WRONGED FARM POL­ICY

The Hitavada - - THEOPINIONPAGE - By VI­JAY PHANSHIKAR

THESE two in­ci­dents need to be con­sid­ered in all se­ri­ous­ness, be­yond any po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tion or af­flic­tion. The na­tion or its peo­ple or the Gov­ern­ment can only ill-af­ford to ig­nore the im­port of these two episodes that ac­tu­ally bare the over­all fail­ure of In­dia’s farm pol­icy in the past seventy-plus years, no mat­ter the po­lit­i­cal claims of its suc­cess.

Let us make no mis­take in plac­ing the blame at the doorstep of the present Gov­ern­ment led by Prime Minister Mr. Naren­dra Modi. Let us try to un­der­stand the failed dy­nam­ics of In­dia’s ap­proach to agri­cul­ture over decades. Let us not try to make a po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal out of these in­ci­dents whose pro­tag­o­nists have noth­ing to do with pol­i­tics. Let us, there­fore, make an hon­est and apo­lit­i­cal ef­fort to un­der­stand the var­i­ous fac­tors that have af­fected our agri­cul­ture and pushed it into a per­pet­ual cri­sis mode.

The most un­for­tu­nate re­al­ity is that even as In­dia won In­de­pen­dence in 1947, the peo­ple at the helm found them­selves trapped in a con­fused ide­o­log­i­cal bind. On one hand, they wanted to pro­mote in­dus­try -- from small to medium to large scale to heavy -in a com­bi­na­tion of pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tor en­ter­prises. On the other hand, they wanted to treat agri­cul­ture sec­tor as back­ward and push it to what they thought were mod­ern ideas. The re­sult was that the en­tire econ­omy suf­fered badly, and more so the agri­cul­ture sec­tor. In­dia’s vil­lages fell be­hind the cities in the de­vel­op­men­tal march and an agrar­ian cri­sis loomed large al­most the next day.

Var­i­ous ideas came up to help the ru­ral sec­tor and the re­sul­tant mess led to fur­ther de­te­ri­o­ra­tion of agri­cul­ture of­fer­ing a fine blend of farm­ing and ru­ral in­dus­try tra­di­tion­ally. Var­i­ous mar­ket­ing schemes for farm pro­duce, var­i­ous mo­nop­oly pur­chase ideas, var­i­ous loan waivers also came in the past seventy-plus years, but to lit­tle avail.

Mean­while, gen­uine na­tion­wide ag­i­ta­tions of farm­ers, too, came up bring­ing to fore the real is­sues the farm sec­tor faced. Most un­for­tu­nately, the Gov­ern­ment, no mat­ter its po­lit­i­cal lean­ing, con­tin­ued to of­fer only piece­meal treat­ment to agri­cul­ture. The two in­ci­dents quoted ear­lier and a few more of those are only small but telling in­di­ca­tors of what has gone wrong to In­dian agri­cul­ture -- be­yond pol­i­tics, be­yond ideologies.

These in­ci­dents show how farm­ing is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly un­gain­ful par­tic­u­larly to medium, small and mar­ginal farm­ers. Most un­for­tu­nately, cor­po­rate farm­ing and cap­i­tal­ist ap­proach to agri­cul­ture now dom­i­nate the scene, leav­ing only pit­tance for the in­di­vid­ual farm­ers. The ob­vi­ous ef­fort is that the cor­po­rate con­trollers of agri­cul­ture want to ren­der small farm­ing use­less, so much so that the farm­ers would want to sell off their lands and seek some other means of liveli­hood. On many oc­ca­sions, the small and mar­ginal farm­ers are known to be­come farm labour­ers on their own farms un­der cor­po­rate control.

This is pa­thetic, to say the least. By re­sort­ing to mas­sive in­dul­gence in cor­po­rate farm­ing, In­dia’s GDP (Gross Do­mes­tic Prod­uct) may rise, but the coun­try’s Gross Hap­pi­ness Quo­tient (GHQ) will sink since in­di­vid­ual farm­ers will re­main un­happy and al­most eter­nally poor. The two in­ci­dents point to that ugly re­al­ity.

Doubt­less, the na­tion has more money to­day, but many pock­ets of the pop­u­la­tion still live a poor life of want. This sit­u­a­tion will not change for the bet­ter if the Gov­ern­ment does not take a deep look at the over­all agri­cul­tural sce­nario and in­tro­duce ma­jor and core pol­icy changes so that in­di­vid­ual farmer gets bet­ter RoI (Re­turn on In­vest­ment) and finds farm­ing gen­uinely gain­ful.

The ques­tion is: Is the Gov­ern­ment -- be­long­ing to any po­lit­i­cal colour - will­ing to make ba­sic pol­icy al­ter­ations to ac­com­mo­date the wel­fare of in­di­vid­ual farm­ers? Will it be will­ing to bring in sharp fo­cus the farm­re­lated is­sues for early solutions?

These ques­tions may ap­pear sim­ple, but are ac­tu­ally very com­pli­cated, thanks to the wrong pol­icy frame­work In­dia adopted about agri­cul­ture seventy-plus years ago in the name of so­cial­ism. No­body re­alised that it was a wrong brand of so­cial­ism. It is time now to tell our­selves ex­actly that and en­deav­our hon­est rec­ti­fi­ca­tion. MUMBAI, Dec 3 (PTI): Driven to de­spair by be­ing of­fered a mea­gre 20 paise per kilo­gram for his brin­jal pro­duc­tion, a farmer in Ma­ha­rash­tra de­stroyed the en­tire plan­ta­tion on his land to save him­self from in­cur­ring fur­ther losses. Ra­jen­dra Bawake, from Sakuri vil­lage in Ra­hata tehsil of Ahmed­na­gar dis­trict, claimed he earned only Rs. 65,000 af­ter in­vest­ing Rs. 2 lakh and putting in all his en­ergy to cul­ti­vate the brin­jal crop. ...“I had planted brin­jal on two acres of land and laid pipes for drip ir­ri­ga­tion. I used fer­tilis­ers, pes­ti­cides and mod­ern mulching tech­niques to en­hance the pro­duc­tion. The to­tal in­vest­ment came to around Rs. 2 lakh. In re­turn, I earned only Rs. 65,000,” Bawake told PTI on Mon­day. The cul­ti­va­tor said he now owes dues worth over Rs. 35,000 to fer­tilis­ers and pes­ti­cides sup­plier. “I don’t know how I am go­ing to raise that money,” he rued. NASHIK, Dec 4 (IANS): In an un­usual form of protest, a Ma­ha­rash­tra farmer do­nated a pal­try sum earned from sell­ing his onion crop at a huge loss to the Prime Minister’s Re­lief Fund, of­fi­cials said here on Tues­day. San­jay Sathe had taken a trac­tor­load of around 750 kg onion to the Niphad Agri­cul­ture Pro­duce Mar­ket Com­mit­tee whole­sale mar­ket last week and was shocked to get just Rs 1.41/kg, or Rs 1,064 for 7.5 quin­tals . ... Piqued ... Sathe de­cided to reg­is­ter his griev­ance by do­nat­ing the en­tire amount on­line to the PMRF, for which he shelled out an ad­di­tional Rs 54 as the money trans­fer fee.

Let us make no mis­take in plac­ing the blame at the doorstep of the present Gov­ern­ment led by Prime Minister Mr. Naren­dra Modi. Let us try to un­der­stand the failed dy­nam­ics of In­dia’s ap­proach to agri­cul­ture over decades . ... Let us, make an hon­est and apo­lit­i­cal ef­fort to un­der­stand the fac­tors that have af­fected our agri­cul­ture and pushed into a per­pet­ual cri­sis mode.

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