Strategy and Thrust in the Tenth Plan for Agricultural Sector

The Tenth Plan accepted the enhancing biotic pressure on the natural resources in the country, particularly land, water and biodiversity; with the rising population, the fragmentation of holdings had increased, leading to smaller and unviable units of land holdings. The Tenth Plan focused on this problem via:

(a) simple transfers of agricultural land to facilitate farmers to augment their holdings to viable units;

(b) enable leasing and contract farming via more freedom to lease in and lease out; and

(c) developed technologies appropriate to raise productivity of small and marginal holdings which comprise 78 per cent of all holdings and function about 32 per cent of total agricultural region.

The second feature of this strategy included waste lands – estimated at 64 million hectares – and degraded regions which are either unutilised or underutilised assessed to cover 107 million hectares. All such lands are under the control of the Government or of Panchayats. The Tenth Plan projected that:

(a) all these lands under the control of the Government or the Panchayats would be packaged out in viable units and allocated to landless, small and marginal farmers, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe farmers, retired defence personnel, and educated rural youth, for cultivation.

(b) greatly degraded wastelands, should be specially used for forestry, tree cropping and agro-forestry.

(c) the areas under reserved forests but which are presently unutilised or under-utilised should be distributed to the resource poor particularly landless and marginal farmers, to generate grasses and fodder and medicinal and aromatics plants.

(d) the Tenth Plan persisted rain-water harvesting and conservation so as to enhance productivity of rain-fed farm lands. Rain water conservation as well as harvesting hold the means for sustainable development of rain-fed regions. Such a programme should make sure that the minimum fundamental water needs of the rural communities are met.

In this relation, the Tenth Plan proposed to persist vigorously, minor irrigation development and the adoption of enhanced on-farm water management practices and also the use of water saving devices, like sprinkler irrigation and trip irrigation system in low-rainfall regions.

Generally, the Tenth Plan believed that recent land and water-use practices in the country were unsustainable, less productive and influence adversely on regeneration of natural resources. Therefore, for sustainable development of natural resources, the Tenth Plan would continue to pursue, as already stated, a regionally differentiated strategy founded on agro-climatic situations and land and water availability. The promotion of proper cropping patterns formed a necessary part of the Tenth Plan strategy.

(e) the Tenth Plan imagined a radical thrust in crop diversification. Small as well as marginal farmers, by and large, offer a prime place to cereals in the cropping system, even though Indian agriculture is moving quickly towards commercialisation. The focus on cereals is due to regard of food security, low risk and easy market access. Also, the Government’s minimum support price (MSP) policy, including only three crops (paddy, wheat and sugarcane) has motivated mono-cropping and even exploitation of natural resources in few regions. All this has occurred in the face of acute shortage of pulses and oilseeds.

It is important for you to note that the Tenth Plan’s new purpose was diversification towards high value as well as more remunerative crops, regarding the agro-climatic conditions, donation of land and water resources and the market demand both within the country and outside. The Tenth Plan stressed on the production of fruits, agro-forestry, vegetables, flowers, tree farming, animal husbandry, aquaculture, dairying, etc.

To motivate such activities, the Tenth Plan developed the essential infrastructure for post-harvest handling, marketing, processing, storage, etc. and also endorsed pro-active production policies to encourage farmers and entrepreneurs.

(f) the Tenth Plan set out radical schemes influencing production and distribution of quality seeds, fertilisers and plant nutrients, farm implements, soil testing and pest management.

(g) finally, the Tenth Plan motivated organic farming in a big manner. The Plan appreciated the growing demand for organically generated food all over the world and the high prices they command. India is a low-chemical fertiliser utilising country, especially in the rain-fed regions, north eastern and hill areas. India has, hence, good opportunity to take up production of organic foods for exports and domestic use. In this relation, the Tenth Plan motivated organic fertilisers use in agriculture by transforming farm waste and municipal solid waste into good quality compost/manure.

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