National Commission on Farmers, headed by MS Swaminathan, formed on the problems of farmers, had recommended to shift the agriculture sector from the state list to the concurrent list. Sadly, this important recommendation has not been given as much attention as needed. If the agriculture topic is brought to the concurrent list, then the central government will be able to take a more decisive step on matters related to agriculture and farmers, as well as the rights of the state governments will not have any special effect. At present, the Center has to rely on state governments to implement welfare schemes for those agricultural development and farmers whose financing is doing it themselves.
In fact, leaving the agriculture sector at the behest of the State Government can be called ‘donation’ of the Government of India Act, 1935. The reason behind this was the argument that since agriculture is a special profession and is mainly dependent on the local agricultural ecosystem and the natural resources available at the original places, therefore the provincial governments can take better care of this area. In those days agricultural work was done only to meet food needs and the purchase and sale of food grains was at a limited level. The problems related to farmers were also limited to the local level.
In modern times the circumstances have changed greatly. In modern times agriculture is no longer tied in regional boundaries and now business deals between states have become part of it. Not only that, agriculture has now been linked to other sectors of the economy, especially business, industry and service. Now, if one state makes a decision in relation to agriculture, its impact is seen on the agro-economy of other states. Therefore, the unrestricted control of the states on the agrarian problems are causing problems and they are having adverse effects.
The fifth and last report of the Swaminathan Committee was released in October 2006, in which the proposal to transfer agriculture to the concurrent list was proposed. It was pointed out in the report that decisions related to crop support value, institutional credit and agro-commodity business – domestic and international – are taken by the central government. Some important laws, which have widespread impact on the agriculture sector, have been made by the Parliament, who work in the care of the Center. Protection of plant breeds and rights of farmers, law, biological diversity law and national food security law are just some examples. Apart from these, the Center provides mostly the funds for rural infrastructure, irrigation and other agricultural development programs. The Commission said, “After coming in the agricultural concurrent list, the service of the farmers and the protection of agriculture will become the responsibility of both the center and the state.”
There are other reasons behind the recommendation to bring agriculture in concurrent list. Some of the State Governments have started to improve the problems of farmers and to increase their income, some schemes of the Center are not able to produce the desired results. For example, Crop Insurance Scheme, Prime Minister Farmer’s Honor Fund (PM Farmer) and Prime Minister’s Annada Rai Income Conservation Campaign (PM Aasha) are some of the schemes which are not getting full benefits. Not only this, some important improvements related to agriculture marketing, land lease, contract-based agriculture etc. are also not making any significant changes. Once again, the non-cooperation of some states has been responsible for this.
The Dalwadi committee formed to explore the possibility of doubling the income of the farmers has also stressed the need to keep agriculture marketing in concurrent list. According to the committee, this will facilitate the Central Government in expanding the agricultural markets, enhancing their operational efficiency and expansion of rural marketing system. The Dalwai Committee report has strengthened the argument for relocation of agriculture to concurrent list. Even before this, the constitution has been amended to put a subject in one list from another list. For example, in the 42nd Amendment in 1976 five subjects, including forests and wildlife protection, were removed from the state and put in concurrent list. Given the importance of the subject and the potential benefits from it, all political parties should support a further constitutional amendment to shift the agriculture from the state list to the concurrent list. Both agriculture and farmers will benefit from this.