Better it ends right now!

There is as of now, as we writes massive trust deficit between the farmers and the government and this trust deficit must somehow be brought to an end. How is the unresolved question.

Farmers’ agitation and the way the deadlock is going to be resolved. The role of the media in creating mutual understanding and trust critical. Why the farmers’ s agitation has taken the turns and twists it has done and thus vitiated the political environment so badly. It is really sad to see that a good package of farm reforms is thoroughly mis-turned into a total negative step.

Agriculture specially must be a great national priority and it is even now. The agitations must have been foreseen when the bills were rushed through many sections of opinion felt so when the rush through Parliament took place. However, the way the agitation was pushed forward is really unfortunate. Now, what matters is the resolution of the overblown issues.

Many of the provisions in the three contentious laws are really good and conceived in good spirit. Some compromise and give and take is in place. And let us hope that instead of further hardening of postures on both the sides, much goodwill is brought to bear on the issues. The media, both print and the news channels played a very restrained role and in fact we needed much more open expression of opinions from all sides and we are sorry to note that many those who participated in the TV debates almost people accustomed to participate in such debated and most of them seemed to have been based in Delhi and most of them if we can say, are professional speakers and commentators.

In a field like agriculture we need to reach out to people in the States and also those engaged in farming activities and local bodies, like Zilla Parishads and gram panchayats. We are really disappointed that senior leaders and authorities like former Prime Ministers, and even State Chief Ministers (like Deve Gowda, Kumarasamy and why even those from other regional parties and well-known farmers leaders were not interviewed and a diverse sections of people who are better placed to give the government and the public a better and balanced views on such matters like MSP and contract farming etc.

Leaders like Sharad Pawar and Deve Gowda as Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Karnataka have proposed many farm reforms like land ceiling laws and tenancy farming had long ago had spoken about such issues now covered by the three farm legislations.

Surely, the media comments on the ongoing controversial debated is in our opinion is an old hat, to put it bluntly and the farm issues now covered is still only a starting point. Much more in-depth debates are required to turn the farm sector into a reasonably profitable track.

Even in the current agitation we heard from many sections of the participating. Farmers, both men and even women agitators talking of the future of farmers in bleak terms. Surely, farming for the marginal and small holder farming it is not a field for future for their heirs and we have to do many more things than what we have envisaged so far. There are other sociological issues that cover lives in the Indian hinterlands.

So, let not the current urban -focused TV news content deceive us to think we know all the current realities. We need more genuine spread of panchayat raj and much more modernisation, in terms of communications and why even in education and employment prospects and the very entrenched bureaucracy at the district and panchayat levels.

There are issues after issues in the Indian villages.

Let us all, both the government, the already enriched and entrenched political class learn to be humble and even make a partial withdrawal from the self-sure hardening attitude.

Let our brave farmers also learn some humility in taking the issues beyond the breaking points.

But peaceful protests can’t be prolonged or unlimited!

The current farmers protests in Delhi has created a new phenomenon from starting as a peaceful protest by farmers from Punjab and Haryana, mostly Jat-Sikh farmers who, as everyone in the rest of the country knows, are relatively well-off comparatively and well organised as a professional group, they have done well in pressurising the centre.

As we write this on the 14th day of the farmers agitation in which lakhs of farmers mainly from Punjab and Haryana and the nearby areas including western UP who have gathered in massive protests and creating a great deal of misery for the farmers themselves and also for the rest of the country there are concerns about the turn the agitation might take in the next few days.

Also the agitation by India’s, perhaps the most powerful, by land holdings as well as the earning power, no less their political clout all add up to a new political dynamics, gives Indian politics its own dynamism in the world outside as well inside India. Why this sudden upsurge in Indian politics when India is also caught up with its own inherent strengths and if any, its own vulnerabilities?

The time of the farmers’ agitation seems to be a bit unfortunate. There is a widespread feeling, rather very extensively, both inside as well as outside India at the way Indian democracy’s many very strong features are suddenly forgotten it seems, by our other friends and also the perceived unfriendly countries. Of course, Chinese is the one country and people who have suddenly gone off track and have sought to speed up its unfriendly moves by amassing thousands of new troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and thus destabilising India’s borders and the neighbourhood countries. areas and also entering into a new memorandum of understanding with the Pakistani army and other unfriendly acts. And this is a subject on which much has been said and here there is no new comment to make.

Now, coming to the current issues that agitate the countrymen ,we have to see that in our practice of democratic values we seem to be not so very sensitive. The recent happenings apart, the very passing of the three farm laws that are now holding up a fruitful outcome of the farmers-government dialogues, in a significant manners owing to the way we had enacted the very same laws.

Why hurry in passing the laws by voice vote, not by due process of a parliamentary debate?

Also there are many other instances, in the recent past when we see many other important laws are also rushed through, why even the Question Hours an important feature of a Parliamentary democracy was done away with, debates are not conducted as they should and also some important and even controversial laws might have been referred to Parliamentary Panels so that many controversies might have been settled at the Panels stage?

There are a long list of issues that need to be referred to here but our observations are limited to few instances only. There is an air of tension and discomfort in the country. A Parliamentary democracy is like a mother ship, it must accommodate very many diverse opinions.

Indian agriculture sector has drawn disproportionately high irrational, politically driven cynical disbursement of high subsidies.

As per a latest RBI report India has disbursed (or written off) nearly Rs.2.12 trillion as farm loans since 2008 in 11 years. This was done of course by the UPA regimes and one stark lesson is that this type of farm loan waivers s wood do any more in the future. So the current three farm laws were enacted in good faith we admit. But then negotiations’ few amendments of the current laws are in ordering farmers must also see reason and withdraw the agitations in some good faith.

Democratic government is a government in dialogue with the citizen groups. We appeal to all sections let us sit together, debate and engage in very broader consensus. Conflict resolution is the very essence of a democratic government.

India has to change and specifically Indian agriculture sector has to change radically in many ways.

Today the politics in India is so polarised that even if you want to make any honest and even innocent pronunciation it is suspect and mistaken in terms of the highly polarised politics. And let us not forget for a minute that agriculture is very tough subject and very difficult to articulate in any objective manner. Agriculture is also a state subject and it is for the states to draw up and implement any meaningful agriculture policy or policies. Unfortunately, the politics in the States too is so polarised that those states what are under the Congress party dispensation are asked by Sonia Gandhi not to implement the Centre’s new policies. So we have to keep in mind the larger interests of the very entire farming community.

Here we would tackle only a few basic points. One, we have to first of all take a very broad outlook. Agriculture is the least efficiently performing sector also, the allocation in the budget for agri research is near zero do you know? Just one percent ! The reasons are many, one, the rural areas are so left our socially backward, the castes and the ethnic. Communities are too many and they have all remained tied up with so many traditional beliefs and superstitions. Democratic politics had brought about a very unpredictable rural society. The lands are fragmented and thus, those who support the government and others too often talk about the meagre land holdings.

The data about these vast landscapes is also lately twisted and thus, one new issue that is going to affect the future immediate as well as remote is how we are going to implement the new policies in the absence of reliable data. How to implement, say, the PM’s many welfare schemes, how to put the money in the hands of the small and marginal farmers’ hands?

So, we have to pause and suspect at every stage of policy implementation. The existing and emerging gaps in data pertaining to the dispersal of real potential beneficiaries. You can already see the allegations in the Pradhan Mantri schemes of how the free loans are diverted into hands of corrupt officials. And as we read in Tamil Nadu, the scheme is already in the dumps before it is put into practice! These are the sort of ground level realities we like to highlight and many more such government money-swindling acts are likely to come in the way very soon. So, first of all we have to ensure, the Central Government must first get reliable data is not fudged and the very openness and transparency must be ensured before we start talking about our hapless farmers.

We welcome them, the new bills, with certain qualifications and also with a progressive mindset! You see agriculture is a vast area of economic activity.
Yes, agriculture in India has been the subject of much controversy today. In sum, we can say with certain confidence that all who talk of farmers’ issues are very superficial and they don’t know, we say with some confidence, anything at all about the ground level realities.

The BJP has come out with the three bills, all related to the marketing freedoms for farmers and also with the promise of MSP and much else. The opposition led by the Congress party and in particular by Rahul Gandhi who has lately turned into a full-scale opponent of the BJP and more so directly towards the Prime Minister has turned the whole debate into a partisan politics whose end we don’t know yet full impact of the three bills on the future prospects on the Indian agriculture. The agriculture sector of India is a vast subject of importance. It is a bit ironical that politics in India today also has become so unprincipled that anybody and everybody who speaks on agriculture these days seem to be totally unsuited and unequal to the task! Unfortunately, democratic politics has brought out a sort of rootless people to high offices!

You live all your life in Delhi, you inherit some office or title and you become a leader, even a party functionary is now a leader. In the political parties too most of the persons who appear on the TV screens or get your name inserted in some obscure corner of a newspaper or a TV show is a leader and given the sort of politics we have fashioned in the country with so many of the present or past leaders, the numbers are so significant that there are no resources, we are told to book and carry out court cases against those implicated in criminal cases, the past MPs and MLAs and so on. Given the whole corrupt scenario of the politics and also the unconcern of the common citizen about these allegations, the number of lawyers and others who are making news by associating themselves with political parties and had held offices of ministers even for a brief period are all experts on their own assumptions, these persons also add to the vitiation of politics.

As for agriculture it is a no-man’s land for the mass of people. The office holders speak with authority, those who had lost their offices turn into a sort of permanent residents of the Lutyens’ bungalow zone for years and years. They don’t vacate their residences and for continuation of their occupation they somehow manage to hold on. Just you see how the members of the Congress Working Committee become members in the first place.Today each and every member of these sort of parties’ core committees are New Delhi residents and they are totally cut off from the ground level realities of the rural India.

The point here is that when we talk of agriculture we seem to speak so superficially and has nothing to do with the actual lives and livelihood realities. We are a small media group and we live and practise farming, you believe?

So we are totally unimpressed by the comments and criticisms of all these politicians, the crorepathis and the corrupt politicians who dare and comment and dare to give such bogus statistics etc. Everyone said without exception, it seems, that the average holds of farm lands has declined and now less than one hectare is hell by the majority of the farmers. Is this a magic reality? Is this something very unusual? Only those who live in the villages know well that in every village inequality and inequity is the basic ground level reality.

Not every one can hold big land holdings. It is the village reality that only a few, often one or two families can hold large holdings, every past century you can see that farming lands ceasing to remain big holdings, from old jagirdari holdings to progressive fragmentation. May be if we don’t further attend to farming issues, very soon villages would become desolate and the rest of the farming households would see their members further reduced and there could be empty villages without any younger generation continuing the traditional farming operations.

So, it is one more reason why we have to make farming a productive enterprise, we have to make farming change to respond to new scenarios. Let us welcome all changes with an open hand!
Any change is welcome in farming sector, so too the latest fermium bills. Only sad thing is how the bills were rushed through, may be the government has its own compulsions.

The government needs much sympathy and support, at least they enacted the bills! Of course politics is in reality very controversial politics one, it seems! Where the heads you win and tails you lose!
Now, we like to say certain things very clearly and emphatically!

First you have to reconcile with the Indian rural realities. One, the rural India would have to protect and promote the landless labour. You have to sustain this rural population segment as a permanent feature of Indian countryside, namely, the rural landless population!

India welfare State must address all the economic and social issues, like education, health and minimal protect from exploitation. This is a big issues but these issues will be there with us for long, in one election or other and politicians will continue to mislead and make false promises and this is a subject that needs a great deal of ideological debate and debate, a sort of education and even popular education.

Education is spreading now very furiously and education reformers have a great responsibility as to how to educate and awaken the public consciousness etc. Next to landless labour, there is the issue of the legal and traditional human rights. Land is becoming limited and therefore there will always be the land ownership issues.

Tenancy farming will also be there. You have to reform the current state of issues that remain unresolved. The old type, that is, the existing type tenancy r reforms. Have to go and new type of land ownership and tenancy reforms have to be brought out.

So, that there is a friction free environment in the countryside. The key to these issues like in the panchayat raj institutions that remain a part work only as of now. You have to address the panchayat reform in a committed way so that at the very bottom level the ordinary villager, the very bottom-level citizen feels the security of a non-exploitative social base. This is not there now. Today, there is a sense of insecurity and a fear of government itself prevails. The media and the NGOs and other voluntary agencies are all treated with a sure and dismissal outlook and this is very unfair and arbitrary government.

The Collector’s raj and the local party bossism must go. The corrupt and criminal elements are driving the social relations and the end result is no government and near anarchism and lawlessness.

Agriculture is the very root of Indian ethos. The latest agri laws are likely to contribute towards modernisation of Indian agriculture. There is no other way. The new generation agri laws would surely wipe out the old time mandis and commission agents. And the sort of nexus that had been built up in the mandis, be it paddy mandi or horticulture, like that of the onion mandis and the politicians and mandi bosses in mobilising election funds to other social and political nefarious relationships would go and they must go!

Yes, in their place the new age silos like those of corporate giants like Adani agri silos would come and there is so far everything positive and the farmers who take their produce only the good things have been said! Why not we acknowledge the ground level realities!

There would be only slow change in the rural Indian realities but we can think ahead and articulate rational policies even from now onwards. These are only some stray thoughts and let us debate and discuss issues without any ulterior motives.

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.

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.