Niti Aayog drawing up agri reforms!
Agri sector is long neglected in fundamental policy thinking and hence there is no policy reforms for long. Now, we learn that Niti Aayog, the old Planning Commission-type policy making body set up by the new government seems to be really serious bout agri reforms.
The external factors for this push, not just for agriculture but also for the other sectors spring from some of the obvious recent developments in the economy and polity. The Indian economy is not generating enough jobs for the aspiring youth segment, right?
The serious socio-political consequences can be seen from the number of social agitations, the social unrest is reflected from the number of events. The Patel agitation in Gujarat, Jat madness in Haryana, as one expert terms it, Gujjar movement in Rajasthan, most recently the Maratha marches in Maharashtra reflect the emerging social realities.
Each state, from the advanced to the most backward ones show signs of various types of social maladies.
From the unreasonable populist policies as in TN where the free, almost free alcohol shops to again almost free PDS where cheap rice and other essentials, why even cheap Amma food canteens to other states where similar subsidies are not so openly are in operation but nevertheless so much of freebies have made people, especially the youth to a lull in their aspirations. How long you can keep the educated and aspiring youth to purposeless existence.
So, the segments that are left out, no land, no jobs and no hopes either, so you see the rising tensions in society. If you don’t run a state on rational grounds and you simply hold forth on empty slogans then a time comes where there is no real growth in the economy frustrations take different shapes, including sometimes violent ones. So we welcome the Niti Aayog’s new farm reform proposals.
Liberal contract farming is one new concept. This do away with the old tenancy laws. We hope this time it is real reform. For long we have held back any progress on farm front by tying the owner and the tenant into an impossible existence.
The tenant doesn’t invest, neither the owners have any interest in invest. The result was a stagnating rural economic system. To double rural incomes by the next five years is a worth goal. We support the Niti Aayog’s proposals whole heartedly.
You see that agri sector issues are too many and too complicated. Land ownership in the villages is highly skewed. There are very few big genuine traditional landlord families, others are absentee land lords who own rural properties but do other business and live in the cities.
You can wish away theses categories of land owners. What we would recommend is that you have to first recognise the rural realities. Make actual farming by those who are willing, tenants as contractors for fixed period. There must be freedom for owners, investors and others, with high-tech agri skills freedom to lease out lands for fixed periods.
Otherwise, no owner would part with his lands easily. As things are there is no way you can remove the un-paying tenants from lands. So, all lands are barred from investments.
Once you give the freedoms to owners to lease out to fixed periods there is a chance you can bring in new investments and once investments come in there would be a chance to raise agricultural productivity.
This aspect needs to be further debated and resolved in mutually acceptable way.
Can the Niti Aayog can do it? Time only can tell!