Agriculture distress is only one factor.
The other factors are too many to narrate!

yogisat-696x478A surprise of surprise is the latest move of certain courage on the part of the otherwise submissive bureaucracy to summon up courage, some 83 bureaucrats of high ranks, most of them ex-IAS officers, some really daring  to write to the Prime Minister an open letter and ask the PM to get the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adithyanath  to resign for having caused  the killing of a policeman in Bulandshahr violence and riots over the alleged cow slaughter.

The letter doesn’t mince words, it calls the killing of a government servant as “the most  dangerous turn taken in the direction of politics of hate”. It is really something, given the fear psychosis created by the turn of events in India under Mr.Modi. The bureaucrats, often seen  as a bunch of cowards who always seek government patronage under one pretext or other and who get cushy jobs, assignments of one sort or other and choose to live, why hang on in the comforts of the Lyton bungalow zone. And for them to summon up courage to stand up for some principles is really a very welcome change of psychology.

It has been our consistent view that in India politics had degraded somewhat to a degree that all principles of decency and self-worth gone and anything can be done or justified to seek favours, not from the people in power, even otherwise, from those in some authority, even the part president, the Indian National Congress as one party that had been in power for long had developed a sort of India’s own version of a political oligarchy around the Congress establishment. In which dynastic politics to a culture of clinginess and we see the manifestation of many facets of our behaviour in public life. We talked to many senior leaders in Delhi and they all seem to give the impression of waiting for some job to fall in their lap.

Those who were once top bureaucrats had turned into politicians, as members of the Rajya Sabha or Lok Sabha or even   governors of states, why even the personal security guards had turned into governors!

And lo! You see the most undeserving one had become big shots thanks to the unwisdom of the party presidents and leaders who by just crouching under the chairs of these know-nothings had seen Indian politics descend to some low levels.

We saw these outcomes in the latest election campaigns, the incumber Prime Minister and the leader of Opposition, in this instance, Mr.Rahul Gandhi chose to speak in such abusive languages, vulgar words and unprintable fashion that Indian politics touched a new low, a new bad state of affairs.

One more critical observation we want to make at this point. Mr.Gandhi, soon after he won the three state elections, perhaps unavoidable in the heat and flurry of emotions has started to speak in a sort of revenge that he won’t let the PM sleep and so on in the days and months to come.

This is fine but it, this sort of empty rhetoric must end and a sense of substance in Congress alternatives must emerge, emerge rather too soon.

How long Mr.Gandhi can afford to carry on in this fashion?
Surely, the people too would soon become tired of such emptiness of politics.

In fact, there is every reason to suspect that the people too, the voters in the just concluded elections were clearly became disillusioned with the Prime Minister’s promise of the moon! He promised so much and many of his promises, the list is long and well-orchestrated by the PM’s own self-indulgent haranguing   and the built-up accumulation of all these unfulfilled promises, combined with other contingent events and developments, the UP Chief Yogis’ own contributions in the Bulandshar’s violence and the killing of the policeman and others of the Yogi’s own version of redemption for India had led to the total rout of the BJP.

So, too the other failures.  The CBI is now a meaningless agency as far as the public opinion is concerned. What sort of a doer is the PM, people ask.

If he can’t ensure one important agency, the CBI when it has unleashed its powers to destroy Opposition leaders and that too under the direct administrative powers of the PM?

So too other important agencies like the RBI? Also, the GST, which had
Become a bugbear for a large variety of segments, the MSEs and many other small traders and the poor too.

So, the media too have become a bi bold, the print and the TV channels, specially the pro-PM channels to have started to take up issues and causes that led, in our opinion, the slumbering IAS and other officials of high ranks to summon up courage and write directly an open letter.

So, the BJP, as a party and its satellites, also the PMO with all its powers couldnt produce results and many issues, schemes and welfare programmes remain unimplemented.

Now, the NITI Aayog itself has come out to find fault with the government’s moves to do away with the farm loans waivers. So, at the end of the day, so to say, the Modi government stands not on strong ground but on slippery slope on the eve of the mighty 2019 election game!

So, the agri distress and the solutions remain elusive as we write this column. Agriculture is a vast subject. Vadamalai remains committed to this sector as our very survival. Solutions are too many. It requires a new sense of urgency and commitment.

Let us take time and some inner courage to summon up courage to invite wide consultations.  One instance is agri exports.

There is a decline. From agri exports to MSP to crop insurance there is plenty of work left undone!

In three crucial Hindi heartland states!
What does this election win means?
Means the rural distress in the agri sector nearly over?
Rahul’s new found confidence justifies his current speeches and even his threatening postures?
Yes, yes, he has every reason to be enthused about his hard-won battles!

rahul-gandhiBut then write-off of farm loans in MP and Chattisgarh, may be in  Rajasthan too might trigger further demands for the BJP-ruled states too! Why not?

It will take some more time, may be only after the 2019 big test, that further promises and even some write-off might be demanded.
Already the Karnataka write-off is half way.

The hard reality is that write-off of farm loans are never easy and never solved the current persisting farm distress. This needs hard thinking too.

Let us be a bit realistic and also so honest that even in the
Congress times of old there never was such a proposal, write-off of crop loans. It needs experts and also much field level experience.
At the micro level and macro level issues and realities.

At present even the well-meaning Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi couldn’t do more than what his government has done for the farming community. We just don’t have some really well-meaning capable people at the top.

You see experts are urban-based?

And when the agri ministers or officials, let alone the Prime Minister don’t even speak out? Rahul Gandhi has promised write-off farm loans within ten days of coming back to power! Can he do this? Is there going to be any practical action in the time before the general election in 2019comes fast! Whom to trust when it comes to agri issues?

Very rarely we get to know of the farmers issues. Agri issues don’t make to it to TV news headlines unless it is a massive march or a big rally as it took place on November 30   in Delhi where came farmers in large numbers from all states, and the much-publicised 200 odd farmers organisations managed to gather such a large crowd of farmers. Only such massive rallies make good TV news and not when you discuss problems in cold print. And there are some critical factors like who organises the farmers.

Certainly political parties and they only one interest, that is of the coming elections and the parties gather together to win elections only.

Rahul Gandhi’s grand promises of writing off farm loans within ten days of coming to power is a myth and of course no one cares to ask such questions. It is the heat and the buzz that is all matters for the multiple TV channels and each channel makes lots of noise and some even screams hoarse and the louder the more viewer rating, right?
Yet the grand realities remain the same. A full page write up in the Hindu newspaper, of a 1,200 km travel by road by the newspaper’s correspondent  brings into sharp focus the  grim realities of rural living in the mostly desert state of Rajasthan and the various combinations of the castes of Rajasthan  had rejected the Vasundare Raje Scindia.

The villagers don’t show any unity as farmers and farmers are divided by castes and also classes.

There are rich farmers and poor farmers. It is not possible to gauge how the farmers are divided by political affiliations. In Rajasthan there is a sort of anger over the Rajasthan pride over the Padmavati film and also the manner in which the Rajasthan sentiment if hurt by the BJP not treating the senior Rajasthani leader, Jaswanth Singh who is ill and his son, Manvendra Singh who was with BJP and walked over to the Congress which had put him against the Chief Minister Vasundara Raje Scindia, a non Rajasthani!

It is widely predicted soon after the election process was over that the BJP might lose and the Congress might form the government. In Madhya Pradesh too, the Chief Minister Chauhan too face a tough Opposition, though he might scrap through and yet he would lose his shine, widely predicted again.

The point here is whether one part wins, the other loses, and the status of Indian agriculture, right now is one of deep distress.
No one seems to have any clue.

In the issue of the newspaper on another page it is highlighted how M.S.Swaminathan has co-authored a column, published from Bangalore, finally throwing out his hat and saying  that the GM cotton has failed, nay, all the GM crops a failure and GM technologies  won’t help, a  sustainable food production and nutritional security not possible by the GM technologies. So, we are left with no other alternative assurance, this government neither promises you these goals.

Now, what are we left with?

The same persisting rural distress and that means what?

Farmers suicides, as we write, in Maharashtra and UP as we write, and the government’s untrustworthy promises are only we are left with, ironically, every time with the every approaching elections!

So, it looks as though the time has come to see agriculture distress only in terms of electoral battles. Even the much hyped farm loan waiver in Karnataka is getting delayed.

And very soon the people, why, the farmers everywhere, seem to be ignored even in   Madhya Pradesh we saw police firing at Mandsaur where five farmers were killed in police firing!

While the Government’s Principal Scientific Adviser K.Vijay Raghavan had disputed the MSS research paper as deeply flawed, what is the real answer?

Alas! There is none in the official hierarchy to come out with an honest response. Nor we have any public intellectuals who can speak out.

Of course, it is not a scenario where we can leave with such a negative outlook when it comes to agricultural sector. In the outside world agriculture, food production and much else like ensuring nutrition to children and all such larger goals visionary goals are called for.FAO and other agencies have predicted serious consequences and emphasised future food needs of the world with higher populations. So let us think positively.

As far as this journal is concerned there are certain deeply entrenched policy prejudices that govern even today the agri sector in the country.

One, as the NIITI Aayog has come out with a model land legislation that suggests some bold reforms, make farming an equitable activity between the land owners and the tenants.

Currently, the tenancy and land ceiling and other issues are government by a rigid set of laws that have made farming unviable, among other factors.

Unless farming is seen as a possibly viable activity, more farmers would leave farming sector and move to other profitable activities like construction and other service industries.

There is a furious urbanisation process and many able-bodied people have left their rural habitats. In the north, from Bihar and UP, why other states like Odisha there is a seasonal migration to cities. From the other states too there is great migration process started, as for instance, most educated young man and women have moved to Bangalore and other cities. So, how do you care for agri productivity and production?

There two views for agriculture. One, the micro view and other macro view. The micro view is just look at problems in particular rural pockets. Life in the villages is becoming tougher every day. At the macro level we have bigger problems like Indian agriculture vs. the global agri issues, like agri trade and agri exports in particular.
WTO, why even the big agri economies like USA and China, they object to Indian agri subsidies. Now, India speaks a new agri export policy, doubling of exports. Fine!

It is our view that only when the agri exports rise, the farmers would get decent prices for their produce, as other countries, the USA, EU agri subsidies show. Let us feel confident on the agri front.
New governments must think on these lines. Jai Hind!

You see that Chhattisgarh state along with four others is in the midst of an important Assembly elections and the outcome would decide the fate of the parties in the crucial 2019 Lok Sabha general elections. The political parties, in particular, the BJP and the Congress, are doing everything, from  rhetoric to below the belly attacks  against each other and as for the other parties, the allies and the others too are caught in cross fires, considering the fast changing alliances, defections and bargaining’s and much more.

North-East-Elections-2018-35B-770x433Where does this bizarre scenario leaves the voters, more so the rural voters, mostly farmers and other artisan classes in most of these rural pockets of India. Agriculture in India at present is in deep crisis and no one seems to have any clear vision or policy deliberations.

At the end of the day, Mr.Rahul Gandhi too with all his high decibel campaigns across the states seems to have no other alternative except to promise farm loan waivers.

Is farm loan waiver really possible on such large scale? Even in Karnataka where the Congress and the JD (U) formed alliance and the government Mr.Kumarasamy, the Chief Minister is struggling to fulfil his promises to waive the farm loans.

The very few farmers who were promises the farm loan waiver certificates are yet to receive them and once they receive them we are not sure where these happy or hapless souls would leave them as for their next crop season.

Surely, the farmers who get such farm loan waivers won’t get invited by the banks to have one more chance to borrow, even if the borrowing is for genuine farming needs.

Go everywhere in rural India, into the rural interiors and talk to a rural bank branch manager whether his  bank would lend to farming, you are very likely  to have an evasive answer.

Even if any bank lends it is very likely to get  the property document of the farmers and very likely that option too would be most like cut for it is very likely that the farmers might have already pledged the documents and they would be over-lend and heavily in debt, not to one bank, many branches in  the neighbourhood.

To cut the story short, it is really a tough task to revive agricultural activity based on the rains or on the market conditions for farming.

Indian agriculture has to undergo a very radical and controversial change from abolishing the many land legislations, the NITI organisation, the government planning unit has already published its version of a model tenancy land legislation to replace the many other similar but anti-land-owning farmers letting out their lands for tenancy farming.

Of course, everyone in the field knows well why politicians hesitate to talk about this side of the story.

We have created an environment of humbug that is against farming on market conditions. So, there is an accumulated heavy debt in rural households and an average Indian farmer is basically debtor, a litigant or a court bird. The heavy accumulation of land related court cases in the various court of India is one of the large components of the pending cases in the courts.

Once you get into litigation then you are almost finished, no hope of getting any relief, let alone any compensation for the first stake of letting out your precious landed property.

That is why you see no new investments in the farming sector. We are of course referring to the small and medium sized farms.
The rich, as they are already have had their many escape routes and the rich can afford to crush and bend to their will any troubles in owning rural landed property.

From point onwards starts your other problems. So, the rural distress is basically an outcome of the accumulated past sins and lack of any action on the part of almost all the state government.

And now, the Naxalite threats to work towards their own version of utopia. Naxalites are a disparate group. There are the tribal regions in which only the current threat has taken all shapes of insurgency. We now read that the current leadership of the various Naxal groups are divided among different leaders, some strong and the others not so strong but strong in conviction and determination to hand on.

The first phase of the first 18 constituencies in the Maoist-dominated areas of Chhattisgarh triggered a series of improvised explosive devices and l killing one Sub-Inspector and injuring others and thus they, the Maoists, have demonstrated they are still a force to reckon
with. However, given the latest reports that the poor tribeswomen and the aged had come out in the open and voted and the polling is over even 70% shows that the Maoists can’t fight the State in the long run. What is likely is that in the short-run   the Naxalite groups have some fire power but it is likely to become weaker and weaker in the future.

Naxalism as everyone knows is an anarchic group. We have had the past history of anarchism in Europe and it is an ideology that wants the State to wither away!

Possible? Not at all. But what should worry the public is the urban Naxals! These people, the ones under house arrest  have opened a Pandora’s Box! It is anybody’s guess where these so-called urban Naxals will lead us to or when they would reach their destination.
The urban intellectuals who also proclaim their affiliations, let us hope, would end up as hopelessly frustrated one day, sooner this is like to happen, given their back grounds as middle class theoreticians and writers of theatres and novels or simple radical columnists.
Agriculture is deeply in the current crisis. Unless agriculture is revived and rural prosperity is ensured there would be crisis and discomfort in the rural scenario.

Of course, agriculture too can’t be revived so easily. Agriculture’s priorities are so different that in an ideal situation agriculture must get more social recognition and there must be a great share of the budget for this critical food segment.

A looming food crisis is predicted for the future of the world. There are issues within larger issues and so we have to create a widely shared public opinion as to the place of agriculture and food industry to share the resources in any enlightened agricultural and rural development policies.

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, unveiled   a 60-feet tall statue of a great Jat leader, Sir Chotu Ram, and spoken high of the pre-Independence day leader of farmers.

sir_chhotu_ram_statueSir Chotu Ram had mobilised the people, peasants, to emerge as beneficiaries of many development projects, the Bhakra Nagal dam in particular that made Punjab and Haryana as frontline agricultural states.

Of course, the PM also said on the occasion that the government raised the MSP twice and this showed his government’s concern for farmer’s welfare. No doubt about that. You see agriculture is a very basic industry; it touches the lives of people at many levels. The non-farmers, the poor and the weaker sections, in the villages in particular are dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood, for various reasons.

And remember, agriculture is Indian economy’s backbone. All this and much more we all know, those of us who live in the cities and also those who managed to live in Delhi and run the government, both the political netas as well as the bureaucratic machine.

There was a time when the agricultural leaders went to Delhi; they were treated in a condescending manner. But days seem to have hanged, these days farmers’ marches to Delhi have frequented much more and they, the farmers and their leaders have also become a frustrated lot and they no more believe any of the government assurances. So, they learnt to march towards the PM’s residence itself!

And also much more to the good side of the government  that the  second  time rise in the MSP was announced on the eve of the farmers pledging to march further from Ghaziabad  towards the Lyton’s zone and hence before dawn the government announced the MSP rise and bought peace!

So, the days are changing for the farming community. Also, the farm scene is also changing faster. The urbanisation, the migration to cities, the migrant labour from UP and Bihar to states like Gujarat saw recently an exodus and likewise, there are likely to be new types of state level resistance to outside labour.

Or, there can be utterly unexpected acceptance and even open demand for labour from other states. In sum, the Indian agriculture is likely to become modernised, let us hope so, new technologies have already penetrated the Indian agricultural scene. Everyday new machines, new tools for various agriculture functions are entering the sector and also agriculture in some pockets in each state are  suited to year-round farming, specially the vegetables and fruits and also agri incomes are becoming regular.

Yet, it is a sad feature even now there are tragedies and farmers suicides take place even in some rich parts like the sugarcane belt of Mandya in Karnataka for instance and of course there is the unending news of former’s suicides in Maharashtra and even in the PM’s backyard, Gujarat!

So, these developments, signs of prosperity on the one side and sign of tragedy on the other side characterises the Indian agriculture. And also, one more point here we want to highlight.

The choice of ministers for the agri portfolio. Any agriculture minister of India and his deputies must be seen as travelling ministers. They must be seen in all the states. Unfortunately, while Mr.Modi is energetic and active, the same can’t be said about some of his colleagues.Many are unsuited to the portfolios they hold right now, even after four and half years of the present regime.

We don’t want to name them, nor the portfolios; in particular, the agri ministers are not senas active and hey say many things that are not sympathetic to the farmer’s causes. Farm debt is notoriously difficult to tackle. This requires a genius, if not a more gifted individual or individuals.

The BJP government is seen as a party with a paucity of talents. If we can say so, it is not a sin if we seek a competent person even from outside the party. Next to farm debts, is the litigation sin of the farming community? Our various land legislations, tenacy, land ceiling laws etc are now seen as totally outdated and proving to be the hell for progressive farmers, farmer investors.

Do, we welcome the model land reform legislation laws as propounded by the NITI AAYOG and we would urge the PM to give a go-by to give legislative shape even before the 2019 elections.

Let the PM enter into a village, one in the North and one in the South and personally test for himself what we say here. We need liberalisation of the land reform laws. Some we can write-ff. Who wants to live in the village and undergo all the negative features of village life?

If any young man leaves his village and travels to Bangalore for instance, he or she can earn a very decent income, for sure. So too the other youngsters from the North East we see in other states. They can be seen even in remote places, in the wayside hotels as service hands. They all seem to be happy. So, we can draw a policy towards enabling the interstate labour migration. For instance, the Odisha government has constructed an Odisha House in Bangalore to help students and youngsters from   the state. Similar state houses can be built so that there can be easy interstate migration and also the solution to unemployment and easy migration.

For an energetic agri minister or officials there are unlimited work at the Krishi Bhavan!

Let us energise the agri sector with new enthusiasm. Minister, please move out of your comfort zones in the capital!

Yes, there are some radical new departures!

NitiOne critical area is agriculture where the outdated old style repressive tenancy laws had hindered agri potential. NITI Aayog is now the only fresh feature of the Modi regime’s innovation, a think-tank with some of the bright minds working there. We can name names, some of them very bright, some very open-minded. We congratulate them.

This basic truth is held back from open mention for fear of being labelled as anti-progressive and anti left. Even such learned experts like Prof.Amartya Sen had failed to say openly why his own beloved state of Bengal had turned into a backward economy and social sector. If you travel from Kolkata to Santiniketan, Prof.Sen’s own place, you would be so shocked that all through the 100 and odd miles of drive there is not one decent tea shop, let alone other facilities to realise that you are on the way to modern day hell!

Yes, why even after so many of his years on this route that Sen laments on the fall of CPI (M), not on others, for the present state of affairs in Bengal. Prof.Sen is known supporter of the Left-front government who for the past 35 odd years had taken such a resources-endowed state into the darkness and degeneration.

Why even in education and health Bengal is so appallingly a state that you can see masses of Bengali patients waiting outside the Apollo hospital in Chennai!

The horror-filled stories of mass deaths of new-children in Kolkata hospitals are still afresh in memory. For having spent years in Bengal, in Santiniketan we write with firsthand experience.

Now, the newly created NITI Aayog, the redesigned of the old style Planning Commission is an ego trip or really fulfilling its new promises?

We have only a sketchy idea of really what the new agency has done. We saw the debate between Prof.Sen and the Aayog chairman, Rajiv Kumar  titled: ‘Challenge thrown: prove it: challenge accepted’.

Yes, Kumar cited enough evidence to show that India has done well in terms of the many promises made by the Modi government and yet, with all his innate skills for argument, proved that when compared with India’s neighbours on similar growth path, India has still to catch up with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other countries in terms of infant mortality etc.

Debate apart, we at the agri media are really surprised to go through the new model legislation on tenancy reform.

We are not sure how far the model legislation drawn up by the planning agency is really a radical departure from the dogmatic Left oriented tenancy protection act that did protect the lazy and the anti-social elements but that didn’t lead to any inch of productivity in farming operations nor the old style so-called progressive legislations lead to farming into a thriving business.

The point here is that NITI Aayog had done a pioneering service by radically recasting the legislation in a far manner to make the farming, first of al viable. Pay a rent and do the farming. If you can’t do farming please leave the farming for others who might be taking over the job.

New investments in farming calls for incentives to invest in such risky areas like farming. One way to encourage youth to remain in the villages is to encourage entrepreneurship and only by making land holding easy of complex and complicated maze of land legislations in various states in one key obstacle for viable farming enterprises.

We had featured the model land legislation in some of our recent issues.

Thereby, second, you would make the land productive. It won’t be lying fallow as it is happening in many places. In TN also there is this regressive land laws that helped the highly corrupt Dravidian parties to let is strongmen, the goondas to land grab as a highly profitable politics!

In neighbouring Karnataka too the land legislation since the days of Devaraj Urs reduced farmers into paupers.

There must also be a vision for progressive consolidation of land holdings, now it is the further divisions of land holding, so unviable and no politicians worth their salt to come out openly and say what was ailing the land-owing class.

There are one or two minor issues. The very naming of the agency, as in many other similar cases is very misleading. Too many acronyms-infested schemes are too confusing and too misleading.

After all the Planning Commission idea came from the Soviet Union and even now in the China development debate, there is the Planning
Commission, setting agendas and targets.

If handled deftly, the idea is still relevant and   we need not be come so dogmatic in the current era of open societies. The Atal innovation labs are welcome and so too the new other names like Monitoring and Evaluation Office. Of course there are other improvements. The old, scandal -ridden Medical Council is replaced. Changes are inevitable and changes are always welcome.

Photo source  – livemint.com