In a situation when we find the Indian agriculture in debts and droughts and floods!
Why, even you can add litigation and much else!

This year’s Christmas double issues of the internationally known magazine, The Economist, has written its major editorial on Optimism vs. Pessimism.

The widely read intellectual elite journal has highlighted the radical changes now caused by the growth in technologies that are not only creating enormous wealth, also benefitting man by improving living standards, spreading education, also health by the many medical miracles that allow us to live longer and also helping us to travel thanks to revolution in aviation, not to also add the telecom revolution and the IT industry that had transformed a traditional society like India to emerge as a Superpower.

So, how can be unaware of the various revolutions in technologies should also must be causing a great revolution in agriculture?

This question is nagging in our minds when we sit down to write any editorial. As educated persons with some privileges of wealth and opportunities we have to be morally committed to the rural people, farmers and other underprivileged sections of society in which farmers occupy central place we are duty-bound to speak the harsh truths as well. This is for the rural farmers.

Agriculture is a risky activity. In distress and debt!
How the government policies work?

After Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India there have been too many new policies and too many risk taking outcomes. In agriculture and rural; development there has been a sea-change in the announcement and implementation of the various schemes. PM’s two bold decisions, demonetization and GST have really impacted the way now citizens use the banks through online transactions.

Of course there have been mixed results. Yes, the radical decisions led to some pain, some might say more pain than positive results. However, any new radical step would distort and destabilize some sections. Now, after all these years we see much positive changes only. This much if fine and fair. As for the agri sector is concerned, the new schemes from farmers personal pensions and insurance cover the scheme has been yet to show results. The various subsidies that always go with any agriculture schemes go also under the many other agri schemes.

One obvious and much discussed and much politicized schemes are farm loan waivers. The latest one is by the Maharashtra government under the new Chief Minister Uddhav Thakeray. This scheme is likely to cost Rs.50, 000 crores and can the rising NPA be sustained by the rising NPAs of banks and also the already strained deficit, fiscal position of the State government?

One simple and straightforward retort is: who cares?@Today’s political environment is such that no rational response is welcome and always some sort of shrug is welcome and people react favorable to such confrontationist political gestures. So far, the public and private sector banks had written off Rs.80, 893 crore during April-September 2019.

The government in Delhi pretends to say and maintain still that that the loan write offs continues to be for repayment. So farm loans very soon turn out to be bad loans and continue to hang around the necks of farmers, though the final and realistic outcome nobody knows! As per RBI, the rate of recovery of bad loans has come down from 18.4% in 2014 to a low of 12.45 by March 2014..And so on so forth!

We don’t believe in going into detailed data from the official sources that have become suspect in recent times! What is reliable is the ground level reality and we have to be very robust in mind and body when we talk of Indian agriculture. Agriculture in India is highly distorted, officials and ministers are known for their silence when such hot topics come for public debate. There are political priorities in drawing up agricultural policies. Unfortunately there are widening gaps between the politicians who draw up policies and the rest of the agriculture=-linked groups of people. Apart from farmers who belong to the lowest categories like marginal and small farmers who are as of today own an average one or t wo hectares, there are other categories who fall into the category of big farmers, or big corporate who also accumulate vast acres of agriculture lands.

Our humble suggestion is that the ICAR must be recast. It must be recast to bring together agriculture leaders, agriculture veterans, leaders like Sharad Pawar and Chandrababu Naidu and many others who in their tie had done much for improving agriculture after the series of radical land reforms laws were introduced soon after Independence.

What lessons we have learnt from the radical land reforms that abolished zamindari and also to the extent of tenancy reform laws. The Prime Minister must convene a meeting, why a series of such meetings to get an update of the rural reality today.

Why even a veteran like Deve Gowda who in his Chief minister days, likewise Sharad Pawar(we have met them then and interacted with them. They also sought progressive ideas as to bring in large investments.

So, we too should do now and take the agri reforms as continuity. New technologies are coming out everyday. From IT to AI. So, we can have much optimism and must be able to take forward reforms and policies that would reach out almost every single farmer So, we request farmers generation today to have optimism, the younger generation specially to help to spread the new optimism that they find in non-farm sectors. Also from urban centres, from big cities like Bangalore to remote villages.

Whom to look for advice and wisdom?

The past year has gone. The New Year, 2020, is very much on us. Also, the New Year is once more, full of hopes and lot of trepidations. The US onslaught on Iran has complicated international affairs and has many other issues of urgency, not only on Indian economy, with the oil prices tilting the economy and also other issues. The visiting Iranian foreign minister to India might have many other things in his bag besides the current upset.

India has a vital role and it is to be seen how the government is going to handle the very many intricate issues. The US President is close to India and we Indians would only hope that the international situation remains under control and also helps the rest of the world to manage the issues.

India has a larger role in the foreign spheres and it is anybody’s guess how India comes out of this present global challenge. The Prime Minister has met the Indian industry leaders and has reassured that there would be no witch hunting of the private industry.

This reassurance comes at a time when there is a great deal of discomfort over many of the recent developments, the perception of with-hunting of not only the political opponents and also some industry players, all based, let us hope on false perceptions and let us also look forward these sort of perceptions are based on a great deal of subjectivity and otherwise things are okay.

The world today doesn’t seem to have many statesmen or statesmen –like leaders who could think of world-wide issues. British leaders were once international experts, given their years of running an empire. Today, Great Britain is no more great but it is seen as little Britain! Indian elite, by and large is still British-oriented; even these generations of Indians are more attuned to think about the world issues through a British prism. This journal is also no exception and hence these few words on Britain and the newly elected Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson, the newly mandated British Prime Minister, who was once the editor of the British high society magazine, The Spectator, in its Christmas special issue has written a Diary Page in which with all his current business he found time to pen down and what he says is worth recalling here, I think. Johnson, by the way, Indian readers must be knowing was a classical scholar from Oxford where he read the famous Greats, Greek, Latin and classical literature and typical of the old style Conservatives, he had achieved what his predecessors couldn’t. He won a decisive election and set to carry forward his Brexit goal. What Johnson says in his Spectator column?

He is worth quoting in some length. He says: You may wonder why I am up at 4.45 a.m, writing this diary when I have a country to run, Queen’s speech to prepare, vast mandate to deliver and so on. When I bumped into the editor a couple of nights ago at a party he said my name is already on the cover of the Christmas cover and so what could I say? I became editor of the magazine 20 years ago. I owe this magazine… Thousands of activists-of all parties- who have just allowed our democracy to function.

After saying such nice things, the incumbent British PM wants Britain to have a kinder, gentler, ‘tone of politics’ in Britain. These lines touched a chord in my mind and at any rate we can echo this sentiment at this time of the Indian democratic spirit surging in a new environment in India.

Parliament Democracy
If we talk of parliamentary democracy, I quote again the Spectator magazine: “Britain’s parliamentary democracy is often mocked, its meadievalisms, the men in tight and the ayes to the right”. The point is that democracy and parliamentary democracy at that in Britain has survived, it tends to work, right?

That is the magical beauty of British politics. You see there is no written Constitution at all and yet it works and works wonderfully smoothly. How many Prime Ministers had come and gone and how many of them left some memorable words and phrases, episodes and quotable quotes. To juts give one very recent example, the just retired Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court, a worthy lady member, wrote a famous judgment, in three days, just in 20 pages judgment that dismissed the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend Parliament! Compares this with the Indian bureaucracy-ridden mindset that still clings to pages and pages of unreadable legal jargon we find IN Indian! Unwritten conventions and trust-based democratic practices is what given Great Britain its moral and legal strength.
As for the current political scenario in the country, there is no sense of a gentler and kinder tone of politics in India anymore. Instead, there is a growing and strident tone of confrontation and a great deal of distrust!

This newly created tension and mental distress and the highly vitiated environment and the fearful enlargement of violence and must destruction in the university campuses is the handiwork of whom, what elements?

Some hard questions remains to be answered and who should undertake the responsibility? 19 people died in police foreign in UP alone, a State where the saffron-worn leaders and highly rooted in HIndutva is in leadership. A new kind of Hindutva ideology is now being fashioned and in our view, this is a dangerous path and the future in the same path is riddled with some unforeseen consequences. As the days of protesters’ numbers swell, more confrontationist tone on the part of the government is worrying.

Surely, there should be other ways to engage the citizens in a restrained debate. No democracy can be possible in such an atmosphere of forceful propagation. The finer details of the three controversial legislations apart, there is the spill-over of the agitations leading to some unpredictable consequences. On the domestic front the Opposition parties are forced to take some contradictory positions, creating unnecessary mind-splits in their long-time articulations like the Shiv Sena over the conception of Hindutva, till now a harmless formulation, now it is under pressure to distance itself from the founders and original ideologists.

Also, the more strident tones of the ministers who also don’t seem to take a conciliatory tone but much more aggressive to keep up their profiles. And no less worrying is the application of some Colonial laws whose relevance to our times is much more doubtful and yet our lack of a modernizing mindset gives way for more brutal applications. Unfortunately, the very heat and tussle of the protests and confrontations have tended push the vital organs of a democracy, like the media and the universities to fail miserably to contribute their own unique ‘sweetness and light’ in our search for ways and insights. Surely, the media in India under the current regime has been suppressed and we fail to assess and size up the new sources of light and wisdom and guidance.

So too other organs of the democratic system. There are too many to deal with here: from the electoral deficiencies, from high political corruption to other large scale forms of corruption. Also, our distortion of priorities of governance, from appointing Lokpal to Lokayuktha to down the scale to petty corruption and other ills at the grass roots. Talents are also missing in this regime. The ministries, the bureaucracy, the education and health sectors and the like need urgent priorities.

Yes, economic slowdown is a great concern. But smaller things, Human Development Index to Panchayat Raj are all as critical.

Let us build an enlightened agricultural lobby!
An effective agricultural lobby needs much media support!

Two much bureaucracy weakens farmers-policy makers interaction. What should be done now? Give media support!

Agriculture is now in the dark. Not the crops and crop prices. The people who flood this vital economic segment. 50 people who toil in 15 percent wealth creation!

Not many know what is happening in this priority sector. Price rise and food inflation alone is not agriculture news. The rising inequality, persistence of poverty and various exploitations of the helpless farmers are also news and needs to be reported and written about. Who does these all public services?

Has the ministers recently spoken about agriculture? Has the PM spoken about agriculture issues lately?

These are not for rhetorical questions .but a pouring out of some accumulated frustrations! Give subsidies to agriculture media! Otherwise in a few years what remains would go off the attention of the policy makers forever!

Even now what do you see happening in the many established channels? Agriculture extensions services are almost weakened still old fashioned Colonial institutions prevail.
In this age and time of technological revolutions, mobile phones and Whatsup and what have you, the average villagers, need to speak of farmers, for every small official favour, be it the local thaluk or Collector’s office farmers have to make a trek, spend time travelling long distances and wait for a dharsan of the high and mighty officers!

Most of the time the so-called officials are either absent or in conferences. You can check this up every Monday when crowds gather at the Collector’s offices for pouring out their grievances. Oh, how much injustice still persists? Thus, we call every Indian farmer a debtor, litigant and a suicide-prone helpless victim. Now, lately, with a new type of political environment there is almost a near anarchy in governance practices.

As we rite there was a large scale eviction of urban shanties in Bangalore city where nearly 300 thatched huts near high rise buildings were evicted one fine day without any priority notices by the police and City Corporate engineers without the joint Commissioner of the Corporation knowing. There were screaming cries and much more. There was no adequate response and only NGOs and others were seen engaged in helping out the victims. This in time of so many other revolutions and communication techs.

We can go on talking and talking but unless there are independent media houses, more so the government controlled DD and also specific schemes and channels to give opportunities for independent interactions between the citizens and the politicians in power, there can’t be any democratic sense of security and the many freedoms promised under our Constitution would only remain on paper only. That would see the more vital organs like the DD and other government channels would become 100% government propaganda tool! Agriculture needs media support!

This, only the government agriculture strategy policy can imagine. It is not there right now! There is too much apathy and too much unconcern. That shows the many distortions and lack of articulation even in government agri policies and schemes! Crop insurance, health insurance and direct payment etc are all good initiatives but how are their implementation?
Amit MItra, the hon’ble finance minister in the West Bengal government, the other day in an interview with the NDTV revealed many instances that were not covered in the print media in many mainstream newspapers.

One or two instances here. The FM revealed to a question why the economic slowdown and what can be done etc., he said fear and trust in the government. There were some 30 odd cases, criminal and civil, against one corporate and he asked how do you expect the entrepreneurs to come out and invest and deal with such a government. Also he revealed many instances and schemes in the name of the PM, which show the allotted funds were not spent and also in schemes for which funds were shared between the Centre and the States and yet in one such instance quoted by Mitra that only the PM’s image is put to the exclusion of the State CM is not found! How do you then create trust, how do you show trust in the Federal character of the country? In fact, the State FM had many more such glaring injustices are rendered today.

Such mature and more experienced FMs are hard to find. Such facts and figures are not known widely. Oh, when you come to agriculture, the many injustices done to helpless farmers who commit suicides many more heart-rending go unreported. Is there any one newspaper or TV channel to cover the less glamouring and yet human interest stories or why, even to comment and bring to the attention of the high and mighty who hold forth on agriculture without stirring our of needing of the Lyten Bungalow zone and now, the Khan market!

The point here is that the Central government already what remains, we are told, is advised to reduce media advertisement and revert to TV channels and digital marketing. This is being told by man y of the Central government commodity boards and other such departments. The agriculture ministry, both at the Centre and the States, dont have budgets for agriculture schemes to be advertised, both in English and the regional languages.

Please spare a thought for the agri sector and the remote rural India. Thereby the democratically elected government might still make an impact on the insecure and left out segments of the population.

What more we can plead for even in this age of enlightenment?

Yes, it is a fact of great significance that the students, those who had left schools and joined colleges are easily taken to protests and agitations. It is a question no one asks, we mean educationists and thinkers and anyone who thinks he or she is of some mental caliber, should be themselves capable of standing up to face a government which is in power.

Incidentally, The Hindu newspaper (January 18,2020) a carries two, why even three columns dealing with education and radical student protests, also the editorial dealing with Kashmir’s Islamist youth. Prof.Krishnakumar has raised many issues. One the very public life in India, a whole new generation has been let down what he calls a hollow public life, where the very much institutional deterioration from universities to educational administration and other forms of behavior and public conduct erosion are no more front page news but everyday happening. This also includes widespread corruptions at all levels, bureaucrats’ proneness to exploit the politicization of our very public life.

Without elaborating the process we can say that bureaucratization of all institutions is also a major cause. To cite one example, in many states, education has become a ruthless business that even political leader who occupy party posts like the state party presidents are big owners of education institutions. From medical colleges to engineering colleges they own and they, as per some recent reports, openly flouted the rules and converted government quota seats into paying category, so that for each category of seats they cheat innocent students to cough up handy sums of 50 to above limitless lakhs of rupees!

It is a very unpleasant state of affairs but then what else you see when such activities are pursued on a wider scale? In one notable state many of the party dons are such political leaders and they can command any Central bureaucrats to visit the State as honorable chief guests in many public functions. It is a pity that even State Governors participate and legitimize the open defiance of all good public conduct and visit the very delicate cultural and why even the spiritual fabric. It is also very unfortunate that many new age spiritual figures have also emerged and they rub shoulders with the high and mighty.?

The Hindu has also carried a half-page interview with the Nobel Laureate, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan. He seems to be a person of great nerve for he has boldly spoken about the current anti-science trends he has noticed especially in India at present. Science has to stand up for authority and how many can dare to do so in India at present? This is another facet of any education principle, isnt it? And Venkie Venkatraman also had spoken for, though indirectly for a secular society. Once this message gets through then there can be a radical change.

Also some other, why many more issues are directly related to education policy making. We all know there is no publicly known education policy at present in India today? Right? This is for the simple reason that India as it emerged at the time of India’s Independence, had leaders of great moral caliber. Today the whole society has undergone change. The Rightwing policy has changed the outlook of the society and the youth upsurge is such that there is no room for any reflective thought and the socio-economic changes have produced wealth for a larger section of people and also great deal of inequality.

Today the radicalization of students and the youth has widened. In Jammu and Kashmir, there are new issues of radicalisation and with the J&K leaders from the mainstream shut up under detention there are new challenges. Even juveniles, ‘girls and boys as young as 10-12’are drawn into the radicalisation challenges.

Is there a hint of some sort of the old fashioned fascist strains in the current social and class formations? Here the intellectual debate of a more abstract and more historical parallels could help. Already some of the State leaders, from Mamata Banerjee to Amarinder Singh, the Punjab Chief Minister have started using such language of 1930 political developments. Now, even the State Governors are in a confrontationist course. Universities and specially the faculty are drawn into radical action. This too must be curbed at the earliest. Surely, all these latest developments call for the top political leadership and for a dialogue among the stake-holders. Euphemisms of various sorts won’t do. Such talk’s time is gone.

For one, the education sector has become suddenly contemporary issue. This is good from one point of view. From another other point of view radical restructuring of education processes, curriculum changes and also a radical change in the university administration are all high priority issues.

See, what is making news and capturing public attention

What purpose does JNU violence and so many agitations serve? It is a very tragic story not yet fully unveiled and the days and months to come would be severely lost and no public good is likely to be served if the antagonists and the protagonists are to settle their dues in this way.

If the senior political leaders, specially, the Communist party leaders, are to be taken seriously, then, the time has come for someone to tell these gentlemen that this sort of agitation politics at a premier university carrying the great of no less a leader than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who almost symbolizes all that is great and heroic in the country’s glorious heritage, history, the ideals, tolerance, truth and ahimsa etc. would be sadly lost if we, the present generation and the ones that are there to lead them, the senior politicians would be failing in our duties to the great causes for which our freedom struggle was waged with such uniqueness in all of the nations of the world.

This sort of intolerance including those we have seen in the current turmoil is not a worthy emulation. Two innocent ladies were thrown out for the simple reason they held flags opposing the CAA cause!

Now, university education? It is in doldrums, we all can see. The visiting eminent Indian intellectual and economist, the Nobel Laureate, Prof.Amartya Sen lamented at the Infosys Prize distribution ceremony in Bangalore the other day that the current scene in Indian universities is ‘appalling’. Sen had in mind the yet to be resolved violence in the JNU, New Delhi.

With the latest violence at the JNU at the top of the minds of Indians, Sen could have dwelt at some length and the country would have benefited with his superior academic wisdom. Sen observed that the current law, the CAA and its two more related legislations are controversial and widely considered even not constitutional and many hope the Supreme Court would find so. The academic scene in India is even otherwise too bad, really pathetic and in particular the universities are really in a very bad shape. Many eminent educators have been involved and yet the so-called new Education Draft hasn’t seen the light of the day. Education policy making in the BJP governments era has become a standing joke. How many ministers have come and gone and yet the very many drafts are under wraps, for no genuine reasons. Perhaps there is confusion at many levels and the sadder is the fact that the many very competent educationists and the intellectuals are choosing to remain silent for obvious reasons.

Even the new education (HRD) minister, it seems, hasn’t got grips with so many vested interests, besides other issues are bedeviling the critical sector. First, there is widespread corruption in university education and university administration, so many unseemly episodes happening, raids and arrest and even jailing of VCs is now day-to-day news headlines!

The state universities with the incumbent Governors as Chancellors of the State universities are now facing competition for resources and power, both social and political power with the thriving private universities. There are some 900 universities and more than 40,000 colleges with a student strength of 40,000 students.

The State governments nowadays are controlling the universities and given their penchant for favouratism the whole university system is politicized. Private universities have become a menace! You can imagine the quality, the qualifications of an average education minister and the havoc they are wreaking the system. The education ministers brag on public platforms about the gross enrolment ratios in higher education. While we were reading through the news page that reported Prof. Sen’s address; the very same page carried a half page paid advertisement that proclaimed the achievements of a private university that said it all, we thought. There are so many private universities in India at present and their population is bound to go up in leaps and bounds. In particular, the Southern States seem to be in a race.

In TN there is a proliferation of these pseudo institutions already causing havoc! Some of the founders of these shadow institutions have become enormously rich and powerful. They are some of the richest politicians in the State; some run many other related and unrelated businesses, including TV news channels and also got elected to Parliament and run many other dubious activities. Imagine for a moment what sort of academic merit such univerisities can carry when the founders are practicing politicians, nay, even when some of them are film producers of very cheap entertainers!

Lately, they have resorted to conducing high profile public shows of awarding honorable degrees of ‘doctors’, even to the incumbent Chief Ministers. The incumbent Governors of the State, being the Chancellors of the government -controlled universities, the Governors are mute figures only decorating the platforms and thus creating false public images of government and political authority to the functions. These Universities also surreptitiously conduct the Founders’ birthdays this way and outcome of all these dubious activities, in our opinion, is to further debase the genuine educational values a university is supposed to instill in the minds of the pupils, academic staff and on the general public.

It is also unfortunate, that every day we read in the media that some Vice-Chancellor or other is found jailed for misappropriation and some VC’s appointments are invalidated. Besides, university appointments are held invalid by the courts and many corruption cases involving the universities are creating a bad feeling. There are now ceremoniously many other university diversifications announced like distance education, a clear source of bogus degrees awarded with no sound academic scrutiny.

Now, as for real academic merit in the Indian universities, the real test is how far the Indian universities, both in the government and the private sector are attracting students from within India and also from outside. Even now, there is almost an exodus of sorts for Indian students to migrate to foreign lands, not to UK and USA alone, even to neighboring countries like Australia, Germany and even Ukraine(for cheap medical degrees).Yes, there are reports that there is now a reverse trend, the number of Indian students going to USA is even declining. For USA alone, the number is declining from 12.3 percent 2016-17 to 5.4 percent in 2018-19, second only to China. Detailed figures are available to show this declining trend. The point here is that the outside world is changing and yet within India we seem not to have given up this craze for foreign education and also true that the standards of higher education within India are really appalling.

So, what to do in the days and months ahead in the Indian education sector and that too in the higher education sector? No one is talking about education reform in a serious way.

Of course, the men and women who matter in education know of all these ills. They also know well the ways of reforms needed. Urgently, we need to combat the corrupt practices that had already crept into the university education system. Unless there is a determined effort on the part of the Central government to reform higher education with suitable inputs from international faculty the situation won’t change easily. Let us all introspect and speak out.