The Centre's flagship agriculture scheme’s 75 per cent released funds lie unspent
A staggering Rs 1,950 crore, which is three quarters of the total funds under India’s flagship agriculture scheme the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana-Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR), remains unutilised. The scheme aims at creating robust pre- and post-harvest infrastructure.
Fifteen states and Union territories — including key agricultural states of Punjab and Bihar — have so far not used funds allocated in 2018-19 under the scheme. Only the north eastern states of Nagaland and Tripura have used more than 60 per cent of the funds as on January 25, 2019.
RKVY-RAFTAAR is a unique centrally sponsored scheme where states choose their own agriculture and allied sector development activities. The umbrella scheme also promotes innovation and agri-entrepreneur development.
A losing cause
(Statewise allocation and release of funds under RKVY and sub-schemes for 2018-19 as on January 25, 2019)
For Punjab, the food basket of India, 44.59 crore has been released, which is a little less than 50 per cent of the allocated Rs 90 crore. But, none of it has been utilised so far. A similar trend can also be seen in Bihar, Telangana and Jharkhand.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami recently demanded an additional Rs 625-crore sanction under the scheme “as a special case to farmers who have lost the trees/crops as a result of Cyclone Gaja”. The state, however, has been able to spend just 35 per cent of the Rs 170 crore released in this financial year.
The scheme’s poor performance points at a bigger picture: increasing farm budget alone will not be enough to salvage the ailing farm sector.
The Centre, in its recent interim budget, increased the agriculture budget by an unprecedented 144 per cent — from Rs 57,600 crore in 2018-19 to Rs 1,40,764 crore in 2019-20. The higher allocations need to be backed by good implementation of flagship schemes. The scheme’s key intervention is to improve post-harvest infrastructure, which is practically non-existent in the country.
India loses farm produce worth Rs 50,473 crore a year owing to poor cold storage infrastructure, estimates a 2017 report by industry body Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.
It says while the country has the world’s largest cold storage capacity, it is unevenly distributed. Most cold storage units are concentrated in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh, says the report. Besides most storage units are more than a decade old and are designed to store only potatoes. As a result, almost 25 per cent of the installed cold storage capacity remains unutilised, says the report.
So, the governments at the Centre and the states might want to consider that it is not as much about increasing investment or capacity, but about utilising what’s already there.
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