Agriculture is both economics and politics!
Do you know that currently Lok Sabha MPs are 147 times more richer than rural households! The time has come to realise this utter unreality of the Policy makers empty talk and the ground level realities!
32 years after the first farmer suicide in Maharashtra, nothing has changed! This is a lament we hear from Maharashtra where this tragedy saw a farmer who (name: Saheb Rao Karpe) killed himself along with his wife and four children in 1986. Anything changed after this tragedy? In the last five years(2014-2018) 14,034 farmers ended their lives( eight farmers a day).Even after 4,500 farmers committed suicide and the State government announced Rs.34,000 core loan waiver scheme in June 2017.Anything changed in farmers’ lives?
None at all is the dark reply!
Yes, it is a curious feeling we have noticed for long the right-now the much discussed rural distress, agrarian distress and called by various other names that problems of the Indian farmers continued to be couched in the same simple terms like loan waivers or minimum income-guarantees! And another curiosity, this remains essentially an urban debate! Not the agricultural realities we see in actual villages!
The debates, lately in particular, on the TV news screens is more about catching the attention of busy viewers and also the debator, be an active politician or a smart anchor man or a lady end up in quick succession about some catchy phrases like loan waiver or better in some acronm, like Nyay etc. More and more the debates, especially when the election dates nears the deadline more noisy and you lose interest in rural distress and try to catch what the parties’ leaders pronounce for the occasion. Thus, the Congress announced a scheme whose details missed our attention. As for the BJP, anything the PM says goes as a hoary text.
As for others, the state level politicians’ agriculture issues is all about state level election rhetoric! Drought in 2,150 Karnataka villages or many more such news about prices fall or excess output for particular crops, like potato in West Bengal or turmeric in TN are all what we hear. Suicides even don’t evoke anymore!
As for the national level issues or even for the international perspectives, we don’t even know or care to know what is going on between Trump’s US and the Chinese trade wars. In India agriculture is not an international issue or a trade and tariff dispute, though India is now the number one country in agriculture exports in the world. Also, what is happening in our villages lately? There is of course widespread migration to urban areas. Also, for the youngsters, there is a great deal of migration from the Northern States like Bihar, Assam, Bengal and even from UP to the Southern states where the job opportunities are growing faster.
In the villages in TM there is rural distress in the sense there is no incentive invest in agriculture. There are also in many other States there are land reform laws, like ceiling laws, tenancy laws and loans many other complications to own agricultural lands and take risks in engaging in agricultural activities. It is also true that good and well-informed and committed leaders don’t become agricultural ministers. Modi’s regime had grossly neglected agriculture. All agri talks seem to be geared to election-eve announcements. All short term issues and solutions. No long-term
When the Indian economy is growing the agri sector is caught up in a small, marginal farmers perspectives. Farm sector is witnessing a slow growth. Farm growth and farm prices also get low even when the farm production rises. The size of land holdings, the average size was two hectares, now it has come down to less than a hectare. It is obvious to anyone that farm growth is unsustainable. Prices are much lower than the MSP, while long-term low-capital formation in agriculture persist. Public investment in the sector as a percentage of GDP is also stagnant. Besides these factors are drought etc. Also, the persisting debts, legal cases owing to rent payment and other issues. Anybody talks of preventing suicides? And other social sector issues like education, health issues and the very latest buzz word, medical
and crop insurance or pensions for older farmers and their families. The list of untouched subjects is long!
The Nabard man says that 23% of rural income from the agri sector, the rest comes from non-farm sector activities. How to generate jobs in the agri sector?
No one seems to have any clues, except to let the market forces work to drive away unemployed youth to the cities, or as in the Northern State to migrate to states where jobs are plentiful, as in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, why even not then Silicon Valley, Bangalore. We like to ask some hard questions with politicians!
Why don’t you seek to relax the land reform laws that have now become a hurdle to own lands, invest in new generation agri-related business and food processing sectors? Wiping out of all the farm loans. How long and how many times you would do this? And who would believe these politicians? Banks are already facing distress! So, you can’t say very irresponsibly going on promising wiping out farm debts.
No farmers in the villages would look like a perennial debtor and the farmer is the most sensitive soul in the rural communities and any bad talk about his credit-worthiness touches his very sense of social disunity and seeks to end his life once for all!
Also, it is another rural reality that there would be economic and social inequality in the rural, feudal communities. So, recognise this gross rural reality and allow somewhat some liberal legal provisions to own agricultural lands in an open society manner. Let also be a situation in the villages that there is incentives for labour to live and work. Unless you allow the freedom for the land owners to engage rural labour at higher wages agricultural activates would slow down further. There has to be many freedoms for both the land owners and also the wage labourers to negotiate a higher wage for their activities. Wages are also going higher lately and let there be a liberal market for wage earners.
Let there be new legal provisions and protections for farm wage earners like social security, insurance so that there is village harmony and village solidarity. The present political atmosphere in the villages is such that election-time only politicians come and talk and also seek to bribe the voters. Already in States like TN, the money for votes is losing its attractiveness. Only an open and liberal situation for agriculture would create a favourable environment for commercial banks to lend freely. As of now only 54 % of institutional credit is available. This can be further raised only if we liberalise the many restrictions on farm activities.
Let also big farmers, owning sizeable land holdings invest and also live in rural communities. If you further restrict the farming communities only the lands would be left as drought-prone or some other activities like real estate and also rural areas might be abandoned altogether. Politician’s class is also becoming hostile to farmers. Once you enter politics and seek money making and accumulate wealth and indulge in corrupt practices then you only help to accentuate disparities. Also, select rural leaders as MPs and MLAs. Not the family dynasties! And lo! You know that currently, Lok Sabha MPs are 147 times richer that rural households, you know? So, let us not cheat each other talking in around about way!
Also, private sector capitalism accelerates economic growth and political compulsion like write-off of corporate Rs.5 lakh crore debts creates tensions and farmers become angrier and marches of farmers to Delhi are likely to become more intensive in the future. So, agriculture is not just an urban drawing room talk, it is both, economic and political issues of great urgency and top priority for any political party of commitment.