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!

Who doesn’t know the Indian psychology?

NewdelhiEvery Indian citizens, not necessarily, the ordinary citizens but only those who are government servants or already in the charmed circle of IAS or IPS officers, the IFS lost its old glory and other services are on the whole a disgruntled lot. Why? It is because the very ways in which the New Delhi Lutyens’s bungalow zone is built and where the ones who live for long are constituted. Those who live there are seen as the most privileged. There are of course enough number of the retired politicians who might have doubled up as politicians, or others retired judges and other department personnel.

The way the British built the bungalows with large lawns and long walks and the very imposing look from outside might give a sense of power and prestige. Once you get in or if god favours you, you get to occupy one of these often leaking colonial structures, then you realise how unreality hits your illusions!

The subject here is the state of bureaucracy and the disquiet that pervades there.

A recent news item put out is about the new promotion policy for the bureaucrats. There is disquiet for the reason that the government has bundled two years, two batches, of 1984 and 1985, and also 1987 and 1988, the government wants to hold on some officers and also promote or hold up the promotions. So, in sum, the hopes of the officers are dimming when it comes to the aspiration for every officer to retire as secretaries of departments.

Poor souls, from the news it seems that most of them seem to be innocent and seem to be vegetating in Delhi for the favours they expect from the political establishment.

Who doesn’t know that the whole bureaucracy has become politicised and it is like a lottery and no one knows for sure that who will get what.
Lately, there is utter chaos in the bureaucracy and in the states it is pure political play. A police officer in TN is promoted just on the day of his retirement as the DGP! In the neighbouring Kerala one DGP was installed in his post on the orders of the Supreme Court. In Karnataka it is a free for all. The whole country knows thanks to the high profile AIADK leader who is provided with all luxuries and for having unearthed the scam the lady IPS officer had been transferred.

All these are routine in the services. Also, down the line there is so much cruelty and so much corruption and even risks to life when it comes to attacking corruption.

So, why this craze for government services?

It is the result of our long rule of colonialism and our education that taught us, thanks to the colonial masters, how to live and seek your mokshas through servility, subordination and compromise with the corrupt politicians whose tribe seems to be growing by leaps and bounds!

Corruption will only grow further and see the new tribe of politicians who spring up almost everyday, from various individuals, former police officials and former Income tax officials and others.

Also, the bad example set by some very eminent experts.

Also, lateral entries, even Rhodes Scholars who were supposed to be leaders of society and polity but alas, they too after sometime, they think it is better to enter and end up as bureaucrats, that is the way to heaven!

At the end of the day there is no alternative, except to join the devils who have to fall at the feet of bigger devils who are politicians who too seem to come from very many streams of humanity!

You see that a democratic government is one that is supposed to be a guardian of citizen rights, right?

In the current context, how far the citizens cutting across all class barriers feel about their rights and well-being safeguarded by the elected government?

amartyasen-621x414Then, also, how do the citizens come to know about what is the truth at the ground level?

It is the media, both print and the TV news channels and of course, the latest social media outlets.For the vast majority of people, it is the popular media, print and TV  news channels only.

How is the state of media and also the status of media industry today?
We are almost at the threshold of the new media culture where freedom of the press, freedom of the speech and freedom of thinking, asking critical questions, ultimately what is the latest buzz, the role of argumentative society.

Prof.Amartya Sen is now at the centre of a storm, his words and expressions were ordered to be removed from a biopicture of him. There are also developments.

Recently, one respected research journal, namely, the Economic and Political Weekly, founded by a former RBI employee, Sachin Choudhury and later edited by N.Krishnaraj, friend of the Vadamalai Media and right recently by another well-known senior journalist, namely, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta has come for cersorship.This time, the censors are none other than the Trustees of the Sameeksha Trust whos members are some of the past RBI Governors and one Leftwing historian, namely Romila Thapar.

Recently, EPW published (?) two articles on a leading corporate house, namely, Adani Power Limited and the trustees asked the editor to “take down the articles with immediate effect”. This had led to protests from some 150 odd academic and public personalities. No explanation from the trustees nor any due procedures either in such swift action!

Also, the trustees seem to be acting as owners and even proprietors or investors! It is not clear what really happened.

But one thing is sure:  the editor is supposed to have his or her freedom to do what he or she had done. Also, the trustees, given their background and eminence are supposed to be acting as role models for others in similar situations. But the trustees don’t seem to have bother themselves either.
The protestors, also very eminent names, Martha Nussbaum and one MIT academic, among others.

The protestors has pointed out that the free press is for the  freedom of intellectual expression and also this is largely an academic journal read by only very specialised audience.

The protestors had also drawn attention as to how the corporate takeover of the media industry, both print and TV channels has been going on unrestricted way.So, economic policy making, if it hurts the corporate sector, it, the corporate sector can swing its powerful arm to muzzle the press and there is no one to ask.

In recent times the establishment send CBI to raid media houses and the next day news is flashed and credibility is sought damaged. So in recent times two journalists in Karnataka was punished for having caused defamation to legislators. Much more seriously now privacy of individuals is sought to be decided by the 9 member bench of the apex court.

Please consider the poor farmers, the most disorganised lower sections of society, whose  rights and safeguards, from tenancy rights to right to  fair rent are all sought to be muzzled by a set of policies that have brought to the farm to the present almost irretrievable crisis.

So, there must be freedom first from fear of the government, democratic or the opposite in practice. Let the ground level realities impart some common sense need for restraining unbridled power of the corporates that fund and also control the ruling dispensations. If that is democracy then god only can save the poor and the weaker sections on the economic spectrum!

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!

No media support at the time of social media explosion!

climate-change-farmers_650x400_41449837838A recent Assochem report says a decline in print media reading and also a rise in the time for social media among the media focused society. This is so for the rather older generation and more so for the younger new generation readers.

Print media in India is still strong but the future looks gloomy. Only in the USA we see a fight between the major news outlets, between the New York Times and Washington Post and the President of the United States. Mr.Donald Trump is an unusual President, given his background, he is in one significant sense, a very open-minded leader who cares a damn for niceties and  as a result the US democracy thrives with its own openness ,say, in sharp contrast to the atmosphere that prevails in India, let us not forget, we are the world’s largest democracy. So, we can’t compare the US with China, not a democracy and so the parameters might vary.

The point we want to highlight here is that for a country with such a large segment of agriculture as the largest employer still and also with a large segment of the poor, it is a bit disappointment that the agri sector lacks a very recognisable media coverage given the importance for the same in informing and agitating for the due share of resources and much else that the agri sector signifies.

So, we want to remind  the readers that given the thrust of our economic growth, the role of the private sector and also the big corporate sector with its intimate linkages with the ruling establioshment,there is very little chance, we assume for any significant role to play for the media in the agri sector.

So, we realise the limitations of the readership attention to the happenings in the agri sector.

Just now, we have come back from a European tour, mostly spent in Greece, now the sickman of Europe, given the fact that three bailout plans by the European Community (EU) had given to Greece, otherwise, a development country, of course in the 27 nation bloc. We drove through miles and miles of the Greek countryside, we saw the vast countryside in rural Greece were covered by much developed agriculture ,many cash crops like wheat, barley, cotton, maize, grapes, orange and of course the mainland crop of olive groves and thus what we saw was a very developed agriculture Greek rural hinterland. So too the villages, all tiled highly modern country homes, most of them lying near any major monuments and of course Greece is known for its historic monuments, Delhi to Myceany, Corinth, Epidauraus and many other remote areas are dotted with modern type hotels and tourism, as we know is one of their major industries next to shipping and cruise industries. Greece has some 2,000 odd islands all tourist havens.

So, what impressions we gained by roaring the Greek countryside?
EU is very much a foreign exchange earner, next only to the USA as a trade partner to any outside country.

There is a Common Agriculture Policy for the EU and a heavy farm subsidy is in place there.

As I was also passing through Qatar, some time spent in Doha, the capital, where there is right now a sanction from fellow four nation Gulf states including Egypt and Qatar is importing food and other essential supplies.
So, watching these two countries and asking questions, my mind wandered in an open-ended manner.

Why not we draw up a new agriculture policy, innovative and creative, so that we can explore new routes to export Indian agri products and services.
Once we sit together and think through, I feel confident that we can explore new countries and new opportunities to export some of our persistently low-priced vegetables, tomatoes and onions, come to mind immediately, why not even grains, says wheat and rice and even pulses.

Once we start succeeding I don’t see, in principle, why we can’t raise our MSPs several times, outside our own domestic trader network and also outside our own bureaucracy-driven machinery.

I have the feeling and the confidence we, all the stakeholders, critically the farmers and farmers organisations, to come out with building new farm lobbies for several crops, lobbies as we see in the developed markets and they, the lobbies must do the rest of the job like effecting  the desired change and end results.

Farmers organisations are agitating for better support prices and even farmers’ reliefs.

But somehow I have the feeling that the government as it is constituted today, by the highly corrupt bureaucratic system and the political leadership establishment, with the corrupt dynastic political culture, there is no hope the Congress establishment would change. The Congress might even prolong with the family run party machine for the foreseeable future without even coming to power at all. See the Communist parties, they are there forever a century without ever hoping to capture to power. May be likewise, the Congress too might survive and not bother to come to power. There is so much funds and unaccounted money with the parties. The BJP might evolve in some unpredictable ways, might even become a one leader and one ideology party and government. See what is happening in Russia.

So as for Indian agriculture’s future, we have to think radically and in many innovative manners. Agriculture exports might give us some hope, if we try hard enough anew liberation too.