Rajya Sabha in an unusual move debated farmers issues for five and half hours. All pointed to bankers and Nabard as guilty parties!

Yes, the Economic Survey claims that the flow of credit to farm sector went up by 40 per cent as againt the govt’s target of 30 per cent. This year another 30 per cent of agri credit promised.
Bankers are clearly not happy. They say not enough farmers/borrowers! As simple as that? Yes! Statistics point to bankers’ claims, credit disbursal (by public sector banks) is higher than the stipulated over -all 40 per cent. It is now 44 per cent of total net bank credit. Sub targets fixed for agriculture and weaker sections is 18 per cent and 10 per cent. Yet, the FM seems to be interested only in fancy talk. 70 per cent of rural poor have no bank account. 8 per cent don’t have access to credit from a formal bank sector. He of course doesnt know the agri sector. So, he had fallen for empty rhetoric and fancy schemes! Unfortunately, agri sector is still bedevilled by many fancy talkers and monopolists of unpractical wisdom!

Now, you cant quarrel with bankers, can you? There are so many forces ranged against farmers. Big farmers also committed suicides! Debt is now driving farmers to desparation! The budget allots funds for fancy schemes. Another, a horticulture mission with Rs.600 crores. Here Mr.Sharad Pawar wishes are granted! Next M.S.Swaminathan, chairman of the farmers commission. He has some pet schemes. One is to create rural knowledge centres in all India’s villages? Yes! Can this be done? Out of the blue? This will be done through the IT and communication tools and involving 80 organisations.

Why suddenly this scheme? AP and Karnataka have been operating the Naidu/Krishna days e-governance projects? Some other States too in various stages of these e-governance projects? The trouble with agri experts, specially with a person of such eminence like Swaminathan is that the grand theories, empty rhetoric always scored over ground level realities! Farmers are deep into debts. The revenue dept can be abolished safely and profitably! The farmers can be liberated overnight!

The village knowledge centres will remains a pipe dream and we say: please stop this scheme and better reallocate the funds for further speeding up the e-governance at the grass roots level. Singapore provides a few thousand services online. Here we are just talking!

The budget proposals on micro finance is really a welcome step. Dr.L.H.Manjunath, the CEO of the Dharmasthala Rural development project, a major NGO, in Karnataka says that NGOs and micro finance institutions be given more help to take care of rural credit needs of farmers and others. The FM seems to have had reservations. He shouldn’t! Why? It is time to entrust some of the proven NGOs in rural development and micro finance institutions to manage the Rs.100 crore Micro Finance Development Fund and this would be raised to Rs.200 crore. Dr.Manjunath says there are not many good NGOs in northern India. So, he says additional support be given for the South-based NGOs to venture into northern States. We endorse this suggestion warmly. Farmers recrods must be simplified through info kioskos by Internet spread in the rural areas. When more farmers join in a contract farming venture in a village or ina group of villages, the chances of the project succeeding are brighter than by individual farmers/borrowers.

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