We need to further remove the many controls on the agri sector
Unless we become an open economy, there is not much chance for agri diversification!

Indian agriculture is “not satisfactory’, says Sharad Pawar the agriculture minister. Why this state of affairs had come about? The minister of course can’t open his mouth! He might lose his job! Yes, that is how a realistic assessment of the state of agriculture, our food security concerns and much of the assumptions we make about Indian agriculture. Today Indian agriculture is in a stagnant phase. How many persons in high positions had already talked about?

The Prime Minister had done his bit. As for the ground level reality we have to seek for answers to the poor state of our agriculture elsewhere. India had a bad history of poverty and endemic famines for long periods in its history. That is why there is always fear in the Indian psyche about the threat of famines or famine conditions. Whenever there is news about farmer’s suicides there is some scare. Soon after the National Development Council created a committee to study agriculture’s problems the agri minister constituted several groups. Of the 11 Chief Ministers who are members of the committee only two-Maharashtra Chief Minister, Vilasrao Deshmukh and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik-turned up! Others were busy elsewhere! This shows the political importance of the agriculture sector!

So, without even the state Chief Ministers participating what sort of agri policy or agri development initiatives can be taken?

Even in otherwise advanced states like TN or Kerala agriculture is simply neglected. In TN the agri sector constitutes only 20 per cent of the GDP, the lowest for the country. Kerala presents a paradox in the sense there is wide dependence on the agri sector and related sectors, given Kerala’s peculiar geography, the coastal length giving fisheries for instance a big role in the lives of the poor, not much innovative new agro ventures can be introduced. In TN too there is the very old style bureaucracy holding over the rest of the agri sector. The immense scope for agri diversification, horticulture development and processing industries can be developed only if the private sector is properly encouraged.

The Dravidian parties, like the other chauvinistic parties like Shivsena and even the BJP, had not idea of a modern economy and what the development imperatives are. So, there is still a great deal of ignorance about some of the basic features of our economy and society. Is India a welfare state? Is India a capitalist state? Such blunt questions will throw the politicians into a spin! They in fact don’t know for sure! Even if they have some clue they will be afraid to say openly what to say in public! Why? Because we have been talking in terms of narrow politics and narrow economic policies. Dr.Manmohan Singh can’t answer these questions! He will be worried what the public reaction would be! The BJP of course won’t open its mouth. Because it doesn’t know. The Left would simply go underground! They are yet to come out of their doubts whether IT is essential service or not! At best, they will be evasive!

In a recent column in the New York Times(that is reproduced in all Indian newspapers)Thomas Friedman, the famous author of the famous book, The Flat World(that had also sold so widely in India)he had said that India had abolished poverty in the last 20 years thanks to the IT revolution that is sweeping India. Now, in the latest column he writes from China that China is a capitalist country. “Not only is China not a Communist country anymore, but it may also now be the world’s most capitalist country in terms of raw energy” China he says ends effectively the European socialist ideas of 35 hours week etc.

This means that for us in India, for the Left and for the UPA pretenders there is a new wakeup call. We Indians are still pretending to run a welfare state while we run a bureaucratic state. We are pretending to run a public sector-driven state while we are desperately seeking FDI which is not forthcoming. Our politicians had cheated our people by pretending to be what they are not: our politicians, our economists don’t speak the hard truth.

Every big country, more so China is trying to grow fast in economic terms. So, their policies are clear. In India we seem to be very concerned about reducing poverty without encouraging the wealth creating entrepreneurs, be it IT or agro entrepreneurs.

India needs more and more open capitalist model of policies where the energies of the talented and the bold are released. Agriculture can’t grow in an isolated way. Only when the total economic sector is released from so many controls, agriculture would get the thrusts into diversification.

– V.ISVARMURTI

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