Building a brand name for agri media!

Political climate critical for media freedoms to thrive.

droughtfarmers1News is not information! Only controversial news is news! In agri sector there is no scope for controversies, except farmer’s suicides! Even that doesn’t make new3s now! So, agri media must get between social and political recognition.

See even the agri universities don’t make news! No one reads what the agri scientists write! How to communicate with the common man? This is what makes Vadamalai Media unique in the otherwise commercial media space.

Vadamalai Media is now publishing four monthly magazines, mostly related to agri sector and the education field. We have evolved by now over half a century. We started off in a village where we established a rural high school and a school newsletter that has grown into a full-strength education journal. It is now an all India education journal.
The agri magazines, now three editions, one in English, Tamil and Kannada languages and they make a sizeable market, given the scope for educated farmers and all those who are committed to the vibrant agricultural sector.

The urban media and the urban elite readers are a different cup of tea.
The readers for even the quality English newspaper, experts say, are thriving in India while in the West here is a decline.
May be Indians are like the British newspapers, they read the English newspapers, though there is very little in the way of writing on agri issues and the readership is also tiny.

But our agri sector is ill-served and there is no media worth its name as far as agriculture issues are concerned. Agri media where it is, as in Tamil for instance, all write about agriculture as if it is an exotic sector. Anything exotic, readers read it.

Cultivation of exotic crops, cultivation techniques etc. is that all about agriculture. What about farmers lives? Their rural life style, changing rural economic and social scenario?

There is much emphasis on pro-government programmes. Not any critical remarks. Even farmers suicides are not fully analysed. There are not enough writers, journalists to write about 6 Indian issues.

Since we operate on small scale, we often concentrate neither on crops, cultivating techniques nor even about the current buzz on organic farming or biotechnology.

Big news organisations must do that but they don’t. We don’t want to name the big print media houses. Two of them, long and well-established, started publishing agriculture magazines, annual issues but they now stopped them. We, on the other hand arte going strong? This is our 25th year! So, something we have achieved?

There is no one to notice us, right?

No government advertisement support nor support from private corporate houses either! We, Indians have a peculiar character, we in Vadamalai believe! We Indians don’t love our country genuinely, we feel.

We imitate the West; we seem interested to read more about the British royalty. We like cricket, in a country where such a sports was an exoticism, once. Now, we wonder whether we really appreciate and enjoy cricket or for the sake of fashion?

We also have an inferiority complex, a subservient mentality and also a craze for changing jobs, a change in life style, from dress to food to imitating the Yankee life style products.

We don’t yet seem to have cultivated a sense of pride in our country, its history etc. A pride, a justified pride in India’s inherent strength in its culture and belief system are not there.

Our agri media is all about these issues not just about cultivating loss-making crops! We have built up a brand for forthright, no non-sense bold exposition of fundamental issues of great national and intentional importance. We invite our readers to respond to some of our thoughts.

Give more freedoms to farmers!
That is the way to increase investments and agri production!
Indian agriculture is now orphaned!  For lack of patronage and awareness!

farmersCorporate support is almost nil and the government is no less negligent. Why we say this at this juncture?

For the obvious reason that even otherwise, there is a traditional bias against agriculture and the issues associated with the sector.
You become better informed about the issues in the current state of agriculture. The sector is almost burning with frustration, helplessness and by the apathy of the government.

We, Indians, rate ourselves very high when it comes to government jobs. We, the educated sections, consider still government jobs are heaven-born and heaven-given! Any government job is so. From the village level revenue collectors, up in the hierarchy to the district collector. Yes, during the British days, the revenue clerk was highly rated. The district collector was beyond the reach of even the high-born Indian families. Do you know that the first Indian ICS, one Satyendranath Tagore, from the Tagore family became the ICS officer but was never elevated beyond the district and he ended up as the Satara(or Kolhapur?) collector only? Only the white man was good enough for the job! Now, do you realise that there is a sort of disquiet among the IAS officers, in some states, there is disquiet even among the IPS officers?

The reasons are many. First probity in public life is a scarce thing and so too other factors that discourages, rather than encourages the youngsters once considered the heaven-born occupations. Why this preliminary?

For the simple reason things are much more worse today. It is easier to become an MLA or an MP or much better even a minister! Once you get political power the temptations to misuse are irresistable. So, the corruption issue crops up and no one seems to realise whether you are worth your salt and worth listening to.

In such an environment and when you want to draw attention to the agriculture sector the thought or doubt comes whether you are qualified to talk on a subject like agriculture.

Even after 70 years of Independence, you don’t seem to have got a grip over the vital sector like agriculture. Dr.M.S.Swaminathan says that 50% of our working population are farmers. As he rightly says the Seventh Pay Commission pay is given to the government servants and insulated from inflation while the poor farmers are subjected to the wild swings in prices and punished!

But then at the same time, we see agriculture issues and topics are still debated in highly artificial jargon which most of the farmers might not understand. Issues like Ever Green Revolution, even MSP and the procurement and other policies that are routinely dished out. It looks even this is the current buzz of the government, as repeated by the PM on the Independence Day, of doubling the farmers ‘income in five years! Is it well-thought out policy, or just one more slogan?
How the government hopes to do this, no one bothers to ask or bother to explain.

We also don’t seem to know even who the agriculture minister is today, for he never speaks or appears in public or tours the states!
Anyway, here we are in the journal labouring for years and years. No one bigwig, not speak of others, in the public life or corporate world comes forward to call us or express any opinion, let alone any appreciation, to give advertisements from the corporate funds.
Yes, we did ask one or two, one from a person who sat on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (!)Who flatly said no!

Where are our high profile corporate heavyweights? The ones who also speak a lot on public platforms and yet who seem only interested to seeking instant publicity!

Where are the corporate social responsibil9, CSR, funds going to?
Education or medical education? Or, public health covers?

See the hospitals in Gorakhpur or in the advanced state of TN, in Ambur where two persons died for there were no government doctors present! The much more damaging sight was to see a small girl’s body was lifted on a two wheeler for lack of ambulance service! There are so many, much more serious issues for farmers! Dr.Swaminathan doesn’t say so but we say: every average Indian farmer today is either a debtor or a litigant!

Farmers commit suicide out of shame to live a honest life! Shame for being unable to pay back loans kills them. So, too other harassment is the daily living struggles. How many know that the farmers are tied to many antiquated laws, land reform laws passed in the initial years of zamindari abolition and other laws like land ceiling ad tenancy protection and other rural-related laws were passed long time ago.
Today there is labour shortage, ironically in agri sector, do you know?
There is a fast urban migration, many had abandoned farming. So too the younger generation has been migrating. What impact this trend would have on agriculture? Anyone with an answer?

We have to strengthen agri trade and agri exports! Time has come to integrate with the WTO decisions for the developing countries.
Now, we have had economic reforms but not in agri sector! Why? Because no one has an answer!

Now, market forces are in full play and yet agri sector is tied up with some of the antiquated laws that constrains and controls farmers from continuing with farming as a business proposition.

In the private sector environment who would invest in agriculture, for crops or for new generation agro industries, if you don’t allow the farmers to own some viable farm size?

Yes, agri sector is more complicated than what the government servants sitting in the government offices or engaged using public funds!
The point is that farmers don’t live in a liberal rural society.
Our justice administration is as antiquated as any other. No civil cases end any day soon. The life span of the average farmer is not even better than the life span of the court cases!

So, you have a mouthful of issues to talk about. That is for another day, it looks like!

Give more freedoms to farmers!
That is the way to increase investments and agri production!

Indian agriculture is now orphaned!  For lack of patronage and awareness!

Satyendranath Tagore

Satyendranath Tagore

Corporate support is almost nil and the government is no less negligent. Why we say this at this juncture?

For the obvious reason that even otherwise, there is a traditional bias against agriculture and the issues associated with the sector.

You become better informed about the issues in the current state of agriculture. The sector is almost burning with frustration, helplessness and by the apathy of the government.

We, Indians, rate ourselves very high when it comes to government jobs. We, the educated sections, consider still government jobs are heaven-born and heaven-given! Any government job is so. From the village level revenue collectors, up in the hierarchy to the district collector. Yes, during the British days, the revenue clerk was highly rated. The district collector was beyond the reach of even the high-born Indian families.

Do you know that the first Indian ICS, one Satyendranath Tagore, from the Tagore family became the ICS officer but was never elevated beyond the district and he ended up as the Satara(or Kolhapur?) collector only? Only the white man was good enough for the job! Now, do you realise that there is a sort of disquiet among the IAS officers, in some states, there is disquiet even among the IPS officers?

The reasons are many. First probity in public life is a scarce thing and so too other factors that discourages, rather than encourages the youngsters once considered the heaven-born occupations.

Why this preliminary?
For the simple reason things are much more worse today. It is easier to become an MLA or an MP or much better even a minister! Once you get political power the temptations to misuse are irresistable. So, the corruption issue crops up and no one seems to realise whether you are worth your salt and worth listening to.

In such an environment and when you want to draw attention to the agriculture sector the thought or doubt comes whether you are qualified to talk on a subject like agriculture.

Even after 70 years of Independence, you don’t seem to have got a grip over the vital sector like agriculture. Dr.M.S.Swaminathan says that 50% of our working population are farmers. As he rightly says the Seventh Pay Commission pay is given to the government servants and insulated from inflation while the poor farmers are subjected to the wild swings in prices and punished!

Dr.M.S.Swaminathan

Dr.M.S.Swaminathan

But then at the same time, we see agriculture issues and topics are still debated in highly artificial jargon which most of the farmers might not understand. Issues like Ever Green Revolution, even MSP and the procurement and other policies that are routinely dished out. It looks even this is the current buzz of the government, as repeated by the PM on the Independence Day, of doubling the farmers ‘income in five years! Is it well-thought out policy, or just one more slogan?

How the government hopes to do this, no one bothers to ask or bother to explain.We also don’t seem to know even who the agriculture minister is today, for he never speaks or appears in public or tours the states!
Anyway, here we are in the journal labouring for years and years. No one bigwig, not speak of others, in the public life or corporate world comes forward to call us or express any opinion, let alone any appreciation, to give advertisements from the corporate funds.

Yes, we did ask one or two, one from a person who sat on Sonia Gandhi’s National Advisory Council (!)Who flatly said no!

Where are our high profile corporate heavyweights? The ones who also speak a lot on public platforms and yet who seem only interested to seeking instant publicity!

Where are the corporate social responsibil9, CSR, funds going to?
Education or medical education? Or, public health covers?

See the hospitals in Gorakhpur or in the advanced state of TN, in Ambur where two persons died for there were no government doctors present! The much more damaging sight was to see a small girl’s body was lifted on a two wheeler for lack of ambulance service!

There are so many, much more serious issues for farmers! Dr.Swaminathan doesn’t say so but we say: every average Indian farmer today is either a debtor or a litigant!

Farmers commit suicide out of shame to live a honest life! Shame for being unable to pay back loans kills them. So, too other harassment is the daily living struggles. How many know that the farmers are tied to many antiquated laws, land reform laws passed in the initial years of zamindari abolition and other laws like land ceiling ad tenancy protection and other rural-related laws were passed long time ago.

Today there is labour shortage, ironically in agri sector, do you know?
There is a fast urban migration, many had abandoned farming. So too the younger generation has been migrating. What impact this trend would have on agriculture? Anyone with an answer?

We have to strengthen agri trade and agri exports! Time has come to integrate with the WTO decisions for the developing countries. Now, we have had economic reforms but not in agri sector! Why? Because no one has an answer!

Now, market forces are in full play and yet agri sector is tied up with some of the antiquated laws that constrains and controls farmers from continuing with farming as a business proposition.

In the private sector environment who would invest in agriculture, for crops or for new generation agro industries, if you don’t allow the farmers to own some viable farm size?

Yes, agri sector is more complicated than what the government servants sitting in the government offices or engaged using public funds!
The point is that farmers don’t live in a liberal rural society.
Our justice administration is as antiquated as any other. No civil cases end any day soon. The life span of the average farmer is not even better than the life span of the court cases!

So, you have a mouthful of issues to talk about. That is for another day, it looks like!

To take advantage of the size of our farming industry and also the new opportunities opening in international trade!

Seems we are very sluggish country when it comes to farm sector reforms!
Let the government invite advice from experts!
From here and also from abroad!

Chairman2A new India -China study, reported in the mainstream media shows that the rich nations-US, the EU and Canada have consistently giving trade distorting high subsidies to their farmers and thereby distorting the ceilings applied to the developing countries.

The joint study asserts, thereby the developed countries has cornered 90 percent of the total entitlements amounting to a mind-boggling 160 billion dollars annually.

Imagine what even a slight change in this huge among going to the farmers in the developing countries!  We don’t know whether this subject has caught the attention of experts in the government of India, at the NITI Ayog or at the PMO’s office.

If not it is time they respond or they at least now take note that others in the county, the farmers’ lobbies or in the mainstream media or in some other  specialised bodies and interests like the FICCI or Assocham or others come out with some serious response.

Who doesn’t know that farmers in the country are the most neglected lot? Yes, we hear now and then, the latest was the other day in the Rajya Sabha there was much noise, yet we have to be somewhat realistic that what we heard or what was reported in the mainstream press was some superficial coverage. What we remember was some MPs’ names only. What they spoke was not reported clearly or in an extensive manner deserving the seriousness of the situation down at the grassroots.

As we write the agri minister was yet to give his reply in the Rajya Sabha.
What we have seen so far, the minister’s reply is unlikely to inspire the people, more so, the farmers’ groups.

We need a strong farmers’ lobby or lobbies and also some radical new thinking and new initiatives. There are lots of new thoughts lately.

Anyway now the first is the said joint study. As per the paper there are some agri commodities for which subsidies given by the developed world are over 50 per cent of the production value, while developing countries are forced to contain it within 10 per cent or face penalties.

“Developed countries have more than 90 per cent of global Aggregate  measurement of Support(trade distorting subsidies) entitlements amounting to nearly 160 billion dollars which is beyond their deminim. In contrast most developing member countries have access only yo de minimis resulting in a major asymmetry in the rules on agricultural trade”, the paper says. The paper was recently submitted to the WTO Commission on Agriculture.

Aggregate Measurement of Support (AMS), this measures the support prices and subsidies directly linked to production.

Of course, we have to say that on the face of these technical details, the measure seems fair enough, as developing countries our contribution to the total trade volumes, the developing nation’s contribution to the kitty, so to say, is meagre but there is no absolute monopoly that had been enjoyed by more developed countries or their bargaining powers. But we have to come to the present times.

There are many other points of view. India and China are now big markets for the developed countries’ production volumes. So, we have some bargaining powers too.

Anyway, we too have to adopt some other strategies, we have to set up new lobbies to go into the world markets and try to push our goods and services, our own low-cost advantages to enter these markets and sell our products and services.

There are, literally, hundreds of ways to enter into the international markets.

The time has come to awake our farmers lethargy and also our politicians propensity to exploit the ignorance and weaknesses of the farmers insanity to unite and support lobbies for their own products.

Now, there prices of some of the usual products, the tomatoes prices had risen and the onion prices had fallen! The usual culprits!

No way to help farmer? Yes, we are back in the same plight. So too the new eNAM mechanism inaugurated by the Prime Minister.

But this is not enough to make a slogan of doubling farmers’ incomes in the next few years. No, this is not possible!

Indian agriculture, its products and services must now enter into international agri trade and curve out a niche for some of the Indian agri skills, as we have curved out our skills in IT sector.

What we need in agriculture is some daring innovative policies. Please write your responses!

Jai Hind!

What can be done, both in the short and the long-term?

seed2Short-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.