Indian is an agricultural country. Even while India’s industrial and services sectors are growing by leaps and bounds and where growth rate of agriculture as below 2% the fact remains that India still lives in villages. Over 70% of India’s population is supported by agriculture. Even industrial and services sectors are invariably entangled with the fortunes of agriculture due to various intricate forward and backward linkages.
There is an ongoing debate in country regarding the state of agriculture. There is a general agreement that the Indian agriculture is in crisis but there is intense debate about the causes which led to such crisis and various way to manage the crisis and put agriculture on healthy footing. According to nutritional emergency (by Samantha) there should be emphasis on pulses. Alagh’s approach so ground level with people participation and is realistic in outlook.
There have been ominous signs which showed that the Indian agriculture is in crisis. Unending chain of suicides by farmers in different parts of the country shows that everything is not well with agricultural sectors.
Import of wheat by government in the era when there is a talk about green revolution in the country, high prices of vegetables and pulses, stagnation in white, blue and yellow revolution, set backs caused by Avian influenza to poultry farmers, inability of peasants and farmers to withstand the competition from globalize market, unmistakably show the state of India or Agriculture.
Government of India is not sleeping over this crisis. National Commission on farmers has been constituted under the eminent Scientist Dr. M.S. Swami Nathan. He has recommended a comprehensive national policy for farmers to give an all round boost to the sector.
Government has announced financial package for those districts in country where maximum farmer suicides have been reported. The financial packages include; interest waiver, rescheduling of loans, and advancing of more capital etc. Government in Union Budget has made provisions for cheap loans for agricultural sector.
Moreover the present government prefers its concerns about the common man of country and the peasants and farmers invariably constitute majority of common man in country.
However, it is sea sad state of affairs where government is busy in talking about superficial remedies instead of taking the concrete steps which is the need of the hour. More waivers of interests and rescheduling of loans (as in vidarbha) do not address the real problem.
Real problem is how the farmers got entangled in debt trap in the first place? Were governmental policies or free market forces responsible for it? Or, was it faulty crop selection and cropping pattern which leads to such situation? The national Commission on farmers is like toothless tiger. What is the use of well-meaning and well-researched recommendations of the Commission if government is deliberately going slow over it?
Moreover, recent corporatisation of Indian agriculture with entry of corporate giants such as Reliance, Bharti, Godrej, Munjals etc has to be critically analyzed in a long term perspective to see who would gain and at whose cost such gain would be?
The genesis of underlying factor for the present crisis in agriculture can be traced back to second five year plan where emphasis was shifted to industrial growth and agricultural sector was to a provide of cheap raw material and a market for finished goods. It was a drain of wealth under the garb of national development.
There was shift in government stand late in 1960’s. The year 1968 marked the beginning of Green revolution solved the problem by food import thereby saving foreign exchange and provided food security to country. There has been constant reduction of emphasis, monetary and otherwise since the period of Green Revolution.
In the decade of liberalization, privatization and Globalization i.e. the last decade of 20th century, the agricultural landscape of the country was dismal and full of contradiction agricultural growth was stagnant. Condition of farmer remained the same through out the country i.e. he fought hard to earn his livelihood (except in the areas of) Agriculture to this date remains a gamble against the monsoon. This statement sums up the level of infrastructural support available to Indian farmers.
In the areas of green revolution the situation of farmers was no different. It appeared farmers here had become rich evolved into entrepreneurs. But the fact remains while in other parts of country agricultural yields were stagnant but in green revolution area agricultural yields were actually declining. This is attributed to over exploitation of land and water.
There is deficiency of micronutrients rising input costs coupled with declining yields led to situation where farmers in Punjab on the average are under the debt of more than Rs 2 lakh. The fragile condition of agriculture became apparent in light of free market forces which were released by the government under the petted of taking Indian economy to next level. While Industrial and services sectors were equipped to deal with global markets, Indian agriculture was taken by surprise. Not even the green revolution farmers were economically and technologically ready to tale on the challenge of global market. This ultimately was manifested by farmer suicides in all the regions of the country.
To emerge from the present crisis the approach needs to be two-pronged. One that provides immediate relief and two that brings in structural changes as along term measure. Relief package based on debt relief, waiver of interest rate and better credit flow ell take care of immediate relief to farming community.
Studies point out that choice of crops by farmers has not been correct and they grow crops, which are less well suited to the condition of cultivation. Water intensive cops are cultivated in water scare areas. As a consequence crop risks increases. Long term solution lies in the policies that will induce farmer to cultivate crops. Which offer best return and have low risk? This will be accompanied by better irrigation and marketing support.
Government should introduce such cropping patterns which would ensure that there is market for product in global markets. For example Green revolution belt can produce fruits, vegetables and flowers for export to the markets of developed world.
Dry land regions consisting of those areas where assured irrigation facilities are non extent can specialise in the production of organic produce. The subsistence farming prevalent in such regions ensures that farmers cannot afford to put chemical fertilizers and insecticides in their fields; hence there is natural advantage for organic farming.
Lately, dairy sector has been projected as a profit making occupation for farmers. Milk grid has been established in India and farmers are assured of cash income for the milk they produce.
However, a study, in Punjab suggests that the accost of milk produced is more than what farmers get Only reason farmers are producing milk is the availability of otherwise scarce cash. It should be noted that India is today largest producer of milk, but milk does not translate into property of farmers.
Government should improve the livestock of milking animals by importing and cross breading hood animals and then introducing such animalism country side. This would ensure more milk yield for the fodder consumed. Governments should either with help of cooperatives such as AMUL or with help of private sector explore the possibilities of market in ASEAN countries, Gulf Countries.
Milk processing unit should be established all around the country and hygienic chain from ladder to chocolate bar should be established. White revolution should be a revolution for producers and not just a revolution for consumer.
Horizons of Blue Revolution should be expanded to include prawns and other delicious fishes. Emphasis should on organic production. Sanitary and Photo sanitary should be adhered to. Fish production can help to fill the gap of protein requirement of Indian population long coastlines reveres; skilled labour is available, large market etc.
Cooperative, movement should be strengthened in the country. Farmers in India are faced the problem of shrinking land holdings and coupled with rising input cost. Cooperative movement on the lines of Kibbutzim of Israel can solve such problem.
Farmers can pool their resources and achieve economics of scale corporatisation of agriculture represents an anti thesis to the cooperative movement. Corporatisation of agriculture means the entry of corporate business houses in agricultural sector with aim of profit maximization. It is irony that corporate world is ambitious towards the profit yielding potential of agriculture while a study by NSSO suggests that 40% of farmers are ready to quit agriculture as according to them it is not profitable. Through the legislative support for contract farming, the land ceiling laws has been given a go by.
Now a company can control vast positive towards the implication of corporatisation of agriculture but on the other hand it has been argued that corporatisation of agriculture would result in marginalization of peasants and subsistence farmers. This in turn would lead an increase in already unemployed sea of unskilled workforce.
Corporatisation of agriculture should be allowed but in controlled and regulated manner. Government should ensure that corporate sector discharge its social obligations also. With purposeful partnership between private sector and agriculture sectors the crisis in agriculture can be overcome.
Developed India is possible with the attainment of growing, advancement of manufacturing and services sector. But prosperous India is possible only with healthy agricultural sector. The pride and confidence in farmers and farming needs to be restored. This alone can help agriculture grow like never before.