Old institutions should go! New collaborations must come in. Elections over and we can sit easy on the farm front?
Agriculture is never a high priority in India given the sort of priority politicians and media give to this topic.
Neither the public are too much bothered about what is happening in agriculture inside India and also in other parts of the world. There are severe food crisis in at least some 10 countries around the world, do you know? In the war-torn Sudan, Ethiopia and countries around the Congo and even Nigeria there are food shortages and also in Afghanistan.
The FAO and the World Food Programme, the two principal agencies have out reports and there is concern in some other countries too. Of course, there is much poverty and malnutrition and we have some of the most poignant pictures and people, the migrants on the Mexico US border and the people’s lives over a vast stretch of farms across the world are caught in perennial drought and a loss-making agricultural scenario.
There are also many on-going high profile trade disputes between China and the USA and the many promises and high sounding words of assurance and also the most vociferous counter voices from the powerful American farm lobbies. For each set of commodities, from soybean to pork, from cherries to apples to other fruits there are powerful lobbies and for all of them President Trump seems not a reassuring voice. Trump talks big built achieve little, grumbles the lobbyists who all talk in such silence and don’t want to be quoted!
Why this fear we don’t know. May be China’s farm lobby is too much and very unnerving to the US negotiators. Indian farm exports too come in for much criticism though Trump seems to be soft towards the country. We are seeking tariff concessions to such commodities like Aluminium and steel. The irony is that while inside India we don’t talk much about agriculture, we are also one of the large agricultural economies where the writings, in the media and on the part of so called experts is one of trailing the ‘official’ statistics and also avoiding any critical remarks for fear of the government! See the narration of the many reforms in the agri sector. We have a long list of reforms introduced by the Modi government. We can make a short list of them. One, the much talked out is the National Agricultural Market, eNam. This is of course a great step towards regulating the long-suffered price fluctuations in the markets spread all over the country with a great deal of regional variations and specific peculiarities.
May be, this reform would contribute to the real time sales, the deployment of technology to monitor the markets. The single electronic portal can do wonders if only we implement the proposals. Let us hope so and welcome this revolutionary feature of the agri market reforms. So far, we learn that 585 mandis across 16 states and 2 Union Territories are registered on the portal. The total volume of trade this year up to February 28, 2019 was 2.2 lakh million tonnes with a value of Rs.604.72 crores. This move was to cover the whole country but as we learn that all mistakes haven’t been registered or have amended the APMC Acts to be able to join eNAM. It is also inaccessible to small and marginal farmers who make up 86 per cent of the India’s farming population. There is still not any mechanism to assess the working of the eNAM machinery.
Two, soil health Cards. So far there are a few criticisms about the very effectives but the media, the mainstream media and the TV channels don’t care to do any assessment of the ground level realities. We have enough experience in a region like Vidharba where you have all the signs and ills of how the drought plays havoc with the average lives of the small farmers.
Also, we have to shed the urban media mindset that of quoting the incumbent bureaucrats sitting in the comforts of the Krishi Bhavan who are only too happy to give a rosy picture of things in Indian agriculture!
Three: The Pradhan Mantri Krishi Suinchayee Yojana. Only the budget is announced, Rs.50,000 for five years. How to assess such shaky schemes. We have only to wait! Four minimum supports price. Gramin Agricultural Market, GrAM.
Only the name is new. Otherwise we, as a media engaged in agriculture and village economy choose to remain sceptic and wait for results to speak. There are many serious issues that are high priority for the Indian farmers. In Vidharba for example, farmers have no alternative to cotton that becomes a killer crop often, the largest number of farmers’ suicides take place in the cotton crop region, prices are so fluctuating that continues for very long. Soyabeans too have become a risky crop.
So, the researchers, the agri scientists and also the agri universities like the Punjab Rao Agri University at Akola must come out with alternative crops for the drought region-specific needs. There seems to be nothing coming out of the Indian agri universities, more new commercial – scale new agri colleges are springing up USA for self-financing money making ventures. This the government must ban! Why, even long-distance agri degree awarding colleges are also coming up.
These are all new malpractices to vitiate purposeful education and research. In fact, some sort of sandwich type of course with field work and theory must be a new initiative.
We must be seen with bureaucrats and ministers often talking to farmers lobbies and giving the farmers community a sense of belonging to the farmer’s societies.
Unfortunately, not much that is hopeful and productive seem to be happening in the agri sector.
We also have to wind up old institutions that are for instance there in good number in Hyderabad and also in other states. They must all be wound up. New institutions, new collaborations with agri universities in Israel and Netherlands could revolutionise farming practise in India.