Our farmers must enjoy the benefits of new technological revolutions in not only cultivation but also marketing and realising higher incomes.
New Bills would only facilitate modernisation of out-moded practices!
Prime Minister’s assurance of doubling of farmers incomes must be made a reality very soon!

Why there is continuation of farmers’ agitations in Punjab and Haryana. Not much in other States? Down south in the Cauvery belt of the delta regions of Tanjore disticts the traditional paddy farmers are crying for inaction on the part of the government just for the opposite reasons of not lifting the harvested paddy that are left on the road sides and there is almost an outcry of neglect by the government, of course the state government. The simple reason is that what happens to big farmers in Punjab and Haryana is not big deal for the traditional small farmers of Tanjore who are left to tend for themselves or at the mercy of the state government which is not in a position to reform and restructure.

The traditional harvesting and marketing system in practice to put the paddy cultivation, procurement and marketing system in perspective we have to see only what is right now happening in the northern big States. You see there is in Punjab, Haryana there is already these traditional and powerful farmers’ lobby states, there is enough clout and there are the big corporates like Adani business conglomerate that had set up almost a giant Grain silo, the Adani Agri Logistics plant warehouse of immense size and capacity to procure farmers grain product both paddy and wheat. The Adani silos are in existence for the past 13 or so years and it can procure the paddy as they arrive and the silos changed the very face of the paddy procurement system. In Punjab, farmers are very happy to supply grain to Adani silos, the grain was accepted as soon as it is delivered and payments made within three days, say satisfied farmers interviewed by mainstream media.

This is not news for farmers in the southern states. Of course this is not a procurement season in Punjab, most traditional mandis now give a desert look, though Khanna is Asia’s largest market today and workers from Bengal and Bihar are driving the market as a hub of activity. The migrant workers are a constant phenomena and the migrant workers of India are also benefitting by the humming of activities in the Punjab and Haryana mandis. Trucks trundle by ferrying wheat and the migrant workers are busy in open sheds, sorting and cleaning mounds of wheat. Hundreds of commission agents, called here as “arthiyas” are busy dealing with buyers and farmers.

We have to write separately about the role of “arthiyas”, there are an estimated 27,000 of them and there can’t be any procurement system in Punjab without their presence and their well-established services and their role as buyers and money lenders and their intimate relationship with the farming families of the leading wheat producing state. The Centre has enacted now the new legislation namely the ‘The farmers’ Produce. Trade And Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Act’ on two principal counts. It provides greater choice to farmers and more importantly frees them from the clutches of commission agents. But this is contested by actual farmers.

Most farmers in practice are unhappy with these prospects, they don’t like to lose the services of the commission agents. Of course they, the commission agents charge 2.5 percent commission on their services. The government says it wants to cut the commissions but this is unlikely to go immediately at least. Why? This is the very old question, the commission agents who number almost 27,000 of them, all are licensed in the whole of Punjab and it is not an easy thing to change the age-old hold of these very able men who act as credit providers at the instant asking, no paper work, no other bureaucracy hurdles. So, this is the ground level reality at the mandis level.

Of course, the Adani Agri Logistics weights and gives a correct figure, usually, the traditional system of weighing always under estimates and also payment, the government run FCI godowns it takes time and delays payments. Each commission agent has at least about 100 farmers as close associates and so they know each other well. So the new assurances by the government would take time to be felt at the grassroots. There are also other players in his space. There is one Fairfax company which has emerged as the biggest player in agricultural storage it is said that Fairfax-owned National Collateral Management Service which also gives farmers credit in the post-harvest season when there is a glut in the market and prices fall. Whether this commodities-trading type company is a new comer or there will be such players in the future we can’t say right now. Anyway, there are going to be new players and new opportunities in the very near future.

The government’s Farmers Produce Committees are also springing up in other parts of the country and only the future can tell ! Anyway, we have to welcome any new changes in the traditional types of farming systems. Farmers freedoms are paramount and we have to open our eyes and welcome new challenges. Anyway, agricuture is a field, where much attention has been given only at the higher levels, about biodiversity, the Planet’s future and there are many high-level reports like, Living Planet’s Report and the 5th UN Global biodiversity Outlook etc.

But as far as actual farming issues we don’t have many in-depth and serious probing about the actual future of farming. One critical reason is the lack of any serious attempt to reform the age-old traditional agricultural practices. Even now, after 75 years of freedom we see, more so in the northern states the actual tilling of the farms are done by the unseemingly old horrible man-drawing the man ploughs still in operation!

Only in the last generation, that is some 30 years ago we used to see even on the outskirts of Delhi the traditional water lifting devices in operation. Now, they are all gone. Machines have come in the form of tractors and other smaller machineries. In the South there is much change on this front. The government must introduce new policies to modernise agriculture and also lessen the physical labour of the actual farmers. Also, rural housing projects must have special housing schemes for farmers, small and big ones.

Unless you have such special housing schemes, the big one would migrate to cities and the villages would all become deserted. In fact these farming issues are all complex and the average political leaders, specially the populist, low calibre ones would only seek to drive a way the actual middle level farmers also to leave the villages.

Only the far-sighted thinkers and visionaries can only visualise the future of farming and the villages with a robust sense of realism and common sense.

Learning the online work culture!
It is a totally new experience!
It seems a long way indeed!

One new learning is that sometimes big changes, be it high tech or even simple things come not by inventions and innovations they seem to come in a very sudden, brutal physical changes or happenings. The coming of the Covid pandemic is one such event that has thrown the entire word into a spin. We don’t know for certain how long. The pandemic lasting and how we, our lives will all change and what new world. We are going to confront and how the future is going to unfold. Of course nothing like this has happened and we are yet to understand the reach of the pandemic and when the world would turn to normalcy. So to turn to our work culture, both in our domestic lives and the lives and activities in our economic, transport and other socio-cultural and industrial activities. One big unexplored world is the world of work.

We have worked so far in a settled, office environment. From now onwards we have to work in a remote online, digital ways. So, it looks everyone of us seems to be learning. Even in the Western societies there is confusion and contradictory voices. There have been so many U turns! In the USA, it is hellcat the White House and the coming General Elections would be a landmark.

The migration problem is going to create new tensions in all the Western countries. Indian migration to the USA and UK is not going to be easy. Inside India, we have to sort out issues, as the government is going to see new challenges from the way the Centre-State relations are building up. New elections inside India is going to throw up many pressures on our well-regulated Constitutional norms, each regional party is doing things, not in high Constitutional manners. Corruption is going to be a new challenge.

You can’t run the elections under the very opaque manners. The major national parties, the Congress and the BJP are now strictly respecting the electoral laws and norms. So, what role the media once well-respected, today everyone joining and changing parties. So, media, both print and online with the new tech tools like Social Media have to do their legitimate jobs and we have to analyse the issues and ponder over the role of media, print, TV, online and also such issues like fake media, media monopolies etc. Let us give some thought on this subject.

The power of the print media has always been recognised all over the world and the digital transformation of the media is only of recent development. Ever since mankind came to acquire the skills to invent letters and inscriptions, the printed word took of course some few thousand odd years to get a written script. Since the ancient world information we get only through these scripts and much of the ancient world. Wisdom is accumulated in the various divided forms, scrolls and stone carvings from. We have travelled a very long way. You can see some of these historic scripts on various devices.

Even today you are likely to see some of these rare scripts and devices on marble stones, as in Athens in the agora museum, these stone scripts we learnt were used as official messages used by the democratic governments that were functioning there for some 50 odd years and it was thrilling to see these ancient historic sites! So too in many other museums in Europe and other continents. In Cambodia we saw some such stone scripts and some of these scripts are similar to Tamil scripts! That gives us some idea of how the ancient Tamil kingdoms reached the Cambodian shores and particularly one ancient Tamil Chola King, Jaya Varman built the ancient majestic Angkovat temple complex.

Today we live in a very different world indeed. The IT revolution has ushered in an instant information age and the Internet has made us to what we today in the instant email age.

The covid pandemic had enforced a new code of conduct, that is, the digital revolution in all spheres. Our education and office systems all have been forced to adopt and online work culture in all our activities.

Among all the industry reviving talk and many new initiatives, the agri sector is perhaps the most unattended one. For us, it is our high priority sector, in which we are there for a long term, almost for over a quarter century! Yes, there are giants in the media meaning print media and they are also facing much more challenging problems.

That is the age-old issue of freedom of the press. Compared to other countries, even big Democracies the freedom of the media is still a sticky question. There is a visible shift in the mainstream newspapers, many have changed their idea of a free press, they have all turned themselves into captive press and their newspaper criticism and opinion pages have all been almost abandoned and they have all gone soft with the incumbent power holders.

Inside India, this is true while one can guess what is the state of press freedom. As far India is concerned there is this satisfaction of the absence of any ill-treatment of journalists. In other countries, there are more gruesome stories of journalists arrested and even jailed. We seem to have reached some funny state where the major countries, while ill-treating the high political functionaries like a foreign minister travels to Norway for what? For requesting the country not to award the Nobel Prize to the dissenters!

Looking at various aspects of Indian life and society, we seem to be in a unique way much blessed.

We should raise India’s image as a moderate political culture-based country and our brand image in comparison with other countries a superior nation of culture and civilisation.

Why the world is so complicated?
We seem to be living in a civilised and yet a contradictory world!

Everywhere, from USA to China. Rulers are doing things that don’t seem to make s sense!

Why China is antagonising large parts of the world? In Hong Kong, Taiwan and South China sea?

As these lines are being typed there is tension and flare-up on the India-China border in the Ladakh area. And the minds of Indians and, even in the outside world must be disturbed. Are we living in a civilised world? Are we living in the 21st century or in some primitive times?

Only we have read in the histories of the Greek and Roman World we have read about the invasions. Of “Barbarians”, the term applied by the Greeks for all foreigners and only these later barbarians finally succeeded and the Roman Empire got weakened. And fell apart in the 7th century and the world went through a dark age. But today, the world is very civilised, yes, we live in a civilised world and we see a new type of barbarians seems to have still occupied with the minds of some regimes and some parts of the world.

Luckily, we live in a globalising world, the economies and communications and much else seem to have integrated the world and the large extent of the territories breathing easy in a fairly democratising socio-political and cultural International world.

In this time and historic point it is really galling to see some dictators. Are still indulging this luxury of indulging in territorial aggression!

Territorial aggression today’s world is perhaps the most uncivilised conduct. Yet you see what is happening in Ukraine and Belarus and in the middle eastern countries.

There is no other way in which we can find out how still some parts of the world suffers from such uncivilised conduct. And every day, we see in the news channels, TV screens are bloodied by violence and much tragedies and civilised people are forced to the streets and in spite of the knowledge and awareness people have to shed tears and cry to live in a more open world and open societies. India, next to China, ironically or otherwise carry the world’s largest populations, China with 1.44 billions and India 1.36 billions and yet the Chinese regime known for its finicky sensitivities don’t care for dialogue and exchange of views and learn to resolve disputes in a civilised manner. To come to underhand deals is not diplomacy and it is this underhand deals seem to have led to the latest flare-up.

Now, turning to the domestic scene there are issues and issues arising out of our day to day events. One the economy seems to be caught in a bind. The finances are in shambles and the Finance Minister is not seen in public and the banks are also in a difficult position. The industrial scenario is mixed. Auto sales seem to be picking up somewhat.

But it seems a long journey. As for agriculture, there is good news. The agri scene is upbeat, the extent of the Kharif sowing is picking up, thanks to improved rains. There is the very positive sales of tractors, the three major tractor making firms have reported almost doubling of units sold compared to last year and this must boost the spirits of the policy makers. However, that we like to draw attention is that the spirits at the grassroots are still confused, jobs are not coming along too soon and we need definite policy articulations that must enthuse the general public.

Yes, there has been good rains and much farming activity. But what about the generation of employment beyond the one scheme, the 100 days employment guarantee scheme?

The future of the cities in terms of governance and expansion are still vague. The Covid has proven that the urban density in the absence of real estate moving towards the suburbs is going to create more problems that solve future urban issues.

May be the need to get the mayors of the bigger cities must be elected directly by the city dwellers instead of the present day councillors methods so that the mayors might have more powers to spend the resources and also become more accountable to the urban citizens.

Also the future cities must be more widely disbursed with the current expansion of urban transport, with more and longer metro services so that there is enough space for people in the cities and the inevitable growth of slums are not going to disfigure our future cities. Much more important is the sort of society, we visualise in the future growth of cities.

Also the quality of governance is very much tied to the larger question of civil society participation in urban governance. We have seen recently many videos of European cities, the urban scene there is very different, very opitimistic and very open and we see a happy urban population going through their daily routines. There are so vast pedestrian spaces, all urban lines, both trains and trams seem to have been taken underground so that there is lot of space over ground and the parks are vast and green.

May be our planners must have toured the Western cities and have seen the very fantastic new architecture that makes some of these cities a delight and so much fulfilling !

The contrast between these cities and ours here is so striking. Where are our enlightened, public spirited citizens? Where is our new generation educated enlightened public spirited elite?

Here the sort of people who enter politics is anything but enlightened. You have to see some of the more well-governed States that have fallen into a rut.

How to expect the villages, the small communities, the minorities to fell secure and self-reliant.Self reliance country would emerge only where there is an air of freedom and democratic governing institutions. So, what we are advocating is a honest self-introspection and not feeling complacent and defending blindly all our mistakes in governance. Let us do many new radical changes in our rural governance.

Our plea is that the Indian elite must learn to live in this contradictory world!
We, the people, must become more committed and learn to live more courageously and Independent mindedly!

By KAUSTAV BHATTACHARYYA

“The House of Savoy which led the Unification movement of Italy became the ruling dynasty of Italy and ended up being the prime kingdom from 1861 until 1946. In 1946 the Monarchy was abolished in Italy. The affiliation with the House of Savoy bestowed upon the Piedmontese ‘Nobility’ a special prestige and legitimacy when compared to the rest of the Italian Nobility. The rest of the numerous Italian small monarchical states were perceived as residual vestiges of foreign conquests rather than products of pristine Italian history with continuity from ancient past.

In conversations with Professor Isvarmurti he often lamented the ignorance of educated Indians about the Continental high culture and society, our textbooks and pedagogy heavily concentrated on the British nobility or elites and took a complete detour with regards to the Continental Europeans.

In this specific article I explore the Italian Nobility and specifically the Piedmontese Nobility and their role and status in Italian society.

Why Piedmontese nobility?? The Piedmontese nobility enjoyed a special status amongst all the principal Kingdoms of Italy being part of the House of Savoy which led the Unification movement of Italy or ‘Risorgimento’ in late 19th century. Piedmont is a North-Western region of Italy located on the foothills of the Alps with borders with France and Switzerland. Prior to the Unification Piedmont was one the numerous Principalities of Italy and was affiliated to the Savoy Kingdom. Piedmontese nobility or the Lords were members of the House of Savoy centered in Turin.

The Piedmontese nobility which after the Unification or ‘Risorgomento’ in 1861 lost a lot of the privileges endowed through legal and official statutes created a nice enclave outside the political sphere for their elite status amongst the upper classes which included the newly emergent elites of industrialists, bankers, propertied rich including landed elites and professionals, based upon their aristocratic ‘heredity’.

They relied upon social and cultural institutions to exercise their cultural hegemony by shaping them according to their own noble values, morals and manners. The 3 institutions which Piedmontese Nobility exercised influence and shaped predominantly were private schools, army and Gentlemen’s Clubs.

In this article we will consider particularly the case of the Gentlemen’s Clubs which were the enclave of this Piedmontese Nobility in Turin; Società del Whist and the Accademia Filarmonica.

Although many of these private clubs were porous in terms of their membership and did allow a certain percentage of nouveau wealthy bourgeoisie elites it was the old Noble pedigreed ‘family’ elites who emerged as mediators of conduct, manners and values.

What’s so interesting about the Piedmontese Nobility?? Personally I find it fascinating how this particular nobility exercised influence and power in the cultural and social sphere operating independently of the political sphere. This fact appeals to me as a lesson at a point in time when politics and politicians dominate our imagination to the exclusion of all other refined pursuits.

DESCRIPTION OF THE 2 GENTLEMENS CLUBS:
There were 2 posh Gentlemen’s private exclusive clubs based in Torino towards the end of the 19th century; the Società del Whist and the Accademia Filarmonica. These clubs were inspired by the model of Gentleman’s Clubs in London and Paris.

Both these clubs were merged shortly after the end of the Second World War in 1947and were renamed post-merger as the Società del Whist Accademia Filarmonica.

The merged club is housed in the magnificent edifice of Palazzo dell’Accademia located on Piazza San Carlo in Torino: the same premises as that of the erstwhile Accademia Filarmonica. The physical structure of Palazzo dell’Accademia was built between 1644 and 1656 and designed under the aegis of Benedetto Alfieri, one of the illustrious architectural proponents of the “classicism-baroque” style. The aristocratic or noble touch is glaringly evident from the architecture of the edifice employing the finest mind of the time.

The Philharmonic Academy:

Was formed in October 1814 as an informal coalescence of 50 amateur musicians along with the appointment of its first President, the Count Luigi Mocchia of San Michele, to celebrate and cherish Classical music.

The school was financially supported by the Patrician Carlo Alberto during his lifetime and physically located at the palace of Marquis Solaro del Borgo. Philharmonic Academy was engaged primarily in musical performances, conducting study of music and dancing involving professionals, academics and amateurs.

As things stand today, the Philharmonic Academy is endowed with a valuable musical library which remains as an artefact of the musical teaching tradition including well-preserved original handwritten scores from the 6th and 7th century.

These handwritten scores were donated by the Marquis Alessandro dAngrogna who was a member of the Philharmonic Academy and descendant of Count Luigi Cotti of Brusasco. Interestingly it was the intervention of Marquis Alessandro dAngrogna saved the archives from destruction by Napoleonic forces. A special music hall or room was built by the architect Talucchi in 1840 titled ‘Odeo’ with higher quality acoustics for concerts and exercises.

Società del Whist:

Or ‘Whist Society’ was founded sometime in March 1841 as a personal dream ‘project’ of the Count of Cavour, Camillo Benso and was located in the chic and elegant CaffeFirio of Turino.

Initially it was conceived as a warm cozy location for meeting to play Whist (being a trick-taking card game), Chess and have conversations with ‘politely educated’ people. There were 40 founding members who were friends of the Count Cavour, which included both aristocrats and upper bourgeouisie, amongst whom 10 were affiliated to the exclusive aristocratic club of the city, Patriottica Nobile Societa del Casino which restricted membership to the highest strata of the nobility primarily those who were titled prior to 1722. The key aristocratic personalities who were part of the founding team apart from Count Cavour were Cavalier Pietro Santa Rosa and Count Vittorio Filippi di Baldissero.

This notion of being ‘politely educated’ traces its origins to the Renaissance ideal of a cultivated, cultured person who is blessed with a generalist education which clearly betrays the aristocratic ideal of education.

‘Polite’ education implied acquiring knowledge and learning much beyond the confines of professional learning with clear practical defined goals and objectives; a kind of ‘Knowledge for Knowledge’s sake’ ideal.

Admission criteria of being ‘politely educated people’ is another manifestation of the aristocratic temper and tone of the Club.

Another aristocratic influence on the Club was the fact that gambling was strictly prohibited within the precincts of the Society.

There existed a library existed with a good collection of books along with the games. Clearly this Club was influenced by the aristocratic ideal of cultivation of mind, body and spirit laced with haute cuisine and fine wine.

Piedmontese Nobility was closely connected to the military this manifested in terms of the members contributing to the war efforts earning battlefield glory; there were 19 gold medals awarded to Whist Society members. This battlefield track-record stretched from the First War of Independence until the Great War (First World War) and the Resistance.

The Whist society insisted on being totally apolitical and despite having members who were political heavyweights: the nobility types, diplomats and serving ministers. There was maintained a calibrated detachment from the humdrum world of politicking.

Rather the philosophical abstract world of political ideas were acceptable and welcomed. As a matter of fact quite recently, about 20 years back, one of the senior members had to step down due to his close affiliation with the ruling political dispensation of the day.

In the summary one can appreciate and understand the way Piedmontese nobility went about creating a special niche for themselves in the sphere of socializing and aesthetics independently of political elites. This demonstrates that there are multiple ways in which fading elite can retain its prestige and exude glory without craving and conniving for political power.”

More attention to the ground level realities. The social and economic and the panchayat level reforms are critical. These further details call for critical analysis on policy implementation.

The revival of the economy seems to be very much dependent upon the agri sector. All other sectors, industry, infrastructure etc seem to be still in the lockdown mode.

This kharif season agri output is projected at 108.22 million tonnes, as the kharif acreage hits all time high as a newspaper headlines scream!

The government has put lot of emphasis on small and marginal farmers in the revival of economic growth, rightly so therefore!

As the vast majority of farmers belong to this category only, it is only right that we seem to care much for these two segments of millions of farmers, the small households in the rural India. Indian agricultural transformation depends very much on what we do for this farming segment and what is happening already is a question we have to examine much more carefully and also what we find from the ground realities. These two segments lie at the very bottom of the pyramids to say.

In our experience the old regime is also like what the new regime with all its noise is going. Agriculture and rural development doesn’t get wet we are all talking about!

Technological revolution is transforming Indian society. including the agri sector. There is this smart phone revolution. Now, in almost every household in the villages, the new generation of boys and girls, the IT tech has transformed their lives, they are educated and aware and they use smart phones and the governments must do much more than what is being done and more so now, after the Covid menace online usage is increasing.
In agriculture, there is also the digital revolution. From now onwards technologies are becoming everyday reality. This is a new field and a vast territory and only more qualified. Hands can do justice by taking up this awareness campaign.

This is now a sadly neglected area and given the current environment when most of our exerts are urban based professionals, economists or retired bureaucrats, the grass roots realities of India seldom get attention.

Though Covid is a great tragedy and disrupted much of our normal life and created much agony and great losses it seems that Indian won’t be the same again unfortunately. Digital transformation of much of our society must be welcomed for what it is capable of doing and also still newer techs like AI and Cloud and others could help to impact the life of the people outside the offices and let us hope much of our farming scenario would be impacted by the many revolutions including the much-touted digital one!

Our point is that right now, the many tech revolutions seem somewhat far away or far ahead. The people at the bottom level are yet to seem to get the benefits in their day to day lives. The potential for much change seems visible and yet the lives of the hapless farmers who had suffered much for lack of priorities for so long remain where they were. For much of our post-Independence period, right?

There are many other issues at the grassroots level. One is the panchayat raj institutions

We restrain further comments or such revelations might antagonise the local vested interests. As we have been long saying as of today a small farmer is either a debtor or a litigant or both.

Life in the villages is not so easy and pleasant, as we all seem to imagine.
So, one more lesson for tackling the rural realities that stand in the way of further progress is to realise, for the experts and the expert professionals, in the Indian scene, either an economist and bureaucrat is that these category of experts also live in fear of the incumbent governments. So, you really don’t get realistic appraisal of many of the policies.

Now, we feel the time also has come to realise that we shouldn’t simply talk of policies in general, vague terms. We need not mention. The government policies in vague terms, we have to further analyse the implementation details and then come to comment, be it the ease of doing business or many other bureaucratic hurdles in policy implementations. One more aspect of rural development policies is the state of public opinion at the grass roots levels, the media is not a free media anymore and everywhere. These are stray thoughts and we need a more open society and a commitment for values like truth and honesty in politics. Perhaps, the education spread and growth in social media can partially rectify the current deficiencies.