There are routine disturbing news coming out everyday. What news except farmers committing suicides?
The latest is of course more farmers deaths in AP. In two days, 5 suicides! There is also now farmers suicides from MP, Maharashtra and even from the other Southern States; Karnataka, has of course for notorious insensitivity, Kerala, the more pathetic.
Considering the more advanced development parameters, the plight of farmers in the Southern States, in TN it is water scarcity in the Cauvery delta regions and the peculiar TN politicians penchant for making politics out of the peoples’ misery.
West Bengal, Orissa and Maharashtra tribal belts are a great human tragedy, with deaths by starvation or malnutrition causing children’s plight. Words fail at this enormity of the tragedies. Tragedies man-made? Yes, of course!
Now, Mr.Chidambaram, the FM, had made some routine pronouncements on farm credit. But alas! There is no visible progress in the 100 days the government had been in office.
Now, what are the issues?
Vadamalai has some practical views in this. First, agri credit has to be target-set and funds disbursed by the banks every month. The FM must personally ensure the targets are reached. As it is, this is not so. All the PSU major banks have defaulted in their own set targets.
Second, Vadamalai is working on farmers’ agribusiness projects and we know that banks, PSUs, in particular are quite lethargic, time consuming, it takes days, months before any firm commitment we could get from banks even after we get oral consent and proceed with the projects. Rains come, farmers wait for days without any certainty, banks taken their own time.
This is our experience in many States. The delay pushed the costs up, the Consultants have to make more visits, the experts make more visits, farmers are cashless parties, everyone in the agriprojects stand to lose money. Is this the agribusiness model the FM wants to see his bankers?
RBI is a bureaucratic set up. It is not their cup of tea to see agri credit is given as per government targets. Or is it the RBI responsibility? Or Nabard’s? Is it the agency to monitor the agri credit targets? We are not sure. Our experience is this. The PSU banks and the Nabard are having their own bureaucratic setups and more (vested interests!) to see no private agency makes progress! Yes, their so-called office-bound Consultancy organisations routinely discourage farmers to go for new crops or projects, we had implemented successfully!
The farmers, conservative as they are, trust what the PSU bank experts say, rather than what the private agencies say. In fact, the many bank experts are no experts, I, they have no field knowledge! No personal stakes either!
So, in a way, the RBI, Nabard and PSU banks block the agribusiness models succeeding in a market-driven self-sustaining way!
This applies more forcefully when it comes, to high profile, big talking agri experts and agri `visionaries’ advocates!
The Central government must draw up a plan of action. The State governments now act in isolation. For instance, the AP CM is doing bravely some well-meaning programmes. He had ordered more mandals in the debt-ridden farmers belts, more food for work programme is launched, 10 kg rice each for six lakh households in the State is ensured. These are all desparate measures and how long you can go on distributing free rice or subsidised rice?
Agri credit for AP in 2001-02 was Rs.3609 crores, in 2002-03 it went up only to Rs.4524 crores. The FM is not known for his pro-subsidy regime economic understanding nor, we believe the PM is a believer — in the subsidy regime as a core economic reform philosophy either! We like to be corrected! Does anybody care? Any economist is there?
Just now, we have been reading a biography of Lord Keynes, (by Robery Skidelsky) the architect of the 20’s Great Depression and believed to be the capitalism’s great prophet.
We don’t know whether Mr.Chidambaram is a believer in any serious economic philosophy except by way of a politician, advocating certain policies to suit the occasion. Even now, the FM’s measures all seem to be just PR!