Any trade deal with USA should secure
India’s agri goal of food self sufficiency!

As big agricultural economies, be it India, China and the USA, we can’t manage world economy without trade. More so the agricultural trade. So, India has to have a trade negotiation with America whose agricultural economy too needs a trade deal. But India should not deviate from its core strengths and core goals. Our food self-sufficiency goal is as critical for us as it would affect millions of people, poor and the disadvantaged. So, let us resolve to keep these crucial goals in view when US President visits India.

Agriculture is so basic a sector, it affects the lives of millions of poor farmers and people that everyone ,that is, every citizen is concerned about what is happening in such an important sector. As we often hear, everyone says and also means it, that still with all our economic progress, India’s emergence as a third large economy, India now the largest exporter of rice in the world and there is much to celebrate about what Indian agriculture has achieved.

There is many sect oral problems and also the larger question of an over-all vision and perception of what is the place of agriculture in the larger scheme of things. As we often say in these columns that India’s economic strength is our agricultural sector only, India is also basically an agricultural economy; about 50 and odd percentage of people are still dependent on the agriculture and the rural sector.

So, we may talk of many other things, glamorous and otherwise, but we have to have a social and economic vision that has to make account for the many other traditional values, largely rural society with so many diversities and economic opportunities.

So, the question today is how far we have taken the people in drawing up a blue print for action on many fronts, from crops, major and minor to other facets of agriculture and the food sector. There is still much poverty and deprivation; there are still so many other pending implementation burdens for malnutrition, under nutrition of children and the extension of the PDS and other rations.

There is also the status of the distribution of food from schools to other sectors. Education and healthcare, why even unemployment and jobs that are tackled by the rural employment generation scheme and also the problems of direct payments to many sections.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a bold leader no doubt and his many bold announcements from the ambitious goal of doubling farmer’s income by 2022 to other schemes from crop insurance and other schemes are now pending proper implementation. The new agri minister Mr.Narendra Singh Tomar has now started to speak out and the media is also reporting what he says and it looks the various schemes like the flagship crop insurance schemes in which certain new corrections have been announced. This is the first time for a long time that some new announcements have been made.

More such announcements would give some confidence for farmers who are known for their conservative skepticism!

We live in the village and confess we share the ordinary villagers’ skepticism too.
So, as a media committed to solely for agriculture we should be understood properly and taken seriously as far as our skepticism is concerned.

Especially a minister like the agriculture minister must be seen travelling to the states and also making some surprise visits to villages and see how things are implemented. There are States where agriculture has a strong social base and where there are genuine concern for agriculture welfare and other States where there are different ideologies, say like Kerala where Communist ideology drives agriculture, with radical land reforms, in TN where there are so much political issues where agriculture is well developed but caught in some issues like oil explorations and with a largely driven political divides.

Other social issues are also there, as in TN again there is a very entrenched alcohol, TASMAC lobby of the ruling party that almost has destroyed social health of the poor.
There are States like Karnataka where there is a more balanced social economic development and there is also progress in the agriculture and horticulture sector. The Maharashtra rural landscape is well-known with a perennial problem of farmers suicides, in a state which is otherwise more industrialised with the India’s financial capital, Mumbai located and yet we are unable to stop this tragedy of farmers committing suicide, may be the only spot in the whole world.

The very slogan of doubling farmers’ incomes in the next two years seem to be only slogan given the current political impasse. We have to develop many facets of the Indian economy and society, why even the polity so that our over-all Constitutional scheme of things, the legislatures, judiciary and the media, why even our universities give a wide spectrum of freedom and free from fear and anxiety about the confidence in the over-all ideology of an open society. Even secularism and equality and a caring society must be the fulcrum of an open society and the outside world. We are living at a time in world history when newer issues like migration, why, large-scale migration, refugees and also freedom from persecution for peoples ‘religious beliefs. There are many religious persecutions going on in the world, in our own neighborhoods and the international opinion is such that India, among other nations is right now in the world, attention.

Simply because we are in one segment, agriculture is not to mean that we can’t reach out to new issues. We are not able to conclude the trade deal with the USA doesn’t mean that such a trade deal is not linked to our defense and trade issues. Every big country today is invariably tied to its own strength and vulnerabilities, right?

So, whatever be the trade and economic deals countries’ own egos and illusions comes into play. What we mean here is that our own strengths, be it agriculture or IT skills colour and create prejudices and we have to be mentally prepared to listen to experts and intellectuals.

So, let us realise our agriculture’s strengths. Mr.Donald Trump, we write on the eve of his arrival in India, wants Indians to believe their own country is a ‘developed economy’! Fine, we also believe let us act like a developed country people!

Sharad Pawar’s finest hour!
A leader of unmatched character and why, even moral fibre at a time of such a serious crisis situation!

Maharashtra developments, by any reckoning, is a watershed moment in the way the incumbent Central government demonstrated its new governing principles and strategies. The pre-dawn coup and the swift movements of exchanges of ideas and conspiracies and actions proved that this would remain a special chapter in the Modi governance methods. Politics is a ruthless game of power and it looks we in India have reached a stage in the practice of politics that when it comes to grabbing power we don’t care for any delicate negotiations but only swift actions and the players get mad instantaneously. That only can explain what role Ajit Pawar played.

May be the junior Pawar at least proved and he succeeded by getting his name deleted from the list of accused in the ED case and this would also remain one more stratagems in the new power games very likely to be picked up by those caught by ED summons and IT raids! But what the more gravitas side is the way the crisis emerged and how the challenges posed by the veterans, we needn’t name them, let them by god’s grace remain concealed! The very large issues and the fundamental principles of playing the democratic game is that politics is much more serious than what the current players have understood. Do we care for any serious principles, ethics, honour, dignity, integrity and honesty and ultimately truth?

These questions would nag the conscience of everyone in the country. Thank god, the world is now more integrated and India can’t escape from the critical scrutiny of the outside world. Already as the controversial NRC, CAB bills are being debated in the Rajya Sabha and already passed in the Lok Sabha, thanks to the brute majority in the LS.

The US State Federal Commission Panel on Religious Freedoms(USCIRF) had warned that it would impose sanctions on the Home Ministers and other leaders! Already also we see picture of the US Congress House Committee with Nancy Pelosi presiding over the impeachment against the incumbent President! Also on the same page is the Myanmar head of state, Aung San Sun Kyi, sitting at the UN International Court of Justice over her government’s record of genocide.

So, let us all know that the world today is changing fast. Friends are no more friends forever, nor enemies remain enemies. Luckily it is comforting to realise that the world is changing and changing for the good! Leaving aside other issues and controversies, the new BJP government in 2014 and again later in 2019,if we see things in a fair and objective manner, very radical changes took place in the Indian polity. But surprisingly, we started seeing some very fast and controversial actions etc.

The J&K step proved very controversial and as we write the senior leaders of the State are still under detention. How this event will play out is anybody’s guess. Also there are many other controversies. Also, the series of State elections where we saw that despite the BJP not getting majority seats, the BJP managed to form government. The last in the series of ‘runs’ is the Maharashtra drama which played out in an altogether contradictory manner.

Is this all governance about? People wondered! Why even the BJP cadre and the BJP allies were taken by surprise. Yes this is only a mild form of a new political adventurism that didn’t pay off. Finally!

There came about the Maharashtra leader, the most experienced of them all, a father figure, Sharad Pawar who at 79 proved himself as a matchless warrior who ditched the very BJP party at its cunning best! Sharad Pawar is undoubtedly the man of the hour, the man of destiny who save India and its hoary institutions. We needn’t go into the details of what happened once more.

Sharad Pawar is too experienced a leader who knew the very practical politics on the palm of his hand and he went about bringing together the three partners, NCP, Shiv Sena and the Congress.

The Shiv Sena is another phenomenon in Maharashtra politics. As the Dravidian parties in the South proved, they are all neither secular parties nor otherwise any doctrinaire outfits, they all arose out of some particular narrow, regional sentiments and they remain so till this day. As for Shiv Sena it somehow felt slighted and though didn’t have the numbers felt their pride is at stake and so they staked claim for ruling the State. Things, as they say fell in place at the right moment and the man who could play his cards close to his chest and make this happen was none other than Sharad Pawar.

Now, as for Sharad Pawar, Vadamalai Media knows him, from the 1980s during which period we used to travel to Mumbai often. I had the good fortune to meet him many times and other leaders (Vasanth Dada Patil, Shalinitai Patil, A.R.Antulay, S.B.Chavan and others). We got to know Pawar more closely as we were interested in agriculture, especially when he was the Leader of the Opposition. He was the leader of the PDP party when it replaced the great Vasanth Dada Patil.

Maratha people for the South Indians seem a very gentle race and very generous minded and all these qualities and the great Maratha history give the people a special flavour of valour and a historic role in national affairs. Once Pawar invited me to the party office and entertained me for lunch and in during lunch I got to know of the great champion of agriculture when he explained to me at some length about the agri development work he was doing in his home town of Baramati.

So, our relationship blossomed as we at Vadamalai were engaged in building up a media network for educating and enlightening the Indian farming sector through our various media ventures, running four magazines in three languages and other agri consultancy activities. It was also at that time Maharashtra agriculture too was pioneering many new innovative agri institutions building. The State’s Co-operative grapes farmers, other new crops like strawberry cultivation and the agri exports activities were pioneering ones and they deservingly attracted other states too.’ Pawar could easily engage and impress and convince anyone and this is his core strength of character and sustained energy! See at this age his boundless mental power to join such supposed disjoint political powers!

We have been in touch with each other off and on and we have also exchanged correspondence when our views differed. Now, coming to current political developments what is the larger picture? The future shape of Indian politics? The Congress party, to put it more sympathetically, is in shambles. Sonia Gandhi is faced with an albatross on her neck! First, she had shouldered once again the Congress organisation which is top heavy with all old and retired senior politicians perched in comfortable Lutyens’s bungalows. They are unlikely to vacate space for others in the near future.

The youth Congress under Rahul Gandhi came in and flopped. Who would the Congress really focus?

The party is non-existent in most states! The next few years may give some indication of its likely future. So, Sonia Gandhi has fall in line with Pawar’s play, so to say, at least to save her own honour! The Maharashtra Congress leaders have no other way but to join the Pawar brigade. As for Shiv Sena, Pawar is now the mentor and the party is lucky to have a mentor like him and the future of the three-party coalition, we are sure, could take on Modi-Shah duo, in our opinion, in an effective way.

In fact, Pawar is the real counterweight to the resource-rich and also strong ruling duo and would surely stand up to the counter manoeuvring in the days to come. There is a very cheap jibe that the coalition is an ideological contradiction- is simply nonsense. This is strictly not an ideological coalition but a strategic coalition to keep out a common ruthless enemy! Who knows in the next phase there may be more adventurism. To conclude, let people realise that the price of freedom and democracy is eternal vigilance!

An appeal to younger generation of politicians!

What are the lessons from the Maharashtra-Haryana by elections?
Many lessons!

One is the lacklustre show of the BJP party Two: the lacklustre outcome of the campaign. Yes, The Congress and the NCP have gained some lustier in denting the aggressive campaign of the top two stars of the BJP. The Congress couldn’t send out even the mother -son duo, Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi didn’t show much enthusiasm or time to go about election yatras or what else they could have done alternatively.

Sharad Pawar

The very aggressive campaign and the theme, Nationalism, abrogation of Article 370 in J&K didn’t make an impact. The media commented that he voters were more concerned with the bread and butter issues.

This assessment seems to be true. In Maharashtra the NCP did make a sort of comeback. In Satara, the Shivaji Maharaj’s descendant went on to face defeat in the face of the war cry given by Sharad Pawar when he received the ED summons and the Maratha pride seems to have come to the fore and the Raja Bhonsle met with defeat.

So, the Maratha people have their own innate pride and legacy from their glorious history! Hats off to them! Yes, the younger Thackeray has come for the first time into electoral fray and very likely he might play a great role.
Let us wish him well. After all, age matters in politics and the Maratha people have also not forgotten their history. In Haryana, the Jats have also changed their tune this time. Congress won seats beyond their imagination and the fact that a hung Assembly is a reality that the BJP for the first time has to go out and solicit help from a young leader, the Devilal legacy, Dusyanth Chautala! He is surprisingly well schooled, an alumnus of Lawrence School ,Sanaar, an elite school, very refreshing for a new India in the making!

Only such well-established historic public schools, in our view ,is the only future hope for murky politics we have to endure today. We take this opportunity to say more on this aspect of the very illiterate type of politics in the name of democracy. Yes, we are the world’s biggest democracy, large population, strategic geo politics and what is worrying, the state of the Indian polity is not so enlightening, so much of poverty, illiteracy and poor health profiles, we have the world’ largest number of impoverish nutritious profile of the children and peoples.

So, democracy in India has meant also the highest corruption index, we also lately learnt to fudge statistics, also our electoral political standards are deplorable. So, we need youngsters like Chautala who is public school educated, public schools are historically expected to produce leaders of society and polity.
So, we send the explosive message that Indian democracy needs to instill great many values, corruption free and idealistic government and governance standards. We hope the younger Chautala would bring his good education and training to the service of the country’s very many woes.

So, we wish the Chautala scion to play a great role and not caught in the culture-less and a sort of undemocratic and unethical practices that have entered into the present day polity.

Also, people now would have learnt to compare the younger generation politicians in all political parties and luckily there are too many youngsters in so many other parties. So, young leaders in many parties, in particular, the Congress and Samajwadi party and much more interesting is the concept of dynasty.

Somehow dynasty politics has become a dirty word and there are heavy responsibilities for the so-called debate “Old vs young or “GenNext vs the Old Guard. We also take this opportunity that we always identify the young with some idealistic streak and this is natural.

So, we like to draw attention of the current on-going debate on Ideology and Nationalism. Young politicians in India must study the history of politics and the evolution of democracy, from Greece to our own times.

Ideology is a very key word. Ideology gives a rational account of what is politics based on principles. These principles go back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.

The British education is grounded on these philosophies. Unfortunately, Indian education is based on MaCaulay’s clerical English language education!
So, we say that the current generation of young politicians must study some basic principles of politics and see to it, the current fall in corruption, arbitrary power and a streak of fascism and much else have led to deterioration of values in Indian politics.

Let us hope, the younger generation of Indian political heirs keep in mind the heavy burden they would inherit from the present fallen standards of Indian politics. So, the current election results would also lend some sanity and a moderate public behavior of average Indian politicians!

The Prime Minister in his Independence Day Speech made many bold and new announcements to lift the economy from the slowdown. These schemes like empowering the farmers with several hopeful positive supports are welcome.
Considering the tone and temper of the day and mood with the Jammu and Kashmir developments heavy in the background every Indian was in a receptive mental framework.

One of the key factors in the general economic slowdown is the rural distress and the agrarian crisis.

Indian agriculture is perhaps the most neglected sector in the country and now, given the flood devastation and the loss of lives and the need to attend to rescue and rehabilitation task the burden on the government resources is too high to think of any other aspect of the agriculture life and economy.

The average farmer is in distress and in great many handicaps. Let us say this to ourselves in the first place. Now, the issue of climate change and the latest floods and many land slips have accentuated the timeliness of the climate-related actions that are overdue. Unfortunately, the government has not come out in the open and said anything that make an impact on the minds of the concerned sections. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has added a new dimension to the fight against climate change.

The urban media is full of scholastic deliberations on green house gas etc. One important issue is that even such unthought out political action like free electricity to farmers has added to great land degradation, so too deforestation and such new unimagined consequences.

Politicians played their own negative roles in providing populist politics and these actions for so long let unchecked had contributed to the current crisis and the climate change debate.

If we can add here one more critical factor in farm distress is the consequence of a regressive land reforms such as tenancy act where the cultivating tenant in no more an actual cultivator but often an absentee tenant who take land long ago and now does many other things, not actual cultivation nor pays any rent, fair or unfair, the law permits him in his delinquency.

In TN in particular if you visit the temples in Thanjavur district there are notice boards prominently kept with the name of delinquent tenants, some of them bigger than any actual landlord? So too the land ceiling act that doesn’t allow an economical size and therefore most of the actual land parcels are below one or two hectares.

The BJP government simply talks in vague terms about doing this or that relief to farmers.

Actually what is their land reforms proposals? The PM has spoken many things about farmer’s reliefs, like crop insurance, actual cash transfer etc.
But not one has heard him deliberate on farm reforms in detail. There must be structured land reforms, given the very radical socio-economic and even cultural transformation that has taken place in the rural India.

As per one latest report on actual farmers, not just in India but also in the Western countries that average farmers’ age is advancing. No more younger age groups are forth coming to take up farming as a modern profession.

The harsh reality is that farmers are a very dejected lot, more debts, pushing them towards suicides, India iks one of the prominent countries in the rate of farm suicides.

What sort of talk we make when we talk of farmers’ policies? The very phrase doesn’t occur in any of the government policy documents.

There must be a drastic policy to prevent farmer’s suicides. The topic is very timely but stop at this. Second, the farmers must be made to feel they are respected and attended with great sensitivity by the society. If the farmers to the Weekly District Collectors’ grievances day how farmers grievances are solved or attended to?

There is a picture that we like to show to our readers. In one biography of the Austrian emperor, Ludwig Joseph, he is shown to have got into an actual farm and ploughing the farmer’s land! How much it would be if our PM or President stops on the wayside and gets a farmer’s plough and actually seen ploughing the mother earth’s soil, sacred soil! Then, the very ground level officials, high and low, must attend and answer the farmer’s issues on the smartphones, online and every farm households have educated young boy or girl!

Then, there is the agriculture media!
Do we have any policy to support such media outlets with suitable subsidies? Why you neglect the rural media?

The late trend towards partisan propaganda slant in ads and news distortions have made the matters worse! Let us show that as politicians, MPs and MLAs, we respect the farmers, we visit the villages?

The agri ministers must be seeing, they must travel and they must be seen by the people. Now, do you see any of these things happening?

Let us shed hypocrisy. Let us award farmers Padma awards and such other recognitions!

Agriculture is a vast subject. It touches our lives and actions and our beliefs and core convictions at many levels. Let us recognise the serious side of agriculture. No way otherwise!

What are the lessons of 2019 elections?
What are the implications for the second term?
So, it is death for the Congress party?

The exit polls have been dampening for one section and the NDA might be too much to be ready for their impact on the Indian mind! Yes, the 2019 elections have been a watershed, as they say. The redoubling strength of the BJP in the new opportunity might spell new developments and also new anxieties. The media is full of such anxieties, after looking around the world and the outside world and also the recent world history and events. “Is the cruellest month” said the great poet T.S.Eliot, the Nobel winner for his epoch making poetry. On April 25th Italy celebrated its Liberation Day! Remember on the April 25th, 1945 the Italian dictator, the fascist leader Benito Mussolini was disposed off from power. Today there is Rightwing resurgence everywhere, in Italy, Austria and even Spain. Is this an international trend? Thinking Indians can deliberate.

The only point we want to make is that today democracy is itself a word that is turned upwards down! In many parts of the world, politicians capture power, yes, through elections and also turn it towards an oppressive and suppressive instrument of state. Many features, many freedoms we hold dear might lose their meanings. So, there are so many sad things about democracy today.

How India would play its role and how it would earn its spurs in the comity of nations must be uppermost in many minds. Now, for the Congress party the message is clear. As this media has been focussing for long the Indian National Congress can’t remain anymore as family party. It can’t remain as one tied to Sonia Gandhi’s incompetence and for the ruin of a great democracy.

Please resign and go! This is the message. Restore inner party democracy. All the time servers and family retainers leave the CWC and other bodies. Go back and adopt a sort of Kamaraj Plan! That is the plain and blunt message! Criticism is the blood of life and democracy. Also came through the debate were the observations that the media in India is not a free world. And the pores are captive at many levels. Also there is criticism that the mainstream media, the big ones, both the print and the electronic media are in the ownership of the big industrial houses.

These are not new criticisms but now, after the 5 years of BJP rule the whole Indian media scene has changed. Anyway, the 2019 General Elections is an unprecedented event, so much violence and so much bad words and so much violations of model code of conduct and so much explicit bias in the EC and other agencies and so much bad blood and so much vulgarity and so much heat and anger is surely a blot on the good name of India, of Indian people.

We are not sure how the outcome of the election would turn out and assuming the takeover of power by the new government would give us some indication how the future of India pan out. For one thing, the level of public debate was debasing to say the least. Political morality took a beating and the good of the Indian people suffered an irreparable loss. All through the torrent of the rhetoric, mostly empty rhetoric not once, not for a brief moment we heard about the weighty issues of the day, weighty issues of the future India and the world is going to face. Indian agriculture, yes there were references to the agrarian distress?

But what response from the weighty people, the great leaders, the vociferous speeches of all the ambitious and aspiring Prime Ministerial candidates, can we take as the chief front runners to be Mayawathi, KCR, Chandrababu Naidu or Sharad Pawar all very able leaders no doubt. But can we expect from them some modicum of truth and honesty and perspective and vision and some degree of sobriety?

Let us hope so.

A Prime Minister to lead a country like, a great and diverse and a very ancient nation with so much to contribute to the world, we write on the Buddha Poornima day(!),so we have to couch our words with some duty to history. India should be able to win the confidence of the big and small nations. India under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru days, V.K.Krishna Menon, his deputy used to say: India counts and Indian counts in the comity of nation. That was when India was poor, there were food shortages, we lived from ship to mouth etc. Poverty was widespread and Nehruji once said at a Santiniketan public meeting: The outside world asks: how can you develop? No resources then, after a small pause Nehruji would say: India has apanch varsha yojana hei, we have a five year plan, we would develop. And let the young readers of today also know.

By the side of Panditji sat none other than the great expert and intellectual, P.C.Mahalanobis, the author of planning and statistics then. It was P.C.Mahalanobis who laid the foundation for gathering statistics to draw up future plans! How thrilling and inspiring!

India did evolve in the years to come and today, after five years of so much rhetoric and much else we are talking like illiterate villagers, sorry to call the villagers to say so. They, the villagers might be the ones to deduce the outcome of the 2019 elections. Truth and honesty, humility and much else, the core values India is proud of, tolerance, decency etc are also values. To call the Godse as the patriot is the height of idiocy. So, Indian people are duty bound to safeguard democracy. Long live democracy!