The new national policy is too long a statement and short on realistic issues! Agriculture can thrive only in a growing economy! More industrialisation, urbanisation and services sector can only make agriculture market-driven and more efficient!
Who says agriculture can grow only when there is more concentration on agriculture. Yes, it seems ironic that those states that have remained predominantly agricultural, states like Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal have remained poor, in terms of every know economic criteria. Per capita income to education, healthcare and infant mortality etc. Orissa and West Bengal are supposed to be surplus in power generation. But do you know that these states sell power to other more power deficit states and yet these states have 80 per cent of their villages without electricity! Orissa buys electricity at Rs. 1.10 per unit from its generating units and sold it to traders at rates as high as Rs.5.50.West Bengal SEB books a profit of Rs.0.76 crores. This is an illusion. Maharashtra reports a loss of Rs.1638 crores and yet it remains the most industrialised state.
The point is that there are so many contradictions and asymmetry in the economic growth and economic and industrial strength of the state and its average per capita income rising even in the agri sector. The industrial base of any state today has to be on par, there can be competition among the states and there must be comparisons in indices like human development index that gives us an insight into how advanced a state is or how backward it remains by looking into so many of the parameters.
Of course there are states like Punjab and Haryana, both are high agriculture base states and also high income states, there are states like Bihar, UP and MP which are also agriculture states but they have low industry and low infrastructure and therefore their agriculture remains poor.
The M.S.Swaminathan report, the fifth report, as we can see, is rather too long and too wordy, too all-encompassing to lead to any specific target-fixed action or a set of actions. Yes, the report’s key words and slogan-like concepts are all inspiring, but haven’t we heard the same things too often in the past? Even Pawar’s call for a second Green Revolution is very misleading. What is this second Green Revolution? When you run short of everything, water resources, poor ,over-exploited soils, shortage of research, shortage of seeds to other inputs, high costs of all inputs and much more serious, the very unviability of farming as a new occupation in this, after some 40 years of the first Green Revolution, new fast growing economic reforms era?
Swaminathan suggests too many new initiatives in the form of too many new institutions while all the old institutions like small farmers’ agribusiness consortium and oh, too many to list here, are all in the limbo. Can’t we call for some real heart-searching? Can’t such a call be in order? Yes, we seem to be becoming more hypocritical, more cynical when it comes to facing the grim realities!
The farmers suicides won’t stop unless you have the courage to stand up and tell the government face to face: please undertake some massive one -time writeoff of farm debs across the board! This is just right and timely and calls for bold step and bold stand.
Also, the credit business? How long we have waited for the farm credit targets? How the banking sector is taking the Finance Minister for a ride and hide the real priority sector lending? So, what is the alternative? Yes, there are alternatives seen from this distance, from this distance away from the glamour and glitter of rubbing shoulders with the high and mighty! We have to honestly do much soul-searching! Yes, let the assembled ministers of their bosses the state CMs when they meet next ask some questions, hard and harsh and realistic questions!
We have to solve the inter-state rive disputes. The first and foremost priority is to prevent the waste of precious water resources that now drain into the seas thanks to the narrow, selfishness of the state politicians. The Cauvery and Mullaperiyar disputes are a case in point. So, too the other state rivers dispute.
So, in a sort of radical recall, go back to the good old days of the first five-year plan like damming our rivers that overflow, conserve the waters and even build new dams, as in the case of Mullaperiyar dam case and let us conserve and divert waters from our national rivers, even within the states, diver the waters to the much needed dry pockets so that we create conditions for irrigated farming wherever possible.
Second, the much hypocritic land reforms! What is land reforms>Reduce the land ownership or relax and liberalise land ceiling laws? There is a time when we have asked such hard questions. We live in the villages and we know there is a queue to sell the lands by all medium and small farmers!
The rural migration, urbanisation and the new educated youth from the farm families have left large parcels of lands fallow. So, we have to liberalise the land policies. The SEZs and the new industrial demand for vast acres of land have created a new demand supply pattern in land holding. Let the more enterprising farmers buy and invest in new farm businesses.
The share of agriculture in TN economy had drastically fallen to just 13 %.This is inevitable and this can’t be reversed, can it? So, we have to make agriculture profitable in the new economy. So, our farm policy must be just in the opposite direction of what the Swaminathan Commission has suggested! Let us be realistic, let us become more honest in our policy search and devising policy strategies so that agriculture becomes competitive, export oriented. His is way ahead!