Time to partly privatise and for private participation.
There was this news recently. The Union Minister for Planning M.A.Raja Shekaran, a senior politician from Karnataka had participated at the Bangalore based Agriculture University on a, mouthful topic, called “Extension of methodological issues in impact assessment of agriculture and rural development programmes”. From the way this important subject is seen in highly jargon-ridden bureaucratese must have put out off the common man, mostly the target groups, farmers and villagers!
Yes, that is how our agricultural extension services now function! Why, in many states, the agriculture departments are more bureaucratic than the age old revenue departments.
Now, the more important point here is what the minister had said at this meeting. He said that the high absentee rate among teachers in primary schools and medical personnel in primary health centres is a major reason for poor access and quality public services.
4:5 percent of GDP.
Lack of control over staff behaviour results in poor basic services. Dissemination of information regarding the progress in service delivery is one way to increase the focus on outcome.
The Planning Commission had identified 147 districts in the country as most backward ones and decided to grant Rs.45 crores in the next three years to develop infrastructure.
Noting the importance of farm extension workers in rural areas, the central minister said the delivery of services needs should be improved to increase production and reduce risks. Extension workers and officials of the Department of Agriculture should build partnerships with farmers to enable the latter to increase yield and market the produce. The State has huge potential to increase area under horticulture, floriculture and inland fishing.
Farm scientists should provide adequate information to farmers about new crops and technology. The extension workers confined their work only to providing information on crops, yield, fertilizers and seeds. They should encourage farmers to take up organic farming by educating them about its advantages.
The area under dry land in the State had increased following degradation of topsoil and indiscriminate use of fertilizers.
Fine! First, farmers and officials had interacted now for over half a century. Farming is losing its profits. So, there is distress in the farm sector. This is our finding.
To make farming more profitable, the only way is to have a market-driven approach. So, the first steps in our experience with a wide section of farmers from all over India is this: privatise the agri extension services.
Partially privatise, make the full-time government officials as facilitators for making the farmers take to private expertise, in identifying crops, markets and other decisions.
Karnataka Horticulture Department is doing pro-active development initiatives. The minister himself is a horticulture enthusiast. As such we see a series of action. One hopes other states emulate Karnataka’s pro-active horticulture development model.