What can be done, both in the short and the long-term?
Short-run solutions are obvious. Give farm loans waiver! Easy to say, difficult to implement! This demand and also conceding the demand is now more a political decision and it is for the Prime Minister, more than for anyone to take a final decision. Farmers stir in Madhya Pradesh
As we are based in the South, it is rather unclear how the farmers stir in Madhya Pradesh, widely seen as a model BJP-ruled state in which 12% growth is “touted” as the model for the obviously BJP-ruled other states, has taken this sudden violent turns. The police firing in Mandsaur left five farmers died and the issues seemed to have got out of control. From 2010 onwards, it seems, there had been farmer’s agitations in one form or other.
A BJP sarpanch was killed by police firing and the compensation rose from Rs.5 lakh to Rs.one crore! The RSS seems to have led the stir and to this extent the farmers struggles could taken on more complex forms. Suicides by farmers of more than 7,5000 make one suspect that this can’t be only owing to the Congress misrule in the past. Between Nov.2016 and Feb.2017 alone that 287 farmers and farm labour had committed suicide. So the farmers stir in such a supposed BJP strong hold must raise issues for more decision makers at various levels. Half the death occurred in the Nimar-Malwa region, a hotbed of the RSS movement.
There is more politics to the farmer’s struggles in MP than outsiders can suspect. This signals more ill-will for the ruling party and one doesn’t know at this point of time how the farmers agitations in other states, from UP, Maharashtra to Gujarat and other states and the rising crescendo of demand for farm loans waiver will play out.
Anyway, political apart, there are agriculture issues per agriculture sector related issues alone.
As the agriculture crisis developed more owing to drought and the failure of timely rains, it is not man-made but nature induced. However, the present crisis is like one of a seasonal and even historic crisis. India had seen many crises of this time, more famines and more human miseries.
So, the Prime Minister as the top political authority must take a pragmatic stand and also a more humane and more democratic stand. Some states are prone to more crisis than others. So a uniform demand for crop loan waiver is not a sensible policy decision. In some surplus states which like MP and other states, we need to ensure price assurance and also some one or two more immediate decisions to maintain the farm prices stability.
Price stabilisation funds wherever feasible have to be created and adequate government procurement and storage facilities have to be created on war-footing. It is for the more mature and more experienced administrators, both officials and experts as well as for political leadership to play their responsible role and responsible behaviour. The PM must ensure such an environment of confidence and manageability to prevail.
As for other ,more of a political and all -India level decisions, yes, we need to offer some immediate relief in debt waivers. This again is a decision that the PM and the FM and the banking sector has to decide things.
As things stand there seems to be indecisiveness and a certain air of unreality that marks the functioning of the government machinery.
Regarding the basic approach to agriculture and the rural economic stability and growth, we need a great deal of realism.
Agriculture as of now is really becoming an unviable activity. We are more comfortable to say what the ground level reality is ,rather than what needs to be done at the macro level.
At the grass-roots, the average holdings of the small farmers is becoming unviable every day. Also, if you look at the realities deeply, there is a great deal of burden for the average Indian farmers to merely survive. There is the obvious debt burden. Bank loan, co-operative loans and loans from private money lenders.
Another form of misery for the Indian farmers, we mean here both the tenants and the land owners, there is the existing complex web of land owner-tenant law tangles.
Each farmer is a litigant, you know?
If you enquire a little more deeply you will find such court cases are pending and prolonging for more than 30 or even more years!
In some states, the situation has reached to an impossible level that for every acre in legal dispute the revenue courts, another name for petty officials, to fix bribe terms of the acres of land involved!
So, there is more a negotiation than a legal fight is going on, all unnoticed and uncared for by the political class.
In some states, we all know who/what these states are and where the politicians themselves have grabbed lands of vast extents and such litigations are unlikely to see the light of the day very soon. The point here is that we have to think afresh about the possibility of the rejuvenation of farming as an economic activity. It is now no longer an economic activity.
We have to free the land owners from so many clutches. Otherwise, we have to resort to Marxian phraseology, pauperisation of the rural peasantry if perhaps an inevitability!
What are our solutions? Based on our own long-time observations?
There are many but we can’t put them all in black and white! But certain basic issues need to be attended. One, we have to reduce all-pervasive corruption, as we find in states like TN.
This requires some drastic steps. We have to bring to an end the existing corruption cases, both the political, criminal ones and also the administrative ones. How can you reinstate a Chief Secretary whose offices were aided and he was arrested and kept in custody. Now, released on bail and he is again re-instated!
This cause demoralisation in the whole administrative chain and also the current incumbent Chief Secretary is divested of her portfolio of Anti-Corruption Wing! And the whole country is watching and the state has still only a part-time Governor!
What is the logic of these decisions or half-hearted decisions, if they are to be called decisions at all!
It is for the central government to take a call on the very deteriorating administrative scenario. May be in other states too such administrative failures prevail. We are not sure.
It is here some other related developments also need to be looked into. The judicial delays is another aspect of the accumulating of more pending cases.
How a normal citizen would have to conduct himself or herself?
Also, in states like Karnataka, there is the present of the Lok Ayukta. That gives some confidence for the average citizen.
In other states, again TN is an example, certain issues like the former CM’s niece walks into the Poes Garden residence and wants to occupy it. The police, the private security stand watching helplessly.
There was a debate on the TV channels as to whether one can file an FIR and with whom? Who can file that and who can’t!
These sorts of public affairs reflect how on the central government image?
Now, regarding one or two issues pertaining to agriculture, we are told that Indian can explore and export more of our agri products, food products etc.
As of now we are the 7th largest agro-products exporter. Our agri exports stand at 33.38 billion dollar in 2016-17.Why not set a target for ,say,100 billion agri/horti exports!
Let us aim for an ambitious goal! Draw new strategies and activate the related sectors. A new strategy at the high level to intensify our agro products exports might give more stability and coherence to our agri sector.
There are of course other related issues as for the future of our rural development strategy. These are all waiting for some urgent attention.