KOLKATA: In the manifesto released by the main opposition party of the West Bengal, the opposition has criticized the Left Front government on various achievements and laurels that it earned during its rule in the Last 32 Years. But nevertheless even the Trinamool has not been able to criticize the Left Front on one aspect.The long term effect of the success that West Bengal earned has forced critics to admit the rejuvenation of the agriculture in the state.
In 1977 at the time when the Left Front assumed the charge, the agricultural production was fast dwindling .West Bengal at that time was heavily dependent on the other states for food grains. But after 32years West Bengal is now the numero uno in terms of rice production, and in many other food grains. This achievement has been possible as West Bengal’s Left Front government embarked on land reform programme in the state resulting in agrarian benefits reaching to the poorest of the poor.The total agricultural land distributed in this State (upto 15th January, 2009) is 11.26 lakh acres and the number of poor farmers benefited from this distribution has now reached 30lakh. Of these benefited farmers, nearly 55 per cent belong to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes—an achievement which has not been possible in any other State in the country.
With the objective of empowering women in terms of distribution of land, the number of joint-pattas has now reached 6.04 lakh, and that of female pattas 1.61 lakh. In no other State, there been such progress in the distribution of pattas in favour of women. As a result of according priority to extension of irrigation facilities, the total net irrigated area as a proportion of the total net agricultural area in the State has increased steadily from 32 per cent in 1977-78 to nearly 72 per cent in 2008-09. In regard to the use of improved seeds, particularly in the case of production of paddy, while in the year 1977-78, only 28 per cent of the cultivated area of the State was covered under improved seeds, in 2008-09, the coverage has reached 97 per cent. The rate of growth of Net State Domestic Product of West Bengal from agriculture and allied activities in the current year (2008-09) will increase by 4.4 per cent, which is much higher than the corresponding rate of growth of 2.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product of India from agriculture and allied activities. The estimated total production of rice in the State will increase from 147.19 lakh metric tonne in the last year to 155.33 lakh metric tonne in the current year which would be much higher than the State’s requirement of rice of 137.62 lakh metric tonne.
Due to adverse effect of “blight” disease, the production of potato in the State will fall from the last year’s level of 99.0 lakh metric tonne to 58.62 lakh metric tone in the current year it is anticipated .However, production of potato in the State in the current year will still be higher than the State’s internal requirement of 54 lakh metric tonne, and the position of West Bengal in potato production will again remain in the second place among all the States in the country. In the sphere of vegetables, the total production in the State will reach 128.04 lakh metric tonne in the current year ,and the State’s rank will once again be first among the States. In the current year, the levels of production of wheat, pulses and oilseeds are estimated to increase to the levels of 9.75 lakh metric tonne, 1.89 lakh metric tonne and 7.48 lakh metric tonne respectively, and as a result, the total production of food grains in the State (including rice, wheat, pulses and other crops) will increase to the level of 170.19 lakh metric tonne in the current year which would be very close to the State’s self-sufficiency requirement of 170.80 lakh metric tonne.
The state government is emphasizing on modernization of agriculture. Agriculture Commission has recently submitted its report with this goal in mind.. This enhancement of self-reliant and improved process of agricultural production will also help to increase generation of employment and income as well as internal market, and add a new dimension to our efforts at overcoming the recession.64 bio-villages have already been set up in the State. Decision has been taken, as a part of State-level package against recession to extend this effort further by setting up in each block one bio-village, one seed village and one soil testing laboratory, and taking special steps to improve productivity in North Bengal, Paschimanchal and the Sunderbans.
Even the planned outlay of the concerned department has increased from Rs. 89.99 crore in the current year (2008-09) to Rs. 178.14 crore in the next year. Source West Bengal Budget (2009-2010)Though the whole country has been plagued by cases of farmer suicides this is a rare phenomenon in West Bengal. This had been possible as West Bengal Left Front government has also taken proactive steps in making crop insurance for the marginal farmers of the state. In the 2008-09 ,Economic survey it has been reported that in West Bengal only, in the Rabi season of 2007-08 over 5lakh 96 thousands farmers of the state has been covered under crop insurance out of which about 5 lakh 93 thousand are farmers hailing from marginal sections of the society.
The scheme of crop insurance was started by the West Bengal government in the year 2002-2003 The state government infact had took the responsibility of protecting the farmers in terms of Two of the major crops i.e. the Aman and Boro seasonal crops. In the year 2007-2008 more 2 lakh 73 hectors of the state had been brought under the crop insurance. The total amount of insurance in that same period was more than 764 crore 39lakhs. Over 50% of the subsidy under this scheme has been provided by the state government. In the Khariff season more than 3 lakh 13 thousand farmers had been covered under the crop insurance scheme in the state out of which a staggering amount of 3 lakh 12 thousand hails from marginal background.
More importantly this success has been attained in west Bengal due to the Left Front government policy initiative of taking along the gram Panchayets while implementing the decisions. By empowering the gram Panchayets the state has attained this success as the whole programme has been carried out through the Panchayets. Both the cash crops and the food crops had been covered under this insurance scheme.
This has also prevented the farmers of the state from going pauper overnight by depending on the climatic conditions excessively. The affected farmers were also identified with the help of the Panchayets and the state government took the responsibility of admitting the insurance claim in case of disasters.