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!

Indian agriculture’s much strength and many weaknesses!
How far India has deployed agriculture sectors a political tool of trade and diplomacy?

Indian agriculture matters in today’s world. India is now the world’s number one rice exporter. This has not been widely known. This must be made known widely. Now, the Indian domestic producers of commodities like dairy and plantation products including coffee, tea, rubber, pepper and arecanut are worried of the proposed RCEP deal, the Indian rice trade is keen to see that the cereal is included as part of the deal so that Indian rice trade becomes a powerful tool in making further inroads into the Indian rice as a political and powerful trade factor. INDIAN FARMERS MUST BE EDUCATED IN THE CURRENT FARMING AND TRADE ecosystem.

The present despondency, yes, it is a despondency of what we could call the worst kind of despondency of helplessness and sheer frustration on the part of the entire farming community where they don’t matter whether it is major policy making or any purposeful consultation the real stakeholders, the farmers, don’t seem to matter. Farmers as a community is almost ignored and they feel isolated and left out of any meaningful participation and consultation.

Piyush Goyal

This mutual distrust and real bitterness must go. Otherwise we are only helping to grow the underlying distrust and disengagement with the country’s traditional strength of the Indian economy. India, as we say, is basically a large agricultural power. India would remain a big agricultural power for a long time to come.

Don’t imagine converting like a modern China or for that matter like a new USA. India would remain a traditional agricultural and rural power house. This awareness has to be spread and every initiative must be taken to create a wide awareness among the youth and the educated middle class.

Government-job dependent Indian middle class must be made to become sensitive to this modern world awareness. Agriculture and food production and food supply would become more and more central to world economy and there are many issues that affect India, Asia and Africa where food shortages and hunger are every day reality.

Indian can become world food supplier and this would be a reality for most of the world people. Who matters when one talks of Indian agriculture? Of course farmers come first and what the farmers feel about their sector’s future prospects matter a great deal. But we are now accustomed to see when agriculture comes into a discussion. At least in the recent past, in the last few elections, farmers come to the frontline and every other politician, that is party leaders in particular have brought farmers’ issues to the forefront and made so many promises that are usually broken soon after the very same elections. One prominent promise that is much bandied about is the write-off of farm loans!

As on date one is not sure how many times a state had made this promise and how far these promises had been fulfilled! One can be certain in most cases these promises are not kept and the underlying reason is that the particular state has no resources to wipe off the loans. Yes, even then this farm loan waiver has come to be seen as the lifeline for the government to win votes and form government. And lately, there are many more versions and variations. One is the current buzz to ensure farmers a yearly fixed income as an alternative to farm loan waiver. All this in addition to blatant bribes to voters on the eve of elections!

So, voters and farmers are not quite sure that they would be taken care of in times of elections. Of course no one stops to ask what more for agriculture sector besides these periodical promises. So, one thing can be sure of now. That is, Indian agriculture becomes a priority in times of elections. And of course we can forget that Indian is a democracy, a very large one and there would be periodic elections and agriculture development would be there every time there are elections.

Is this all too Indian agriculture’s priorities?

No, it is not and it can’t be just these periodic election handouts. Indian agriculture unfortunately has been reduced to very low priority and that is one indication why no one leader of any importance doesn’t talk of agriculture! Even the Modi government is no exception to this rule, in spite of the huge wins in the last two general elections.

What is the Modi government’s big announcements?
Doubling farmers incomes remain a promise as yet. We have to see what the chance, if at all is.

There are now many trade talks, between India and USA and also between USA and China on trade deals and agriculture products comes in for much attention. Just now as we write there are trade talks in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the countries in the South East Asian region.

The countries involved are all big agricultural countries, strong in rice production and exports. And India is the biggest rice producer and exporter. Thailand, Vietnam and others. India is sensitive to some of the, why even the most important commodities, like coffee, tea and, rubber, pepper and areca nut and there are also some existing trade agreements and so every country of this region is very careful to renegotiate trade deals that could affect their major commodity trades and could affect the likes of majority of farm people, both labour and producers.

From India, the Commerce Minister, Mr.Piyush Goyal, one of the able ministers in the Modi Cabinet is in charge and from his pronouncements we can be sure the minister could take care of what he calls the “Red line issues”.

Yes, certain concessions can’t be conceded, like say palm oil imports from Malaysia, even tea from Sri Lanka, for any change in the existing tariffs could affect the domestic producers of these commodities.

Can help to revive agriculture! Indian Agriculture cries for action!

The Nobel Prize winning Randomized control trial is one such new tool that could help boost agri production and productivity. Even there are other techs that could help to predict farm prices!

Too many verbal promises and too little action programs! What do we have by way of action in our agriculture? Nothing, practically nothing, we can say. There are of course too much talk and that too superficial talk by all parties, not just the big parties.

Even where one can claim to have some policies as expounded by the Prime Minister they are all too farfetched and might take time and immediate reliefs are not in sight. Of course there is no reason to feel pessimistic, after all agriculture is Indian people’s lifeline for prosperity. India is also a very big agricultural country and economy and in the last many years of hard work we have also achieved some milestones. The Green Revolution is world-wide success story and thanks to past efforts India now exports the most sought after agri commodity, namely, rice and India is a number one rice exporter. Given USA’s dominant role in agriculture, we have to compare our agriculture economy with that of the USA and China and that is one reason why the trade talks, the so-called tariff wars is what gives Indian agriculture the needed push and imparts the dynamism.

So, with all pessimism at the ground level with what such massive number of farmers suicides in the Marathwda region in Maharashtra, we desist from quoting statistics, for avoiding further pessimism and negative mindset, we have to move forward, we have to devise practical programmes of action and also learn to draw fro other’s experiences.

Just now, the Nobel Prizes have been announced and the trio who won the Economics Nobel, luckily, have won on their good work they have done, especially in India, the three have done good work in what is called the Random-Controlled Technology(RTC) and that was a series of testing and experiments at the micro level and their RTC had proved effective in a variety of fields from education spread to raising productivity in crops, including in coffee crop in Karnataka and this sort of applying economic knowledge to the ground level realities is a great promise for even the much maligned “dismal science” of economics!

One immediate thought is to why not invite the Nobel Prize winners to India for an extended consultation and we can take up some select projects like alleviating the circumstances to reduced farmers suicides?

What better hope than this project for India’s perennial drought prone agriculture belts?

Also, we can select some pointed pockets of farm crisis, is it drought-prone or irrigated crops?

Also, there are many other positive examples to borrow. Israel and Netherlands are other examples of countries where agriculture has made tremendous progress. In another interview recently, the Netherlands agriculture counselor Mr.Siebe Schuur, explains how his country very small compared to India, 80 times smaller surface than India, also with a meager population and yet how many of us know and why not the Indian agriculture policy makers never once told us about the success of this great country. Perhaps, Netherlands exports more than what USA exports in select agriculture crops.

Netherlands is known the world over for its net houses, poly houses and glass houses leading to hybrid innovation Dutch high-tech in some of these vegetables and flowers cultivation. Netherlands is world’s number one successful producer. Now the Dutch government and entrepreneurs are trying to create Centres of Excellence in Baramati, for floriculture in Talegaon (both in Maharashtra), also one of Israeli centre in Hosur in Karnataka is already contributing to high value floriculture exports, all these new initiatives must create a solid base for high tech research and innovations in agri crops.
The Dutch counselor in the same interview has pointed out the various arid-zones too would stand to benefit from Netherlands experiences and also more such centres in other parts of India.

The challenge, says the Dutch experts, is to keep everybody in control. Once a centre is set up and starts running and the first successes are visible, the challenge would be to keep everybody committed. So, the Indian government’s ambition to double farm incomes might be possible if we proceed as planned today. So, we can say with some confidence that by 2022, not only farm incomes will double, says the Dutch expert, the farm exports too from India might hopefully double too!

It is such a nice feeling to think of something positive and not get distracted the sort of electoral rhetoric on farmers’ suicides. Though we have to move also faster to tackle the peculiar socio-economic circumstances that drive farmers to desperate measure.

One or two random points. Now, the land tenancy laws are so regressive that most farmers are litigants or debtors to private money lenders. We have to liberate the helpless farmers from prolonged court cases and also relieve them the clutches of greedy lawyers and private money lenders.

One relief would be to wipe of the private money lenders hold on indebted farmers. One more positive thought is the new technologies in farming. The government can set a new dept or create an inside research and development wing in the ICAR for deploying such latest tech like BIG Data to resolve agricultural problems.

The Hyderabad-based Icrisat seems to have suddenly become too ambitious and even audacious! Where in countries (Icrisat is a multi-national research body in arid agriculture) the need for reducing use of pesticides and fertilizers and reducing the gaps in using big Data in exemption services. This use of Big Data would also, say experts, to solve the price the crop would command in the market. CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, the original name for the Icrisat centre, an unit among other units spread across the world seems to have suddenly become relevant with the advent of BIG Data.

It looks that suddenly, the agri sector not only in other countries, but also in India seems to have woken up to new technological apps so that Indian agriculture can’t any more remain immune to the new challenges and opportunities.

This is the time for radical changes and also radical thinking in Indians moribund agriculture system.

The Abhijit Banerjee trio winning this years’ Nobel Prize for economics gives hope

From the multiple challenges that the children face today! And India faces these multiple challenges with this year’s UNICEF report’s dire warning to India in particular. The children under five are the most affected in the world and India doesn’t stand out as a shining example. What has gone wrong with our policy making and policy implementation? These are questions that should hit our collective conscience.

Educators! Wake up! Speak out! Anybody who matters have spoken out? No! The Global Hunger Index reveals India in a pretty low status. At 20.8 % this is the highest ratio in the whole of the world. There is acute malnutrition in India and this needs urgent attention.

Children’s education is perhaps the most difficult of all challenges before this government. Malnutrition is a subject for experts in health, nutrition, education and a multiple of fields. Over the last four years India has slipped nine ranks, to 102 out of 117 nations. Who were in charge of these departments? Any enquires were made?

Media is now cowed down. So, no one dares to question the persons in charge. Now, there are many important related issues in children’s well-being, from health to nutrition to the very quality of education. We also read the other day the new illness, the mental health of youngsters. It is suggested that we need to appoint mental counsellers and also attend to the overall education and cultural needs of children who are now all driven by exam results and also more tuition and less teaching in the old-fashioned ways.

Also, there are now new ills. Corruption and tax raids! One school in one small city, not even city, a town with a school had multiple locations where it has operations in impersonating candidates and getting converted government quota seats for medical colleges into management quotas and there by sealing the quota seats for the highest bidders,.

There are other issues like out of school children. Has any government spoken of the out of school children? How the RTI ACT is working? Has the Compulsory 25% admission to neighbourhood schools working? And in the state of mass lynching, namely UP, we have the spectra of malnutrition in six of the ten districts with the highest rates stunted in UP alone. So, we have to also think of children left as orphans whose parents were subjected to lynching! So, society and policy is changing and we have disinterested or disobedient bureaucrats sitting in chairs from which they don’t budge. So, there is a summary sacking of secretaries!

So, education is no more a noble profession, it is sheer business activity and you don’t think of any humanitarian virtues in your education services! However, the stunted children, the orphaned children of the mob lynched victims are faces and pictures that would haunt the civilized sections of society and we, the helpless public might have to wait for the day when final relief would be forth coming! The children of such affected go through indescribable trauma and the faces and the pictures in daily newspapers and TV visuals continue to haunt us, the public and hopefully the policy makers as well!

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!