New situations demand new ideas and new radical thinking in policy making!
There are radical developments on the agricultural front!
Yet Indian agriculture policy has become very much out of date!
The world economic crisis has led to crisis in agriculture sector. Our agri exports are declining. Sensitive items, namely even the critical India-origin items like milk and milk power we are importing! We import sugar!
Our sugarcane farmers refuse to plant sugarcane!
Something radically wrong with our policy makers. So, please replace the current incumbent at the Krishi Bhavan!
Agriculture portfolio must be split into three separate subjects. Co-operative credit must be streamlined. There must be ways to save farmers from debt. They must be relieved from the burden of the debts.
Ministers must tour the country intensively and directly interact with farmers.
Now, there is this tendency, this bogus showmanship of austerity and we don’t know where the ministers travel. We only see them travelling abroad, not inside the country. Even national calamities like massive floods, as in Karnataka and Andhra don’t see the ministers from their respective states not coming down from the heights of New Delhi mansions!
They are as busy and as routine-minded as if they suddenly became civil servants, civil servant types!
Minister doesn’t display any new ideas. They don’t display any understanding of the issues, more so in the farming sector, more so at the grassroots level. There are international talks on climate change and global warming. Experts say that they would have great impact on agriculture. Greenhouse gases, global warming would be accentuated by farming, more intensive farming means more environmental impact and in turn agriculture, farmers in particular would become victims of these current concerns.
But no one in the policy making circles, be it the Prime Minister or the agriculture minister or others talk of why agriculture is outside the agenda on the high table, so to say!
Agriculture is estimated to give rise to 14 per cent of the total annual harmful gas emissions. Jairam Ramesh is everywhere but not concerned with agriculture. How can you protect or reforest or prevent deforestation by simply operating out of the very large agricultural base. These are some of the issues in the shortsightedness of policy making in India.
Then there are the trade negotiations. How much we would make progress on gain from the WTO trade talk rounds? What is the state of the EU-India Free Trade talks?
EU seems to be talking much politics, issues directly that don’t concern agriculture, the poor farmers and then the EU seems to deploy this ploy to pressurise India to give in to its terms of the trade.
Then, there are the latest challenges from the broader and the international front.
The FDI flows into agriculture. There is a radical shift in the terms of the agriculture giving the new thrust to investments.
A new range of countries, from oil-rich Saudi Arabia and UAE, natural resources poor South Korea and even over-populated China and India are all going out and purchasing huge tracts of land, mostly from poor Africa and this spells a new trend, huge investments flowing into agriculture as a new sources of big wealth creation.
This directly impacts the agriculture sector as we have known it raditionally. For food crops farming.
What about food security as a national policy for many countries? Food security itself is now changing its meaning and significance.
It is not growing enough food and stocking it, it is also distributing food equitably.
There are distressing reports about children malnutrition.
Twenty five million more children will go hungry by the middle of this century, warns the UN Secretary General. So too FAO warns about likely food shortages.
The food prices have risen and they won’t go down. If at all they are predicted to go up further. Food prices rising are not just a matter for economics. It is a serious matter for political stability of many countries; there have been food riots in many countries, from Haiti to Thailand.
Leaders at the recent G-20 summit in Pittsburgh committed 2 bn dollars for food security and the UN is set to hold a summit on food security in November, its second since last year’s riots.
Food prices crisis, food shortages, food prices rise. These are the new developments and we have to learn to understand and analyse and educate and inform and make people, make farmers ready to understand and respond suitably.
Farmers have to be cared for by the governments, by the international agencies and also by the experts who so far have been confined to talk glibly about the out of one crop and the prices stability and so on.
Politicians at the state levels are simply blind to the larger picture.
They just announce the most populistic and the most irresponsible social policies that pay at the election hustings but they also help to ruin further and bring misery to the farmers. Indian farmers are notoriously in deep debts, they seem to be irrecoverable and owning land and also engaged in agriculture seems to be the sure way to permanent ruin of families.
Is this the way to talk of farming? But it is like this in the country. But one thing is sure. Farming can’t be left to farmers, can’t be left to politicians who don’t understand issues. You have to relax land reform laws. Otherwise the private investments, private entrepreneurship would migrate to foreign countries in Africa, Latin America and elsewhere, even to Burma and Indonesia so that large-scale agribusiness type operations are easy.
So, what is the answer from the policy makers? Why keep mum? For whose benefit?
We like to ask our policy makers!
Even we demand there is a change in the agriculture portfolio. How long can we put up with inaction on the part of the government?