Agriculture needs practical solutions!

There was recently the Rajya Sabha debate on farmers issues, farmers’s suicides for a record five and half hours. Members cutting across party lines spoke unani mously. M.S.Gill, a former Union Agriculture Secretary, being a senior authority on the subject said it is too serious a topic. So too Rajya Sabha Chariman, another senior leader who knows the subject too well. Of course, Mr.Sharad Pawar said it is a “shame for all”! The Rajya Sabha agreed to make commerical banks reduce the rate of interest on crop loans. Even there were suggestions to punish the guilty bankers who don’t reach agri credit targets! Banks putting the agri credit funds into Nabard was also criticised.

Not unrelated to the problem was the suggestion made by the Karnataka Minister and an experienced co-operative sector man, the Law minister Mr.H.K.Patil. He noted that the Nabard must ensure 90 per cent funds from Nabard reached the genuine beneficiaries. What he didn’t say so openly was that at present Nabard doesnt do its duty! He also asked the Finance Minister Mr.Chidamabaram : “Do you (the Central Government) ever thought of reviving the co-operative sector? You release crores of rupees to cleanse the balance sheets of commercial banks. But why not the co-operative sector banks?” The point is governments routinely fail the farmers!

Agriculture problems are practical problems. We need practical solutions. Not debates or promises or smart talks, as our politicians do! Pragmatism is far preferable than fancy schemes. Unfortunately,there are too many theoretical schemes, too many to mention here. Even in horticulture, we need more learning from the grassroots experience from other States. Farmers insurance in Karnataka for instance is now linked to farmers’ health. This scheme again could have been expanded to cover the whole country.

There are so many dead bodies in the agri sector, more Centrally sponsored schemes in all conceivable names! It is high time they are either abolished or given newer mandates to work with the SHGs on various agri/rural development projects.

Agriculture modernisation is not in the mind of the government. What about the new innovative concepts like contract farming? If there is the next big step in agriculture it is contract farming. We need new legislation and new innovations, public-private partnerships, new processing plants in various raw materials use and thereby chain of value addition are established. The TN based NGO, The Catalyst Trust, has established 68 citizen information centres. It helps to expand it to all the districts. We need more such initiatives. What about corruption at the grassroots? Corruption is killing the villagers, so e-governance is both timely and also urgent today!

We at Vadamalai have undertaken and encouraged contract farming projects and our experience suggests its expansion in all areas. We have some pragmatic suggestions to make. If contract farming is undertaken in a village, there the farmers know each other and also some farmers penchant for with-holding relevant information as the extent of lands and the title deeds etc. can be detected and also the chances for bribe is eliminated. There would be more transparency and also efficiency in executing the agro projects. All these projects can be monitored by the district level agencies through computerised information network. All we need is to say : go ahead!

In India we have so far only worked either through government departments or left it to chances by individual efforts. Also there is in India the mentality of working on any project only through government grants. Most NGOs function on the support of grants by outside agencies.

The time has come to realise the market-driven development models as the only alternative. A real sustainable alternatives! Any NGO, however great or famous only operates on government grants will make suggestions to government for more funds that would ultimately go unaccounted! So, our suggestions are all practical, no funds need be given as grant to anybody and all the funds through proper evaluation of the viability of the projects and the jobs should done be like any other industry or corporates! Let us become more mature and approach farm development as a business development opportunity, right? All we ask for is the speeding up the existing policies through the deployment of IT tools and also by involving the proven successful NGOs in funds disbursal and monitoring. Hope wisdom and common sense reaches New Delhi!


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