The Union Minister for Human Resources has informed the Rajya Sabha that the department has received more than two lakh suggestions on the proposed New Education Policy (NEP) and the same are being examined. The Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal has also stated that the Ministry has also consulted all the state education ministers, besides secretaries and experts are being consulted before the final draft is released for public debate. Fine.

Ramesh Pokhriyal

But then we have to pause for a moment and look back how long the NEP is being talked about. The first term of the current dispensation also announced such a policy. Why then no final draft even now; after a year or so of the new term of the government, there is still the consultation going on. One wonders what is holding up. We at the journal are engaged in education discussions and debates for a long time.

We also take this occasion once again to reiterate our stand that education is a dynamic process and it is always evolving the very process of imparting education to a wide variety of people whatever they think their education needs are. There was a time when the governments decided what good education is for and how to bring in new segments of people, the poor and disadvantaged sections brought into education process. Now, there is a radical change.

Everywhere there is awakening. The poor and the middle class, the educated families, the first generation families all want not only good education but also the very poor want to educate their children in English medium. As a result, we see in many states, in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, mother tongue medium schools are turned into English medium schools.

How these sorts of new problems turn out, we can’t say at this point of time. But now, the new government also has some ideological issues like changing the curriculum, what to prescribe and what to delete. The Hindutva ideology is what is currently holding up some topics like what to delete from Indian history and what to add in the new version. So, what is holding up is not lack of expertise in education goals and processes but how to change the radical aspect of a Hindutva ideology.

So, a government in power has to take all segments of public opinion. Also, we like to say that education is a serious business. All want good education. There are issues in public and private schools. Already the new, very expensive and exclusive private schools are coming up as commercially viable enterprises. Why, even the very education is converted into commercial, profit-making businesses.

From professional college like engineering and medical colleges to universities, big money is proving to be a menace to any law-abiding education activities. If you start reforming the current education scene you will find yourself into deep trouble.

All successful education entrepreneurs are also successful politicians. So, corruption in education is the big threat to any sane mind. So, from bureaucrats drawing up policy now not many are interested in education policy making. So, we take our own views here as a public policy. Our goals in education should be first to create a good quality education so that foreign students come to India, not Indian students migrate to foreign shores with lots of money wasted in foreign campuses.

Also, never bureaucrats can draw education policies. Education and culture are very critical and only creative people, intellectuals, artistes and others outside the bureaucratic circuit; this circuit is highly entrenched in the New Delhi Lutyen’s zone! So, an education minister must travel around and seek out talents in academia and social services, in NGOs and other areas of new
endeavours. Also, invite some foreign experts. Of course foreign experts can’t give a country its ethos. It is for us, from within us that a new and evolving dynamic process of self-realization can come to people and the country.

More Indian students still go abroad for higher education
When will the foreign students come to India for education?

How are our freedoms and creative energies threatened? Our universities, seniors and intellectuals are failing the common man.

As I type these lines, I see on the TV screen, scenes of protest by JNU students in Delhi and the police lathi charge in which so many students were wounded and following which the police filed FIRs and there is still a continuing protest and various stake holders taking positions. All are not of course talking objectively, the scenario is highly polarized and it is not clear how the students’ agitation would wind through. Distantly in the far away Hong Kong a much more serious agitation by the citizens had taken to street for a very longer time and there too the agitation for democracy had taken a very highly controversial political and ideological colour.

The Chinese government has just now replaced the long-serving police chief with a new incumbent. Of course the two students’ protests are not in any way comparable and yet, being student protests they impinge upon your imagination in different ways.

Back in Delhi there is one more visual scenario that is about the functioning of our democracy. The two Houses of Parliament, the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabah met on the same day after a long break. The Parliamentary scenes are not better. There were absent chambers this time in a much more accentuated manner and the empty seats and the empty promises as one commentator put it is much more disturbing.

Where is our democracy? Is it functioning? If so in what manner? It was a debate on the much sensitive pollution issue and when the debate on this is highly priority issue, there hon’ble MPs, more so those from the capital, Delhi, were absent. Why even the previous day when the panel of MPs were called to discuss the highly poisonous issue the hon’ble MPs were mostly absent! So too other issues.

A country must have some sense of peace and relaxation and there must be a sense of free atmosphere so that people can have a sense of freedoms and a sense of spiritual comfort and security. What about the other sectors? Unemployment scenario. The education and job creation policies. Who are doing what? No way to find out.

As for youngsters, there are much deeper issues. We need a very enlightened education policy, why even such frontier areas like IT and technology and innovation policies are in doldrums.

The Chennai-based US Consul General notes with certain pride and complacency that Indian students still travel to the USA for their higher education, he cites a 2.9% jump in the number this year as a proof.

While it is also a fact that this year the number has dropped from the previous year. In the USA an unprecedented 10 lakh foreign students are there for education. Why this trend? When do we, as Indians would like to see this trend reversed. May be, next, China might see a rush of foreign students. There the Universities are getting higher ranks in quality. But is there any hope that this would happen in the near future?

Very unlikely. Given the state of universities in recent times, we have to have a brave heart to imagine so. See, where is the education minister? The Governors who are the chancellors of state universities?

The routine norms of appointing, why even searching for talents are bedeviled by so much corruption and poor selection of talents, and the absence of real academic talents on the platforms of convocation addresses, some obscure officials grace the stages everywhere! Degrees are handed out as if it is a mechanical event. All so artificial!

This is no education, please! This is a sort of politics of knowledge! The less said the better! Please let us learn to respect real talents. Politics is not everything. It doesn’t justify power as such, all the time. Real talents would reach the point where there is honesty, humility and integrity. May be it would take some more time.

So, education, let us take very seriously. Let the elders show the path. If you stick to power, chairs for 25-30 years, be it Rajya Sabha or other posts that draw much of the retired officials, then there will be revolts and much else, as in our current education agitations! Let us hope we learn to live like a great nation.

When do we care for farmers, if at all?

When Sharad Pawar goes to meet the PM?

Yes, it looks so. The other day when the government formation in Maharashtra was at its most hectic pace, Sharad Pawar the senior most old Congress leader, now the chief of the much depleted Nationalist Congress party (NCP), was at his wiliest best, said observers and the whole day was engrossing as one step after another Mr.Pawar holding his cards close to his chest and kept everyone of the stakeholders, namely, the ShivSena, The Congress and the NCP in very tense suspense. What did Pawar do? That day at the very end of the Rajya Sabha debate for the day he called on the Prime Minister in his Parliamentary office. The Prime Minister is no less competent and the two of the most experienced leaders chose to meet at noon!
Everyone was in anticipation as to the outcome of the top two leaders of the country.

Mr.Pawar, soon after coming out of the meeting just told the waiting newsmen that he ‘called on the PM to present the case of the farmers of Maharashtra who were greatly affected by the floods and sought help’!
Is that all he talked when the whole country was waiting to see whether Mr.Pawar could play one or two tricks with his government formation tactics? Yes, this is politics at its cruelest best!

You see farmers are the least subjects for politicians in India and it doesn’t absolve Pawar also from this charge. Much more heart-rending was the scene or scenes for the TV channels often repeat the display of some scenes and this time, on the very same day, at the very same moment, the TV screens also flashed another scene, this time, a group of farmers, exactly 29 of them in UP districts adjoining the Haryana border, all handcuffed and drawn by chains and they were walked about to the police station and they gave a picture of much disgust and agony for the viewers!

Yes, this is all about farmers and Indian agriculture you can see and understand the real India. Prior to the event, a day or two before there was again a TV screen scene, this time it is about the number of MPs invited to attend a panel on pollution in Delhi and out of the 27 or so of the MPs invited only two or three were in attendance!

The TV screens again displayed the absentee MPs and all were quite prominent, a glamorous actress and a noted all-India-known editor and a media celebrity and many of the ones who were ruling party MPs and heavyweights. So, the MPs are busy otherwise when the Delhi air choked the inhabitants, MPs are otherwise busy and also when the poor and distraught farmers, all poor and almost illiterate and they might not have known why they had been caught and walked to the nearby police station, very likely, the police personnel themselves might not have known why they were doing this criminal act.

The poor farmers were charged for stubble burning in their paddy fields. For the city dwellers stubble burning is a nuisance. As consumers city dwellers only want quality rice, fresh vegetables, cheap onions and tomatoes only. How they come on to the table is nobody’s concern! Life goes on otherwise for Delhiites. Where the high and mighty all reside wish the pollution goes away by magic!

So, this is all about agriculture for you! Pollution?

Schools are shut and parents are helpless and the common man doesn’t care and the uncommon ones, the Prime Minister and the chief ministers don’t speak out and it is in a cynical way, only good time for the TV crews, at least they can cry and should and engage the pedestrians for an evening chat!
Life goes on and the routine of senior and junior ministers also goes on. Some minor ironies too creep in and that only adds to the tone of our existence as citizens of a great democracy.

So, now, for the rest of the time ahead we are likely to live with the continuing pollution issue and as things stand it is very unlikely that Mr.Kejriwal is really to do something that would give some relief from this pollution menace. May be we might take our pencil and notebook and write all the cities names and the level of pollution, the PMc levels and that could be a new source of new knowledge!

It looks unlikely that the Prime Minister would at least one day would talk about an issue like pollution and how we are going to tackle this menace.
So, when it comes to other issues like the economy, of course we have at least a few experts who might give us their wisdom as to how we can tackle the economic issues. The other day we read a column in The Hindu by Dr.Manmohan Singh and given his expertise and experience in this sphere, he has given us his wisdom, there is a sense of malafide unless proven otherwise and there is great deal of distrust, fear and helplessness and entrepreneurs are afraid to take risks and invest etc..

But then, as we say, bell the cat?

Daily news are very discouraging, telecoms are in heavy debts, so too the nearly one crore thousand in banks’ bad loans and the government is privatising the PSUs; though the biggest white elephants, the national carrier, AIR INDIA is still bleeding. How to create trust and confidence?

You see, in our opinion, issues like trust and confidence is indivisible and they come in a lot. Unless you create confidence and trust in the minds of citizens, from the top to the bottom, from rich and the poor, the most educated and the near illiterates, public opinion, as you can see is indivisible and there is a moment and time when the whole of the people, let us take the electorate at the time of elections, then the vote goes for or against the incumbent governments.

To simplify the issues and or in sweeps, then only the power-hungry or the otherwise arbitrary power-oriented minds seem some reason and reach some reconciliation with the realities of the world.

Agriculture, farmers and those living in the far-ff or remote regions are the least likely to be stakeholders as things stand today.

Otherwise, it is a narrow segment, most likely urban areas of the country that might debate and decide whether farmers can be chained and handcuffed and we can see one more flip on the TV screens!

Indian agriculture’s much strength and many weaknesses!
How far India has deployed agriculture sectors a political tool of trade and diplomacy?

Indian agriculture matters in today’s world. India is now the world’s number one rice exporter. This has not been widely known. This must be made known widely. Now, the Indian domestic producers of commodities like dairy and plantation products including coffee, tea, rubber, pepper and arecanut are worried of the proposed RCEP deal, the Indian rice trade is keen to see that the cereal is included as part of the deal so that Indian rice trade becomes a powerful tool in making further inroads into the Indian rice as a political and powerful trade factor. INDIAN FARMERS MUST BE EDUCATED IN THE CURRENT FARMING AND TRADE ecosystem.

The present despondency, yes, it is a despondency of what we could call the worst kind of despondency of helplessness and sheer frustration on the part of the entire farming community where they don’t matter whether it is major policy making or any purposeful consultation the real stakeholders, the farmers, don’t seem to matter. Farmers as a community is almost ignored and they feel isolated and left out of any meaningful participation and consultation.

Piyush Goyal

This mutual distrust and real bitterness must go. Otherwise we are only helping to grow the underlying distrust and disengagement with the country’s traditional strength of the Indian economy. India, as we say, is basically a large agricultural power. India would remain a big agricultural power for a long time to come.

Don’t imagine converting like a modern China or for that matter like a new USA. India would remain a traditional agricultural and rural power house. This awareness has to be spread and every initiative must be taken to create a wide awareness among the youth and the educated middle class.

Government-job dependent Indian middle class must be made to become sensitive to this modern world awareness. Agriculture and food production and food supply would become more and more central to world economy and there are many issues that affect India, Asia and Africa where food shortages and hunger are every day reality.

Indian can become world food supplier and this would be a reality for most of the world people. Who matters when one talks of Indian agriculture? Of course farmers come first and what the farmers feel about their sector’s future prospects matter a great deal. But we are now accustomed to see when agriculture comes into a discussion. At least in the recent past, in the last few elections, farmers come to the frontline and every other politician, that is party leaders in particular have brought farmers’ issues to the forefront and made so many promises that are usually broken soon after the very same elections. One prominent promise that is much bandied about is the write-off of farm loans!

As on date one is not sure how many times a state had made this promise and how far these promises had been fulfilled! One can be certain in most cases these promises are not kept and the underlying reason is that the particular state has no resources to wipe off the loans. Yes, even then this farm loan waiver has come to be seen as the lifeline for the government to win votes and form government. And lately, there are many more versions and variations. One is the current buzz to ensure farmers a yearly fixed income as an alternative to farm loan waiver. All this in addition to blatant bribes to voters on the eve of elections!

So, voters and farmers are not quite sure that they would be taken care of in times of elections. Of course no one stops to ask what more for agriculture sector besides these periodical promises. So, one thing can be sure of now. That is, Indian agriculture becomes a priority in times of elections. And of course we can forget that Indian is a democracy, a very large one and there would be periodic elections and agriculture development would be there every time there are elections.

Is this all too Indian agriculture’s priorities?

No, it is not and it can’t be just these periodic election handouts. Indian agriculture unfortunately has been reduced to very low priority and that is one indication why no one leader of any importance doesn’t talk of agriculture! Even the Modi government is no exception to this rule, in spite of the huge wins in the last two general elections.

What is the Modi government’s big announcements?
Doubling farmers incomes remain a promise as yet. We have to see what the chance, if at all is.

There are now many trade talks, between India and USA and also between USA and China on trade deals and agriculture products comes in for much attention. Just now as we write there are trade talks in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the countries in the South East Asian region.

The countries involved are all big agricultural countries, strong in rice production and exports. And India is the biggest rice producer and exporter. Thailand, Vietnam and others. India is sensitive to some of the, why even the most important commodities, like coffee, tea and, rubber, pepper and areca nut and there are also some existing trade agreements and so every country of this region is very careful to renegotiate trade deals that could affect their major commodity trades and could affect the likes of majority of farm people, both labour and producers.

From India, the Commerce Minister, Mr.Piyush Goyal, one of the able ministers in the Modi Cabinet is in charge and from his pronouncements we can be sure the minister could take care of what he calls the “Red line issues”.

Yes, certain concessions can’t be conceded, like say palm oil imports from Malaysia, even tea from Sri Lanka, for any change in the existing tariffs could affect the domestic producers of these commodities.

Can help to revive agriculture! Indian Agriculture cries for action!

The Nobel Prize winning Randomized control trial is one such new tool that could help boost agri production and productivity. Even there are other techs that could help to predict farm prices!

Too many verbal promises and too little action programs! What do we have by way of action in our agriculture? Nothing, practically nothing, we can say. There are of course too much talk and that too superficial talk by all parties, not just the big parties.

Even where one can claim to have some policies as expounded by the Prime Minister they are all too farfetched and might take time and immediate reliefs are not in sight. Of course there is no reason to feel pessimistic, after all agriculture is Indian people’s lifeline for prosperity. India is also a very big agricultural country and economy and in the last many years of hard work we have also achieved some milestones. The Green Revolution is world-wide success story and thanks to past efforts India now exports the most sought after agri commodity, namely, rice and India is a number one rice exporter. Given USA’s dominant role in agriculture, we have to compare our agriculture economy with that of the USA and China and that is one reason why the trade talks, the so-called tariff wars is what gives Indian agriculture the needed push and imparts the dynamism.

So, with all pessimism at the ground level with what such massive number of farmers suicides in the Marathwda region in Maharashtra, we desist from quoting statistics, for avoiding further pessimism and negative mindset, we have to move forward, we have to devise practical programmes of action and also learn to draw fro other’s experiences.

Just now, the Nobel Prizes have been announced and the trio who won the Economics Nobel, luckily, have won on their good work they have done, especially in India, the three have done good work in what is called the Random-Controlled Technology(RTC) and that was a series of testing and experiments at the micro level and their RTC had proved effective in a variety of fields from education spread to raising productivity in crops, including in coffee crop in Karnataka and this sort of applying economic knowledge to the ground level realities is a great promise for even the much maligned “dismal science” of economics!

One immediate thought is to why not invite the Nobel Prize winners to India for an extended consultation and we can take up some select projects like alleviating the circumstances to reduced farmers suicides?

What better hope than this project for India’s perennial drought prone agriculture belts?

Also, we can select some pointed pockets of farm crisis, is it drought-prone or irrigated crops?

Also, there are many other positive examples to borrow. Israel and Netherlands are other examples of countries where agriculture has made tremendous progress. In another interview recently, the Netherlands agriculture counselor Mr.Siebe Schuur, explains how his country very small compared to India, 80 times smaller surface than India, also with a meager population and yet how many of us know and why not the Indian agriculture policy makers never once told us about the success of this great country. Perhaps, Netherlands exports more than what USA exports in select agriculture crops.

Netherlands is known the world over for its net houses, poly houses and glass houses leading to hybrid innovation Dutch high-tech in some of these vegetables and flowers cultivation. Netherlands is world’s number one successful producer. Now the Dutch government and entrepreneurs are trying to create Centres of Excellence in Baramati, for floriculture in Talegaon (both in Maharashtra), also one of Israeli centre in Hosur in Karnataka is already contributing to high value floriculture exports, all these new initiatives must create a solid base for high tech research and innovations in agri crops.
The Dutch counselor in the same interview has pointed out the various arid-zones too would stand to benefit from Netherlands experiences and also more such centres in other parts of India.

The challenge, says the Dutch experts, is to keep everybody in control. Once a centre is set up and starts running and the first successes are visible, the challenge would be to keep everybody committed. So, the Indian government’s ambition to double farm incomes might be possible if we proceed as planned today. So, we can say with some confidence that by 2022, not only farm incomes will double, says the Dutch expert, the farm exports too from India might hopefully double too!

It is such a nice feeling to think of something positive and not get distracted the sort of electoral rhetoric on farmers’ suicides. Though we have to move also faster to tackle the peculiar socio-economic circumstances that drive farmers to desperate measure.

One or two random points. Now, the land tenancy laws are so regressive that most farmers are litigants or debtors to private money lenders. We have to liberate the helpless farmers from prolonged court cases and also relieve them the clutches of greedy lawyers and private money lenders.

One relief would be to wipe of the private money lenders hold on indebted farmers. One more positive thought is the new technologies in farming. The government can set a new dept or create an inside research and development wing in the ICAR for deploying such latest tech like BIG Data to resolve agricultural problems.

The Hyderabad-based Icrisat seems to have suddenly become too ambitious and even audacious! Where in countries (Icrisat is a multi-national research body in arid agriculture) the need for reducing use of pesticides and fertilizers and reducing the gaps in using big Data in exemption services. This use of Big Data would also, say experts, to solve the price the crop would command in the market. CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, the original name for the Icrisat centre, an unit among other units spread across the world seems to have suddenly become relevant with the advent of BIG Data.

It looks that suddenly, the agri sector not only in other countries, but also in India seems to have woken up to new technological apps so that Indian agriculture can’t any more remain immune to the new challenges and opportunities.

This is the time for radical changes and also radical thinking in Indians moribund agriculture system.