Is it just a mirage and election-eve slogan?
Indian agriculture won’t change easily
Government budget is still subsidy-driven and populist only. You see, there are many experts who are specialists in agri sector. Also, there are rural experts, many highly devoted and committed to rural India and also others who can give a summary of the basic statistics, be it food subsidy or fertiliser subsidy etc.
At Vadamalai, we remain a differently-oriented point of view. We live in the city and yet we are retaining much of our farm activities in the village. We do farming, although at the moment we are also devastated as other farmers are, by the continuing drought, we are in the South, in Tamil Nadu interior village where there has been no drop of rain for the past many years. Our coconut trees are withering and we resisted resorting to desperate measures like borewells.
We travel extensively and we saw just yesterday some farms in the drought-affected Mysuru, Mandya and Najangud and also the forest area of Bandhipur Tiger Reserve. All these part s are so devastated, the tender coconut prices have shot up in the cities and what we read as news in the city newspapers is all about consumers’ distress not a word about the distress in the villages. How can we now resort to dry statistics and growth rates and the disputes by city columnists and others?
So, we have to restrain somewhat and stop quoting experts. Prof.Ashok Gulati and his associates have given us graphic and clear accounts about the budget and what it says for the agriculture and the rural sector. So, in a low growth phase of agri GDP at 1.7 per cent growth of this sector, when Mr.Arun Jaitley wants to please his boss, Narendra Modi and quotes all the names in Hindi phrases, he quotes many names how to take him seriously? Sorry we can’t for we recall and recollect those faces we see on the roads we drive through. There is a sense of dejection in the lives of the villages.
So too the statistics, all dry and mouthful, so much for food subsidy, something like Rs.1, 45,339 crores for food subsidy. Fine, fine! Next for MGNREA. Then subsidy for fertilisers. And so on. Prof.Gulati asks, whether this agri budget is for development or dole?
We can simply say we are all, including the government servants in towns as well as the politicians in the exclusive P Lutyen’s bungalow zone where too we were driving around just a few days back; there are a vicious circle of living for all those who are not directly engaged in agriculture or living in the villages!
When we come to the basic realities life in the Indian villages, first, we have to realise that compared with China where too we have been there a year ago, there is tremendous progress in the area of development, their public investments in infrastructure is unbelievable. China is simply far ahead, at least by some 25 years ahead of India. We in India are far slow and fall behind China. I want to sound a bit rather blunt and a bit hurting too. In the last three years Mr.Modi has no doubt brought about a great deal of mental change, in our mental outlook, the Prime Minister had effected an outlook change, if I can so put it.
Yes, the political environment is now changed. At least we can look for some fundamental change in the economy as well in over outlook.
We can surely believe that India after Modi took over is very likely to become a more and more aspirational nation. The youth have reposed their confidence in Modi’s leadership, the latest Assembly elections show this.
As a democracy we have to acknowledge this reality. The Congress had simply sunk in its own ignorance and resort to sycophancy as an alternative to sound principles. Our view and even we can claim our own thesis for regeneration in the future of agriculture is this:
You see villages, in modern view, is a denoc all inquities, and inequalities as we remained a feudal society for ages.
Even today, we hold landed properties and what is the village reality today too?
There can be only a few households, may be in many villages only one households that holds the largest piece of land, right?
The dominant caste might be the only caste to hold land, right too?
So, as sociological reality, we have to recognise this reality, right?
So, allow the traditional land owners to retain some economical size landholding.
Also, give incentives to large landholders so that they invest, they have the energy to hold on to agriculture. Encourage the big land owners to invest, private and also subsidised so that new technologies come to the agriculture operations.
We at Vadamalai also run the online agri information service, ww.agricultureinfromation.com.
We get thousands of enquiries but they don’t come back for the simple reasons we are not able to give them any sense of security that their investments are safe.
Simply because there are no other support services.
They budget talks about agriculture insurance, right? But do you know that the public sector agri insurance company has not CEO for quite sometime?
How do you believe when the government makes promises on crop insurance? And on and on… The average Indian farmers, as we say often, are first debtors! And then court birds! They are caught in so many legal tangles! So, the Tahsildar courts are filled with pending court cases, on tenancy, records and what have you. In what is often called (of course wrongly!) in the advanced state like TN(with our own personal experiences) people, the public throng the Monday grievances day, in two instances, the District Revenue Officer(DRO),the second senior district officials, next to the District Collector) the seat remained vacant! No grievances hearing happened!
Who can imagine the plight of the poor and the weaker sections that only throng such places on this particular day!
Imagine other states like UP, with such far flung geography and the sort of administration we often read about! So, please don’t talk about public (or even the private) investment no one, not the least the poor farmers who cling on to their two or three acre plots would invest money! Their progeny, may be a graduate, might be employed in some other city. The boy or the girls too won’t part with their precious earnings to invest in lands.
So, you can remain confident all this election-related or election-type slogans would only remain slogans only. Agriculture would remain a loss-making sector.
Then, you might ask or wonder, what is the next best alternative. First, there doesn’t seem any easy alternative. The urbanisation boom would drive more people from the villages towards the cities. May be this trend would be the dominant narrative of rural-urban India. Urban migration might help. Help to make agriculture an area for some big new investments, might be MNC investments that could draw more rural people into productive employment and thereby for higher incomes or earnings in the rural India.
As we see, may be politics too might change. May be, the current corrupt politics might change too. The voters might find out more and more the corrupt practices of politicians and the people might go for some believable leaders.
So, in conclusion, we say politics too has to change so that the economy, more so the rural economy too might become attractive to new and big investments.
May be food industry, food processing industry and such related agriculture investments might find new attractive areas. There is no quick-fix solutions to agricultural regeneration. So, everyone has a duty to think of agriculture: government, officials, bankers, corporates (who are now are also the culprits, only interested in sucking the opportunities for their quick profits. See the corporate social responsibility activities.
Only visionaries like the Bangladesh grameen bank founder, Mohammad Yunus, perhaps can change the mindset for new investments and entrepreneurial developments. For such people Padmasri and Padma Bushans won’t come by, you must be sure!
One silver lining seems to be the private philanthropy is rising thanks to our rise in GDP. Let us then wait and watch!