Lifeline for India’s economic prosperity. Times seem to have changed. Forever? It looks at this point of time it is forever!

The Covid-19 Pandemic could not have come at the worst time. Among the more serious tragedies and human misery about the sights and sounds of the thousands of ads the rural migrant desperately seeking to return to their own natives homes distributed in almost all the northern states from Assam to the other neighboring states from Bengal to Jharkhand and Bihar and UP from where lakhs of rural migrants who had migrated every year till now. Seeking better life, higher wages and assurance jobs at times of scarcity. This is an annual ritual till. This time.

Only now after the Covid 19 broke out even the authorities never seem to have realized the dimension of the scale of the problems.

Even after the Covid 19 Pandemic broke out, after some more than 60 days we see the thousands of migrants hanging over in the cities, in Mumbai and Delhi. In Delhi after ignoring the human issues and many tragedies, many retiring migrants have died on the was, still more poignant stories, the Apex Court had decided to hear the plight of the migrants stranded in the cities.

As for the government it is of great credit for the government that India has done extremely well; it earns a very good name among the more advanced countries. This we have to keep in mind and stand united behind the government in this hour of peril.

The whole world is puzzled; USA and UK were once held as role models; no more, we are sorry to note.

If this is what these countries have achieved in healthcare, then it is too much to expect from lesser endowed in resources like India.

What India must be doing now and after is a matter for discussion.

What we have to do at the moment is to lessen the hardships of the people, the returning migrants.

The humbling truth is that the government, specially the critical railways authorities have failed the suffering people by letting them to hang on for such long days.

The other agency. That are engaged in humanitarian series like catering and care for the suffering people on the railway tracks and roads where they seem to have halted for the nights and they also walked all through these thousands of miles and we, as compassionate society failed.

No leaders of any stature seem to have come out and spoken and asked for help from the concerned authorities.

This is one side of the problem, even as we write at the beginning of June thousands are left out. On the day the Supreme Court was hearing the cases, thousands are seen gathered and ,by one account 2.5 lakh people in Delhi alone and there are 262 trains required to ferry them.

In this new human crisis everyone concerned seems to have failed. Whatever be the outcomes of the SC hearing, there is no immediate end to this seemingly unending tragedy.

This is one side of the Pandemic crisis, apart from the pandemic crisis itself which is taking an unbearable heavy human toll. This is not the place to discuss further about how the issues would be sorted out. We are sure it would be sorted out, we hope in some days. The other more serious issues are lying to be tackled and this might not be very easy by any standard.

That is how to envisage the economic challenges. One is creating employment on sustainable scale. It is not easy at all. How this estimated 5 and odd crore returnee migrants to be retained or helping them to their own haunts.

There is no way to deviate from ground level realities. After a few days, not even months, the returned migrants would be the realities at their home states, given the manner in which ground level realities are played out there is no other way than to allow the people to go wherever they want, wherever there are productive jobs.

Punjab and Haryana would beckon them back. No doubts about it. So, let us at least now learn to. send them back with some dignity and order. Then, of course there are other larger issues, the larger picture and also some wisdom on the part of politicians and leaders to learn to. Speak some truth, not bravo and empty rhetoric.

We have written long and much. About rural India, rural realities. We need power decentralisation, establishing genuine panchayat Raj institutions and creating more urban-type jobs another new world technology based jobs.

Now having met whole Pandemic 19 virus attack, here would be new technologies. More online based productive jobs outside, away from the concentrated office jobs.

Online there can be any number of new innovations.

We at Vadamalai are also changing with the times. There are now new features online and discussion groups online and video-conferencing activities in the days to come. Thank you.

When do we care for farmers, if at all?

When Sharad Pawar goes to meet the PM?

Yes, it looks so. The other day when the government formation in Maharashtra was at its most hectic pace, Sharad Pawar the senior most old Congress leader, now the chief of the much depleted Nationalist Congress party (NCP), was at his wiliest best, said observers and the whole day was engrossing as one step after another Mr.Pawar holding his cards close to his chest and kept everyone of the stakeholders, namely, the ShivSena, The Congress and the NCP in very tense suspense. What did Pawar do? That day at the very end of the Rajya Sabha debate for the day he called on the Prime Minister in his Parliamentary office. The Prime Minister is no less competent and the two of the most experienced leaders chose to meet at noon!
Everyone was in anticipation as to the outcome of the top two leaders of the country.

Mr.Pawar, soon after coming out of the meeting just told the waiting newsmen that he ‘called on the PM to present the case of the farmers of Maharashtra who were greatly affected by the floods and sought help’!
Is that all he talked when the whole country was waiting to see whether Mr.Pawar could play one or two tricks with his government formation tactics? Yes, this is politics at its cruelest best!

You see farmers are the least subjects for politicians in India and it doesn’t absolve Pawar also from this charge. Much more heart-rending was the scene or scenes for the TV channels often repeat the display of some scenes and this time, on the very same day, at the very same moment, the TV screens also flashed another scene, this time, a group of farmers, exactly 29 of them in UP districts adjoining the Haryana border, all handcuffed and drawn by chains and they were walked about to the police station and they gave a picture of much disgust and agony for the viewers!

Yes, this is all about farmers and Indian agriculture you can see and understand the real India. Prior to the event, a day or two before there was again a TV screen scene, this time it is about the number of MPs invited to attend a panel on pollution in Delhi and out of the 27 or so of the MPs invited only two or three were in attendance!

The TV screens again displayed the absentee MPs and all were quite prominent, a glamorous actress and a noted all-India-known editor and a media celebrity and many of the ones who were ruling party MPs and heavyweights. So, the MPs are busy otherwise when the Delhi air choked the inhabitants, MPs are otherwise busy and also when the poor and distraught farmers, all poor and almost illiterate and they might not have known why they had been caught and walked to the nearby police station, very likely, the police personnel themselves might not have known why they were doing this criminal act.

The poor farmers were charged for stubble burning in their paddy fields. For the city dwellers stubble burning is a nuisance. As consumers city dwellers only want quality rice, fresh vegetables, cheap onions and tomatoes only. How they come on to the table is nobody’s concern! Life goes on otherwise for Delhiites. Where the high and mighty all reside wish the pollution goes away by magic!

So, this is all about agriculture for you! Pollution?

Schools are shut and parents are helpless and the common man doesn’t care and the uncommon ones, the Prime Minister and the chief ministers don’t speak out and it is in a cynical way, only good time for the TV crews, at least they can cry and should and engage the pedestrians for an evening chat!
Life goes on and the routine of senior and junior ministers also goes on. Some minor ironies too creep in and that only adds to the tone of our existence as citizens of a great democracy.

So, now, for the rest of the time ahead we are likely to live with the continuing pollution issue and as things stand it is very unlikely that Mr.Kejriwal is really to do something that would give some relief from this pollution menace. May be we might take our pencil and notebook and write all the cities names and the level of pollution, the PMc levels and that could be a new source of new knowledge!

It looks unlikely that the Prime Minister would at least one day would talk about an issue like pollution and how we are going to tackle this menace.
So, when it comes to other issues like the economy, of course we have at least a few experts who might give us their wisdom as to how we can tackle the economic issues. The other day we read a column in The Hindu by Dr.Manmohan Singh and given his expertise and experience in this sphere, he has given us his wisdom, there is a sense of malafide unless proven otherwise and there is great deal of distrust, fear and helplessness and entrepreneurs are afraid to take risks and invest etc..

But then, as we say, bell the cat?

Daily news are very discouraging, telecoms are in heavy debts, so too the nearly one crore thousand in banks’ bad loans and the government is privatising the PSUs; though the biggest white elephants, the national carrier, AIR INDIA is still bleeding. How to create trust and confidence?

You see, in our opinion, issues like trust and confidence is indivisible and they come in a lot. Unless you create confidence and trust in the minds of citizens, from the top to the bottom, from rich and the poor, the most educated and the near illiterates, public opinion, as you can see is indivisible and there is a moment and time when the whole of the people, let us take the electorate at the time of elections, then the vote goes for or against the incumbent governments.

To simplify the issues and or in sweeps, then only the power-hungry or the otherwise arbitrary power-oriented minds seem some reason and reach some reconciliation with the realities of the world.

Agriculture, farmers and those living in the far-ff or remote regions are the least likely to be stakeholders as things stand today.

Otherwise, it is a narrow segment, most likely urban areas of the country that might debate and decide whether farmers can be chained and handcuffed and we can see one more flip on the TV screens!

Indian agriculture’s much strength and many weaknesses!
How far India has deployed agriculture sectors a political tool of trade and diplomacy?

Indian agriculture matters in today’s world. India is now the world’s number one rice exporter. This has not been widely known. This must be made known widely. Now, the Indian domestic producers of commodities like dairy and plantation products including coffee, tea, rubber, pepper and arecanut are worried of the proposed RCEP deal, the Indian rice trade is keen to see that the cereal is included as part of the deal so that Indian rice trade becomes a powerful tool in making further inroads into the Indian rice as a political and powerful trade factor. INDIAN FARMERS MUST BE EDUCATED IN THE CURRENT FARMING AND TRADE ecosystem.

The present despondency, yes, it is a despondency of what we could call the worst kind of despondency of helplessness and sheer frustration on the part of the entire farming community where they don’t matter whether it is major policy making or any purposeful consultation the real stakeholders, the farmers, don’t seem to matter. Farmers as a community is almost ignored and they feel isolated and left out of any meaningful participation and consultation.

Piyush Goyal

This mutual distrust and real bitterness must go. Otherwise we are only helping to grow the underlying distrust and disengagement with the country’s traditional strength of the Indian economy. India, as we say, is basically a large agricultural power. India would remain a big agricultural power for a long time to come.

Don’t imagine converting like a modern China or for that matter like a new USA. India would remain a traditional agricultural and rural power house. This awareness has to be spread and every initiative must be taken to create a wide awareness among the youth and the educated middle class.

Government-job dependent Indian middle class must be made to become sensitive to this modern world awareness. Agriculture and food production and food supply would become more and more central to world economy and there are many issues that affect India, Asia and Africa where food shortages and hunger are every day reality.

Indian can become world food supplier and this would be a reality for most of the world people. Who matters when one talks of Indian agriculture? Of course farmers come first and what the farmers feel about their sector’s future prospects matter a great deal. But we are now accustomed to see when agriculture comes into a discussion. At least in the recent past, in the last few elections, farmers come to the frontline and every other politician, that is party leaders in particular have brought farmers’ issues to the forefront and made so many promises that are usually broken soon after the very same elections. One prominent promise that is much bandied about is the write-off of farm loans!

As on date one is not sure how many times a state had made this promise and how far these promises had been fulfilled! One can be certain in most cases these promises are not kept and the underlying reason is that the particular state has no resources to wipe off the loans. Yes, even then this farm loan waiver has come to be seen as the lifeline for the government to win votes and form government. And lately, there are many more versions and variations. One is the current buzz to ensure farmers a yearly fixed income as an alternative to farm loan waiver. All this in addition to blatant bribes to voters on the eve of elections!

So, voters and farmers are not quite sure that they would be taken care of in times of elections. Of course no one stops to ask what more for agriculture sector besides these periodical promises. So, one thing can be sure of now. That is, Indian agriculture becomes a priority in times of elections. And of course we can forget that Indian is a democracy, a very large one and there would be periodic elections and agriculture development would be there every time there are elections.

Is this all too Indian agriculture’s priorities?

No, it is not and it can’t be just these periodic election handouts. Indian agriculture unfortunately has been reduced to very low priority and that is one indication why no one leader of any importance doesn’t talk of agriculture! Even the Modi government is no exception to this rule, in spite of the huge wins in the last two general elections.

What is the Modi government’s big announcements?
Doubling farmers incomes remain a promise as yet. We have to see what the chance, if at all is.

There are now many trade talks, between India and USA and also between USA and China on trade deals and agriculture products comes in for much attention. Just now as we write there are trade talks in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the countries in the South East Asian region.

The countries involved are all big agricultural countries, strong in rice production and exports. And India is the biggest rice producer and exporter. Thailand, Vietnam and others. India is sensitive to some of the, why even the most important commodities, like coffee, tea and, rubber, pepper and areca nut and there are also some existing trade agreements and so every country of this region is very careful to renegotiate trade deals that could affect their major commodity trades and could affect the likes of majority of farm people, both labour and producers.

From India, the Commerce Minister, Mr.Piyush Goyal, one of the able ministers in the Modi Cabinet is in charge and from his pronouncements we can be sure the minister could take care of what he calls the “Red line issues”.

Yes, certain concessions can’t be conceded, like say palm oil imports from Malaysia, even tea from Sri Lanka, for any change in the existing tariffs could affect the domestic producers of these commodities.

Can help to revive agriculture! Indian Agriculture cries for action!

The Nobel Prize winning Randomized control trial is one such new tool that could help boost agri production and productivity. Even there are other techs that could help to predict farm prices!

Too many verbal promises and too little action programs! What do we have by way of action in our agriculture? Nothing, practically nothing, we can say. There are of course too much talk and that too superficial talk by all parties, not just the big parties.

Even where one can claim to have some policies as expounded by the Prime Minister they are all too farfetched and might take time and immediate reliefs are not in sight. Of course there is no reason to feel pessimistic, after all agriculture is Indian people’s lifeline for prosperity. India is also a very big agricultural country and economy and in the last many years of hard work we have also achieved some milestones. The Green Revolution is world-wide success story and thanks to past efforts India now exports the most sought after agri commodity, namely, rice and India is a number one rice exporter. Given USA’s dominant role in agriculture, we have to compare our agriculture economy with that of the USA and China and that is one reason why the trade talks, the so-called tariff wars is what gives Indian agriculture the needed push and imparts the dynamism.

So, with all pessimism at the ground level with what such massive number of farmers suicides in the Marathwda region in Maharashtra, we desist from quoting statistics, for avoiding further pessimism and negative mindset, we have to move forward, we have to devise practical programmes of action and also learn to draw fro other’s experiences.

Just now, the Nobel Prizes have been announced and the trio who won the Economics Nobel, luckily, have won on their good work they have done, especially in India, the three have done good work in what is called the Random-Controlled Technology(RTC) and that was a series of testing and experiments at the micro level and their RTC had proved effective in a variety of fields from education spread to raising productivity in crops, including in coffee crop in Karnataka and this sort of applying economic knowledge to the ground level realities is a great promise for even the much maligned “dismal science” of economics!

One immediate thought is to why not invite the Nobel Prize winners to India for an extended consultation and we can take up some select projects like alleviating the circumstances to reduced farmers suicides?

What better hope than this project for India’s perennial drought prone agriculture belts?

Also, we can select some pointed pockets of farm crisis, is it drought-prone or irrigated crops?

Also, there are many other positive examples to borrow. Israel and Netherlands are other examples of countries where agriculture has made tremendous progress. In another interview recently, the Netherlands agriculture counselor Mr.Siebe Schuur, explains how his country very small compared to India, 80 times smaller surface than India, also with a meager population and yet how many of us know and why not the Indian agriculture policy makers never once told us about the success of this great country. Perhaps, Netherlands exports more than what USA exports in select agriculture crops.

Netherlands is known the world over for its net houses, poly houses and glass houses leading to hybrid innovation Dutch high-tech in some of these vegetables and flowers cultivation. Netherlands is world’s number one successful producer. Now the Dutch government and entrepreneurs are trying to create Centres of Excellence in Baramati, for floriculture in Talegaon (both in Maharashtra), also one of Israeli centre in Hosur in Karnataka is already contributing to high value floriculture exports, all these new initiatives must create a solid base for high tech research and innovations in agri crops.
The Dutch counselor in the same interview has pointed out the various arid-zones too would stand to benefit from Netherlands experiences and also more such centres in other parts of India.

The challenge, says the Dutch experts, is to keep everybody in control. Once a centre is set up and starts running and the first successes are visible, the challenge would be to keep everybody committed. So, the Indian government’s ambition to double farm incomes might be possible if we proceed as planned today. So, we can say with some confidence that by 2022, not only farm incomes will double, says the Dutch expert, the farm exports too from India might hopefully double too!

It is such a nice feeling to think of something positive and not get distracted the sort of electoral rhetoric on farmers’ suicides. Though we have to move also faster to tackle the peculiar socio-economic circumstances that drive farmers to desperate measure.

One or two random points. Now, the land tenancy laws are so regressive that most farmers are litigants or debtors to private money lenders. We have to liberate the helpless farmers from prolonged court cases and also relieve them the clutches of greedy lawyers and private money lenders.

One relief would be to wipe of the private money lenders hold on indebted farmers. One more positive thought is the new technologies in farming. The government can set a new dept or create an inside research and development wing in the ICAR for deploying such latest tech like BIG Data to resolve agricultural problems.

The Hyderabad-based Icrisat seems to have suddenly become too ambitious and even audacious! Where in countries (Icrisat is a multi-national research body in arid agriculture) the need for reducing use of pesticides and fertilizers and reducing the gaps in using big Data in exemption services. This use of Big Data would also, say experts, to solve the price the crop would command in the market. CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, the original name for the Icrisat centre, an unit among other units spread across the world seems to have suddenly become relevant with the advent of BIG Data.

It looks that suddenly, the agri sector not only in other countries, but also in India seems to have woken up to new technological apps so that Indian agriculture can’t any more remain immune to the new challenges and opportunities.

This is the time for radical changes and also radical thinking in Indians moribund agriculture system.

Agriculture is both economics and politics!
Do you know that currently Lok Sabha MPs are 147 times more richer than rural households! The time has come to realise this utter unreality of the Policy makers empty talk and the ground level realities!

32 years after the first farmer suicide in Maharashtra, nothing has changed! This is a lament we hear from Maharashtra where this tragedy saw a farmer who (name: Saheb Rao Karpe) killed himself along with his wife and four children in 1986. Anything changed after this tragedy? In the last five years(2014-2018) 14,034 farmers ended their lives( eight farmers a day).Even after 4,500 farmers committed suicide and the State government announced Rs.34,000 core loan waiver scheme in June 2017.Anything changed in farmers’ lives?

None at all is the dark reply!

Yes, it is a curious feeling we have noticed for long the right-now the much discussed rural distress, agrarian distress and called by various other names that problems of the Indian farmers continued to be couched in the same simple terms like loan waivers or minimum income-guarantees! And another curiosity, this remains essentially an urban debate! Not the agricultural realities we see in actual villages!

The debates, lately in particular, on the TV news screens is more about catching the attention of busy viewers and also the debator, be an active politician or a smart anchor man or a lady end up in quick succession about some catchy phrases like loan waiver or better in some acronm, like Nyay etc. More and more the debates, especially when the election dates nears the deadline more noisy and you lose interest in rural distress and try to catch what the parties’ leaders pronounce for the occasion. Thus, the Congress announced a scheme whose details missed our attention. As for the BJP, anything the PM says goes as a hoary text.

As for others, the state level politicians’ agriculture issues is all about state level election rhetoric! Drought in 2,150 Karnataka villages or many more such news about prices fall or excess output for particular crops, like potato in West Bengal or turmeric in TN are all what we hear. Suicides even don’t evoke anymore!

As for the national level issues or even for the international perspectives, we don’t even know or care to know what is going on between Trump’s US and the Chinese trade wars. In India agriculture is not an international issue or a trade and tariff dispute, though India is now the number one country in agriculture exports in the world. Also, what is happening in our villages lately? There is of course widespread migration to urban areas. Also, for the youngsters, there is a great deal of migration from the Northern States like Bihar, Assam, Bengal and even from UP to the Southern states where the job opportunities are growing faster.

In the villages in TM there is rural distress in the sense there is no incentive invest in agriculture. There are also in many other States there are land reform laws, like ceiling laws, tenancy laws and loans many other complications to own agricultural lands and take risks in engaging in agricultural activities. It is also true that good and well-informed and committed leaders don’t become agricultural ministers. Modi’s regime had grossly neglected agriculture. All agri talks seem to be geared to election-eve announcements. All short term issues and solutions. No long-term
perspectives.

When the Indian economy is growing the agri sector is caught up in a small, marginal farmers perspectives. Farm sector is witnessing a slow growth. Farm growth and farm prices also get low even when the farm production rises. The size of land holdings, the average size was two hectares, now it has come down to less than a hectare. It is obvious to anyone that farm growth is unsustainable. Prices are much lower than the MSP, while long-term low-capital formation in agriculture persist. Public investment in the sector as a percentage of GDP is also stagnant. Besides these factors are drought etc. Also, the persisting debts, legal cases owing to rent payment and other issues. Anybody talks of preventing suicides? And other social sector issues like education, health issues and the very latest buzz word, medical
and crop insurance or pensions for older farmers and their families. The list of untouched subjects is long!

The Nabard man says that 23% of rural income from the agri sector, the rest comes from non-farm sector activities. How to generate jobs in the agri sector?

No one seems to have any clues, except to let the market forces work to drive away unemployed youth to the cities, or as in the Northern State to migrate to states where jobs are plentiful, as in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, why even not then Silicon Valley, Bangalore. We like to ask some hard questions with politicians!

Why don’t you seek to relax the land reform laws that have now become a hurdle to own lands, invest in new generation agri-related business and food processing sectors? Wiping out of all the farm loans. How long and how many times you would do this? And who would believe these politicians? Banks are already facing distress! So, you can’t say very irresponsibly going on promising wiping out farm debts.
No farmers in the villages would look like a perennial debtor and the farmer is the most sensitive soul in the rural communities and any bad talk about his credit-worthiness touches his very sense of social disunity and seeks to end his life once for all!

Also, it is another rural reality that there would be economic and social inequality in the rural, feudal communities. So, recognise this gross rural reality and allow somewhat some liberal legal provisions to own agricultural lands in an open society manner. Let also be a situation in the villages that there is incentives for labour to live and work. Unless you allow the freedom for the land owners to engage rural labour at higher wages agricultural activates would slow down further. There has to be many freedoms for both the land owners and also the wage labourers to negotiate a higher wage for their activities. Wages are also going higher lately and let there be a liberal market for wage earners.

Let there be new legal provisions and protections for farm wage earners like social security, insurance so that there is village harmony and village solidarity. The present political atmosphere in the villages is such that election-time only politicians come and talk and also seek to bribe the voters. Already in States like TN, the money for votes is losing its attractiveness. Only an open and liberal situation for agriculture would create a favourable environment for commercial banks to lend freely. As of now only 54 % of institutional credit is available. This can be further raised only if we liberalise the many restrictions on farm activities.

Let also big farmers, owning sizeable land holdings invest and also live in rural communities. If you further restrict the farming communities only the lands would be left as drought-prone or some other activities like real estate and also rural areas might be abandoned altogether. Politician’s class is also becoming hostile to farmers. Once you enter politics and seek money making and accumulate wealth and indulge in corrupt practices then you only help to accentuate disparities. Also, select rural leaders as MPs and MLAs. Not the family dynasties! And lo! You know that currently, Lok Sabha MPs are 147 times richer that rural households, you know? So, let us not cheat each other talking in around about way!

Also, private sector capitalism accelerates economic growth and political compulsion like write-off of corporate Rs.5 lakh crore debts creates tensions and farmers become angrier and marches of farmers to Delhi are likely to become more intensive in the future. So, agriculture is not just an urban drawing room talk, it is both, economic and political issues of great urgency and top priority for any political party of commitment.