Is the government in the listening mode?

Or, is it seized of its own superiority of knowledge in this most critical sector? Farming scenario is changing for the good. Yet, the farm sector needs a  serious look from the farmer’s points of view.
Government should regulate banks and finance institutions to give funds to promote innovative commercially viable farming ventures by farmers and the younger generation agro entrepreneurs. Central Government must think afresh. The State governments too must come out with new set of agri financing corporations.

New private-public partnership initiatives from within the Indian farm sector is preferable than going for large market-driven big corporates, Indian and the MNCs in the agri sector.  It is nice to see V.P.Singh and Ajit Singh leading a farmer’s agitation in New Delhi. But are these leader’s efforts worth the trouble? Yes, we need a farmers’s lobby to agitate and bring farmers’s issues always to the attention of the government of the day.

It was also nice to see the Bharatiya Kisan Union chief Mahendra Singh Tikait leading the show. Farmers need higher minimum prices, India has to look after its foodgrains economy, and importing wheat now, after seven years is a national shame. We share the sentiments expressed in the rally.

There are so many things to say against the present government in Delhi. It is patently insensitive to the farm sector issues. The PM and the ministers don’t seem to have an idea of what is going on in the farm sector. There is a huge crisis developing, the farmers’ suicides apart, there is the huge debt burden in the farm sector. Unless, the government comes out with a suitable basic farm policy that will get the farm sector off from its heavy debt burden, there can’t be any sustained turn around in this critical sector.

The Prime Minister doesn’t seem to have the strength to look at agriculture in a fresh manner. The Finance Minister seems not interested except to have some cosmetic exercise by way of higher farm credit. This doesn’t work in the existing conditions. The Finance Minister, we suspect knows the ground realities;  he has not the stomach to do anything that might antagonise banking industry or industry captains. This government talks as if the opening of the economy, more and more market-driven forces might set right things. It won’t!

First, the FM must know that so many of the PSU banks don’t show interest in lending to farm modernisation programmes. In our years of experience in this field, we find bankers ask too many questions for any new agro ventures, questions bankers themselves don’t know much, yet the mindset is such as to discourage innovative and new areas of investments in a range of agri processing ventures. The many state-level finance institutions, including the ones promoted once by the state governments, including the state finance corporations and some agri finance corporations have all fallen on bady days. So, we need to identify some PSU banks as specialised agri funding agencies. Create a risk fund for new and innovative agri projects. Give income tax exemptions to agri promoting agencies, consultancies for 10 years so that there would be more scientists and technologists and management experts to take to these specific areas.

Why food parks don’t take off? Simply because we don’t have enough human resources, skilled, specialised hands in promoting agro entrepreneurships. Reliance and Bharti telecom might enter into agro ventures.Let them.But the vast majority of private enterprises in agro sector must come from within the farming community of new generation, educated farming families. What specialised programme this government has for such agri modernisation? None! This is a great pity. Much more serious is the need for a total rethink about what our farm sector will be like in the next few decades. Farming is becoming unviable progressively is what the government and the policy makers and other experts must recognise and also speak out. There is a refusal to see the rural realities. Farm holdings are becoming fragmented and also there is now the new reversal of fortunes in the countryside. The market economy that we have fostered has done some positive good too in the villages. Small farmers are selling off their small holdings and moving away to the urban areas. So, instead of the old land ceiling laws, we have an unspoken accumulation of land in the hands of a new class of land buyers, the urban businessmen, the black money generators and others.

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