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.

The Abhijit Banerjee trio winning this years’ Nobel Prize for economics gives hope

From the multiple challenges that the children face today! And India faces these multiple challenges with this year’s UNICEF report’s dire warning to India in particular. The children under five are the most affected in the world and India doesn’t stand out as a shining example. What has gone wrong with our policy making and policy implementation? These are questions that should hit our collective conscience.

Educators! Wake up! Speak out! Anybody who matters have spoken out? No! The Global Hunger Index reveals India in a pretty low status. At 20.8 % this is the highest ratio in the whole of the world. There is acute malnutrition in India and this needs urgent attention.

Children’s education is perhaps the most difficult of all challenges before this government. Malnutrition is a subject for experts in health, nutrition, education and a multiple of fields. Over the last four years India has slipped nine ranks, to 102 out of 117 nations. Who were in charge of these departments? Any enquires were made?

Media is now cowed down. So, no one dares to question the persons in charge. Now, there are many important related issues in children’s well-being, from health to nutrition to the very quality of education. We also read the other day the new illness, the mental health of youngsters. It is suggested that we need to appoint mental counsellers and also attend to the overall education and cultural needs of children who are now all driven by exam results and also more tuition and less teaching in the old-fashioned ways.

Also, there are now new ills. Corruption and tax raids! One school in one small city, not even city, a town with a school had multiple locations where it has operations in impersonating candidates and getting converted government quota seats for medical colleges into management quotas and there by sealing the quota seats for the highest bidders,.

There are other issues like out of school children. Has any government spoken of the out of school children? How the RTI ACT is working? Has the Compulsory 25% admission to neighbourhood schools working? And in the state of mass lynching, namely UP, we have the spectra of malnutrition in six of the ten districts with the highest rates stunted in UP alone. So, we have to also think of children left as orphans whose parents were subjected to lynching! So, society and policy is changing and we have disinterested or disobedient bureaucrats sitting in chairs from which they don’t budge. So, there is a summary sacking of secretaries!

So, education is no more a noble profession, it is sheer business activity and you don’t think of any humanitarian virtues in your education services! However, the stunted children, the orphaned children of the mob lynched victims are faces and pictures that would haunt the civilized sections of society and we, the helpless public might have to wait for the day when final relief would be forth coming! The children of such affected go through indescribable trauma and the faces and the pictures in daily newspapers and TV visuals continue to haunt us, the public and hopefully the policy makers as well!

An appeal to younger generation of politicians!

What are the lessons from the Maharashtra-Haryana by elections?
Many lessons!

One is the lacklustre show of the BJP party Two: the lacklustre outcome of the campaign. Yes, The Congress and the NCP have gained some lustier in denting the aggressive campaign of the top two stars of the BJP. The Congress couldn’t send out even the mother -son duo, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi didn’t show much enthusiasm or time to go about election yatras or what else they could have done alternatively.

Sharad Pawar

The very aggressive campaign and the theme, Nationalism, abrogation of Article 370 in J&K didn’t make an impact. The media commented that he voters were more concerned with the bread and butter issues.

This assessment seems to be true. In Maharashtra the NCP did make a sort of comeback. In Satara, the Shivaji Maharaj’s descendant went on to face defeat in the face of the war cry given by Sharad Pawar when he received the ED summons and the Maratha pride seems to have come to the fore and the Raja Bhonsle met with defeat.

So, the Maratha people have their own innate pride and legacy from their glorious history! Hats off to them! Yes, the younger Thackeray has come for the first time into electoral fray and very likely he might play a great role.
Let us wish him well. After all, age matters in politics and the Maratha people have also not forgotten their history. In Haryana, the Jats have also changed their tune this time. Congress won seats beyond their imagination and the fact that a hung Assembly is a reality that the BJP for the first time has to go out and solicit help from a young leader, the Devilal legacy, Dusyanth Chautala! He is surprisingly well schooled, an alumnus of Lawrence School ,Sanaar, an elite school, very refreshing for a new India in the making!

Only such well-established historic public schools, in our view ,is the only future hope for murky politics we have to endure today. We take this opportunity to say more on this aspect of the very illiterate type of politics in the name of democracy. Yes, we are the world’s biggest democracy, large population, strategic geo politics and what is worrying, the state of the Indian polity is not so enlightening, so much of poverty, illiteracy and poor health profiles, we have the world’ largest number of impoverish nutritious profile of the children and peoples.

So, democracy in India has meant also the highest corruption index, we also lately learnt to fudge statistics, also our electoral political standards are deplorable. So, we need youngsters like Chautala who is public school educated, public schools are historically expected to produce leaders of society and polity.
So, we send the explosive message that Indian democracy needs to instill great many values, corruption free and idealistic government and governance standards. We hope the younger Chautala would bring his good education and training to the service of the country’s very many woes.

So, we wish the Chautala scion to play a great role and not caught in the culture-less and a sort of undemocratic and unethical practices that have entered into the present day polity.

Also, people now would have learnt to compare the younger generation politicians in all political parties and luckily there are too many youngsters in so many other parties. So, young leaders in many parties, in particular, the Congress and Samajwadi party and much more interesting is the concept of dynasty.

Somehow dynasty politics has become a dirty word and there are heavy responsibilities for the so-called debate “Old vs young or “GenNext vs the Old Guard. We also take this opportunity that we always identify the young with some idealistic streak and this is natural.

So, we like to draw attention of the current on-going debate on Ideology and Nationalism. Young politicians in India must study the history of politics and the evolution of democracy, from Greece to our own times.

Ideology is a very key word. Ideology gives a rational account of what is politics based on principles. These principles go back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

The British education is grounded on these philosophies. Unfortunately, Indian education is based on MaCaulay’s clerical English language education!
So, we say that the current generation of young politicians must study some basic principles of politics and see to it, the current fall in corruption, arbitrary power and a streak of fascism and much else have led to deterioration of values in Indian politics.

Let us hope, the younger generation of Indian political heirs keep in mind the heavy burden they would inherit from the present fallen standards of Indian politics. So, the current election results would also lend some sanity and a moderate public behavior of average Indian politicians!

Reflections on the Nobel Literature Prize Day!

This one line that stuck up in mind and echoed the whole day when the Nobel Prize for Literature was announced from Stockholm, Sweden. These were the words born in “deep pain” from a survivor of the Serb Massacre in Yugoslavia. Why the pain? The other winner for 2019 Peter Handke, an Austrian writer who shamelessly supported the massacre, the genocide, hence the universal outrage.


Peter Handke

There was already controversy over the way the Swedish Academy was managed, this year’s selection of the Austrian author was also much criticized for his support of the Serb massacre in the Yugoslavian civil war in which mass murders were committed. So much brutality happened and so much indifference and disinterest of people, intellectuals, writers and artists was seen. These are the people who should have risen up and protested and yet we see the very reverse! Where is the world going?

Yes, the decision of the Nobel Committee was very inexplicable and very disturbing. That must explain the current crisis the world over – so much cynicism, indifference, fall of values and leadership. Yet there seems to be hope. We see new voices and protests are brewing all over, in Hong Kong and elsewhere, in other countries. There are renewed wars in the Middle East and uncertainties all over.

The 16-year old Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate campaigner who spoke with vehemence and anger at the UN that the world leaders who assembled at the UN were slapped, as if on their faces! She pointedly asked, more than once: “How dare you?”.Her anger and demeanour was such that world leaders, among them Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin responded gallantly! Hats off to their gentlemanliness!

The point here is that the world over it is sheer selfishness and greed and a patch of sheer ignorance and inability for men and leaders to rise up to their inner potential and outward behaviour.

Against Profit and Greed!

In education and culture, there is a definite decline and fall of values. Martha Nussbaum, the great philosopher, who is also known in India, who was for long with the Chicago University, has written a book called “Not for Profit”. The very title provokes one to recall the counterpart: Profit Greed! In India this distinction must be crystal clear! India is now embarked on a journey of seeking profit and greed in every segment of endeavour! Education has become totally commercial and profit-driven. The so-called educators and now much elevated in society and politics!

Who are these educators, you know? They are as varied as gentlemen and crooks can be! In some states, why, it must now will be in all states that every undesirable person has entered the field of education, from milkmen to policemen to underhand dealers, politicians of all kinds! The commerce of education has taken deep roots and the society and public life gets corrupted beyond repair, it seems. University education is now mass education and all sorts of corruption can be seen in the sector.

There is so much corruption in the private and government colleges and university degrees are secured without attending classes. Everyday new revelations of corruption are coming in the open. Now, the latest to make headlines is impersonation in the competitive exams so that the one who can cleverly write and pass the test gets rewarded and the one who gains is the one who didn’t sit for the test at all.

The son-father duo is now inside jail! The education promoters are of various kinds, with the most successful among them are now into all gainful pursuits, many have also entered politics. One has become so successful that one is a PCC chief and also Deputy Chief Minister! How much greed a man can have!

In the USA too this choice of sciences and engineering is growing while the humanities are looked down. But of course times change and things could change for the better. Recently, in India we saw a few young IAS officials resigned their jobs very soon after they joined the much coveted offfices like district collectors. Why?

The young officials with so much youthful idealism see very soon how politics has deteriorated. The uneducated and unscrupulous politicians pressurize young men and women and they decide to leave these prestigious careers! So, the political party functionary commands the officials, be he or she, district collector or other high officials at the command of illiterate political functionaries decide to go!

So, education is now at the cross roads. Education, ethics, idealism and much else is at a discount. No wonder, the Nobel Committee found itself helpless but go for the candidates who don’t win approval but only revulsion. Let us all give deep thought how to find a new Rousseau!