Has the government any clear vision?
Let the government at least now onwards say clearly that the one common goal before Indian agriculture is to achieve food self sufficiency alone, before any other things are talked about. There has been of late much concern about the poor growth rate in agriculture. This has baffled everybody, the government and the experts.
Once you become dependent upon imported food then you get these uncomfortable situations. India has had a lot of experience in this food import business. That is one reason why so much emphasis is put on the national goal of food self sufficiency. But unfortunately, of late, under the present regime somehow the food situation had got out of control. There is no point in blaming anybody. It doesn’t help matters clarified. On the contrary, it only helps the really guilty to get away. We feel everyone who is claiming to speak for the farmers or food policy strategies must share the blame.
Now, the present dispensation in Delhi itself is not making things anything less complicated by talking out of turn when it comes to articulating an agriculture strategy.
Here we like only to highlight some issues; this is not a comprehensive analysis.
First, there is the populist slogan of “Evergreen Revolution”. This is misnomer, to say the least. This slogan had confused lots of critical issues. There is no such thing as Evergreen Revolution. It is a meaningless concept. It sounds so deceptively appealing. That is all. This also, in our considered view, a serious contradiction. First, the very first Green Revolution itself is now found to be of limited significance, for it led to serious depletion of resources, water tables in Punjab is 90 per cent “black”.
And the conditions of high energy consuming by breed seeds, high yielding seeds plus Virgin soil plus enough water conditions are no more possible. The environment is seriously damaged. So, let us not call for a Second Green Revolution! Third, there is a clear contradiction or a series of contradictions in the present government’s thinking in agri sector revival, to ensure a higher rate of 4 per cent growth from the present less than 2 per cent.
The Prime Minister speaking the other day, not long ago, at the inauguration of the Airtel, Bharti, Mittal-Rothchild agriculture project to export horticulture products from Punjab said: ”Corporates must enter the farming sector. They should play a leading role in ensuring development of horticulture to add value to the Indian agri sector”. Or, words to that effect.
Commenting on the PM’s speech, the well-known commentator and an agri scenario commentator Devendar Sharma said: “The PM has a wrong notion about corporate doing anything in farm sector and that could benefit farmers” He pointed out that first, all the corporate who entered the agri sector (in Punjab?) “ran away” (yes, these are his exact words) and those who entered not one really passed on the benefits to farmers. One, he mentioned not directly, but we know it was Pepsico who entered in 1980s didn’t stick to its original mandate of developing horticulture but went on to produce soft drinks in a big way.
Moreover, Sharma also points out there is nothing great about talking about horticulture crops, for he points out that without any local demand the present production itself is surplus. India is one of the world’s leading producers of fruits and vegetables, there would only a glut and the “produce and perish” syndrome only will operate.
May be Sharma has his facts right.
So, what Sharma says? Rightly he points out that Indian agriculture doesn’t become strong by going in for diversification into horticulture crops. India is basically a rice- wheat food producing country and India’s strengths lie in this sphere. Of course Sharma doesn’t elaborate his solutions. He only criticizes the government.
But we need to have a positive solution to the present confusion. The solution is to realise, first, that what the government’s priority must be to concentrate on raising the production and productivity of paddy and wheat crops. There is no escaping from this reality. There is no easy way out of the present plight in which the country finds itself.
The World Food Programmed (WFP) representative and country director, Ian Pietro Bordignon has pointed out in a recent article in The Guardian that India faces the twin challenge of ensuring food self-sufficiency as well as food security to the poor and the vulnerable. He gives some poignant statistics.
With such clear goals we won’t be talking at cross purposes. Yes, we have to import food now. Let us do. But at the same time please tighten up the extensive wastage through the blatant populist policies like doling out cheap rice at Rs.2 kg, for one and all. We can’t afford such large scale diversion through the black market and smuggling. And let us have some focused policies to ensure solving inter-State water disputes through technical experts. Let us keep politicians out of such what is in fact a technical issue of ensuring stopping the wastage of precious water resources and also ensuring that more dry areas are irrigated.
The PM has a duty cast on him to talk out his mind to the Chief Ministers. The linking of national rivers is also a high priority. The BJP at least promised such a policy. The UPA should at least think of a long -term vision to ensure food self sufficiency and food security.