Second Green Revolution? The government has no clue!
Officialdom is given to slick words ad phrases. Green Revolution is one such buzzword. The PM talked and so too the urban press, financial press too report in a highly superficial language. Now, the 10th plan proved a disaster for agri growth. Now, 11th plan is burdened with organic farming! This is claimed to be a second Green Revolution!
A rethink in our land reforms mindset that is purely political and opportunistic vote banks politics and this must change, sooner rather than later!
The Indian Science Congress is a prestigious meet and usually inaugurated by the Indian Prime Minister. This time Dr.Manmohan Singh performed the duty and he spoke, as his theme, on the need to revitalise the agri sector that is proving to be too tough for this government.
For a Prime Minister agriculture is one more routine talk for the day! For the President it has become too routine to call for a second Green Revolution. Do these high dignitaries know what such a term like the Green Revolution means? They have to just consult a wide cross section of the opinion. The environmental degradation in agriculture, soil depletion, water salination, the great inequities etc are all the result of the first Green Revolution. The second Green Revolution? What it will do? Honestly, it will usher in great welcome private enterprises in the agri sector. It is not bad in itself. But then it requires great foresight to make room for radical transformation of rural India.
In the first three years of the 10th Plan, the growth in agriculture is just 1.5 per cent and considering how much the rest of the economy is performing, agri sector proves to be a difficult sector.
We have been talking of the agri sector for long and therefore it becomes our responsibility to set out how this sector is viewed by the government. There is clearly no pragmatic approach to the agri sector. The PM too is not demonstrating a willingness to go for any innovative strategy. The same scientists who were behind the first Green Revolution are also now behind the Prime Minister’s advisory brain trust. May be that is one important reason why we don’t think out of the box, as such? A question every one of us, all who are concerned with agriculture, as politicians, experts or being actual farmers must answer! It is time to realise that there must be some sound reasons for the stagnation.
We believe that the Prime Minister is simply not willing to consult a wider section of farm society. Why not he calls for high powered farmers meet and talks and learn from them the real reasons? Yes, this is very important. Unless the PM either travels to the villages, talks to farming families he is unlikely to know the ground level realities.
Talking before the high level meet of scientists he could only talk some random thoughts and that unfortunately proves to be rather too superficial to fix this highly complex sector. Too simplest talk, this second Green Revolution! President of India, Kalam too talks often about the second Green Revolution!
Is the second Green Revolution, more of the same old packages? Not likely. Today agriculture is faced with too many problems accumulated in the past. Farming is a losing profession for most of the practising farmers, more so the medium to small and marginal farmers who all seem to own very unviable pieces of land. There is now the globalisation that is transforming the rest of our economy. So, we have to think how to give our farm sector too the full benefit of the liberalised economy.
In our view there can’t be a second Green Revolution, unless you spell out the packages, including the allocation of more funds for irrigation projects. Even then the market opportunities for commercial scale farming will come only if you allow the market forces to operate in farming projects. As it is, there are so many restrictions, land ceiling laws; tenancy protection laws all don’t allow new investments in agri projects. The government thinks that farmers have no freedoms and that is one reason that no new investments are coming into the sector.
Massive farm debt write off, New generation agri projects finance institutions outside the Nabard and the PSU banks network,10-year tax holidays for new and innovative agri projects, best practices in agri management and for agro entrepreneurs, including for agri media, agri consultancies and Internet agro ventures. And of course a new agri subsidy regime to cope up with the US-EU challenges in this highly sensitive area are among the few next generation agriculture policy changes that only could usher in a next generation revolution in higher yield technologies, higher competitive edge to our agriculture practices.
So, let us ask the government what are the new agri policies that will bring in new investments into farming projects?
Surely, there must be exemptions from the ceiling laws if you want big agri enterprises, new technologies, new business models to bring in new crops, new agri processing ventures, cold storages, warehousing projects would come in. Also there is a need for new policies to enable the state to acquire sufficient lands for large townships, IT parks in suburban areas. The latest news about the tribals killed in encounters when the Orissa Government acquired tribal land for the Tata steel venture also highlights how the government goes about assuming dictatorial powers to deal with agricultural land acquisitions. There are already problems in land acquisitions for various industrial developments, more so for the IT sector in various parts of the country, in Bangalore, Pune and Kolkata.
May be the PM will do well to constitute a high-powered committee with the West Bengal Chief Minister Buddadeb Bhattacharjee to advise the government for a new land acquisition policy for non-agricultural industrial purposes. The W.Bengal CM had come in for much praise for his daring radical approach in the face of the retrenched Left policy to oppose any relaxation of the land reforms policies.
In the same Science Congress Prof.Amartya Sen had spoken for the need for completion of land reforms. Two criticisms. One, Prof.Sen has not made himself clear whether he wants the West Bengal or Kerala model of making the tillers the owners or worse still making the cultivators permanent tenants without the owners having any rights? This is hypocrisy of the worst kind. Second, Sen knows well that China is not India. So, why harp on India to adopt the China model of development?
Unless you give the cellar title to ownership no investor will put in his money in farm ventures. In this time of private sector taking the lead, why block or rather drive away the traditional farmers by short-sighted policies like denying credit, denying a market to market the farm produce or even not creating a climate for inviting FDI in the agri sector.
We can’t either become like the US farming nation nor can we protect the way the EU is protecting their small farmers. India is yet to acquire the industrial muscle to give subsidies on the scale US and EU are giving to their farmers. So, we have to go for moving rural people more and more out of the farming sector. Let the unviable farming units move out and let only those who have some viable business model be given all the support for long-term investments.
Surely, we haven’t done anything in reforming the Nabard or setting up a separate agricultural bank. Even our present policies like a promise to accelerate farm credit are defaulted by major banks. There is corruption, delays and a higher rate of interest on farm credit than what you pay for a car loan! So, why this hypocrisy when you know that your government is not even doing its announced job properly.
There is wide corruption is farmers routine requirements. No computerisation of records or any easy way to get the various documents for farmers to avail of even the routine bank loan. The reason for the miserable existence of large number of farm families, they are all in deep debts is the fact that the grass root institutions, from village patwari to the local Tahsildar are all dens of corruption. The various land reforms laws have only helped to accumulate the court cases and this alone saps the energies of good many farming families.
Another factor pointed out by media writers is that agriculture is a State subject and so the Centre doesn’t show much interest. Now looking at the way the Central government is functioning, as far as the farm sector is concerned, we have to believe the point of view.
Practically, there are no services available to farmers, either from the agri universities or from the Governments, as enumerated by the World Bank report on the “Reforming Services in India” This report cries for attention. No transparency in Governance, no devolution of powers, no use of IT tools in governance etc, among the few points that are highlighted in the report.
Doing farming is no joy. It is a painful necessity for the vast majority of farmers. A recent nation-wide report found that given an option 40 per cent of farmers would leave that field! To enter into horti/processing/food processing etc there are so many different laws and to get permission from these agencies is backbreaking. Indian agriculture too needs the same set of economic reforms that, among other things, needs quick decision making, cut the time delays to start new businesses. The World Bank has done so many studies and why not the agri sector too gets the same sort of pro-business, business-friendly policies that cut delays?
So, while there is a need, no, even high priority that we have now, in the WTO regime-driven mindset, to raise our agri sector to the many competitive advantages. We have to concentrate on the critical food grains sector, oil seeds, cotton, sugar so that our export potential in these sector become on par with world leaders in these commodities, US, EU, Brazil, Argentina. We are almost world leaders in some of these commodities. So, India has to raise productivity in all major crops, raise soil health, raise our water use efficiencies, energy use, of course how to balance our imports with our exports in the major commodities. Quality, export commitments, new ways of learning to become a reliable exporter and a trustworthy importer-are all the challenges for the new generation farmers.
So, in this sense we can talk of a second Green Revolution, a new way of doing farming that would make us a major player in the agri sector on the international stage. There is also the need to realise that the new generation farmers, hopefully be educated and highly motivated farmers and they will demand all the needed policy changes in the new environment.