Dying Agriculture in Manipur : Suffering in silenceNeed for good agricultural governance for modern Manipur

Professor N Mohendro Singh
When the whole world is talking about innovation-driven economy, Manipur is talking about food deficit. We are reminded of the fact that political freedom and economic freedom are two sides of a coin; and food self-sufficiency is at the centre stage of economic freedom. The image of a State goes with economic freedom. Telangana, the youngest State, has made farmers “Real Heroes” of development process by providing free power, free irrigation, annual input-subsidy of Rs 10,000 per acre and by waiving loans. Food grain production has increased 8 times. To-day the per capita income is Rs 2,78,833;--- one of the highest in the country.
The development experience of Manipur is marked by dispirited trend of dying agricultural sector with durable shortfall ranging from 107 mts of foodgrains in 2013-14 to 267 mts. in 2019-20 even after 68 years of economic planning in the State. To our dismay and disappointment yield of rice recorded the decline from 2703.29 kg/ha in 2013-14 to 2192 kg/ha in 2019-20. To bridge the yawning gap the State may take about 25 years, given the present growth rate (NABARD).
The economic insecurity suffered by the small and marginal farmers remains high. Earning of small farmers is only 39 per cent of what medium holders earn and only 13 percent of what large farmers earn. The average monthly income of Rs 9861 of a agricultural household is too meagre to maintain a surplus for reinvestment. Most of agricultural households in the State are not free from the burden of debt of about Rs 56,596 per household. Only 26% of agricultural households borrow from institutional sources. It is not a surprise that when land has lost productive capacity gradually, 40 per cent of small and marginal farmers is no longer interested in farming engagement; a symptom of suffering in silence. Being totally rain fed, the operational holding of 1 ha (average) is too meagre to engage the agricultural household fully throughout the year. 80 percent is mono-cropped. Besides, the whole rural area is largely bereft of advantage of developed infrastructures. As such, to them it is a losing concern. They remain at the behest of poverty and deprivation.
Today the agricultural sector in the State is getting besieged and increasingly stifled with 7 (seven) visible constraints such as land degradation, lack of sufficient irrigation, increasing externalisation, climate change challenge, transfer of agri-land for non-agricultural purposes, lack of marketing infrastructures, heavy dependence upon unorganised- informal sources for credit and absence of farm planning. The striking feature of the persistence of decelerating phenomenon is that it cannot capture meaningful intervention of Government. Agriculture is viewed for rural survival--as stigma of backwardness-- not as a major source of development of the economy. The perception needs to be changed from mere rural livelihood to modern enterprise with farming being treated as industrial enterprise. A happy farmer is productive farmer. In fact, farmers also need advanced social and political background.
The impact of massive change in National scenario for doubling farmers’ income has yet to be felt in Manipur. How far the State Government has acted on 7- point strategy announcedby Shri Narendra Modiji- comprising:
1. Enhanced focus on irrigation; “Per drop, More water”;
2. Availability of quality seeds and nutrients;
3. Large scale investment in warehousing, cold chains and storage facilities;
4. Value-addition through food-processing;
5. Risk management through introduction of crop insurance;
6. Setting up of National market and
7. Promoting ancillary activities like poultry and fisheries
It is going to be an uphill task in States like Manipur where reform plan has yet to be placed. To achieve the target of doubling farmers’ income we have to ensure the annual compound rate of growth of 10.4 percent, while at the moment it is hardly 4 percent in the country and in Manipur it is almost stagnant.
In this connection reference can be made to the multi-pronged strategy recommended by Inter-Ministerial Committee such as improvement in crop productivity, improvement in livestock productivity, resource use efficiency, increase in cropping intensity, diversification towards value added crops, improvement in real price received by farmers and shift from farm occupation to non-farm occupation. We have to pay equal attention to soil health, contract farming and development of wholesale market and Rural Periodical markets.
One of the greatest challenges is decline in crop yield due to climate change. We may experience the decline of 9% of the major crop yield during 2010-2039 in India in the absence of strategic intervention. The yield loss of rice may be up to 35 percent, 20 percent of wheat, 13 percent of barley and 60 percent of maize–depending upon the location-specific factors and climatic scenario. Manipur needs Green Accounting to assess environmental damages and changes in stocks of natural capital.
Regarding Manipur, first we have to strengthen agricultural administration for which we need a sound Agricultural Governance. When market fails, Government should step-in with a new culture of determination to break all speed breakers. Left to the whims of market imperfections, it may not be possible to step up growth in desirable direction.
Agriculture is a State subject. Manipur needs a home-grown Long-Term Agricultural Policy based on the institutional realities both in the valley and hills. Of course, we may make best possible attempt to take advantage of National scenario such as Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM–Kisan), Pradhan Mantri Kisan Mandhan Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana etc.
Second, we should act on a multi-pronged strategy to spearhead Productivity Revolution of small and marginal farmers whose holdings constitute 83 per cent of operational holdings.
Third, TOP-Revolution should be essential component of productivity revolution of agricultural sector (T=Tomato, O=Onion and P=Potato). “Horticulture increases returns on land about 10 fold.” (World Development Report, 2008, p-58).
Fourth, we have to put in place a strong mechanism to tackle the chronic issue of cost-disability and mounting concern of externalisation.
Fifth, a time has definitely come for Manipur to implement Manipur State Water Policy, 2015 – published by Irrigation & Flood Control, Government of Manipur, to ensure water security/irrigation security.
Sixth, based on Area Specialisation Index the State needs Special Agricultural Zone for quality product for export. This calls for strengthening marketing infrastructures.
Seventh, land is mother of all development programmes---more so of agriculture. To check the transfer of agri-land for non-agricultural purposes, Manipur needs New Land Use Policy to be put in place with seriousness. Land scarcity is going to be a serious challenge in near future. Decision without determination has no meaning.
Remember, ‘no agriculture, no Manipur’ in view of its critical forward and backward linkages. What we need is pro-active policy intervention; not reaction to bubbles of transitory concerns.
For successful and sustained productivity revolution of farm sector, Manipur needs a sound Agricultural Governance, the sine-qua-non for food self sufficiency. Now the Department of Agriculture should act with a creative visualisation--Agriculture for Modern Manipur.