Old institutions should go! New collaborations must come in.
Elections over and we can sit easy on the farm front?

Agriculture is never a high priority in India given the sort of priority politicians and media give to this topic.

Neither the public are too much bothered about what is happening in agriculture inside India and also in other parts of the world. There are severe food crisis in at least some 10 countries around the world, do you know? In the war-torn Sudan, Ethiopia and countries around the Congo and even Nigeria there are food shortages and also in Afghanistan.

The FAO and the World Food Programme, the two principal agencies have out reports and there is concern in some other countries too. Of course, there is much poverty and malnutrition and we have some of the most poignant pictures and people, the migrants on the Mexico US border and the people’s lives over a vast stretch of farms across the world are caught in perennial drought and a loss-making agricultural scenario.

There are also many on-going high profile trade disputes between China and the USA and the many promises and high sounding words of assurance and also the most vociferous counter voices from the powerful American farm lobbies. For each set of commodities, from soybean to pork, from cherries to apples to other fruits there are powerful lobbies and for all of them President Trump seems not a reassuring voice. Trump talks big built achieve little, grumbles the lobbyists who all talk in such silence and don’t want to be quoted!

Why this fear we don’t know. May be China’s farm lobby is too much and very unnerving to the US negotiators. Indian farm exports too come in for much criticism though Trump seems to be soft towards the country.

We are seeking tariff concessions to such commodities like Aluminium and steel. The irony is that while inside India we don’t talk much about agriculture, we are also one of the large agricultural economies where the writings, in the media and on the part of so called experts is one of trailing the ‘official’ statistics and also avoiding any critical remarks for fear of the government!

See the narration of the many reforms in the agri sector. We have a long list of reforms introduced by the Modi government. We can make a short list of them. One, the much talked out is the National Agricultural Market, eNam. This is of course a great step towards regulating the long-suffered price fluctuations in the markets spread all over the country with a great deal of regional variations and specific peculiarities.

May be, this reform would contribute to the real time sales, the deployment of technology to monitor the markets. The single electronic portal can do wonders if only we implement the proposals.

Let us hope so and welcome this revolutionary feature of the agri market reforms. So far, we learn that 585 mandis across 16 states and 2 Union Territories are registered on the portal. The total volume of trade this year up to February 28, 2019 was 2.2 lakh million tonnes with a value of Rs.604.72 crores. This move was to cover the whole country but as we learn that all mistakes haven’t been registered or have amended the APMC Acts to be able to join eNAM. It is also inaccessible to small and marginal farmers who make up 86 per cent of the India’s farming population. There is still not any mechanism to assess the working of the eNAM machinery.

Two, soil health Cards. So far there are a few criticisms about the very effective but the media, the mainstream media and the TV channels don’t care to do any assessment of the ground level realities. We have enough experience in a region like Vidharba where you have all the signs and ills of how the drought plays havoc with the average lives of the small farmers.

Also, we have to shed the urban media mindset that of quoting the incumbent bureaucrats sitting in the comforts of the Krishi Bhavan who are only too happy to give a rosy picture of things in Indian agriculture!

Three: The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Suinchayee Yojana. Only the budget is announced, Rs.50,000 for five years. How to assess such shaky schemes. We have only to wait! Four minimum supports price. Gramin Agricultural Market, GrAM.

Only the name is new. Otherwise we, as a media engaged in agriculture and village economy choose to remain sceptic and wait for results to speak. There are many serious issues that are high priority for the Indian farmers. In Vidharba for example, farmers have no alternative to cotton that becomes a killer crop often, the largest number of farmers’ suicides take place in the cotton crop region, prices are so fluctuating that continues for very long. Soyabeans too have become a risky crop.

So, the researchers, the agri scientists and also the agri universities like the Punjab Rao Agri University at Akola must come out with alternative cops for the drought region-specific needs.

There seems to be nothing coming out of the Indian agri universities, more new commercial – scale new agri colleges are springing up USA for self-financing money making ventures. This the government must ban! Why, even long-distance agri degree awarding colleges are also coming up.

These are all new malpractices to vitiate purposeful education and research. In fact, some sort of sandwich type of course with field work and theory must be a new initiative.

We must be seen with bureaucrats and ministers often talking to farmers lobbies and giving the farmers community a sense of belonging to the farmer’s societies.

Unfortunately, not much that is hopeful and productive seem to be happening in the agri sector.

We also have to wind up old institutions that are for instance there in good number in Hyderabad and also in other states. They must all be wound up. New institutions, new collaborations with agri universities in Israel and Netherlands could revolutionise farming practise in India.

What are the progresses and achievements?

The years 2014 to 2019 have been a radical time when the BJP party swept through the Indian political landscape as a tsunami and changed everything in the sense that for the first time since Independence an entirely new political party other than the Congress won elections and got an absolute majority.

The new government came with an entirely new set of promises. In education it tried to change for a new ideology. The Hindutva ideology wanted a new vision of India. Fair enough. But it was not in tune with the modern times. It called for rewriting of Indian history. What came out of its grand promise? Yes, after all it was a grand promise indeed. Even under the Congress regime, under the leadership of K.M.Munshi, under the Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan auspices, a similar project was launched and we got a series of volumes that are rated even now, in my opinion, high in the scholarly circles.

Rewriting history is not a new thing or a negative thing either. Many countries have done that sort of job. We, the founders of this journal also tried to obtain some such books in the early 1960s, in the school founded with a novel name at that time (when the new-fangled International schools were unheard of) we at our own International School in a remote village in South India, obtained school text books published by the then UNESCO organisation that was faced with such problems in some of the new countries in the Middle East, having new borders and new ethnic people, borders and even in languages and geographies and more so in the then Palestinian-Israel disputes and (incidentally, when India was very much active in its Non-Aligned Movement under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and V.K.Krishna Menon period) and we were even then excited by such revolutionary new approaches in using text books).

Today, the very societies are changed and so too the very pursuit of education. So much better for such positive and radical changes and the aspirational generation too is looking for a different education pursuits and also the aspirations for a highly mobile society, when the new generation youngsters too see a bright future when they migrate or so they think and imagine a new globalisation world.

Anyway, now with the BJP is well positioned, this we write just as the election results are coming in and even otherwise, when we can sit back and take stock of the new changes in our education ideas and policies, what comes to our minds? As for the rewriting of history is concerned, nothing concrete has come to our attention so far. The challenge of rewriting history is one thing. The other thing is what really happened under the previous education ministers? We all know what was the sort of controversies were under the minister Smriti Irani. The less said the better, right?

Under her successor too, it is our view that nothing much had happened to take note of any major policy changes. The MoS Satyapal Singh made some hilarious observations about the Darwin theory of evolution! Also, another controversial move was to accord status of eminent institute for the Reliance Group sponsored Jio University! This too, may be along with other institutes didn’t take? Or, did these institutes take off ? We are not sure. Much more disgusting is the fact that the Reliance offer came with some eminent retired bureaucrats coming together to plead for the particular company. Of course, there is no point in taking a negative view of the other many initiatives like the framing of Education Policies.

You see any Tom, Dick and Harry can’t draw up such highly important and why even sensitive issues like drawing up educational and cultural policies. These jobs are the domain of the experts. We should at least know that when we realise our limitations only we might desist from such foolish steps. So, there has not yet been any fully comprehensive new education policy with the BJP government.

Let us hope the new government might take a very serious view of where we really failed. It is better to realise where we slipped and then only we can learn. Of course there have been some other good moves on the part of the HRD ministry. What stands out is the great quantitative expansion of the school numbers, the students population, the number of schools and also the new number of universities, Central Universities in particular.

Universities have suffered gravely. In place have come some of the most suspect replacements, the self-financing universities. This development, we are duty-bound to warn the new government would only drag the Indian university education to a further new low! Please, we plead, invite the best brains, from within the country or
from abroad to come and advise Indian higher education. There are such people.
We ourselves could suggest names to the government. What we need is really selfless goodness of the Indian people. Let us serve the opportunity without further loss of time. Promise of raising the budget allocation for education have not
succeeded. The reasons are complex. But we must attend to the aspiring generation urgently. Sincerely, with an open mind. Amen!

Mounting threat of money in education business!

Private sector enters with a vengeance. Who doesn’t know that the Indian education sector is undergoing a radical transformation, for good or bad? From the very start from LKG to primary and secondary education, why, even afterwards and perhaps with much more vengeance the entry into any collegiate education there is stiff competition all the way. The education sector is becoming highly commercial and the trend is to encourage and push it that way. No day passes, why no moment passes when you see ads everywhere, on the TV screens and on the pages of all news items, even full scale ads on admissions to some specialized courses like aeronautical engineering course. The ads say- don’t go for such courses to other countries, you can have it here itself. We saw from our own neighborhood in the village an ad such as this one! In fact, once a sleepy, a very poor and undeveloped village is now surrounded with three engineering colleges and one ayurvedic centre etc. and we get more workers for the farmers as the women now enjoy the choices of the 100 days work or assistants at the nearby ayurvedic treatment location!

We can’t of course share too much of the mysteries of self-financing colleges and there are any number of ways to get a degree certificate from a university stamp! So, the bad side of the story is that these days you have any number of degree holders! One person having a number of M.As and other degrees and certificates are earning multiple degrees. The other day we saw a full-page supplement of private engineering
college with their founder’s photos holding forth on the benefits of getting a degree from one of their colleges. It was found later it was a marketing feature! So, you are faced with the mounting threat of money. Education is fast becoming a flourishing business.

The government is still in the vast field of education the dominant player; the government schools are still imparting education to millions of children. The poor are no more denied of an education opportunity. Yet, the emerging threat is from the creative innovators in education and they have been milking the innocent or the weak to get insecure in the face of the billions of dollar funds and other players in specialized exam-based for which alone the older war horses in the private sector now concentrate.

Who can reform or reconstruct the education sector?

It looks that an unconcerned government if delays reforms of the fast deteriorating sector, very soon might completely give way to the private sector. More private universities might enter where there is a vast potential. Our concern is that at least the private sector takes over and makes India, namely, the Indian universities a destination for foreign students. Now, even China has emerged as a destination for foreign students. So instead, Indian students can save the costs and mental agony of not searching for high cost US, UK, Canadian Universities. Let them at least enter into the very quality Indian private sector universities for quality degrees. But even here we need the government to wake up to the market realities and try to draw up some wise policies and regulate the education sector. Without a regulatory framework you can’t ensure a reliable quality in education. There are so many problems multiplying for lack of action on the government front. So, don’t create a sense of insecurity and even panic (now there is a sort of mild panic given the middle class considerations for educating their kids and youngsters).

There is already a sort of panic in discussing the various EMIs etc. So, let us not make education sector a sick one, creating so many conflicts. The present status of the Universities is giving worry, considering the various low quality activities, from selecting the VCs to the various academic staff to other ills. We request the public to ponder over our concerns and let us create a process of dialogue and discussion.

One more distressing development is the very commercialization of education, the very pressure to get into fancy schools, be it pre-school, LKG to prestigious secondary school, IIT etc. the irrational pressure built on the children and parents. Parents too fall victim to this materialistic over-ambition. Please don’t put pressure on the kids to perform; the 5-10 year olds and even beyond. Please also tech them mother tongue, music and arts. The Central government, the HRD ministry must fix high-power educationist to frame a policy to reduce stress on children in this so-called competitive society.

Let more people, politicians and experts and thinkers debate and discuss!
As elections near, farmers are getting forgotten!
Farmers as vote-banks are a different category of people!
From being debtors and litigants farmers become pampered for short periods!

agriYou see in a democratic country like India where periodic elections every five years and in many recent instances States Assembly
elections too intervene ,as for instance the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu would also see elections to 21 Assembly seats  and that makes for further complications. In India at any  rate, periodic elections mean a great deal of diversion of attention, elections mean for voters a time to earn some money. The so-called freebies include more ready-cash, plus lots of other goods including food packets, free travel to the polling booths and also other perks for all of which this time the Election Commission has  fixed prices and the candidates have to give account of his or her expenses.
So, the vote-banks get consolidated and farmers make up a sizeable commodity and vote banks!  So, agriculture in India is getting transformed every now and then and  it all depends who speaks about farmers and where one is placed when you hear his or her sermons on farmers!
Now, more attention is grabbed by spokespersons on TV news channels and given the fact of India having an estimated 400 TV news
channels, there are enough spokespersons for the agri sector and related rural distress we have enough attention-grabbing power for
this sector.

What is the current priority in agriculture?

Obviously, farm loan waivers! The subject gets priority attention and when such leaders like Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks the whole nation listens. More so the prime time TV grabs much attention and diversion too!
What is the progress for instance in one such new farm schemes introduced by the Prime Minister with much fanfare?
We mean the PM-Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana(PMKSNY)?

I think it was introduced in few states, in particular in Gujarat and in  few other states. One of the current issues in policy making be it employment, jobs and other schemes, we don’t seem to have enough data. Why even it is alleged that much of three NSS surveys-were leaked after they were approved by the National Statistical Commission  and two highly rated autonomous body’s experts chose to resign half way. Unusually those who know how the government departments work these days, it is very unusual and even bold to see such highly rated experts chose to leave the autonomous body. So, what was alleged and what was suspected for long that the government is not doing an honest job and instead of taking the public into confidence, the government has done the opposite. It is now widely alleged and also believed that the unemployment rate in India is at a 45 year high!
How to believe the government’s many claims, critics ask.

There are many such schemes too, like for instance the Budget announced Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Mandham which promised for the unorganised sector workers  a direct income transfer. As far as Indian agri sector is concerned we have a very peculiar official mindset.

We have never for the past five years  had seen or heard what the Minister for Agriculture has in mind .Neither he had spoken nor had his deputies in the ministry shown their faces. It was not even often some small time bureaucrat had said some brief messages.

We do not know even now at the time of electioneering any major policy pronouncements. There is an all Indian insurance company, you know?
Anybody knows what is its work so far?  No, none at all?

How the agricultural insurance, the crop insurance scheme or schemes have performed?

It is the  absence of data, now one of the biggest scams, or scam-level allegations are flaying thick and fast that are dulling the minds and even the interest of those interested and involved in the farming programmes.  Let us know that agriculture is now a world-wide concern, food has to be produced, foods have to be distributed all over the world, there are still countries in the South American geography and also in North Korea where there is a food shortage and the governments are scurrying for help. And fortunately, the very international community, the world bodies, like the UN,FAO and the WTO are all heavily committed to improving agriculture and the food production.

Unfortunately in India agri sector is marked by farmer’s suicides. This is one back spot in the Indian government’s agriculture policy making.
Unfortunately, the humanist tragedy of hard working farmers committing suicides is very  superficially dealt with and in this one area both the ruling party and the Opposition parties are equally guilty of heartlessness and sheer utter insensitivity.
Then comes the average Indian farmer’s profile.

He is more often uneducated, poor and owning one of even less acre of land as agricultural property and also the landless labour, often
doubling as tenant farmer and also landless and we are all planning agri polices on the basis of this utterly unviable livelihood  economics!
We need an utterly new agriculture vision document, we have to face the brutal realities. We have to relax the many of the antiquated land legislation laws. Relax the tenancy security law that neigh urges the tenant to pay rent and cultivate or leave the land so that the market forces
determine the viability of farming based on somewhat market forces.

Now, the litigation legacy is also old as the British colonial administration. Sciences have to play a decisive role. New seeds, biotech
applications, the world is now flooded with 80 percent of GM crops. New generation farm families are abandoning farming, urbanisation is
helping many poverty-ridden families to migrate to towns. This is welcome and inevitable.
Already Indian agriculture where 80 percent of land is rain-fed, so too in the outside world. Let us turn food shortages into food surpluses.

This is the only larger perspective in new have to plan our agricultural strategy.

Is there time to think of agriculture and farmers?
Yes, much has been talked about farmers, their own tales of woe and tonnes of promises to help them etc.
Rahul Gandhi has promised the moon, all farmers’ loans he promises to wipe out!

indexAs for the BJP, the Prime Minister has vowed to protect farmers, he is the chowkidar and the country is safe in his hands. As we said this is election time and you can believe or disbelieve as you want.

But one thing is fundamental. Agriculture is to stay here and agriculture would matter who is in power or out of power. Agriculture and food production are intertwined.  Only when there is enough food in the country the country is safe. Once food shortages arise then everything goes wrong.

Unfortunately, there is a series of issues, drought, climate change; uncertain rains and water crisis, from drinking water to water for irrigation are all coming increasingly to our day to day deliberation’s we write, this is world water day!

And remember the place of agriculture is now at the very centre stage of international attention. Agriculture is first and foremost and international topic, on agriculture production, export and trade international diplomacy revolves!

So, the current issues of agriculture have a long history. For a change we can discuss the history of agriculture and the world population is also bringing agriculture to our attention. World population is 9 billion; this would be in about the next few years, by 2050, hardly one generation. An estimate says that in 2013, it was 2,700 calories for each of the 7 billion people on the earth and  by 2050 2,000 calories per head is adequate for survival.

Even as we write there are food shortages in South America and also in North Korea.

There are already many international agencies, from UN to FAO and other bodies to reach out the hungry and ill-fed. However, there are road blocks, trade barriers, US and China are at almost war over trade issues and we don’t know how the equitable distribution of food would contribute to world peace and human contentment.

There are also many trade blocs, European bloc being the world’s most important food importer and with the British exit, there could be many more rules change. Poverty is still there developing countries and India, now a reasonably self-sufficient country in food requirements but scenarios can change drastically.

Unfortunately, Indian farmers are more neglected and more exploited and there is an unbridgeable divide between the urban and rural peoples’ welfare and security.  The Indian farmer is a big tragic figure, he is either a debtor or a litigant. He is the most insecure citizen and he is being pampered by the politicians for the simple reason in India fifty percent of the population is still dependent upon farming as a source of employment.

And the divide between rural India and the urban India is widening and no adequate answer, less a grand vision for India’s future agriculture is in sight. We need more and more powerful farm lobbies, as we have in the USA and UK. A powerful agriculture lobby is critical and only then we can get the farming community to get the needed subsidies and protection as enjoyed in advanced countries.

Our farmers lobbies must travel abroad, more and more to advanced agriculture economies and see how the agri subsidies work there. May be our government too is coming round to see new policies needed. Like basic universal incomes, a sort of minimum social security.

Unfortunately, there is now a type of mindset on the part of policy makers to take Indian farmers indolence as passivity. Change must be invoked in every farmers mind and farmer’s power has to be reused.

We need good and committed farmers leader and election time is the right time to pressure the politicians. There is a range of farm issues, from developed countries like USA and UK where big farms survives, in the USA 80% of farm output comes from 10% of the big farms, whereas, as in India, why even in the most backward Maasai pastrolists in Tanzania where small farmers believe they want to inherit the farms from their parents and they in turn want to hand over the farms to their successors. So too in certain manner in India too the farmers’ future depends upon how tradition and history would govern the farmers families and their inheritance.

Farm sizes is another big issues. In India, the British rule and their ryotwari system of ownership and also the creation of Zamindari, from the Mughal times’s mansabdari system and Taluqdars, there is a strong tradition of feudalism. This you can wipe out even in one generation.

That is one more reason why litigation, the pending of court cases relating to land is so persistent. Also the fact you can’t have equal land size however much you strengthen the land reform laws, land tenancy laws.

There would be one or two big land owners in every village in India. The rest would be small farmers. Can you distribute the agricultural land as in a collective, Soviet  style farming system?

These issues have to be debated openly. Indian agriculture doesn’t have a strong media space. Vadamalai Media would continue to fight for an open society, liberal economic and social policies.