Swaminathan Report (National Commission on Farmers)

Swaminathan Report (National Commission on Farmers)



The National Commission on Farmers, led by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, delivered a series of five reports between December 2004 and October 2006.

Building upon the initial four reports, the final submission delves into the root causes of farmer distress and the alarming increase in farmer suicides. It advocates for the implementation of a comprehensive national policy aimed at addressing these issues. The report underscores the importance of tackling challenges related to access to resources, social security entitlements, and offers recommendations across various domains including land reforms, irrigation, credit and insurance, food security, employment, agricultural productivity, and enhancing farmer competitiveness.


Established on November 18, 2004, the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) was helmed by the esteemed Professor M.S. Swaminathan. Its formation was prompted by the priorities outlined in the Common Minimum Programme. 

Over the course of its mandate, the NCF diligently produced a series of reports, with submissions made in December 2004, August 2005, December 2005, and April 2006. 

These reports were instrumental in aligning with the overarching objective of fostering "faster and more inclusive growth," as articulated in the Approach to the 11th Five Year Plan. 

Finally, on October 4, 2006, the NCF concluded its tenure by submitting its comprehensive fifth and final report. 

Throughout its tenure, the Commission meticulously addressed various facets of agricultural concerns, offering strategic suggestions aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity, ensuring social equity, and fostering sustainable development within the agricultural sector.

Terms of Reference

The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) is entrusted with a comprehensive set of mandates aimed at addressing key challenges and opportunities within the agricultural landscape. 

These mandates include:-

Medium-Term Strategy for Food and Nutrition Security: The NCF is tasked with formulating a medium-term strategy that fosters food and nutrition security across the nation. This strategy is designed to facilitate the gradual realisation of universal food security, ensuring that all segments of society have access to an adequate and nutritious diet.

Enhancing Productivity, Profitability, and Sustainability: Central to the NCF's mission is the enhancement of productivity, profitability, and sustainability within the major farming systems of the country. This involves identifying and implementing measures to optimise agricultural output while safeguarding the long-term viability of farming practices.

Policy Reforms for Rural Credit: The NCF is called upon to recommend policy reforms aimed at significantly increasing the flow of rural credit to all farmers. By addressing barriers to credit accessibility, these reforms seek to empower farmers with the financial resources necessary to invest in their agricultural activities and improve their livelihoods.

Special Programs for Marginalised Farming Communities: Recognizing the diverse agricultural landscapes across the nation, the NCF is mandated to devise special programs tailored to the unique needs of farmers in specific regions. This includes initiatives focused on enhancing the resilience and productivity of dryland farming in arid and semi-arid regions, as well as supporting farmers in hilly and coastal areas.

Improving Quality and Competitiveness of Farm Commodities: A key aspect of the NCF's mandate is to enhance the quality and cost competitiveness of farm commodities. By bolstering the global competitiveness of agricultural products, these efforts aim to expand market opportunities for farmers and stimulate economic growth within the agricultural sector.

Safeguarding Farmers from Import Fluctuations: The NCF is tasked with devising mechanisms to protect farmers from the adverse impacts of sharp fluctuations in international prices. This involves developing strategies to shield domestic producers from the negative effects of sudden influxes of imported agricultural goods during periods of depressed global prices.

Empowering Local Bodies for Sustainable Agriculture: In line with principles of decentralisation and community empowerment, the NCF is committed to empowering elected local bodies to effectively conserve and improve the ecological foundations for sustainable agriculture. By fostering grassroots involvement in environmental stewardship, these initiatives aim to promote ecologically sound agricultural practices and ensure the long-term viability of farming communities.

Key Findings and Recommendations from the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) Reports

Causes for Farmers' Distress

Agrarian distress has reached alarming levels, culminating in tragic incidents of farmer suicides. 

The root causes of this crisis are multifaceted, including:-

Unfinished Land Reforms: The persistent issue of incomplete land reform agendas has contributed to inequities in land ownership and access.

Water Quantity and Quality: Challenges related to the availability and quality of water further exacerbate farmers' struggles, particularly in regions prone to water scarcity.

Technology Fatigue: The agricultural sector grapples with the stagnation of technological advancements, hindering productivity and innovation.

Access to Institutional Credit: Farmers face hurdles in accessing timely and adequate institutional credit, limiting their ability to invest in agricultural activities.

Marketing Opportunities: The absence of assured and lucrative marketing avenues deprives farmers of fair returns on their produce.

Adverse Meteorological Factors: Natural calamities and unpredictable weather patterns compound the challenges faced by farmers.


Addressing these issues necessitates ensuring farmers' assured access and control over fundamental resources, including land, water, bioresources, credit and insurance, technology and knowledge management, and markets. To facilitate comprehensive policy interventions, the NCF recommends the insertion of "Agriculture" into the Concurrent List of the Constitution.

Land Reforms

Land reforms are imperative to rectify disparities in land ownership and access, which have significant implications for agricultural productivity and livelihoods. 

The distribution of land holdings highlights the stark inequalities in land ownership:-

Landless: 11.24% of households.

Sub-margin holdings (0.01 0.99 acres): 40.11% of households, owning 3.80% of land.

Marginal holdings (1.00 2.49 acres): 20.52% of households, owning 13.13% of land.

Small holdings (2.50 4.99 acres): 13.42% of households, owning 18.59% of land.

Medium holdings (5 14.99 acres): 12.09% of households, owning 37.81% of land.

Large holdings (15 acres + above): 2.62% of households, owning 26.67% of land.


  • To address these disparities, the NCF recommends measures such as distributing ceiling-surplus and waste lands, preventing the diversion of prime agricultural land and forests for non-agricultural purposes, and safeguarding grazing rights and seasonal access to forests for marginalised communities. 
  • Furthermore, it advocates for the establishment of a National Land Use Advisory Service to integrate ecological, meteorological, and marketing factors into land use decisions. 
  • Additionally, the NCF suggests implementing a mechanism to regulate the sale of agricultural land, considering factors such as land quantity, proposed use, and buyer category. 
  • These recommendations aim to promote equitable land distribution and sustainable agricultural practices, thereby alleviating agrarian distress and fostering rural development.

    • Irrigation

    Irrigation plays a pivotal role in Indian agriculture, particularly considering that rainfed agriculture contributes significantly to the gross cropped area and total agricultural output. 

    To address the challenges and harness the potential of irrigation effectively, the NCF recommends:-

    • Reforms for Equitable Water Access: Introducing comprehensive reforms to ensure sustained and equitable access to water for farmers across the country.
    • Rainwater Harvesting and Aquifer Recharge: Making rainwater harvesting and recharge of aquifers mandatory to increase water supply. The launch of the "Million Wells Recharge" program, specifically targeting private wells, is advocated.
    • Increased Investment in Irrigation Infrastructure: Advocating for a substantial increase in investment in the irrigation sector under the 11th Five Year Plan. This investment should be apportioned between large surface water systems, minor irrigation, and new schemes for groundwater recharge to ensure comprehensive coverage.

    • Productivity of Agriculture

    Enhancing agricultural productivity is vital for improving farmers' incomes and ensuring food security. Despite its vast agricultural potential, India lags behind other major crop-producing countries in terms of per unit area productivity. 

    To address this gap, the NCF recommends:- 

    • Increased Public Investment in Agriculture Infrastructure: Advocating for a significant increase in public investment in agriculture-related infrastructure, including irrigation, drainage, land development, water conservation, research, development, and road connectivity. These investments are crucial for modernising agricultural practices and enhancing productivity.
    • Advanced Soil Testing Laboratories: Proposing the establishment of a national network of advanced soil testing laboratories equipped to detect micronutrient deficiencies. This initiative would enable farmers to optimise soil health and nutrient management practices.
    • Promotion of Conservation Farming: Advocating for the promotion of conservation farming practices to improve soil health, water quantity and quality, and biodiversity. Conservation farming techniques help mitigate the adverse effects of conventional farming practices on the environment while enhancing long-term productivity.

    • Credit and Insurance

    Access to timely and adequate credit is essential for small farm families to sustain their agricultural activities. 

    The NCF recommends a series of measures to strengthen credit and insurance mechanisms, including:

    • Expansion of Formal Credit System: Expanding the outreach of the formal credit system to reach the most vulnerable and financially disadvantaged farmers.
    • Reduction of Interest Rates: Urging for a reduction in the rate of interest for crop loans to 4% simple, with government support, to alleviate the financial burden on farmers.
    • Debt Recovery Moratorium and Interest Waiver: Calling for a moratorium on debt recovery, including loans from non-institutional sources, and waiver of interest on loans in distress hotspots and during calamities until farmers' capability is restored.
    • Establishment of Agriculture Risk Fund: Proposing the establishment of an Agriculture Risk Fund to provide relief to farmers in the aftermath of successive natural calamities, safeguarding them against financial losses.
    • Kisan Credit Cards for Women Farmers: Recommending the issuance of Kisan Credit Cards to women farmers, with joint pattas as collateral, to facilitate their access to credit facilities.
    • Integrated Credit-Cum-Crop-Livestock-Human Health Insurance Package: Advocating for the development of an integrated credit-cum-crop-livestock-human health insurance package to provide comprehensive financial protection to farmers against various risks.
    • Expansion of Crop Insurance Cover: Calling for the expansion of crop insurance cover to encompass the entire country and all crops, with reduced premiums. Additionally, the creation of a Rural Insurance Development Fund is suggested to support the development of rural insurance initiatives.
    • Promotion of Sustainable Livelihoods: Promoting sustainable livelihoods for the poor through improvements in financial services, infrastructure, investments in human development, agriculture, and business development services. Strengthening institutional development services, such as forming and empowering producer organisations like self-help groups and water user associations, is crucial for fostering inclusive rural development.

    • Food Security

    Ensuring food security remains a critical challenge for India, especially considering the persistent issues of hunger and malnutrition. 

    The National Commission on Farmers (NCF) recommends the following measures:-

    • Universal Public Distribution System (PDS): Implementing a universal PDS to ensure equitable access to food for all citizens. The NCF estimates that the subsidy required for this would be manageable, constituting only one percent of the Gross Domestic Product.
    • Reorganisation of Nutrition Support Programs: Reorganising the delivery of nutrition support programs on a life-cycle basis with the involvement of Panchayats and local bodies to ensure effective implementation and coverage.
    • Elimination of Micronutrient Deficiency: Addressing hidden hunger caused by micronutrient deficiencies through an integrated food fortification approach to enhance the nutritional quality of diets.
    • Promotion of Community Food and Water Banks: Encouraging the establishment of Community Food and Water Banks operated by Women Self-Help Groups (SHGs) to ensure food and water security at the grassroots level.
    • Support for Small and Marginal Farmers: Providing assistance to small and marginal farmers to enhance the productivity, quality, and profitability of farm enterprises. Additionally, organising a Rural Non-Farm Livelihood Initiative to diversify income sources.
    • Formulation of National Food Guarantee Act: Formulating a National Food Guarantee Act to continue the beneficial aspects of Food for Work and Employment Guarantee programs, thereby stimulating demand for food grains and fostering agricultural progress.

    • Prevention of Farmers' Suicides

    The alarming rise in farmer suicides necessitates urgent intervention. 

    The NCF proposes a comprehensive set of measures to address this issue:-

    • Health Insurance and Healthcare Revitalization: Providing affordable health insurance and revitalizing primary healthcare centers, extending the National Rural Health Mission to suicide hotspot locations on a priority basis.
    • Establishment of State-level Farmers' Commission: Setting up State-level Farmers' Commissions with representation from farmers to ensure a responsive government approach to farmers' issues.
    • Restructuring of Microfinance Policies: Restructuring microfinance policies to serve as Livelihood Finance, offering credit coupled with support services in technology, management, and markets.
    • Comprehensive Crop Insurance: Extending crop insurance coverage to cover all crops at the village level, ensuring adequate protection for farmers against crop failures.
    • Social Security Measures: Introducing social security measures, including provisions for old age support and health insurance, to safeguard farmers' well-being.
    • Promotion of Sustainable Agricultural Practices: Promoting aquifer recharge and rainwater conservation, decentralising water use planning, and providing quality seeds and inputs at affordable costs to enhance agricultural resilience.
    • Market Interventions and Price Stabilization: Implementing focused Market Intervention Schemes (MIS) for critical crops and establishing a Price Stabilization Fund to shield farmers from price fluctuations.
    • Public Awareness Campaigns: Conducting public awareness campaigns to identify early signs of suicidal behavior and provide timely support.

    • Competitiveness of Farmers

    Enhancing the competitiveness of farmers, particularly those with small land holdings, is vital for sustainable agricultural development. 

    The NCF proposes the following measures:-

    • Promotion of Farmers' Organisations: Encouraging the formation of commodity-based farmers' organisations to leverage institutional support and facilitate direct farmer-consumer linkage.
    • Improvement in Minimum Support Price (MSP) Implementation: Strengthening the implementation of MSP, ensuring fair prices for various crops, and including nutritious cereals like millets permanently in the PDS.
    • Access to Market Information: Providing access to market information through electronic networks and platforms like the Multi Commodity Exchange (MCX) and the National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX).
    • Reform of Agriculture Marketing Laws: Reforming State Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee Acts (APMC Acts) to promote grading, branding, packaging, and the development of domestic and international markets for local produce, thereby creating a more competitive agricultural market.

    • Employment

    India is undergoing a gradual shift in its workforce composition, with a decreasing percentage engaged in agriculture over the years. However, agriculture still remains the primary source of employment in rural areas. 

    To address employment challenges and enhance the quality of jobs, the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) suggests the following measures:

    • Accelerating Economic Growth: Prioritising policies that accelerate economic growth, which in turn creates more productive employment opportunities across various sectors.
    • Focus on Labor-Intensive Sectors: Emphasising on labour-intensive sectors to induce faster growth, thereby generating more employment opportunities. This includes sectors like trade, restaurants and hotels, transport, construction, repairs, and certain services.
    • Labour Market Reforms: Improving the functioning of labour markets through necessary modifications without compromising core labour standards, ensuring fair and equitable employment practices.
    • Promotion of Non-Farm Employment: Encouraging the development of non-farm employment opportunities by identifying sectors and sub-sectors experiencing growing demand for products and services. These include trade, hospitality, transportation, construction, repair services, and certain other service sectors.
    • Income Parity for Farmers: Striving to ensure that the "net take-home income" of farmers is comparable to that of civil servants, reflecting the significance of agricultural livelihoods and addressing income disparities.

    •  Bioresources

    Bioresources play a crucial role in ensuring nutrition and livelihood security for rural communities in India. 

    The NCF recommends the following measures to safeguard and optimise the utilisation of bioresources:-

    • Preservation of Traditional Access Rights: Upholding traditional rights of access to biodiversity, including non-timber forest products like medicinal plants, gums, resins, oil-yielding plants, and beneficial microorganisms. This ensures the sustainable utilisation of bioresources by local communities.
    • Conservation and Enhancement of Crops and Livestock: Investing in the conservation, enhancement, and improvement of crops, farm animals, and fish stocks through breeding programs. This promotes biodiversity conservation while enhancing agricultural productivity.
    • Community-Based Breed Conservation: Encouraging community-based breed conservation initiatives, wherein conservation efforts are integrated with the utilisation of indigenous breeds. This approach fosters sustainable management practices and promotes local breed diversity.
    • Facilitating Breed Exchange: Facilitating the export of indigenous breeds and the import of suitable breeds to enhance the productivity of nondescript animals. This promotes genetic diversity and supports efforts to improve livestock productivity.


    The National Commission on Farmers, led by Prof. M. S. Swaminathan, has provided a comprehensive analysis of the challenges faced by Indian farmers and has offered a set of holistic recommendations aimed at addressing these issues. From the root causes of farmer distress to the urgent need for policy reforms in various domains such as land ownership, irrigation, credit and insurance, food security, and market competitiveness, the report offers a roadmap for fostering sustainable agricultural development and improving the livelihoods of farmers across the country. By emphasising the importance of equitable access to resources, social security entitlements, and the promotion of sustainable agricultural practices, the report underscores the imperative of implementing a comprehensive national policy to alleviate farmer distress and ensure the long-term viability of Indian agriculture.

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