Where are the optimistic policy makers?
India’s finance minister Mr.Arun Jaitley has just now observed in Hyderabad that agriculture has failed to give subsistence to farmers, who constitute 55 per cent of the population. But the sector contributes only 16 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product. We can’t afford to have this situation. This can create inequalities.
This, the finance minister has aid in Hyderabad where he inaugurated a private university on 4- acre campus and promised to allot more ,some 300 acres of land. The promise was made by the Telangana minister.
Is this anything news? Newsworthy?
No, not at all. We have heard this sort of statement how many times? So many times as to dismiss this as one of the very casual, platform-sake statements from the high and the mighty.
Yes, agriculture has become a burdensome portfolio at the best of times. And when this sort of things are said we just recall the context, may be a delayed monsoon or a drought in some parts or pockets and the man y uncertainties that characterise the agri sector and anyone can now talk of agriculture, farmers welfare or farmers distress or a suicide or some such daily news.
Yes, agriculture in India has never been taken seriously poltiically. Politically, the agriculturists constitute a great vote bank. Yes, farmers too are now seen as vote-banks, not humans worthy of any other serious consideration.
Readers must know that we are in the agriculture media ‘business’ for quite a long time. Seen much government. We are in this line for over a quarter of a century, if not more! So, we are quite familiar with all the statements that are made from public platforms.
There was time during the Green revolution times when we used to hear more pontifical sloganeering. Now, there is some realism at least.
But then agriculture is a tough sector where the most poor and the most exploited sections of the population, from farmers to villagers of all sorts live or rather have to suffer living!
Of course this is a rather pessimistic view of things. We in Vadamalai Media are optimists, we believe in a great many things in this sector, agriculture is India’s great economic foundation, India is a great agricultural economy and we also believe that farmers are our backbone and everything in this country is dependent upon a thriving agriculture sector, a happy farmers society, a happy rural population and everything else is secondary, the services sector, the manufacturing sector, why, even the urban sector, the middle classes, and the corporate sector and what have you.
But then, there are certain deep-rooted ignorance and entrcnehd prejudices against the rural sector. It is a long and rather painful story and here we like to highlight some basic issues.
Readers might have read recently a Constitutional Bench judgement by three judges. The learned Bench has pronounced that when it comes to one case, namely, tenancy rights, the tenants can’t be ‘evicted’ from the leased land even if he doesn’t pay the rent!
This, as the readers must be knowing, is a tired topic! If you live in the villages (luckily or unluckily, not many educated and even uneducated persons don’t want to live the villages anymore!) then you will realise what are the obstacles for living in the villages.
When it comes to farming, first, not many well-placed farmers themselves don’t want to engage in farming directly anymore and therefore all who are left in farming these days are small and marginal farmers and some are tenants and these people can’t invest more funds and all you see on average in the countryside today are very low-productive and low aspirational farming only.
So, we in our parlance, describe average Indian farmers as a debtor, then a court-bird and lastly a suicide-prone case!
We are very distressed to say so but then the reality is such that in villages farming by any decent person, even with high motivation is likely to be very soon frustrated by the prevailing obstacles. Every other day we read about how Modi has changed things and how “the ease of doing business in India has increased”. Even now there are many obstacles and our rank in the index hasn’t greatly improved out of 180 or so countries!
Now, if you legally bind a farmer who wants to lease out his land for tenancy and if the tenant doesn’t pay any rent even after so many years, you can’t ask him to leave!
What sort of practical arrangement is this? This is a Communist-style coercion and denial of basic rights of the land owner. That is one reason there is so much corruption at the grass-roots. We live the village and we know how many times we have greased the palms of the petty and unworthy lower level officials.
Please ask anyone in the villages and he or she will say the truth. Ask Anna Hazare in his village and he may be able to clarify rural r reality!
Now, every farmer house hold has debts and also every farmer is a court bird and in the clutches of lawyers.
So, when are you going to free farmers from these age old clutches.
Of course we know that Mr.Jaitley has no answers to these questions or policy making that is due for so many years.
Now, there is more talk of food inflation and the prices of various grains and pulses are daily reported in the daily newspapers. That is one more reality.
Food inflation hurts the urbanities. Fine. The government takes note. Why, the Prime Minister of the country goes on foreign tour, to Mozambique to negotiation import of ,of all the resources, the humble pulses!
If fact, the agri sector is simply ignored or best left aside(for they don’t know how to go about it, after all the experts are all now imported from the US universities!).
They might not have revisited their only villages for a long time! That is sure. If they visit now, they will find in the villages they would ask hard questions, your learned postures won’t cut any ice!
Indian villages have changed. Able-bodied men and women have migrated to more congenial places, within and outside India, please note!
It is now a problem everywhere to find suitable agriculture labour, please notes also!
So, agriculture today needs, first investment. Who would invest, you need radically new policy. Then, you need viable land holdings.So, without bating your eyelid, please start talking the truth! Relax land reform laws.
You have to ensure viable landholdings. Let us honestly start public debate.
Don’t hope to keep the docile farmers for long in the current exploitative situation.
Then there are the accumulated debt burdens of farmers as in, say, Punjab.
You have to tackle the debt burden all over the countryside.
You couldn’t eradicate the hold of the private money lender, sure?
So, your moral claim to speak for farmers, promise many things like easy credit, crop insurance, rural healthcare. All can’t be any more election-eve promises only.
If anyone comes forward to touch one’s heart and talk the truth, then only, the agriculture policy makers would have some takers!
Please note that agriculture is no more platform oration. It is a serious business!