has already declared its support for the three contentious agriculture laws, which could be seen as states ruling party’s obligation as a part of allegiance to the NDA. While the three reforms will have minimal effect in Sikkim owing to corporations’ obsession with economies of scale with the bulk purchase and focus staying in big agri-states.

So here comes a need for working to bring credit access to all the farmers on a need-based approach, by providing agricultural credit in a yearlong basis through an institutional source,  starting it through the State Bank of Sikkim (SBS), which according to an RTI report as filed by social activist Navin Kiran Pradhan claims have approximately ₹ 600 crores of Non Performing Assets (NPA) owed by defaulters. 

SBS on their part should thus expedite on recovering those amount on a war footing on the lines of Project Sakshat as proposed for bad loans and the recovered amount should be in turn used as a corpus fund for financing the agriculture which would go beyond the five selected commodities and include farmers of all categories, which would include landless farmers (sukumbasis) in the state. Thus, the Agri credit system should go beyond a one time SOP given by the state and should be hassle-free but with proper scrutiny.

As a part of long term measure PM KISAN, a central sector scheme should be merged with the cash incentive scheme which works as a mechanism for better disbursement to farmers; essential contribution to doubling farmers income by 2022 as envisaged by Ashok Dalwai committee.

By Karma Lendup Sherpa

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