Our farmers must enjoy the benefits of new technological revolutions in not only cultivation but also marketing and realising higher incomes.
New Bills would only facilitate modernisation of out-moded practices!
Prime Minister’s assurance of doubling of farmers incomes must be made a reality very soon!
Why there is continuation of farmers’ agitations in Punjab and Haryana. Not much in other States? Down south in the Cauvery belt of the delta regions of Tanjore disticts the traditional paddy farmers are crying for inaction on the part of the government just for the opposite reasons of not lifting the harvested paddy that are left on the road sides and there is almost an outcry of neglect by the government, of course the state government. The simple reason is that what happens to big farmers in Punjab and Haryana is not big deal for the traditional small farmers of Tanjore who are left to tend for themselves or at the mercy of the state government which is not in a position to reform and restructure.
The traditional harvesting and marketing system in practice to put the paddy cultivation, procurement and marketing system in perspective we have to see only what is right now happening in the northern big States. You see there is in Punjab, Haryana there is already these traditional and powerful farmers’ lobby states, there is enough clout and there are the big corporates like Adani business conglomerate that had set up almost a giant Grain silo, the Adani Agri Logistics plant warehouse of immense size and capacity to procure farmers grain product both paddy and wheat. The Adani silos are in existence for the past 13 or so years and it can procure the paddy as they arrive and the silos changed the very face of the paddy procurement system. In Punjab, farmers are very happy to supply grain to Adani silos, the grain was accepted as soon as it is delivered and payments made within three days, say satisfied farmers interviewed by mainstream media.
This is not news for farmers in the southern states. Of course this is not a procurement season in Punjab, most traditional mandis now give a desert look, though Khanna is Asia’s largest market today and workers from Bengal and Bihar are driving the market as a hub of activity. The migrant workers are a constant phenomena and the migrant workers of India are also benefitting by the humming of activities in the Punjab and Haryana mandis. Trucks trundle by ferrying wheat and the migrant workers are busy in open sheds, sorting and cleaning mounds of wheat. Hundreds of commission agents, called here as “arthiyas” are busy dealing with buyers and farmers.
We have to write separately about the role of “arthiyas”, there are an estimated 27,000 of them and there can’t be any procurement system in Punjab without their presence and their well-established services and their role as buyers and money lenders and their intimate relationship with the farming families of the leading wheat producing state. The Centre has enacted now the new legislation namely the ‘The farmers’ Produce. Trade And Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Act’ on two principal counts. It provides greater choice to farmers and more importantly frees them from the clutches of commission agents. But this is contested by actual farmers.
Most farmers in practice are unhappy with these prospects, they don’t like to lose the services of the commission agents. Of course they, the commission agents charge 2.5 percent commission on their services. The government says it wants to cut the commissions but this is unlikely to go immediately at least. Why? This is the very old question, the commission agents who number almost 27,000 of them, all are licensed in the whole of Punjab and it is not an easy thing to change the age-old hold of these very able men who act as credit providers at the instant asking, no paper work, no other bureaucracy hurdles. So, this is the ground level reality at the mandis level.
Of course, the Adani Agri Logistics weights and gives a correct figure, usually, the traditional system of weighing always under estimates and also payment, the government run FCI godowns it takes time and delays payments. Each commission agent has at least about 100 farmers as close associates and so they know each other well. So the new assurances by the government would take time to be felt at the grassroots. There are also other players in his space. There is one Fairfax company which has emerged as the biggest player in agricultural storage it is said that Fairfax-owned National Collateral Management Service which also gives farmers credit in the post-harvest season when there is a glut in the market and prices fall. Whether this commodities-trading type company is a new comer or there will be such players in the future we can’t say right now. Anyway, there are going to be new players and new opportunities in the very near future.
The government’s Farmers Produce Committees are also springing up in other parts of the country and only the future can tell ! Anyway, we have to welcome any new changes in the traditional types of farming systems. Farmers freedoms are paramount and we have to open our eyes and welcome new challenges. Anyway, agricuture is a field, where much attention has been given only at the higher levels, about biodiversity, the Planet’s future and there are many high-level reports like, Living Planet’s Report and the 5th UN Global biodiversity Outlook etc.
But as far as actual farming issues we don’t have many in-depth and serious probing about the actual future of farming. One critical reason is the lack of any serious attempt to reform the age-old traditional agricultural practices. Even now, after 75 years of freedom we see, more so in the northern states the actual tilling of the farms are done by the unseemingly old horrible man-drawing the man ploughs still in operation!
Only in the last generation, that is some 30 years ago we used to see even on the outskirts of Delhi the traditional water lifting devices in operation. Now, they are all gone. Machines have come in the form of tractors and other smaller machineries. In the South there is much change on this front. The government must introduce new policies to modernise agriculture and also lessen the physical labour of the actual farmers. Also, rural housing projects must have special housing schemes for farmers, small and big ones.
Unless you have such special housing schemes, the big one would migrate to cities and the villages would all become deserted. In fact these farming issues are all complex and the average political leaders, specially the populist, low calibre ones would only seek to drive a way the actual middle level farmers also to leave the villages.
Only the far-sighted thinkers and visionaries can only visualise the future of farming and the villages with a robust sense of realism and common sense.