Sharad Pawar, Santosh Mohan Dev and Kapil Sibal
How they are failing the agri/food/technology sectors?
And the huge cost the country is paying!

Santosh Mohan Dev

There is no committed policy to protect and promote farmers’ welfare!
See the various areas of agriculture. Is there anything worthwhile under the Sharad Pawar-led Agriculture Ministry’s agenda?

Pawar is busy with his own political-election strategy? How to improve his chances to become the next Prime Minister. This, he is known to be doing for years now.

That is fine. It is his own business.

See how he is going about each and every aspect of Indian agriculture. The agri credit flow to the farm sector is running behind schedule. This year, almost half the year is over now and yet, it is reported that only one third of the credit flow has taken place. And that too for the co-op and regional rural banks. There is no firm clear policy for the PSBs to disburse priority sector lending. That very priority had been given a go-by under the UPA regime.

The Prime Minister doesn’t care. There are even now, as we write farmer’s suicides from Pawar’s own state of Maharashtra. Also from Karnataka.
Take the case of sugar and the cane farmers demands.

In TN, for instance, also in Karnataka, there have been intensified cane farmers agitations for higher cane price.

Yet what do you see?

The Centre is only drawing up plans, food ministry notes to allow import of raw sugar for “tonne-to-tonne” imports for exports. And that too, if you read carefully, the imports are to increase the domestic stocks to keep the stocks ready for election time!

This, to put it mildly, is a callous and even we would say a criminal step to further subject the disorganised Indian agriculture lobby to a weak bargaining level.

The global trade and in particular global agricultural trade patterns are such that it is not easy to raise the bargaining power of farmers, in any country from the developing world, to improve the farmer’s incomes easily.
There are entrenched age-old trade structures having been built over the years.

First, is the US trade power? US being the world’s strongest economic power its trading power are immense and vast. US farm subsidies is, as can be seen now, is a big scandal. And the US hasn’t budged an inch and in spite of the several rounds of the WTO talks, the talks fail for the simple reason, any “further progress” means only a need to dilute the US subsidies regime. This, the US refuses to budge and it would do so for the US agriculture’s “competitive” position is based on the huge subsidy regime.

So too the EU’s agriculture subsidy regime.

Then comes the former colonies’s agricultures! Each of the former colonies, be it, say Equador, the world’s largest banana grower or Madagascar, the world’s sole grower of vanilla or some sugar producing countries like Mauritius, the great sugar producer, their  agricultural trades are tied up closely with their former ruler countries.

The World Bank, we find had been unco-operative when it comes to supporting small countries with  core agri commodities, casava in Nigeria or sweet potatoes in Ethiopia.

So too we should guess when it comes to promoting and protecting our own major export agri commodities like, say coffee or tea or even other  niche species like black pepper or others.

It is time, India sits down and thinks of some basic and radical regional and global agri trade policies so that our precious geographic-specific commodities are protected and promoted and new concessions are gained throu8gh our own regional or bipartisan trade negotiations by using India’s traditional or new clout in the world and in our own geographical regions and beyond.

Let us not forget that trade liberalisation, more so the agri trade liberalisation means now further exploitation of farmers and small farmers at that. So too more economic reforms, economic liberlisation as talked about in Delhi corridors, is all about non-agri trade liberalisation. By uncritical or insensitive officialdom approach, through bureaucrats-driven policies, it is the farmer’s community that is put to more pressure and thereby more farmer’s suicides.
It may look a bit harsh but what is harsher than ignoring the   farmers’ distress?

Another new danger is the supermarket chains that are also squeezing the small farmers, those produce vegetables and fruits, by pressurising for minimum margins.

Likewise, some agricommodity countries, the Caribean West Indies banana growing countries are tied up with some three, to be exact, US monopoly trade companies. Also, another important aspect. There is a complex interlocking of some countries, especially in Africa, as many as 13 different intra-regional trade agreements, 11 countries members of more than three trade agreements.

The critical point is that the developing single commodity based small countries are so tied up with their major master countries that any improvement in the living standard of farmers in these small countries is next to impossible.

And so too the agro-processing and food- processing industries promotions.
Yes, we know that the Indian government has created a new ministry with enthusiasm under Rajiv Gandhi. But alas! What is the progress? Almost, the sector never took off.

Even now, whenever we read the news or see an occasional insertion of an ad with Santosh Mohan Dev, we are amused! Poor man, minister he is!
So too the other very important ministry, namely, the ministry of science and technology under the smart-talking Mr.Kapil Sibal! We met him once at his office in Delhi. Oh, the man proved deceptive.

After the smiles and promises, after going through corridors of his remotely located CBI premises, yes, the biotechnology dept is located there.
What we got?

A very delayed and agonizing wait and after his own dept received few lakhs as fees for innovative agri/biotech new technology, we couldn’t get the ministry’s support to further take the innovation. Now, comes the report, India’s track record in innovation, as expected, is poor!

Please take note. The UPA ministers might be political necessity. But as for their genuine achievement, poor souls, they are a big disappointment!

Yes, Indian agriculture has a long way to go. But before we reach some international respectability, how many more farmers suicides, how much more deprivation and when it comes to adopting new and innovative technologies before getting operationalised how many more Pawars, Debs and Sibals we have to suffer?

Sometimes, some plain speaking should help. We think this is such a time. Election time, it is also. So, someone can pick his or her conscience!

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