It can only be a slow process!

The very global surface, it seems, is one of vast barren land, stretching miles and miles of unending desert land, looking like newly discovered forests and uninhabited empty spaces or other desolate stretches. That never end. This is the impression I got recently after seeing a series of new videos of Soviet Russia, the transSiberian. Railway journeys and also the transAustralian jobbers. From Perth to Sydney. What a waste of Nature’s bounties, I wondered.

Yes, agriculture everywhere, in every continent, including in Europe seems to be struggling for its legitimate place, legitimate existence. A recent write-up in the prestigious London Financial Times daily says that agriculture is on the wane and farmers concerns, that is finance for farming just one per cent of the requirement. Though India being the poorest country in the world in terms of various parameters, from the point of virw of per capita income or other indicators. And in spite of various promises, election promises included ,made for such a long period since independence, our villages remain poor and our livelihood indicators are also very disappointing including the post Modi period. So we find now in a very difficult context when we have to really seriously think about how to raise agricultural incomes, when we also have a separate department called, the Department of doubling agricultural incomes!

Is it so straightforward to raise incomes from the agri sector? Very relevant that we are all now. Caught up with the problem of rising. The income levels and also raising agricultural productivity. By all means. How to create more jobs in agri sector? How cogenerate more employment? How to really make agriculture a paying proposition? Theft write up begins with the first sentence: farming is a risky proposition>Of course we who had been under the British rule know well how many famines and how many deaths, in fact mass deaths, the British rule caused over the many centuries they ruled. The writer of this column lives in a city, though he has agriculture as his traditional occupation. So when we write on agriculture the writer knows well that he is touching upon a subject with which he has been struggling almost everyday. Only those who have some direct touch with farmers and farming only can speak the truth or truths about farming sector challenges.

There is food shortage in the world and there are countries and where food supply is still in severe shortages. So we needn’t elaborate here more on the usual official versions of schemes and promises made and implemented partially or fully. The fact remains that farming is still in distress; the many schemes are based on leaders and parties who live in the cities and draw schemes for others to practice and for the scheme makers to win votes and perpetuate their rule.

There are now some new developments due to Covid Pandemic and the lockdown gives us some new incentives to try new techs like Online Agriculture. Vadamalai Media has been in the print media business for a long time and now we have switched over to online agricultureinformation service providers. It is heartening to note that now more and more visitors come to our site and there is a gradual buildup of capacity and every day twice there is a respectable crowd of visitors to get the latest information about various new crops to be tried and new technologies to be deployed.

Much more encouraging is the fact that many new comers, like those educated and employed in highly lucrative sectors like IT companies and those who are bored with the high-tension jobs find agriculture a new outlet for a relaxed life style. So we can expect that in the new changed situation more and more highly qualified persons, from traditional or even from the new generation might find agriculture and rural environment more appealing. It is also the time and placebo devise more new avenues in agriculture and more so in the horticulture, fruits and vegetables’ very attractive areas for new investments. The governments must try new investment opportunities in these sector for these new non-traditional farmers and new entrepreneurs. Also, the new generation of educated families, youngsters from these families have entered into agri sector.

We need new schemes and investment opportunities for those educated generation of new entrepreneurs. We have featured in our online services of such new younger generation of agro entrepreneurs. There are other sensitive issues like land reforms. In Karnataka, for example, there are some new land reform law changes, to allow non-farmers to purchase agricultural lands. This change is welcome on the face of titbit and needs further consultations. Also certain age-old ideas of equality in society lasted to very inequitable laws. Who says that inequality originates only in agriculture?

Also, there is the current stark reality. An average farmer in India, we say is either a debtor or a litigant. This is the age-old problem. This social reality of thermal India and the life of farmers need much debate for new ideas, so that agriculture and rural India come to terms with the current socio-economic and cultural realities. We saw in the event Pandemic that some 50 crores of migrants returned to their homes in the vast stretch of North India. Now, we imagine the very same crores of migrants must have returned back to their old haunts. They must have done so for it is the new Indian reality no Indian agri policymaker might have suspected nor even if he or she knows, might not have openly said so. This is the new Indian rural reality.

Unless you create an environment that staying in the rural areas and making a living with dignity and honour is possible no amount of financial allocation can keep and retain the rural migrants in their traditional rural haunts. So, we are saying in conclusion that. You have to think radically, allow people where they are and employed, profitably, we hope and let the situation change gradually but with a steady commitment to give freedoms to farmers in the way they want.

Let the migrant labour remain where they are outside of their own states and gradually let us build a new changed rural context where the current many ossified laws get rejected and new, many more liberal laws come to govern the way agriculture is pursued with more freedoms in all areas and in all contexts.

Agriculture is always a sensitive and therefore controversial field and every media outlet, be it the mainstream newspapers or specialist magazines have their own priorities.

Today the entire world over we have a new crisis in farming looming large and that is this global level Covid-1 attack that had crippled societies and economies. The new Virus has brought to light, the inherent challenges in our global food supplies and the very economic crisis that had laid down the farming communities and as the rest of the societies the farmers are also confined to their homes in the fear the spread of this new calamity, specially for a country like India and why even big ones like USA and Brazil, not to speak of the other developed and developing countries.

When will the farming communities stand up and pursue their age-old practices. Agriculture is not an year-round activity, it is very much dependent upon the rains and climatic changes and when you come to Indian agriculture it is much more complex and divergent activity spread across many regions and agri and ecologies.

We at Vadamalai Media have our own agenda and goals. We come from an agricultural background and are still engaged in practical farming. So, you won’t see the usual academic or bureaucratic outlook, even our journalistic language might sound a bit old fashioned! Though these types of writing and speaking is common in India when it comes to agriculture and rural development.

One important difference for Indian farming and the non-Indian farming systems, like those of the USA and why, even the Chinese is the widespread traditional farming systems where we don’t see the inexcusable practices when it is some meat packaging industry and even the eating habits of people. Here the situation is very different. So, what is unique to Indian agriculture and food systems and cultures have to be kept in mind and we have to look at the priorities we assign to our agriculture and farming communities must be fully appreciated. That is one reason why we might sound different but more authentic and hence less elegant in presenting our views and opinions.

One has to be first of all skeptical when it comes to presenting an optimistic picture agriculture which we routinely do. Forbidding confidence about our food supplies and availability to run our ground level distribution system when it comes to predicating an optimistic picture as to food production targets. We too want to build confidence but at the grassroots level, not just at the Central government level.

American unemployed are growing and hence there is a cry about food security there. Here too there is a concern about food security but both are very different perceptions. Anyway, it is good to see certain new parameters today that point to good harvest this season? What are the parameters?

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) says that the agriculture sector emerges as a beacon of hope! That is very well said. Let us not be misled by the hyperbole. Such statements sometime prove to be specially a field like agriculture that depends upon so many uncertainties, let alone. The pre monsoon predictions often prove to be illusory. As our monsoon prediction technology is so primitive when we really reflect on the state of our science and technology. Let us not forget that the Kerala government has recently announced a payment to private monsoon predicting agencies in Kerala that took a government dependent upon many non-private sector initiatives!

Anyway we have no quarrel with the CII in taking the tree body’s pro-government stand. It always pays to stand by any pro-government view when it comes to economics and business bodies! However, a range of indicators point to some positive developments. GST collections is one good indicator. Railway-freight traffic, petrol consumption, peak power demand, electronic tool collections, among others have all given us a picture of incipient signs of the economy picking up some gravitas and strength and momentum. Though it is still too early to see the signs develop into a reality of success on the economics from the signs are welcome and must give the public much hope and confidence.

After all public opinion matters a great deal and the common man’s outlook also matters a great deal. The other recent steps to put the cash in the hands of farmers is yet to make an impact, the free rations and the 100-days employment scheme is also a stimulant, though we need a more sound and systematic agriculture proposals as the most critical requirements.

Yet the CII and through its Director-General, Chandraji Banerjee, has voiced his concerns. He notes that in order to carry forward the current positive signs he wants the prevailing restrictions on the industry to carry forward long-term plans.

This is a tricky issue. The Corporates always want to have things easy. The Corporates don’t have other broader and social and economic visions of sorts. Economics in India is also not merely about profits and losses. It is much more. Then these are about livelihood for the poor and also about caring for the community as well. That is one reason why the villagers have survived all through the hard times and there is a sort of social bonding that is a real altruistic age old values that held the Indian society as an integrated entity. Rural India in this sense is a great surviving force and these survival instincts distinctly an Indian characteristic today’s the materialistic politics or the value-absent money grabbing power politics that dictate our day to day politics we witness today.

Our democratic politics is no more democratic and it is all about mere jungle warfare!

What are the new agri policies that we hear about today? The government talks about putting cash in the hands of small farmers, right? That is fine but then there are long-terms questions. How serious we are about ensuring a sustainable, long term health of the farming systems and future of our farming families? Small farmers are fine people, they are still clinging to their age-old small pieces of lands but how long the government hopes or beliefs in their sustainability?

We need some structural farming systems, somehow we have to pool the farmers into some sort of co-operative or collective systems. The new concept of farmer’s societies is one new innovation and we need further thought and reforms. No politician or political class has given any thought beyond lip service and that too only when some inconvenient question comes up.

We need a racially new way of thinking, we need thinkers to think about these issues. Where are the dreamers, the rural utopia builders and there are still some youngsters left to dream these new collectives. One young IT professional came on our online agriculture video-conferencing with a community farming system and community farming living. That was inspiring.

There is no alternative to rural co-operative enterprises and we need further conceptualization in this direction. There are now new farming systems and experiments in new types of cultivation.

In horticulture, there is ultra density cultivation of mangoes and other fruit trees, mixed fruit trees and such experiments. These are a few examples where there is much enthusiasm and experimentation and we at our media venture introduce such new ideas though our video conferences. Instead of talking rural politics, helping to build rural vote banks that seem to be the end goals today, we need to pursue more constructive ideas in our rural development issues.

Of course, India seen in the context of developed world countries, remains pathetically poor in many areas and so there is enough time we think ahead in time to introduce new rural economy’s new opportunity.

In all European developed countries, all rural dwelling have been now converted into agritourism outlets. This is one new opportunity. Tourism is a thriving industry and our rural housing too must foresee such rural tourism projects integrated into our rural development. Our present tourism industry, even in the cities is poor or as good as nil!

So, the future for India’s rural hinterland is very rich our cultural heritage. Remains largely neglected. Our ministers must tour abroad and see how tourism has emerged as the biggest industry even in developed countries like UK, Europe and also in terms of tourism related services industry. So, should envisage for rural India and its rich geographic and historical heritage as a new opportunity industry.

The sky seems to the limit!

How to revive the Indian agriculture?

These current economic scenarios is far from any certainty and predictability. There are many challenges, from the external challenges and the internal turmoil. Of course, the economic and political issues, in the best of times or worst of situations are always very complex and complicated. That is why in an ironical sense both the politicians and the professional economists are always over-rated!

Now, coming to the current times we see that India as the world’s largest democracy as well as the fifth largest economy, also with the latest Chinese incursions and the prevailing Covid-19 Corona Virus Pandemic, is facing multiple challenges. Of course those who are in positions of authority, in politics and other responsible policy making spheres have special moral responsibility to play their roles with greater commitment. Now, we at Vadamalai Media and committed as we are to the nationally crucial agriculture sector, we have to write and comment with greater responsibility.

We are not in any position of political responsibility, though we feel that even otherwise, agriculture is a type of sphere where there are too many voices, both official as well as political that agriculture is one arts where everyone seems to be cut off from actual practical farming as their daily livelihood. That its one very important reason, among others, to see that Indian agricultural policy making is so skewed. That the actual farmers, cultivator is always in an exploitative situation. Now, the current scene. As one senior agri scientist who participated in Vadamalai Media’s new online venture, www.agricultureinformation.com video conferencing “Discussion Group”‘s daily event, that after the current threatening Covid 19 Pandemic, it is the agriculture sector, the farming activity is as active as the Covid Virus sector. Challenge!

Now, it is for the first time in India we, Indians themselves have realised that Indian agriculture at the all India level is very much dependent on migrant labour. On such a vast scale who and which expert, agri or non-agri who has said so far? As far as we know none! Such is the dependence of Indian agriculture that once the Corona Virus hot and when many states announced lockdowns a storm, almost like flood havoc drove out such vast numbers, the rural migrants who flooded the fields of Punjab, Haryana and West UP, not to speak of other States, many in the Southern India, also saw this vast humanity flooding out to their rural hinterlands seeking an escape from this Pandemic.

As per latest statistics, lndia’s salaried population is only a small fraction of this total work force which explains why so many migrants had to move out of cities when the lockdown was announced on March 24. The International Labour Organisation (lLO) estimates that only 22% of India’s work force falls under the category of salaried employment and 78% of people had no assured salary and was bound to suffer in such uncertain periods.

In fact, we would say that it is an opportunity now that for people at large and also for cultivating public opinion on such critical issues like agriculture, the sector for which we are committed to realise that how important agriculture sector is for such national priorities like surplus food production and also still more seriously how agriculture with its bounty of providing a food surplus that is also very critical to survive in this increasingly uncertain world. We Indian people must also know that in the rest of the world, in the Middle East and also in some parts of Africa people pay a heavy price, as in Syria, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries, there is a food crisis right now and wars and political instabilities cause an immense misery and much heartburn for people with less fortunate leaders. The important point we want to further convey is that in India too we need to pay greater attention beyond agriculture, food production, we have to equally commit ourselves, the importance of politics, good governance and also the public opinion and public perception of the quality of our leaders, politicians and the political class, the political elite whose compositions, with corruption and undemocratic composition of our political party cadres and the sort of mentality developed by our leaders to run their party machines with such huge political denotations (the latest estimate is that the ruling party collected Rs 4057.40 crores and spent Rs. 1,371.82 crores, as per the research of the Association for Democratic Reforms). We have much more to say for the nature of our highly unequal and inequitable political structures in the name of democracy. All these, not just the poverty and exploitation of the poor. So the point here is that India is much better in agriculture development issues but there are very many structural issues. You can’t separate politics from economics and so vice versa. Now, the latest announcement of the Prime Minister for free food and also direct payment into the hands of the poor to cut short the bureaucratic constraint is welcome. Let us hope the free food scheme works satisfactorily. As for the revival of agricultural economy, one important point here is that, as well know that the marginal farmers is in the majority. The average farm holding is less than two hectares per household.

To make farming profitable, we have written extensively. So, there is no point here in writing anything more. The ground level reality is that the returned migrant labour would now get back to the old haunts where they had learnt to. Earn three of four times the daily wage is. So, please don’t disturb this existing rural realities. Innovate new production techniques and let new innovations like producers farming societies and other contract farming practices come into a new life. Let the co-operative efforts plus other new initiates succeed.

There are other land reform laws still there and inhibit freedoms of farmers. In Karnataka they are making changes. We need farmers freedoms ensured. Don’t tie the land owners to some outdated land reform laws further.

Bank loans to actual farmers must be liberally provided, so too the marketing reforms.

There may be some disruptions. Disruptions are better for some time than present day anti-liberal mind set of populist politics!

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!