Forestry and medicinal crops depts
Can generate agriculture prosperity!

If Nabard mandate is redrawn and SHGs and microfinance are put under a Cabinet Minister! State level agri finance corporations a must!
New subsidies to new generation farm enterprises can usher in economic prosperity in the villages!

New insurance cover for the agro-micro enterprises could trigger off a new   dispersed entrepreneurial revolution!
Fine journalist language can wait. Hyped schemes can wait. Election-time populism can wait.

What can’t wait is the continued misery of the farmers. Their mounting debts. Their hopelessness where can hope and a new path can be charted.
Our current crop of leaders in Delhi is an unrepresentative lot. More so the ministers holding important portfolios. Most of them are holding the brief for the regional allies like the DMK. See the very composition of the DMK ministers, for instance. They are there not for attending to their portfolios. But to keep the crucial, money-earning and funds generating ministries within the DMK fold and thereby help the parent party and its leader to bargain and in fact gain in more ways than one!

That is why every crucial dept is not delivering.
See the very critical portfolio, agriculture, food and consumer items. This is held by the supposedly very powerful and also very ambitious Sharad Pawar. There is the widespread perception and a great deal of skepticism whether this particular gentleman is giving his full attention to the charges under him. He is seen more the minister for Indian cricket. At best, all he seems to have done and this what sticks in the public mind is that he turned the agri ministry for the first time a food  importing ministry! There are people to praise him even for this service! And of course he is seen as a patron of the sugar industry lobby and he gets funds to save this industry, heavily subsidised is this industry in the state of Maharashtra where Sharad Pawar is more admired, respected and even feared than even the incumbent Chief Minister Mr.Vilasrao Deshmukh.

Once on a visit to the Maharashtra secretariat, we saw the curious phenomenon of the government secretaries going into high praise not for the incumbent CM but for the distant Pawar whose hold on the state affairs is very strong and everyone betting for him to capture power in Delhi as the Prime Minister!

That is the Maratha paranoia and in such an atmosphere where is the time for the Union agri minister to concentrate and do the job, as the job was once done by the great predecessors like Babu Jagajivan Ram and the formidable C.Subramanyam.

In the present Cabinet only one minister seems to be doing a brave job, seen from this distance, is Kamalnath, the Commerce Minister.
Except for one or two others, the average performance of the Singh Cabinet Ministers seems wanting.
Now, take the agriculture sector, rural development, employmenent generating other sectors.

Even the much more critical banking sector. Where is the dynamism and vision for the banking sector?
Can we see the banking sector as a public sector serving the larger public ends?
No, the priority sector targets almost seem to be forgotten.

There is the latest data to show that the rural employment guarantee scheme has almost failed on its critical targets, the number of days employed, the minimum wages paid and the large scale fudging of accounts!
One can go on and on in this vein.

Now, what is missing, rather sadly, is that the agri sector is in deep crisis and no one thinks something dramatic must be done. We have done nothing all these last four years and we are about to face the mid-term elections.
So, how do we go before the people and show our face and ask for their pardon and their votes?

Now, for a change, let us see what small changes can do to bring about big changes. The farmers are promised big things but not even small things seem to be happening.

For the simple reason, the Centre allots funds to the States. The States in turn use the funds to serve the state-level politicians’ own interests.
Again take states like Gujarat and TN and Kerala or W.Bengal or Rajasthan. Each of these states ruled by different parties with different socio-political ideologies.
Thus, the DMK would see to it that funds are spent in such a way that the ruling party comes to power even in the next elections. So, populist schemes only would get implemented.

Even a reasonably balanced state like Karnataka where some depts. like an agri/horti/forestry etc, there is no new institutional changes to give the small farmers a sense of stability. We have to form SHGs for landless labour, small and marginal farmers so that they undertake small farm-related businesses, say, dairying, goat/sheep rearing and also horticulture crops, from floriculture to other vegetables and fruits growing co-ops, as in Maharashtra and these new, first gene ration enterprises, the co-ops or SHGs can be given a subsidy and the concept of PPP, Public-Private Partnership, must be the key concept. We have seen and heard how the subsidies are taken off by the dept officials, petty officials to other higher-ups, and the subsidies don’t reach the actual beneficiaries.

These micro enterprises, dairying, goat and sheep rearing, even medicinal plants cultivation by the tribals and others can be done on the Amul co-op model and the governments must only identify the role models  and the leaders must be encouraged and rewarded and published.

There is a huge market, domestic and overseas, for milk and milk products, meat products, vegetable and fruit exports to Gulf and beyond.
There are already good examples, success stories; much good work is being done in these areas.

What is required is that the Union Agri Minister must be constantly at his job. He must visit the states and speak and inspire and motivate the depts. and the banks to give farm employment and farm wealth creation and value addition a new priority!

But who cares?
The very government setup is geared to pamper the slumbering bureaucracy. Too much bureaucracy is in Delhi. Too little individuals and talented experts are around, it seems.
So, there is no vision and no will! Only this is holding back progress in agriculture and in taking new initiatives.

Image Source : merinews.com

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