The Prime Minister more often talks on agriculture!

narendra-modi-on-prasar-bhartiFarmers’s agitations matter   a great deal in the current Indian context! They are becoming more and more urgent and insurmountable. Invite the experts and rural leaders, opinion makers for interaction with the PMO. Let us become practical and do things in a radically refreshing manner. No one is an  absolute truth-wielder!

The response of the government is not adequate. That is what we like to highlight here. The dominant sections of society, more so the urban classes, the urban middle class and the  dominant media  too leaves out the “unglamorous” basic issues. In fact, we need a new media policy, from the government, from the Prasar Bharati, DD and other ministries to support the agri media so that the farmers are keep informed and educated. Hopes are kept up for what is a very difficult public interest sector.

You see, agriculture is such a  basic economic reality for India’s masses  that unfortunately, that Indian politics and society, why even the economy and the news that we read every day in our mainstream news papers or what we see in the TV new channels, we never seem to get things right when it comes to basic issues and  certain basic realities.

The other day we saw on the TV channels that 67 farmers associations would meet in Delhi for a large scale agitations and protests on March 26 where some of the crucial demands of farmers  would be raised. Not a day passes when we don’t read some farmers issues or other, be it  interstate river water disputes or other.

It is natural. The only trouble is that a government like the present one at the Centre is no different in responding to the farmers issues.

There is no party politics here when it comes to farmers issues.
What we need is  certain empathy from the ruling party  as for the exact  sort of response to issues.

Just now we have travelled and had come back to Bangalore and a journey by train by the rural  countryside gave us a new sense of realism as to the challenges and the opportunities  in such a critical area like the farming sector.

On the outskirts of  Hosur which lies on the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, a very dry belt and  yet the climate is such that suits to take up some of the profitable areas of agriculture, for instance, that of cultivating  cut-rose  cultivation for exports.
This time, we had travelled by train after a long gap between Coimbatore and Bangalore and in such a dry summer when the sun was so scorching but what we were pleasantly surprised was the extent of  green houses in such an unfriendly sun outside the vast number of green houses this time seem to have spread far and wide!

New concrete homes are come up reflecting the sources of income from  the new opportunity have really expanded. So, we have a new opportunity to get Indian agriculture to become once again profitable in a new climate and a new export market opportunity.

So, we thought and wondered : is this  not once again a source of innovation, innovative entrepreneurship, a new hope for  Indian agriculture cause as it is by multiple challenges.

Also, at the same time we read in the newspapers reports from abroad, as in Canada (whose Prime Minister Tudor is right now on the Indian soil!).

So, we thought that the world is still a hopeful place for mankind to survive with intelligent co-operation and mutually helpful manner if only we can jointly plan and execute some of our policies, in this case in agriculture.

India is running short of some commodities, mostly pulses and Canada is a source of supply for such pulses like rapeseed.
And also we were  delighted that the world’s three big agriculture research companies, Monsanto, DOW Du Pont and Bayer are just engaged in seed research and there are again some excited news on the seed research front. New research is being carried on into finding the solutions to the transfer of one pollen from one canola plant to another so that a new breed of vegetable oil -producing crop becomes possible.

It is here we  have to draw attention to the many deficiencies in the Indian agriculture policy making.

We don’t want to indulge in any partisan politics but like to draw attention of the countrymen from all ranks and professions and like to impress upon the educated sections, especially and also the corporate, especially to realise that India needs an enlightened society and social commitments.

We at the Vadamalai Media are committed to agriculture sector and rural prosperity and that is a tall order, everyone should know.
Also, an agriculture media company is not easy to run. Yet we are at it for a  long time simply because that is the greatest service we can render to the country and society.

What sort of support we get from the government and the large corporate sector?

That is an uncomfortable question indeed. There are any number of spokespersons for the agriculture sector. We need such people to. But it is our feeling that for long we have persisted in sloganeering, demanding this or that particular line in agriculture.

Now the government is committed to double the farm incomes. Fine, fantastic even!

We welcome such sentiments. But only those of us who actually live and farming(as we are) know well the ground level realities.
You have to create a new environment in the rural areas where to do farming becomes profitbale, conducive.

Our media hasn’t done good job. They don’t tell you the real success stories or the real, genuine interviews with those who actually live in the villages and persist with actual farming.
There are some important issues, arising out of the old land reform issues, land ceiling and tenancy reforms.

The last half a  century land holdings also became progressively reduced and now the farmers per head land holding is somewhere like 2 acres of even below.

In reality, agriculture is becoming unprofitable, so farming is risky and almost almost all farmers are debt-ridden and hence the suicide phenomenon is so widespread. There are here many other socio-economic issues of farming at the grass roots level.
All these issues need wide debate and also serious policy-solutions.

One more dominant mindset when it comes to farmers issues-discussion is still by the bureaucrats, nowhere you see the actual politicians, ministers, even bureaucrats. As we were typing these lines we saw the programme where bureaucrats, Siraj Hussain and Ashok Dalwai were holding forth! What else the government programmes, doubling farm incomes in 2020! Otherwise the routine government schemes like marketing, crop insurance. Land reforms, the debts or litigations in which the farmers are drowned right now! No, room not a single word. This sort of mindset must change!

The vast mass of farmers distributed at many social strata levels, the rich and the not so rich, the educated and the not so well-informed, the new generation of youngsters from  these families, all  who live and toil on their soil, all who dream about a better future would be greatly feel assured if only the Prime Minister talk of the farmers at least once a while.
Any national level transformation  of the Indian countryside would come about only when the actual tillers of the soil get new  hopes and new aspirations. Such a confidence only the top leadership gives the needed  push, a new dawn and articulates the inarticulate farming community.

Everything indicates a new dawn, the world is becoming global, and the spectre of famine and pestilence is being controlled thanks to new technologies and new growth areas, and is it economic life or social life.

So, we request the Prime Minister to speak more on farmer’s issues.

Yes, in a significant way!
Yet the state governments would keep the issue for electoral politics!

Mr.Parshottam Rupala

Mr.Parshottam Rupala

The  Union minister for Water Resources Mr.Parshottam Rupala, was in Coimbatore the other day and he took the opportunity to reassure the farmers of Tamil Nadu to say that the Central government was not taking any partial stand with any of the Southern states, either Karnataka or Tamil Nadu on the Cauvery river waters issue.

There was no politics, he said!”That is good. Mr.Rupala also took the opportunity to inform that  the Modi government was their first in history, he said, that took the steps to benefit farmers, to assure that farmers incomes would be doubled and the government had set aside Rs.50,000 crores for 99 irrigation scheme that were pending for the last 25 years.

That was good news, we have to acknowledge and thank the minister. These sorts of information must be propagated more widely. We request the hon’ble minister to reach out to specialised media like the Vadamalai publications!

In high priority sectors like river waters, rural drinking water and electricity supplies, the concerned ministers must be more talking and more visible!
Cauvery river water dispute settled for good?
Yes, we have to say and move on!

The long-pending Cauvery river water dispute has been settled in a final manner by the sagacious judgement of the Supreme Court. The contending  states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka have to settle for an amicable settlement by the decision of the apex court which acknowledged  the priorities of drinking water for the fast expanding Bangalore city and also at the same time the court recognising the potential of ground water capacity in the Tamil Nadu  river basin.

Yes, it was bit of wrenching for the Tamil people who for long years, under the historic past of the Southern  states of the old Mysore and the then Madras Presidency rule. In that historic context Mysore didn’t comprise the northern Karnataka, the so-called Karnataka-Hyderabad geography which also fell into the old Maratha  regions too.

The newly constituted Karnataka state therefore went on to claim its share for the new state which also meant more  claims of the  share of the  new state and also the state went on a spree of dam building that claimed more share of the natural resources.
For the Tamil Nadu that came into being in 1956, the geographical  area lost some claims on the water resources that came and also some amount that went to its own neighbouring states like Kerala and Puducherry.

In the new evolving shape of the new areas under the Southern states, Tamil Nadu too gained we have to say from the dams came along, namely the Aliyar-Parambikulam dams and reservoirs.
Now, one more positive development from the recent Supreme Court judgement is the declaration by the apex court that from onwards the inter-state rivers that pass through more than one state, the river water would be recognised as a national asset, the rivers would be owned by the  entire state, owned by the entire population of the country and not ,as it was so far, some sections some  regions, as for instance that Tanjore Cauvery basin claimed a traditional; high proportion of the water share or Mandya region in Karnataka that claimed more water in its dams for the sugarcane farmers.

The water lobbies that so far operated raised ugly situations, why even ugly scenes, as we saw the Tamil Nadu farmer s camping in Delhi at the Jantar Mantar area a central place in Delhi and  these lobbies went on creating more and more ugly scenes by conducting some unseemly agitations. Unfortunately such lobbies also didn’t get proper recognition from the Prime Minister’s Office(MO).

It is really unfortunate for people at large, in different parts of India did get a negative picture of the Central government was not sensitive enough to show sympathy and an emotional response to people in distress, especially in a subject like river waters for agricultural irrigation purposes.

The conduct of the Central government, more so the agriculture ministry conducted themselves in a very unfortunate manner. This we have to condemn as an act of insensitivity.

This is not the way for a democratic government to conduct itself in relation to a highly sensitive water crisis.
So too the issue of Drinking Water Missions of many types.

Here too we take this opportunity to stressing that rural drinking water is a subject, again of higher priority.
The Panchayat Development Ministry must be seen as high profile ministry and we must be hearing more on the actions and achievements and the targets covered in this, again, a sensitive ministry.

There are even in such advanced states like Tamil Nadu there are w villages where even after 70 years of freedom  there are villages as close as 25 kilometres from advanced cities(like Coimbatore) there are villages where there no sanitation facilities.

So too the electricity supplies in the villages.
It is not the Prime Minister alone who should be doing the talking and exortation. Ministers in such high priority sectors must be more visible and more audible!

Yes, agriculture is a serious business and the government in the last three years has found that it is the agri sector, the rural  sector that is proving elusive in its grand strategy of winning over people in spite of the over-all strategy of winning elections in almost all the states.

Since the Modi government took power, the agri sector is growing, the GDP is growing only just at less than 2 per cent. This, as everyone knows, that this measly 2 per cent is just half of what the growth rate of agrisector  was under the 10 years of previous government. Currently, it is 2.1 per cent as per the latest Central Statistical Office. Food grains output in 2016-17 would be no more than the record 275 million tonnes.

One critical problem is the falling farm prices! So, farmers’ protests are mainly owing to falling farm prices. Farmers are also pushed into bigger debts.

These are older issues, of course. But how to deal with the farm crisis?

Budget making is one route to give some relief.

pradhan-mantri-fasal-bima-yojanaNow, we learn that the government is also deploying the intelligence agencies to monitor the rural unrest. The latest setback in a way to the government is the less than expected election victory in the Gujarat state, the home state of the Prime Minister. The rise in farm produce prices. For instance, the five-fold rise in onion prices where the nodal price has increased from Rs.561 per quintal to Rs.2,880 per quintal has raised alarm as rising onion prices could lead to strife in urban areas.

Volatility in prices could get the disgruntled groups, in the farming and also outside the sector among urban Naxals, says a report, also the Leftist groups, the one-leader parties like the Communists can also spell unfavourable publicity. The recent  bout of violence in Maharashtra over the Bhima-Koraeogon issue is suspected to be the handiwork of the left, Naxal elements, says an intelligence officer. Loan waivers, higher support prices and implementation of the Swaminathan committee report are some of the demands in Maharashtra.

Intelliege3nce agencies now feed the government with farmer’s troubles that are suspect to be a step to create unrest in the political field. Gujarat’s farmers were also agitating over the slump of prices of pulses. In M.P, the farmer’s violence led to police firing in Mandsaur. And add to these farmers unrest the involvement of political extremists, Left and the Naxalites, say the intelligence sources.

So, the current disenchantment among the farmers is not just for farmers issues also, the current unrest is mixed up with political elements that are otherwise have no handle to tackle the otherwise popular vote in all the states’ Assembly elections.
May be the set-back, though slight from the point of view of the BJP but very significant for the moral booster of the Congress, the coming next series of elections is going to see the farmers issue blown up and sought to portray the Indian agriculture issues are otherwise normal or routine.

No, it is not.

The PM on the eve of his travel to Davos gathering in Switzerland gave out his views to a news channel, Times Now and we say how he responded to a major question on the issue of India’s agriculture problems.

The Pm said that agriculture is an issue for the Centre alone but for the states as well.

The PM called his own scheme, the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bhima Yojana, gives a lease of life in distress.But this is only a weary PM’s weak response.Indian agriculture, the PM ,also agreed should not be linked with the elections. The PM is right.
Indian agriculture must be first and foremost seen as a basic Indian reality.

There  are issues of climate change, there is the recurring  drought.

If you take the South Indian peninsula  there is surely going to be a chance of recurrence of drought. The water flow in the Cauvery basin is going down over a long -term. There is no more any hope to look forward the old style periodic release of water  from Cauvery River for TN and the issue must be tackled at a high level and some realism must be built into the court cases, into the political summits etc.

So, what the PM said about agriculture crisis is ,it seems, unlikely to be solved in the near -term future.
We as an agri media has only this much to say.

Let the government  create a wider awareness of the need for appreciating the agriculture sector’s issues as an on-going over-all economic activity.

There is no point in engaging intelligence agencies to monitor the unrest in rural India.

Rural India is undergoing a structural change, so too the urbanisation process and the new urban centres where the organised pressure by the interest groups might further intensify the agitations from the organised urban groups, including the urban media that might not know the sort of underlying rural distress.

So, there will be more and more pressure for the government to adopt new approaches to rural unrest.

The budget allocations are only one step towards solving the agriculture distress.

May be we have to look at the outside world. From big countries to small countries we have to see and learn certain innovative things. Trade and exports is one way to give relief to farmers, exports ,by whatever strategies, must help raise prices for farmers.

Also, higher farm subsidies, call it by whatever name you choose.
In Thailand, we can see how the rice export subsidies have helped farmers.

Of course, the Western countries, the USA ad European Union are heavy agri subsidy-givers. In India, the agri marketing committees are seen as villains. We only plead that farmers must be given  further subsidies, loan waivers and also loan subsidies.

Linking rivers, inter-state river water disputes settlements are also some of the urgent steps.

Let us become more transparent about what we do in the  agri sectors.

Electoral defeat or setback is not the time for agriculture policy making!
It must be done independently!

elderly_rahul20150515_630_630Only when you have a firm faith or a vision of the largest number of people engaged in an activity that holds critical role in the creation of sustainable wealth  and distribution of the same for the largest  number of people or more, precisely, the poor  who anyway are also persistence in their survival  at all times.  Why are the many poor, asked the Bible? So, it is also a sort of Biblical question that agriculture always held the central place in all our economic thinking and economic practices.

How to make farming in India profitable?
Yes, it is not such a simple question, you know? Yet, do our policy makers ask such a question?

Is it so simple, we ask, about building a consensus in agri policy making? Because as we see No, they ask for some escape routes, more so in times of elections like every other thing in India, we become so obsessed with our own narrow goals to make every issue a political issue.

Under Mr.Modi, this impulse, we are afraid has become more virulent. No less guilty is the other party, we mean, the Congress party. Now, under Rahul Gandhi as the new President, we don’t know how would transform himself as a party president though his mother, Sonia Gandhi, it looks, might still play behind the scene as a shaper of major policies. And that too with Manmohan Singh still very much active around the mother-son duo, might also play a role.

Let us only hope the just verdict of the 2-G court might also contribute to further confusion in policy making both at the ruling party and Opposition party levels.

After all, the next budget, already we are told to be an agri-centric budget. What is an agri-centric budget, given the present mindset of both the parties that are already engaged in election-centric policies and strategies?

As far as this magazine is concerned we are only concerned with certain central and critical issues that agitate the farming community in India. There are many activists, in agri sector too. But they are all city dwellers and theoreticians and it is they who hog the headlines in the media.

Their use is limited, we dare to say. Please take those who are engaged in agriculture or agri-related politicians if you want to make some headway in agri policy-making.

First, our aim must be to make agriculture more remunerative, make the sector fairly competitive vis-a-vis other sectors.
As it is you, the policy makers see agriculture only as a poor people dominated sector, more small and marginal farmers who own unviable pieces of land parcels and also full of landless labour, right?

So, you have to have a major policy shift, major policy change to make farming fairly open to change in the mind-set of bother farmers, as land owners as well as the new generation farmers, young and educated and motivated to take to farming as a viable activity.

What do all these things mean in the first place?
You have to take note that the only conception of land owners as oppressors and tenants as exploited sections of people. Taking two states, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the land reform laws in the two states are regressive in nature even today. You can place your own states in perspective. Farming is unviable in the two states as things stand.

Agriculture needs first motivation to engage oneself in farming. This means, you need to take risk to invest. You must have some viable land holding. So relax some land reform laws. Make farming viable on market basis. There must be say some relaxation so that a minimum of, say, hundred acres to undertake investments and to take to innovations like introduction of agri machinery, other services like  latest drip irrigation, harvesting machines etc.
Already these changes have come about but you must give some institutional support, bank finance etc.

Crop insurance, bank finance and also linking these activities with Adhaar etc are needed.Also, create conditions for traditional farmers to live in the villages.

There are many other rural issues like communications, transport etc so that there is a new momentum to take farming, to live in the rural areas etc. There are of course both short and long-term policies and also other support schemes like the 100-day rural employment schemes in which active farmers can participate and also contribute funds.

These are our practical approach to turn famers a friendly to towards a positive mindset to see their future optimistically.

After all, we are one of the three big agriculture nations!
But what is happening in agriculture policy making today?
How much attention we give to agriculture
And the people depending upon it?

prabhu-1The recent WTO ministerial meeting in the distant Brazil ended after disappointing those countries who wanted to improve their trading gains by securing food and also getting some foothold in enhancing the farm subsidies regime that is, as everyone knows, heavily tilted in favour of the rich and the powerful with the tag of developed country status, the USA and the European Union. It is unfortunate that bureaucracy under the Modi regime is as divorced from the actual cultivators, the big and the not so big farmers and thus, a lone Mr.Prabhu, the minister, was the only voice we heard by way of what happened in the WTO meet. Much of what the minister was supposed to have said or argued was lost in the reporting, though the official news agency, the PTI reports were too were not very enlightening.

This is one of the many tragedies of the Indian agri sector.
If this is the situation at the level of a magazine like the AIS, we can imagine how many other sectors, the mainstream press added, not to speak of the TV channels.

Why not the Boardcasting Ministry funds some preventatives of the mainstream media? Why not specialist agri press be excused.
The corporates engaged in agriculture, like tractor companies and other big ones in diverse sectors must have raised to the occasion. The FICCI must rise up from its slumber.

It should not consider it a big occasion once the Prime Minister visits them.

There must be much more than the very formal ceremonies.
Our media which sell sin rural areas hasn’t done its duty towards its own media responsibility.

Why don’t you interview either the minister, surely the battery of officials accompanying him to say something sensible for the public to understand why the AWTO meet failed in its objective?
After all, India is going to be the biggest, one of the biggest three great agricultural economies of the world.

So, we have a critical role to playing shaping an agricultural policy for the world.

So, there must be a better coverage of the agricultural issues in our mainstream press.

It is a pity that we as the largest producer of major food grains, wheat and rice, don’t have a significant voice in determining  major agriculture policy for the rice producing South East Asian countries.

We ask the government of India to send some press delegations to these great rice producing South East Asian neighbours so that we can exchange views.

Let the Agriculture Ministry wake up so that there are better public  relations between the agri bureaucracy and the leading agri lobbies.

It is unfortunate  that the gap between the farmers lobbies and the agri bureaucracy is so wide. Even in Delhi, the headquarters of the agri ministry, why even the ICAR must be functioning at the very centre of the city.

They ask you to travel to outskirts and this puts off many.
Will the Prime Minister’s Office(PMO)take note of this suggestion and pass on the news to whomever it concerns?

Who is the agriculture minister anyway? Not many seems to know!
So, please make the Indian agriculture the every centre of all other policy making.

The Indian villages would remain for all time to come, right?
Anybody, who is big enough in Indian politics knows this reality?
It looks no one seems to be interested.

Only when election time comes, unfortunately, as we have seen in the recent Gujarat elections, that too, when the campaigners  turn the rural, farmers vote into one of caste vote banks!
This is really a silly turn of events and this mentality must go!
Farmers must become a powerful lobby, it is a reality in the European countries that farmers lobbies there are really very powerful, very united and so that the farmers meets become the very powerful political events. Not is so in UK, in France and even in other developed countries.

Yes, we are a very complacent nation, people. We take our politicians seriously.

We are leader-worshippers! We worship power! We get easily deceived by catchy slogans.

As a nation we are still immature and easily
misled.

So,dear readers,once you are interested in agriculture,it demands an active participation.