Agriculture, a soft topic or soft target?
The magic 4 per cent farm growth will elude the Prime Minister,we warn!
The Independence day came and the Prime Minister could not feel free to speak!
Yes,he was faced with a major crisis!The Left allies in the UPA threatened to withdraw support for his government on the Indo-nuclear deal!
So,he skipped the major achievement of his government as he saw fit.
Instead he had to take recourse to other topics.What would catch the fancy of the Delhi crowd,mostly government servants and politicians?It is agriculture,education and such soft topics!
Agriculture ,a soft topic or a soft target?Whichever way you look at it,the Prime Minister choosing to skip the more weighty issues like Indo- US nuclear deal,or the great many achievements of India on the completion of the 60th year of Independence had a certain irony!
And he chose to speak on agriculture and yet he didn’t speak with any candour or sincerity.He didn’t mention the continuing crisis ,the farmers suicides,the compulsions to import wheat at such high costs etc.Instead he resorted to a sort of homily,an innocent-looking approach to agriculture.Much more damaging to the farmers community is that he didn’t say anything new,he seems to care to know anything more substantial nor he seems to bother there would be a critical audience when he doesn’t speak anything substantial.
After all,it is his nature to depend more on bureaucrats than even on his own instincts.That is why he repeated the same speech,almost verbatim,what he said at the previous National Development Council. Except the fact that we are told now that this is the 53rd meeting of the NDC! Also,this time,soon after the Independence day celebrations,almost the next day,the Cabinet met and announced the old allocations,already announced and this time re-worded as Additional Assistance Scheme(ACS) and also in the same breath it is called ,Additional Central Assistance(ACA) for the farm sector! And what is much more demoralizing is the fact that this ACS or ACA is for the 11th Plan only,that is for the entire five years!What is new here?Nothing,almost nothing ,except the new language like”incentivising” the farm sector with “visible” district plans.
One can see the hand of some laborious bureaucrat in detailing the document that was handed over by the finance minister.There are any number of wishes,a wish list,the document is!A National Food Security Mission(NFSM)!Namely,NFSM-Rice and NFSM-Wheat!There is one more NFSM-Pulses!
“Beneficiary farmers will contribute 50 per cent of cost of the activities/work to be taken up at their/individual farm holdings”.
“Beneficiaries can choose draw loans from the banks,in which case,the subsidy amount prescribed for a particular component for which the loan is availed,will be released to the banks”.
“Under NFSM-Rice,133 districts in 10 states will be covered”
“Under NFSM-Wheat,138 districts will be covered in 9 states”Under the pulses scheme,168 districts in 9 states will be covered”.
The states have to provide in their budgets the allocations for agriculture and this additional sums will be provided under those state allocations.
All these details seem intelligible.Where the schemes seem to falter is the fact that there are no guarantees for the farmers who cultivate these crops when they face the price falls!
One the crops are sown in the targeted acreage,the state machinery disappears! The farmers are left to the mercies of the rains and the market fluctuations.
This phenomenon,is repeated every year,say in every major crop ares of the states.
Just you have to check with any of the state government departments of agriculture.Have a chat with the directors of these departments.They will sheepishly admit that this indeed is the case.
So,why repeat the same mistake,we ask the Prime Minister or his finance minister!
What do they know or what do they care for the callous attitudes of the PSU banks,leave alone the more aggressive and more ruthless private banks!The PSU banks are simply not interested in any of the priority sector lending at all.The Nabard is worst!
These institutions seem to believe that they are accountable to any government dictates,they are working to the free market economy!
Yes,in the absence of any major reform like the Vaidyanathan Committee reforms in the co-operative credit system,there is no hope for the farmers,nay,no hope for the government,to realize its non-existent,non-reachable magic 4 per cent growth in the agri sector!
To revive the crisis-ridden agri sector,you need a host of new and radical innovations!You need new institutions! You need a more honest farmer-friendly,pro-farmer investment policy.
Farmers or for that matter any new investor willing to invest in farming would require a host of new incentives to take the risk.The farm sector is faced with unprecedented challenges. There is a diminishing interest and a diminishing income from this sector. The market prices are not guaranteed.Every major crop is faced with an unsecured price risk.This can be remedied only with a new price stablisation fund at the state level to intervene immediately whenever there is a price fall.This fund must be operated on the PPP model.
There must be a private sector involvement.
The state can act only as a facilitators.Now,the finance minister imagined his banks are responsive to the farmers demands.They are not.,Bankers are as good or as bad bureaucrats as other bureaucrats are!Most banks,even the big branches don’t have full-time agri officers.The agri clinics scheme announced by the government doesn’t attract any candidates! We say to the FM:just ask your bankers as to the truth of this state of affairs!
So,we not only need new institutional mechanisms,we need new and more incentives.
Private players as investors or consultants or micro finance providers have to be roped in,in order to operationalize the new incentives scheme in order to raise new production targets.
Treat the farmers,that is the actual farmers as a new social segment.Give them,announce new range of schemes like credit cards,insurance schemes,old age pensions and also new incentives to employ and retain the farm labour.
You have to treat the farmers as mini-business men and min-enterprises.
The whole world recognizes the dynamism of the Indian economy,except the agri sector!
So,how to prove the doubting Thomases about the inherent potential of the Indian economy of which agriculture is the heart beat?
Treat farmers as the new target audience.There are any number of success stories in the agri sector,we wonder whether the government knows them!
In crops productivity,crop diversification,in horticulture,dairying,agri exports,floriculture and many new group farming activities in medicinal and aromatic plants cultivation and processing.
Some of our own experiences in these sector bring to our notice the prevailing corruption at the Delhi level.Without bribing the officials,you cant get the promised subsidies in medicinal plants cultivation,for instance.So on and so forth!
The many new agri technologies and innovative technologies that are patented by the CSIR are yet to be “sold” and operationlised.There are so many costs involved and there is no one to direct the operationalisation in a business-like way,.
Yes,we find that on the eve of the Independence day,there were reports that India holds so much hidden potential.
May be,it is the dynamism of the industrial sector and the coming of the new corporates into the retail farming might push things in favour of farmers and market-friendly approach to enthuse the farmers.Let us hope.