It can only be a slow process!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sky seems to the limit!

So, what future for the media freedoms?
Media’s many roles. Recharging today
Media freedoms are under stress

India is a large democracy and in a democracy media plays a critical role. Even media itself has grown in its many new developments. After the advent of internet and the Information Technology’s revolution, the social media growth today we live in a world there are many opportunities and many threats to our freedoms and rights. Democracy also empowered people, even at the bottom of the societies, who have become affected by the Internet’s reach. The fallout from these latest developments, among which one is the growth and strengthening of monopoly powers of the great tech giants, the op four of their CEOs, those of Microsoft, Google one more were called upon by the US Congress and grilled for the their monopoly power and this power is now being misused by the companies. This is a new dangerous in the olden times, the growth of economic monopoly powers by the old style brutal capitalist exploitation, the new IT tech monopoly is also affecting the rights and freedoms of the people, the citizens in a democracy.

Where do the ordinary people come from? In this new complex emerging powers of the State?

As far as the democracy is concerned, today the freedoms of the people are extremely in danger. In such a contemporary world what role small media can play and enjoy and what sort of public service we in such small print media ventures like ours can play? Very little? Yes, it looks like that only!

However, when we look at the world outside, small media has a rule. Only small media dedicated to such priority sectors like agriculture and rural countries, where only the more powerless and the poor people, though in big majority live and work, there is a need for such dedicated small media to focus on more sensitive issues like poverty, economic opportunities, for sustainable livelihood issues. Now, in the grip of Pandemic crisis we see even the Western media, big ones like the TV channels like the BBC and other ones haven’t played more committed roles. This is the view from India. Also even the developed countries like UK and the USA, among others seem not to have taken the Pandemic crisis seriously in the first round and later after India was caught in the second wave of the Pandemic the Western nations to have woken up and imposed new lock downs!

We in India rely more upon Western media practices and we didnt have enough information about the Pandemic’s spread and the vaccine information as we all desperately needed. Especially for a media, that too a more restricted one like ours concentrating on agriculture issues, the information is almost nil. India is a large democracy and a large food economy. India has some unique economic strength. One it is a large food economy, India exports the largest rice targets. Also, India has some unique agricultural systems and at the same time we need many new experiments and innovations in agricultural practices.

So we need to keep the agricultural exports and trade issues very carefully focused on our own needs and opportunities. The Indian general media, the large print houses are of course faced with new challenges with the online media now seeking new business models. And we in the magazine are much more focused on the political and social dimensions of the many agricultural issues. We need to modernise the agri systems, with its antiquated land reform laws, the average land holdings as small as 1 hectare and two hectares and the many rural institutions like the panchayat raj, the very micro development institutions are caught up in the age of bureaucracy.

So we have to empower the rural people in a significant way. As things are they are talking about only putting cash in the hands of margins farmers to rejuvenate the rural farming functions. As of now, as far as we know there are almost no institution innovations, we still retain the Collector’s Raj. And the routine corruption-ridden revenue and police. Raj and that is a great pity. We need more freedoms, yes, and sort of liberal political atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is the reverse at the present. State of affairs, the same Tahsildar regime where the farmers have to travel physically to transact his or her farming business. Corruption, debts and litigation are the daily plight of the Indian farmers.

Of course there are certain glimmer of hope. New innovations are taking place thanks to some dynamic regions and progressive spirit of farmers. Especially in some geographical regions like Pune and Nasik. Nasik we can truly say is the say a new Silicon Valley of Agriculture Innovations, Nasik also can claim this distinction. Recently one agricultural innovator, an organic producer of fruits and vegetables appeared on our Video Conferencing site and explained how he meets the time-tested phenomenon of farm prices crash! That was very inspiring and an eye opener.

Farmers must learn to use their traditional wisdom and see to it that farm gate prices don’t lead to farmer’s mental caliber. Yes, there is no other way for farmers to learn new skills. Media like Vadamalai learnt to convey many new lessons to the benefit of not only the farming community, even the urban, educated middle classes about what is happening in other parts of the world. Media industry is a tough and risky field.

No government wants to promote media freedoms but the contrary of how to control media sector. Even inside Indian media industry is severely controlled, big industrialists buy media to control free opinion to circulate. So we live in a very restricted world, many big countries are turning into regimes, even in democracy, the ruling parties turn to this trend. Farmers, why even the ordinary citizens and those think they are educated are living in fear of authority of unruly politicians. India is itself a good example.

So we live in a challenging. Time, let us be always on alert!

A paradigm shift and its time are here and now!

The much-dreaded Covid 19 virus menace is here . We in India and the rest of the world are in the midst of this crisis. The only consolation, if we can call this time a consolation is that other more developed countries are equally in a bad situation and we have to all fall in line and co-operate with the government’s various steps that are also daily changing as the menace are changing daily. Now, it is three months since. We are all in a lockdown whose time limit is unknown as we write.

Work from home is the current slogan and how long we are to be confined in our home and how to unlock the blockade is an open question and nobody seems to have an answer. May be till the time when some new medicines come out and this as of now is very uncertain. How long the economic activity can be blocked?

There doesn’t seem to have any answer. Anyway, the reality is that we are all confined to our homes and the workplace culture has to change. And some work has to be resumed simply because the poor and the unorganised sector would be hard hit. One positive outcome of this current crisis is that the new technology of digitalisation has helped an increasing section of the workplace into turning over to the culture of work from home!

Those who are in the IT sector have been pursuing this paradigm shift for some time and it is increasingly being tried. One sector is the IT companies and also the very many small companies and ventures.
Luckily for us at the Vadamalai Media this work from home culture has been a long time practice and readers and patrons, please note that at present that all our practice has been turned over to this new online technology.

Our two sites, and have become in effect two of our latest videoconferencing sites and as of now, our two on-going ventures. It is really heartening. That the two sites are fully drawing visitors in more than good numbers than we anticipated. Of course it is too early in the day.

At this point we feel it is only right that we have to enlighten our readers and viewers. That ventures, the various language magazines, two in English and one in each Tamil and Kannada languages have been our mainstay. For over many years, nearly half a century, namely, the one on education and the one on agriculture, namely, Agriculture and Industry Survey, have been our print venture. From our print ventures we are now graduating to the online ventures and as we go on we are confident we would take the online. Ventures to new heights of glory and service to the Indian people.

It would be considered imprudent if we say and claim that serving the largest public good has been our humble pursuit that this pursuit of public good only has taken us into two important Indian sectors, namely of education and agriculture, sectors that we are intimately connected with, as are basically placed in the agri/rural sectors and we are also comfortably placed.

So, from now onwards we hope to reach out to larger sections. And wider reaches of social segments. After all, the Indian social and economic segments are so developing that still about 52 percent of Indian people are dependent upon agriculture and village economies and also the rest of them almost the same per cent of the poor are rural migrants whose plight came to light after the outbreak of the Covid 19.

Our very agricultural economy is, as we must be knowing, is basically rural migrants-dependent. And all our agricultural revival and recovery plans and targets must be only based on this micro-level realities. And that is another world altogether. Let our new realisation of this immense continent of Indian agricultural revival draw us together and a new commitment to our agricultural development. Draw us more and more new adherents to the last technologies that seem to be our only hope and a new faith!

The economic, political and strategic implications

The latest military flare-up between China and India is very unfortunate, to put it very mildly. The carefully built-up friendly relationship, inspite of several provocations to the contrary, stands shattered and a new era of co-existence has to be built up between the two neighbours, two giants of countries with largest populations. It won’t be an easy task by any stretch of imagination. It is a tough task for any leaders, not just the present incumbents but even for the future leaders.

The writer of this column was a student at Santiniketan and Oxford, the Visva Bharati University of poet Rabindranath Tagore that has a well-known Cheena Bhavan whose founder, along with the poet was Prof. Tan Yun Shan, a contemporary of the great Mao, in fact the two were students of a training college and the present writer was also fortunate to be students. I studied Chinese language under him in the 1950s and during the Indo China War in 1950-60s, Chou Enlai was sent to Santiniketan by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (who was the Chancellor of Visva Bharati and I was fortunate to shake hands with Chou when he came to visit our Chinese language class room!

It is a long story. The real donors. To the founding of Cheena Bhavan. Were the Chiang Kei Shak, the long time colleague of Mao and how they fell off and how Taiwan came into being is all very complicated. To cut the story short, I want to state here for the benefit of all Indian people that long time friends of the Chinese people and as Panditji said once in his usual style when he don’t speak at length in the annual convocation addresses is that the present flare-up too is between two incumbent governments and not between the general public of the two countries. So, this distinction must be kept in mind when we discuss the present tensions on our historic borders and the new controversies.

The one point I want to bring home here and now is that the relationships between. China and India are too long and historical and there is a great deal of religious, cultural and social and not to speak of the current interdependence and mutual relationships in the economic and political and strategic spheres.Now, there are some serious issues and I hope the more directly linked and directly engaged experts and experienced persons who could really lend more insightful inputs at the present moment. Immediate issues need to be tackled with care and caution. Certainly it is not going to be an easy task, given the current world scenario.

We understand that the two leaders, Xi and Modi had met at least 22 times and created lot of goodwill and a committed path for more co-operation and mutual. Contributions for expanded market and that means a more expanding market for products of the two countries and as things stood just till now, India is a big market for smart phones, to take one example and likewise, China has a big export market in India for its various products and services. Any disruption now, as one expert has observed that China might have intruded a small piece Indian Territory but it had lost India entirely strategically. To lose India as a friendly neighbour is an enormous mistake and one can be sure the high price paid by China for this folly would be incalculable and only time can tell how big a blunder Chinese leaders have committed.

Of course diplomacy and tactful conduct on the part of the two countries could retrieve the situation. We have to wait and watch how the current scenario plays out. Indians recognise that China is big country and economy, China lost 5 times the size of India and in the race for economic development. We are at least 15 years behind China in many critical infrastructure. Development like airports, railways and roads and even the urban development, as I had the opportunity to observe the developments there on a recent visit.

One or two troubling here. How can the two leaders fail to reach mutual trust and mutual understanding after meeting so many times and in such close encounters and friendship?

This is troubling indeed. If great leaders entertain mutual distrust and lack of warmth and imagination and other noble virtues, how can the civilisation we often talk about can survive and how much we have learnt from history and other great events, revolutions and greater disruptions, like the current pandemic and much other natural disasters, the environment degradations and climate change and. What you have can be understood by our education and spread of mutual sense of brotherhood.

In fact, this is the century of Asia and Asian people. Have much to contribute. There is a long tradition and history here for India and the Indian people. One more side-effect in the present conflict is the role and place of Asia’s small nations. Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan are all having great. Responsibilities.

You can’t create a great country and achieve any great things unless you have long-terms and vision of sorts. Democracy is the core issue.

It is time that democracies of the world wake up and stand up!