Yes, there are now better realisation why Indian agriculture matters.
Why rural India matters?
Why agriculture and rural sectors don’t make news?
Simply because there is no wider social recognition!
May be from now onwards with environment, pollution and other issues, not the least is the health sector issues and the very emergence of an educated middle class, there would be further need for a healthy lifestyle, more need for variety of foods, from coarse grains for health diet etc might make people realise the greater social benefits from a healthy and vibrant agricultural sector contributing to the beauties, so to say, of the greener countryside living and extension of the suburbs into the more spacious lifestyles that might create a more healthier and happier living spaces.
But as of now, there is a tendency to take the agri sector’s contribution to abundant food supplies etc. But you need specialised media to tell you that as of now India imports huge quantities of vegetable oils and also huge quantities of pulses and why, your Prime Minister specially travels to countries to ask for growing pulses specifically for import by India!
Only when you have a sensitive public opinion from an informed media then you will become more aware of the need for such news and information about what is happening in the countryside from which most of us might have migrated to the towns and cities and possibly migrated to settle abroad in the distant USA or UK or even in the ten and odd Gulf countries where also new worries have erupted out of the poor working conditions and the lack of social support whenever you find your relations and others falling into distress situations.
These are the new realities of a fast growing India.No less is the latest worry for the many lakhs of Indian students now in the USA or others who are dreaming of migrating for a better future!
Agriculture for most of the world countries, big or small, matters a great deal. In most of the South East Asian countries where you might travel very likely, given the great tourism trail is now lengthening you would see the role of agriculture in these countries. Thailand, Myanmar, why, Philippines, Cambodia and Vietnam are basically agriculture countries. The International Rice Research Institute is located in Philippines for the obvious reason it is a country where rice is the most basic crop and it is cultivated in many levels, steppes and the researchers get a very good opportunity to test the rice growth at man y elevated levels. And also these South East Asian countries are the world’s largest rice exporters. India is also a big rice growing country.
Many even inside India may not know that India is on the verge of beating its Asian neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam as the world’s largest rice exporting nation.
We say all this to draw the attention and to sensitise the Indian readers to know the broad picture of where agriculture matters in the Indian scheme of things, so to say. Unfortunately inside India we don’t have a proper appreciation and a perspective about our agriculture.
We have adopted a market drawn approach where we see the sugarcane growing is a big economic activity and sugar growers not being paid by the 300 odd sugar mills and that is the only item, it seems, that makes news.
Or, when it comes to the spices and other plantation crops, though as export commodities they make news, it is not such a big news for the commodities like spices, tea, coffee and other spices they are concentrated in the coastal state, Kerala and other pockets and even in distant Assam they don’t pull the economy as much as other crops like cotton. So, the sugar mills and the textiles get the newspapers and other media outlets and even then they are not all agriculture you can imagine.
There is of course the dairy sector where it is gaining traction lately and may be India may become another big dairy nation next to Newzealand. What we here take to be Indian agriculture’s real strength, basic strength is the spread of the small and marginal farmers who constitute the biggest human resources concentration.
It is the lives and aspirations of the small farmers whose lives are socially and economically impacted lately by the entry of big corporates for various exploitation of the natural resources, coal principally and other ores and metals whose exploitation is directly impacted on the lives of the tribals and other marginal populations.
It is the forests and other mountainous areas where these tribal population is very large and very concentrated where the social tensions, in the forms of Maoist agitations and even violent uprisings and the rule of law is threatened and needs a better appreciation.
So, agriculture in India we see as a great economic and greater social phenomenon. This looks like a great dream and also a nightmare unless the policy makers have a big picture, a bigger vision of development and progress in the making.
It is thus a high priority area and we request the state governments to give this magazine a big push and the government-run public library systems in many states are dysfunctional.
Unless the various government departments make their personnel sensitive to the picture we have outlined here, no amount of Centre-dictated development priorities won’t take roots in the hearts and minds of the people, no amount of Niti Ayog driven idea won’t take roots. So, please do come towards us!