In the accelerated growth scenario for the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002), an agricultural growth rate of 4.5% per annum is expected. Allied sectors such as horticulture including fruit and vegetables, fisheries, livestock, and dairy will continue to register greater growth during the Ninth Plan period. In the Ninth Plan, targets will be achieved through a regionally differentiated strategy based on agronomic, climatic, and environment-friendly conditions. At the macro level, the agriculture development strategy will be differentiated by broad regional characteristics of an agro-economic character. The North-western high productivity regions will promote diversification and high value crops, and strengthen linkages with agro-processing industries and exports. The Eastern region, with abundant water, will exploit this productivity potential through flood control, drainage management, improvement of irrigation facilities, and improved input delivery systems. The water scarce peninsular region, including Rajasthan, will focus on efficient water harvesting and conservation methods and technologies based on a watershed approach and appropriate farming systems. Ecologically fragile regions, including Himalayan and desert areas, will concentrate on eco-friendly agriculture.

Animal Husbandry and Dairying will receive grater attention for development during the Ninth Five Year Plan as this sector plays an important role in generating employment opportunities and supplementing includes of small marginal farmers and landless laborers, especially in rainfed and drought-prone areas. Effective control of animal diseases, declaration of disease-free zones, scientific management of genetic stock resources, breeding, quality feed and fodder, extension services, enhancement of production, productivity and profitability of livestock enterprise will be given greater attention. The growth value of the output from the livestock sector is estimated to be 26% of the total value from the agricultural sector.

Over the last two decades, there has been a considerable decline in the incidence of rural poverty. However, a large number of persons continue to live below the poverty line. Hence, there is a need for continued direct State intervention for the eradication of poverty. While the programmes for self-employment and supplementary wage employment would continue in the Ninth Five Year Plan, these would be redesigned to make them more effective as poverty alleviation instruments. They will also be integrated with various sectoral and area development programmes within the umbrella of the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs).

To make self-employment programmes more effective in the Ninth Five Year Plan, there will be a shift in strategy from an individual beneficiary approach to a group and/or cluster approach under the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP). This will facilitate higher investment levels to ensure project viability. In addition, this approach will include skills development of the poor through an inbuilt training component, upgrading of technology, establishment of forward and backward linkages, availability of appropriate infrastructure, and market tie ups. A new initiative for social mobilization will be implemented during the Ninth Plan to create self-managed institutions for the poor. A mechanism for training social animators to assist the poor to articulate their needs and aspirations, and form their own organizations will be implemented.

Rural poverty largely exists among the landless and marginal farmers. Access to land, therefore, remains a key element of the anti-poverty strategy in rural areas. The programme of action for land reform in the Ninth Five Year Plan will include the following: detection as well as redistribution of ceiling surplus land; upgrading of land records on a regular basis; tenancy reforms to record the rights of tenants and share croppers; consolidation of holdings; prevention of the alienation of tribal lands; providing access to wastelands and common property resources to the poor on a group basis; leasing-in and leasing-out of land will be permitted within the ceiling limits; and preference to women in the distribution of ceiling surplus land and legal provisions for protecting their rights on land.

Seven basic services have been identified for priority attention. Policies and programmes relating to these areas would be given a thrust in the Ninth five Year Plan. Complete coverage is expected in a time-bound manner. These services are safe drinking water, availability of primary health service facilities, universal primary education, provision of public housing assistance to all shelterless poor families, nutritional support to children, road links to all villages and habitations, and public distribution system targeted to the poor.

The PRIs will function as effective institutions of local self governance and they will prepare plans for economic development and social justice and implement them. The PRIs will be the umbrellas for the integration of sectoral programmes with poverty alleviation and rural development programmes. The Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology (CAPART) will continue to provide projected financial assistance to voluntary organizations, which will have to play a more dynamic role in empowering the poor through advocacy, awareness generation and formation of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) during the Ninth Plan.

The agriculture sector has a vital place in the economic development of India as it contributes 29.4% of GDP and employs about 64% of the work force. Significant strides towards ensuring food security have been made in agriculture production. Food grain production registered an annual growth rate of 3% from 1984-85 to 1994-95. The significant improvement in agriculture productivity has helped reduce rural poverty. Though capital formation in agriculture grew at the rate of 6.05% during 1989-90 to 1994-95, its share in the total gross capital formation declined to 10.85% from 18.86% in 1980-81 (using 1980-81 prices).

Food grain production increased from 168.4 million tonnes in 1991 to an expected level of 196.0 million tonnes in 1997, the terminal year of the Eighth Five Year Plan. Lack of any significant breakthrough in seed technology is perhaps one of the main reasons for the slow growth in good grain output during the nineties. The production of commercial crops like sugarcane 9283 million tonnes), oilseeds (22.4 million tonnes), cotton (13.1 million bales) was at a record level in 1995-96. The organised upland tea and coffee plantations, the extensive and often dense coastal strips of coconut trees, and the subterranean tuber and root cops characterize the variegated nature of the horticultural potential in the country. The production of flowers has emerged as a promising area of high growth in recent years, particularly for its export potential. However, due to lack of technology and poor infrastructure support for handling, packing, processing and preservation substantial post harvest losses of fruits and vegetables still characterizes the horticulture sector.

The country's irrigation potential was 89.56 million ha by the end of 1996-97; comprising 32.96 million ha under major and medium projects, and 56.60 million ha under minor irrigation schemes. The domestic production of fertilizers falls short of requirements. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in India includes pest monitoring promotion of biological control of pests, and organising demonstrations and training.

Animal Husbandry is an important source of self-employment and subsidiary occupation in rural and semi-urban areas, especially for people living in drought prone, hilly, tribal and other poorly developed areas, where crop production along may not fully sustain them. Exported agricultural products include food grains, tobacco, cashews, groundnuts, beverages, sugar, molasses, horticulture and floriculture products, processed fruits and juices, and meat preparations. India's share in the world trade in agricultural commodities is about 1%. Agricultural exports have received special attention from the Government because of the potential for raising farm incomes, tackling unemployment, and earning foreign exchanges. A number of policy changes have been introduced to give an impetus to agricultural exports.

There is urgent need to reduce the dependence on fertilizer imports by improving output and productivity in fertilizer production units. Improvements in energy efficiency in the fertilizer sector to reduce the cost of fertilizer production is significant. The promotion of a higher seed replacement rate will be emphasized. In the post General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) period, new plant variety protection rights make it necessary to augment facilities for the registration of varieties.

Research efforts will be accelerated through biotechnology, micro-biology, genetic improvement of crops including hybrid technology, genetic upgradation of animal harvest technology, etc. In agricultural education, the thrust will be on human resource development through upgraded teaching facilities. The existing infrastructure for technology transfer will be made more effective and responsive to meet farmers needs.

Increased mechanization in agriculture has created demand for more trained manpower for the operation, maintenance, and management of agricultural machinery. The Government has set up Farm Machinery Training and Attesting Institutes to provide better quality equipment to farmers. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) plays a crucial role in promoting science and technology and its application in agriculture. A National Gene Bank, which is the biggest in Asia, has been opened in New Delhi.

The Training for Rural Youth for Self-Employment (TRYSEM) will be revamped in its design, curriculum and method of training in order to improve the employment opportunities of the poor. It will focus on activities in which the rural youth are already engaged and where there exists a potential for skill upgrading or else on activities which would enhance production under group-cluster approach. The artisans in rural areas, despite their rich heritage and skills, belong to the poverty group. The existing programme aimed at upgrading their skills and improving their production capabilities, by supplying them with modern tool kits, would be strengthened and expanded in the Ninth Plan. This would facilitate enhancing the productivity and income levels of the rural artisans.

The Development of Women and Children in Rural Areas (DWCRA), which is based on a group approach, has been successful in empowering women and in improving their economic status in selected States. A mechanism for replicating the successful DWCRA groups will be sought. Thrift will be the starting point for the formation of SHGs. A greater integration of DWCRA with IRDP and ATRYSEM will be attempted to provide women's groups with greater access to financial resources and training.

The emphasis on agricultural credit has continued to be on progressive institutionalization for providing timely and adequate credit support to farmers with particular focus on small and marginal farmers and weaker sections of society for increasing agricultural production and productivity. The Government of India has taken many policy initiatives for strengthening the rural credit delivery system to support the growing credit needs of the agricultural and rural sectors. The Policy essentially laid emphasis on augmenting credit flow at the ground level through credit planning, adoption of region-specific strategies and rationalization of lending policies and procedures to enable the farmers to adopt modern technology and improved agricultural practices.

  1. Agricultural credit is disbursed through multi-agency network consisting of Commercial Banks (CBs), Regional and Rural Banks (RRBs) and Cooperatives.

  2. The Cooperative Credit Institutions, both the short and long term structures, have emerged over the years as the Prime institution agencies for dispensation of rural credit. In terms of network, coverage and outreach. Cooperatives have sizeable presence and play a significant role in meeting the short-term requirements of agriculture. However, several developments over a period of time have left the Cooperative Credit Structure (CCS) facing severe problems, which have restricted their ability to function viably and perform effectively the task of reaching out to all segments of farming community and meet in full their requirements of credit. In order to build up a strong and viable CCS, a proposal for revamping of CCS is under active consideration of Government of India.

  3. To provide adequate and timely support from the banking system to the farmers for their cultivation needs including purchase of all inputs in a flexible and cost effective manner, a model Kisan Credit Card Scheme was formulated and introduced in the year 1998 for implementation by all the rural financial institutions in the country. Under the Scheme, banks may provide the Kisan Credit Cards to the farmers who are eligible for sanction of production of credit of Rs.5,000/- and above and there is no upper limit. The credit extended under the scheme is in the nature of revolving Cash Credit and provide for any number of drawals and repayments within the limit.

  4. A Scheme for providing insurance cover to farmers, known as comprehensive Crop Insurance Scheme was in vogue in the country since 1985. To enlarge the coverage in terms of farmers (loanee and non-loanee both) crops and risk under Crop Insurance, the Government of India have decided to implement a new Crop Insurance Scheme entitled "National Agricultural Insurance Scheme" (Rashtriya Krishi Bima Yojna) from Rabi 1999-2000. The Scheme provides financial support to the farmers in the event of failure of their crops due to all types of natural disaster as well as pest attacks and diseases.

  5. Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) was created in the year, 1995-96 to boost public investment in development of rural infrastructure. The assistance provided under RIDF has primarily facilitated augmenting resources of the State Governments for investment in rural infrastructure projects including projects that remained incomplete for want of resources. This, in turn, accelerated creation of employment opportunities and production base in the rural areas. The fund under RIDF is made up of contributions from the Indian Scheduled Commercial Banks against their shortfall in agriculture target lending upto an extent of 1.5 percent of net bank credit.

This information was provided by the Government of India to the Eighth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Last update: 1 April, 2000.