EDITORIAL: Pension to farmers

The pension scheme could help amend the present predicament when agriculture is not getting the attention that it deserves

The Ministry of Agriculture Development (M0AD) is all set to introduce a contributory pension scheme for farmers from this fiscal.

A guideline for such is being prepared to implement the ‘pension for farmers’ programme. Incidentally, this had been announced by Prime Minister Puspha Kamal Dahal in his recent address to the Parliament.

A study shows that the government would be able to implement such a pension scheme and is feasible. The plan envisages that the government develop a ‘Pension Fund’ to which the farmers would be contributing money that is valued at one per cent of the total annual production.

This would be calculated in monetary value. It is suggested that the government

provide the premium amount differently for farm laborers and deprived farmers, smallholder farmers, middle-income farmers and commercial farmers. Funds from banks and financial institutions could be provided at an interest rate that is not less than six per cent within a year.

The farmers are obliged to make certain contributions to the pension scheme. They could be made in 12 installments or every month as premium.

To participate in the scheme the farmers would be required to submit attested copies of their citizenship certificates or a land ownership certificate.

Documents showing that the applicants are landless could be produced so that they too can take part in the pension fund scheme. Those farmers who have been involved in the farming sector for 20 years would be given the entire pension amount at once as per the recommendations made by the Classification Recommendation Committee.

Those involved in farming for five years would be able to get equivalent to the amount that they would collect in their pension fund over 10 months which would constitute their own deposit, government’s contribution and also interest.

Those engaged in agriculture for 10 years would be eligible to acquire the amount collected in 30 months while those who engage in farming for 15 years would be provided the amount collected in 50 months.

The pension scheme could go a long way to enhance the quality of life of the farmers. Nepal being largely dependent on farming as an agricultural country the proposed pension scheme would benefit the farmers.

The pension scheme allows for increasing their size and then to return the fund as pension to the farmers. A criteria has been set to classify the farmers with more incentives being provided to the smaller farmers.

For this scheme to work it is clear that there should be more homework to be done to achieve its goal. Since this is a scheme that is reaching the grassroots level the poorest of the poor farmers stand to benefit with added earnings.

Meanwhile, as agricultural is the mainstay of the country it is a matter of concern that less importance has been given to agriculture these days with many youths opting to go abroad in search of work as migrant workers.

Thus, the pension scheme could help amend the present predicament when agriculture is not getting the attention that it deserves.

The government is also thinking about providing the farmers with gratuity which ought to be welcomed and is an added bonus.

It’s too much

There is no clear rule regarding the bus fare to be charged by bus operators in rural roads. It varies from district to district.

The district bus operators who have created a syndicate system determine how much to charge for a kilometer distance traveled. But what is happening is that it is the rural population which pay more fare on rural roads than those in urban areas.

With a view to ending this confusion the District Administration Office, Rasuwa has recommended the Department of Transport Management Office (DoTMO) seeking temporary permission to charge Rs. 7 per kilometer distance traveled.

This is too much. This decision was taken at a meeting presided over by Rasuwa CDO Krishna Prasad Adhikari. The CDO should have consulted the local users’ groups and also solicited suggestions from transport experts before taking such a decision.

The proposed bus fare will break the back of the rural people who will have to pay more than what the urban ones do while travelling the same distance.

Even after the bus fare is hiked the bus operators will not add more buses to the designated routes, nor will they improve the quality of their services.