What the next stage in agricultural growth should be!
The PM needs to do much more than keeping himself busy with Delhi affairs or visiting the RBI headquarters for old time sake and also simply harping on the subject of the rate of economic growth, fiscal management etc. A Prime Minister has much more to do. The political sensitivity of the Central Government must take note of the restlessness and violence-prone pockets, farmer’s issues is only one such point. There is a huge rural tension, the heavy debt burden of the farm sector and the much more important issues of raising the rate of growth of the agri sector itself to desired levels.The Indo-US agri co-operation (see below) is shrouded in secrecy and no one seems to know what the agri growth strategy is to bring about the evergreen revolution!
All we know is that the ICAR chief had spoken about the “second wave of the Green Revolution and hybrid cultures are essential for its success” From what he has said it looks new techniques in agricultural production and to improve productivity we need to use “self-reliance in critical components of biotechnology. So, the Indo-US co-operation in agri sector would, one imagines, draw from the US agri-biotechnology resouces, right? Mr.Rai, the ICAR chief, had specifically spoken about “appropriate biotechnologies”. What are they?
Crops specific to pest resistence, high tolerance to drought and salinity etc. “By 2020, India may have to produce 50 per cent additional food grains to meet our needs. This will demand the production of an additional 5 -6 million tonnes of food grains per annum”. Hybrid rice is one essential need and China had immense use of it. The RBI or the Nabard or the PSBs have come out with any clear agri credit strategy except what we hear from the Finance Minister’s oft-repeated credit target. Neither the FM or the PM or others like the agri minister have bothered to find out about why, inspite of such promises, the farmers suicides continue?
Has the Prime Minister or Sonia Gandhi had ever spoken or expressed concern about the farmers’ suicicides? To this day? No!
So, the message is loud and clear. The farmers’ suicides or the farm sector decline bothers these leaders. May be they know well that in case of any food deficit, they can now ask for their US benefactors, right?
The PM or his Planning Commission deputy are no strangers to farm crisis. Their own home state of Punjab is the very symptom of the all pervasive crisis. We are sure that both, as economic experts and others in Delhi establishment must be regular readers of their weekly diet of the Economic and Political Weekly. That carries almost regularly such articles; we mean the agrarian crisis and its multi-dimensions. The Planning Commission DY has spoken now about his ideas of solving the agri growth strategy. In his, rather urban-centered, ivory tower-like solutions, Mr.Ahluwalia acknowledges the farm sector development as key to growth. He is addressing the Asia Society’s 16th A Corporate Conference. What is this new animal! May be it an American version of the forthcoming Indo-US agri deal?
Anyway, Mr.Ahluwalai’s solutions are to bring in the private sector in agriculture. Aren’t the Indian farmers the biggest private sector? May be he doesn’t bother about what the Indian farmers are already doing about diversifying their agri sector activities. He seem not to have any use for the indigenous initiatives, including the agri technologies or the deployment or tentative steps taken by the states to deploy the IT tools in faster dissemination of latest agri and market information? So, he invites the big corporates, Indian as well as the American MNCs, to do the job. So, there is widespread concern about what the MNC/Americanisation of agri marketing, crop diversification programmes, induction of post-harvest technologies and food processing.
Indian agriculture needs the following immediately:
1. Heavy farm debt write-offs.
2. More agri subsidies in the medium term, if not in the foreseeable future.
3. Clear-cut agri credit packaages, special agri bank to working co-operative credit system.
4. Credit at 6 per cent
5. Crop insurance and a social security with farmers’ health and old age insurance.
These are the areas indicated by the big bureaucrat as the areas of concern for the government. When every other sector is changing fast and getting noticed by the government, we are seeing a pathetic case of the UPA going about its business in a faction-ridden manner.
The PM must come out with some bold initiatives like inter-linking of the inter-state rivers, solving the river water disputes, deployment of IT tools in good governance, reduce corruption in government depts. etc. More FDIs in select food processing sector, and in some high value crops diversification, food parks, biotech parks may be welcome, with due safeguards to national sovereignty and security.