In this article we will discuss about the growth of agricultural sector in India.
The agricultural holocaust we are experiencing is a grisly aberration in the midst of considerable affluence. More than 300000 farmers suicides in India is a national shame. This was not always the case. The post independence story of agricultural India is undeniably a success story.
“India has made immense progress towards food security. Indian population has tripled, but food-grain production more than quadrupled; there has thus been substantial increase in available food-grain per capita. Prior to the mid-1960s India relied on imports and food aid to meet domestic requirements. India adopted significant policy reforms focused on the goal of food grain self- sufficiency.”
Dr. Swaminathan and his team ushered in India’s Green Revolution. With both the farmers and the government officials converging on farm productivity and knowledge transfer, India’s total food grain production soared. A hectare of Indian wheat farms that produced an average of 0.8 tonnes in 1948, produced 4.7 tonnes of wheat in 1975 from the same land. Such rapid growths in farm productivity enabled India to become self-sufficient by the 1970s.
With agricultural policy success in wheat, India’s Green Revolution technology spread to rice. The lasting benefits of the improved seeds and new technology extended principally to the irrigated areas which account for about one-third of the harvested crop area. In the 1980s, the emphasis to other agricultural commodities like oilseed, fruit and vegetables further enriched the agriculture sector.
Farmers began adopting improved methods and technologies in dairying, fisheries and livestock, and meeting the diversified food needs of India’s growing population. The further development of agriculture with improved seeds and improved farming technologies will depend on agricultural infrastructural development, such as irrigation network, reliable electricity production capacity, cold chain, modern retail, and mainly remunerative returns to farmers.
India’s arable land area of 159.7 million hectares (394.6 million acres) is about 52% of the available land. It is highest in the world. Its gross irrigated crop area of 82.6 million hectares (215.6 million acres) is the largest in the world.
India is among the top three global producers of many crops, including wheat, rice, pulses, cotton, peanuts, fruits and vegetables. Worldwide, as of 2011, India had the largest herds of buffalo and cattle, is the largest producer of milk and has one of the largest and fastest growing poultry industries.
As Per the 2010 FAO world agriculture statistics, India is the world’s largest producer of many fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, major spices, select fibrous crops such as jute, several staples such as millets and castor oil seed. India is also the world’s second or third largest producer of several dry fruits, agriculture-based textile raw materials, roots and tuber crops, pulses, farmed fish, eggs, coconut, sugarcane and numerous vegetables. India ranked within the world’s five largest producers of over 80% of agricultural produce items, including many cash crops such as coffee and cotton, in 2010.
In fiscal year ending June 2011, with a normal monsoon season, Indian agriculture accomplished an all-time record production of 85.9 million tonnes of wheat, a 6.4% increase from a year earlier. Rice output in India also hit a new record at 95.3 million tonnes, a 7% increase from the year earlier. Lentils and many other food staples production also increased year over year.
Indian farmers thus produced about 71 kilograms of wheat and 80 kilograms of rice for every member of Indian population in 2011. The per capita supply of rice every year in India is now higher than the per capita consumption of rice every year in Japan. Its $39 billion of net exports is more than double the combined exports of the European Union (EU-28).
It has become one of the world’s largest supplier of rice, cotton, sugar and wheat. India exported around 2 million metric tonnes of wheat and 2.1 million metric tonnes of rice in 2011 to Africa, Nepal, Bangladesh and other regions around the world.
Aquaculture and catch fishery is amongst the fastest growing industries in India. Between 1990 and 2010, Indian fish capture harvest doubled, while aquaculture harvest tripled. In 2008, India was the world’s sixth largest producer of marine and freshwater capture fisheries, and the second largest aquaculture farmed fish producer.
India exported 600,000 metric tonnes of fish products to nearly half of all the world’s countries. These gains have come mainly from India’s green revolution, improving road and power generation infrastructure, knowledge of gains and reforms.
Despite these recent accomplishments, agriculture in India has the potential for major productivity and total output gains, because crop yields in India are still just 30% to 60% of the best sustainable crop yields achievable in the farms of developed as well as other developing countries. Additionally, losses after harvest due to poor infrastructure and unorganised retail cause India to experience some of the highest food losses in the world.
A sample of the growth pattern in agriculture is given below:
India and China are competing to establish the world record on rice yields. Yuan Longping of China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Centre, China, set a world record for rice yield in 2010 at 19 tonnes per hectare in a demonstration plot. In 2011, this record was surpassed by an Indian farmer, Sumant Kumar, with 22.4 tonnes per hectare in Bihar.
The total production and economic value of horticultural produce, such as fruits, vegetables and nuts has doubled in India over the 10-year period from 2002 to 2012. In 2012, the total production from horticulture exceeded grain output for the first time. The total horticulture produce reached 277.4 million metric tonnes in 2013, making India the second largest producer of horticultural products after China.
Of this, India in 2013 produced 81 million tonnes of fruits, 162 million tonnes of vegetables, 5.7 million tonnes of spices, 17 million tonnes of nuts and plantation products (cashew, cacao, coconut, etc.), 1 million tonnes of aromatic horticulture produce and 1.7 million tonnes of flowers (7.6 billion cut flowers).
During 2013 fiscal year, India exported horticulture products worth Rs.14365 crore (US$2.2 billion), nearly double the value of its 2010 exports. Along with these farm-level gains, the losses between farm and consumer also increased, and are estimated to range between 51 to 82 million metric tonnes a year. Since 2002, India has become the world’s largest manufacturer of tractors with 29% of world’ output in 2013.
The agricultural growth contradiction lies in this success and economic gains. The fruits of development did not percolate to the producers and the rural countryside remains impoverished. Between 1970 and 2013, the GDP share of agriculture has fallen from 43 to 13%.
This is due to the rapid economic growth in services, industrial and non-agricultural sectors. Post 1991 policy of liberalization, privatization and globalization shifted the focus in policy formulations to these sectors. Consequently, the agricultural sector was crushed and became defunct. This led to the greatest tragedy in rural India. Farmers suicides are growing @ of 7 per day.
In 2012, the National Crime Records Bureau of India reported that Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. Farmers did not commit suicides in the post-independence period in spite of scarcities. After 1991 the traumatic changes affected the poor. The farmers were the worst hit segment of society.
The Manmohan economics generated wealth but hit the farmers and the labor in the worst possible way. It also led to the collapse in governance due to massive corruption and transfer of wealth and black money to the rich. This aspect needs a vigilant wide-ranging exploration.
Agricultural sector is an important sector of the growth process but it cannot be examined in an isolated manner. Agriculture, Service and the industrial sector all form a part of the human productivity and wealth generation. The non-productive aspects such as politics, religion, education, national security, corruption and criminalization of politics all have an impact on the agricultural tragedy. Only a comprehensive holistic scrutiny will enable us to develop a perspective for moving forward.
The World Bank report states that “With a population of just over 1.2 billion, India is the world’s largest democracy. In the past decade, the country has witnessed accelerated economic growth, emerged as a global player with the world’s fourth largest economy in purchasing power parity terms, Nevertheless, disparities in income and human development are on the rise. Preliminary estimates suggest that in 2009-10 the combined all India poverty rate was 32 % compared to 37 % in 2004-05. Going forward, it will be essential for India to build a productive, competitive, and diversified agricultural sector and facilitate rural, non-farm entrepreneurship and employment. Encouraging policies that promote competition in agricultural marketing will ensure that farmers receive better prices.”
Despite the World Banks findings; the national policy on agriculture is indifferent. The fruits of growth and development have been cornered by the rich landlords, brokers and traders. The farmer receives pittance for his struggles. The Indian farmer receives just 10 to 23% of the price the Indian consumer pays for exactly the same produce, the difference going to losses, inefficiencies and middlemen.
Irrigation forms one of the fundamental infrastructural needs of India. Currently, Indian irrigation infrastructure includes a network of major and minor canals from Indian rivers; groundwater well based systems, tanks, and other rainwater harvesting projects for agricultural activities. Of these groundwater system is the largest.
Of the 160 million hectares of cultivated land in India, about 39 million hectare can be irrigated by groundwater wells, and an additional 22 million hectares by irrigation canals. In 2010, only about 35% of total agricultural land in India was reliably irrigated. About 2/3rd cultivated land in India is dependent on monsoons. This has hampered the progress in agriculture to a large extent.
Farmers with limited marketing options sell their surplus produce in distress. India lacks cold storage, food packaging as well as safe and efficient rural transport system. This causes one of the world’s highest food spoilage rates. Food travels to the Indian consumer through a slow and inefficient chain of traders. Indian consumers buy agricultural produce in suburban markets known as ‘sabzi mandi’.
“Slow agricultural growth is a concern for policymakers as some two-thirds of India’s people depend on rural employment for a living. Current agricultural practices are neither economically nor environmentally sustainable and India’s yields for many agricultural commodities are low. Poorly maintained irrigation systems and almost universal lack of good extension services are among the factors responsible. Farmers’ access to markets is hampered by poor roads, rudimentary market infrastructure, and excessive regulation.”
The low productivity in India is a result of the average size of land holdings. This is very small (less than 2 hectares) and is subject to fragmentation due to land ceiling acts, and in some cases, family disputes. Such small holdings are often over manned, resulting in disguised unemployment and A third of all food that is produced rots due to inefficient supply chains.
This was not the case in India .Historically, India was a land of plenty, it has been a place for migration of the people from all over the world. The land of gold and honey (sugar) was attractive to invaders for plunder. The mainstay of the affluence of the Indian subcontinent was Agriculture. India is blessed with rivers that flow down from the Himalayas and enrich the country. Agriculture mushroomed around the rivers.
The Ganga Yamuna Saraswati, Brahmaputra became the fountainhead of Indian culture and wealth. India has the largest arable landmass in the world 52.6% of the total land. All affluent countries lag behind. Germany 34%, Russia 7.5%. The USA 16.6%, China 11.3%, (FAO). Coupled with the availability of the sun light throughout the year; India became the engine of growth at the dawn of civilisation. It is a land where we could grow 2-3 crops a year. It provided fodder for the cattle and hence the cattle population also is the largest in the world.
Ancient texts like vedas and historical evidences have the earliest written record of agriculture in India. Rice and cotton were cultivated in the Indus Valley, Bhumivargaha, another ancient Indian Sanskrit text, suggested to be 2500 years old, classifies agricultural land into twelve categories. It describes Nadimatruka (land watered from a river), and devamatruka (rainfed).
Some archaeologists believe rice was a domesticated crop along the banks of the Indian River Ganges in the sixth millennium BC. So were species of winter cereals (barley, oats, and wheat) and legumes (lentil and chickpea) grown in Northwest India before the sixth millennium BC.
Other crops cultivated in India 3000 to 6000 years ago, include sesame, linseed, safflower, mustards, castor, mung bean, black gram, horse gram, pigeon pea, field pea, grass pea (khesari), fenugreek, cotton, jujube, grapes, dates, jackfruit, mango, mulberry, and black plum. Indian peasants had also domesticated cattle, buffaloes, sheep, goats, pigs and horses thousands of years ago. One study reports twelve sites in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh providing clear evidence of agriculture of pulses, cotton, wheat, rice etc.; barley, linseed, as well as fruits.
Indian products soon reached the world via existing trading networks and foreign crops were introduced to India. Plants and animals—considered essential to their survival by the Indians- came to be worshiped and venerated. The middle ages saw irrigation channels reach a new level of sophistication in India.
Over 2500 years ago, Indian farmers had discovered and begun farming many spices and sugarcane. It was in India, between the sixth and fourth centuries BC, that the Persians, followed by the Greeks, discovered the famous “reeds that produce honey without bees” being grown. These were locally called pronounced as saccharum.
On their return journey, the Macedonian soldiers carried the “honey bearing reeds,” thus spreading sugar and sugarcane agriculture. People in India had also invented, by about 500 BC, the process to produce sugar crystals. In the local language, these crystals were called khanda, which is the source of the word candy. Prior to 18th century, cultivation of sugar cane was largely confined to India.
Relatively, the development of agriculture in the United States (US) is comparatively recent. However, it soon became an agriculture power in the world. Unlike India, Even today the persons involved in agriculture production are comparatively well off. In 1870, 70-80 percent of the US population was employed in agriculture. As of 2008, less than 2 percent of the population is directly employed in agriculture.
In 2012, there were 3.2 million farmers, and an estimated 757,900 agricultural workers were legally employed in the US. The median pay was $9.12 (Rs. 500) per hour or $18,970 per year (Rs. 10 Lakh). In 2009, about 519,000 people under age 20 worked on farms owned by their family.
In addition to the youth who lived on family farms, an additional 230,000 youth were employed in agriculture. In 2004, women made up approximately 24% of farmers; that year, there were 580,000 women employed in agriculture, forestry, and fishing.
The top twenty agricultural products of the United States by value as reported by the FAO in 2003 (volume in metric tons): [verification needed]
Value of production, Major Crop in the USA – 1997 (in US$ billions)
Today, India ranks second worldwide in farm output. Agriculture and allied sectors like forestry and fisheries accounted for 13.7% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in 2013, about 50% of the total workforce. The economic contribution of agriculture to India’s GDP is steadily declining with the country’s broad- based economic growth.
Still, agriculture is demographically the broadest economic sector and plays a significant role in the overall socio-economic fabric of India. India exported $39 billion worth of agricultural products in 2013, making it the seventh largest agricultural exporter worldwide, and the sixth largest net exporter.
Mankind has evolved to the current levels through a process of evolution. This process was not dynamic. Change came in slowly. Change is brought by two factors. First is the impact of science and technology on mankind. The evolution of a nomadic homo sapiens to civilized human being occurred due to the Discovery of agriculture. This brought in the first wave of change to mankind.
Some 10000 years ago, Nomadic humans built houses around their farms. Tribes settled down to create villages. This gave rise to the agricultural civilization. This civilization was characterized by feudalism, illiteracy, religious bigotry. Exploitation of man by man. Wars were the natural outcomes of the spirit of acquisitions and expansion.
The advent of the steam engine changed all that and gave rise to the industrial revolution which brought in the second wave of change in human experience. Metropolises, cities, towns emerged through mass migration of labor from the rural to the urban. Europe and the US became the industrial powers. Cities mushroomed leaving rural population to fend for themselves. India is fast catching up with population shifting to cities. By 2030 approx. 50% population in India will be in the cities.
The steam engine brought skills and knowledge to mankind. Education which was prohibited in the agriculture society spread in the industrial society. Clerks, turners and fitters and technicians were required to run the factory based society.
Democracy was the fallout of the industrial revolution as the wealth shifted from the kings and the feudal landlords to the capitalist/industrialist. These forces promoted revolt against the kings leading to revolutions which ultimately shifted power from the kings to the capitalists.
Industrial revolution thus brought in the civilizational change called the industrial civilization. Nothing in this civilization mirrored the agricultural civilization. However, this change was not easy. The elites of the agricultural civilization the kings the priests resisted the change but people enforced the change. The revolutions were the result of this conflict. Millions of people perished in the process of change.
Ultimately a balance emerged after the Second World War. The industrial civilization relegated agriculture to the second status. Powerful capitalist/multinationals emerged to dictate policies in their favor. This was done at tremendous cost to the rural agriculture system.
Even communism a product of the industrial revolution concentrated on labor relations and not on agricultural population. They talked of the dictatorship of the proletariat to bring equity in an industrial society. Thus capitalism/market economy or communism/planned economy are the products of the industrial civilization which is fast undergoing another cataclysmic change.
The human race is entering into a third wave of change. The computer revolution has miniaturized the silicon chip to an extent where it will become the size of a grain which when mixed with fertilizers will be spread in the farms. Eventually the chip will rise in plants to dictate their preferences of food and water.
The knowledge revolution will bring in a complete new civilization which will not be comparable to anything in the industrial civilization. Biotechnology, space science, nano technology, robotics, computer science. All this will change the face of the human race at an extremely rapid pace. What happened in 10000 years was changed in 200 years and what changed in 200 years is now changing every 10 years. This has thrown up enormous opportunities for the human race as well as increased the threats.
The collapse of the global agriculture system can be analysed on this backdrop. The industrial revolution transferred technology to the hands of the Europeans. They emerged as the military power with potential to rule the world. Technology made them unbeatable. The colonial system became a coercive system of exploitation.
Central to the industrial civilization remained the supremacy of the industry and the capital. Agriculture had to perform a subservient role of providing raw material at cheaper rates to the industrial powers. Cotton is an excellent example of this process.
The American civil war was fought with adversarial forces of the agricultural South and industrial North. The southern states of the US provided cotton the raw material for the burgeoning textile industry. The industrial north made rapid progress in industrial field to produce unending stocks of weapon and ammunition which ultimately defeated a more martial south.
The Indian system was not very different. The American civil war impacted on the UK which was hungry for cotton. The Britishers promoted Cotton production in India and even build railways to transport cotton. The cotton was taken from India to the UK. Textile industry formed the core industry in the UK. India was a readymade market for the finished product. The enrichment of the colonial powers was not merely by the way of loot but by the way of incorporating the entire world into their economic system.
Historian have concentrated more on the political domination. The historians ignored the total domination of the world economy by the world powers. The system has continued in another form. The industrial west did not fail to invade Iraq. Destabilize the Middle East.
Ultimately the game is of domination for enrichment of their societies. Thus, the industrial civilization suppressed the agricultural system and made it totally dependent on the industrial economy. For all this the prices of the agricultural products had to be kept low to reduce the cost of industrial products. Herin lies one of the main causes for disaster of agricultural India.
The post independent India continued with the same system. The Western powers reluctantly transferred the political power to the colonies. However, they did not transfer the economic power. They ensured that the economic systems in the colonies remain the mirror of their systems. Thus we find that India did not change. The economic system remained the successor of the British India. Politically our post-Independence leadership was suave and alive. However, their economic vision was limited to what they were trained for in the Oxford Cambridge environment.
Needless to say that it did not have anything to do with India. Thus India floated like a rudderless ship in unknown directions. Fortunately, it was the scientists who saved India. Be it Dr. Swaminathan, Dr. bhaba, Sh. Abdul kalam, Dr. Ramesh Thakre and their team. The dedication, industriousness and brilliance of our Scientists laid the foundation of modern India. Silently, without any material support, individual scientist built up the success story of India.
Due to our scientist we could take advantage of the technological progress in the west.
Indira Gandhi brought originality to the functioning of the Indian social, economic and political system. She and later Rajiv Gandhi gave a tremendous boost to the technological fervor of the scientific world. This brought in the green revolution, the atomic revolution and the space revolution.
Suddenly, starving India become surplus India in food grains. Dr. Swaminathan and the authors and editors of this book were singularly responsible for giving the Indian farmers affluence and Indian population the food. This progress was however not sustained by the systemic change post 1991. The world changed.
Victory of the US and western powers in the cold war pushed the world to accept the dictates of the only Superpower the US. The Capitalist powers promoting free market economy pushed the world towards globalization, liberalization and privatization.
The US owned World Bank, International Monetary fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB) prescribed economic system was implanted all over the world. Slowly the concept of the Welfare state evaporated. The world has become the place where might is right.
The artificial change pushed in by Manmohan Singh diverted the progress of India. The clarion call of liberalization, globalization and privatization overthrew the concept of welfare state. Unrestrained greed dominated the capitalist run economic reform agenda. It unleashed the dormant forces of profiteering. Wealth and more of it became the sole objective of human kind.
The Indian liberalization story brought in the carpet baggers who destroyed every institution that made India a strong power. Scams and shams characterised the rising hydra of the new economic Policy. The consequences of such unbridled policy omissions. Destroyed the safety valves that existed for the agri sector. The service sector growth was phenomenal. It relegated the manufacturing industrial sector to the second status. The burial of any agro rural policies was a natural outcome.
The post 1991 policies reflect the utter lack of understanding of the economy as was the case at the time of the independence. In the quest of profits and more profits the capitalist system propelled the economic system to rising inequalities of income. There is a net increase in poverty on one side and hideous display of wealth on the other. On one side we have seen 3 lakh farmers committing suicides.
On the other side we see the Ambanis living in a palace worth Rs. 12000 crores. Black money runs governments. Criminals controlling governments. This is all in the violation of the constitution. Article 14 promises equality. This should be Read along with article 38 which directs the government to reduce economic inequality. It is a mandatory concept. Tremendous wealth has been created. But there is no trickle-down effect. The fruits of development have been hijacked by the rich and powerful.
The UN research shows that the GDP in 1945 was 3 trillion dollars whereas it was 30 trillion dollars in 1995. But the income of first 20% people increased astronomically compared to the bottom 20 % PEOPLE. In 1913 this gap was 1:11. In 1960 it increased to 1:60 and in 1997 it further increased form 1:74.
The 2014 report shows that 85 top persons in the world hold wealth equivalent of wealth held by the bottom 50% persons. The WB and the IMF has been forced to accept that Inequality of income is the biggest challenge in the world. It is because the spending power of the people is critical to propagate demand in the economy.
In India farmers today have no spending power at all. In one case a Farmer holding 40 acre land is indebted by Rs. 50 lakh. He is not in a position to purchase state transport ticket to travel to tehsil area. Earlier this affluent farmer purchased tractor, car, and motorcycle. Now he had to sell all that. Economic spending power in the hands of the common man is vital to generate demand in the economy. Inequalities of income and rising inflation has practically broken the backbone of the economic structure.
Initially the capitalist system sustained demand by encouraging the dispersal of loans. Buy today pay tomorrow was the slogan. It worked for some time. It sustained demand over long periods. However, the time arrived when no one could repay the loans.
This led to the melt down of 2008 when major banks went bankrupt. They had to go to the government for injection of liquidity. The slogan good governance means no governance fell flat on the face and the industry had to run seeking governmental intervention.
Massive sums of money has been injected into the economy by the US and other government to revive the economy still to no avail. In comparison farm loans are insignificant but governments are reluctant to provide relief. On the other hand relief to corporates and industries are forthcoming without much ado. It is for record that Vijay Mallya took massive unsecured loan of Rs. 7000 crores to build up the kingfisher airlines.
The airlines has gone bust as major part of the loan was utilized for non-commercial matters. This included buying private aircrafts, luxury liners, island to fulfill personal desires. The government intervened to provide relief to the non secured loans. Made the banks convert loan into equities. Consequently the banks became partners of the bankrupt airline.
On the other side if the farmer does not repay a loan of one hundred thousand; their land kitchen utensils and personal ornaments are auctioned. The farmer must be treated with equal dignity as Mallya. Also Mallya must be treated as the farmers. The entire question boils down to the dignity of man.
Many studies looked at the causes for suicide as debts. However, recent studies have highlighted the depression due to debt burden as the main cause for suicides. The rural countryside is in clutches of depression. This is not individual but mass depression. Lack of hope, one time proud farmers are reduced from riches to rags. Despair forces the farmer to death.
There is virtually nowhere to look to. The government machinery looks at the relief packages to farmers as another opportunity to make money. During my visit to drought stricken areas; MANREGA was virtually operated by the contractor officials lobby. Farmers and landless labors were merely expected to sign where required. Drought brings in fodder scams, water scams as contractors exploit the situation to the hilt.
The only route to progress is to transfer of liquidity in the hands of the masses. Unless you enrich the farmers and farm labor; the economic instability will persist. In the pursuit of Make in India the government ignores this basic facts. Few in the corporate lobby have understood the need to empower the farmers.
They are demanding the revival of the farm sector, but the governments are yet to wake up to the tragedy that is unfolding. Today’s farmers big or small suffer equally. The depression makes farmers succumb to the call for ending their lives. They realize that they cannot support their families. They realize that they cannot get their daughters married. They see no way out nowhere to go. Loss of all hope is the real cause for people ending their life.
The government total focus on foreign investment will not revive the Indian economy. In any case exports are sluggish. The foreign investment will not benefit the agricultural India. Nor will it create employment. On the other hand such high tech investments tend to increase unemployment. Technology replaces human labor.
Such foreign and private investments may generate economic growth and create wealth but will increase inequality and unemployment. Thus, It is necessary for us to take an in depth review of what is going wrong and what we should we do to harness the national power to rebuild its economic power. The role that agriculture must be kept central to build a balanced and sustained developmental model.
India’s strength always lay in its industrious manpower. India has the highest arable land in the world. If proper water management systems are put in place; India would have been the global super power in Agriculture. Dr. Swaminathan and his team have ably demonstrated a number of times that we do not lack in the technological field.
We fall short in the political will. Agirculture, horticulture, animal husbandry if viewed in integrated fashion; and provided the fundamental support system could have taken us to different dimension and we could have been the food basket of the world. Hence the main strategy for economic development must be based on increasing agricultural investments to 6% of the GDP to begin with. Agriculture must be given a principal role to uplift the impoverished majority of Indians.
We fell short firstly in developing a resilient water management system to irrigate the arable land. Secondly we allowed the system of the middlemen to impoverish the farmers. Subsequently, the farmer lost the ability to inject capital in their land. Additionally 50 % people in rural areas are landless laborers.
Due to the failure of agriculture this segment became further impoverished and is thrown out of the developmental paradigm. His only hope is to migrate to the cities. The social impact of such a situation is severe. The loss of hope drove the weak to drugs and drinks. It further drove the youth to crime. The prosperous Punjab now is a drug addicted Punjab. This spiraling adversarial consequence of the unstable social environment has a dangerous manifestation. It is tearing down the rich cultural foundation of the agro Indian civilization.
What is the way out? We have to primarily focus on two critical issues of water management and remunerative prices. The water management issue is not merely limited to increasing the irrigation potential but to manage the water judiciously. The underground water management is another area for immediate concentration. As the wells go deeper the water table goes down. The farmer has to dig down further. Rainwater harvesting, is a neglected sector and has a huge potential.
Water management must be a part of the cropping pattern system, which must be sustainable. Cash crops like Sugarcane are water guzzlers and will have to be controlled. The drought has destroyed the entire sugar industry in Marathwada region of Maharashtra. Most of the sugar factories have gone bankrupt.
Thus sugar cane is unviable in such regions. The cropping pattern will have to be defined as per the local condition. Care will have to be taken that the pattern is such that adequate income opportunities emerge. In Konkan we promoted spice production along with horticulture. This has yielded handsome economic returns though new problems of pest control have emerged.
Herein we confront another strenuous complication of pest control. The farmers are clueless. The pesticide companies exploitative. Lack of training, spurious pesticides have destroyed crops of an entire region. This year the Bt cotton proved to be vulnerable to new pests like white fly.
The cotton crop in Punjab has been destroyed. Alphonso mango of konkan was banned in Europe due to excess chemical residue caused by use of pesticides. The ICAR and the universities and colleges should lay down clear parameters for cropping patterns and pest and fertilizer applications.
Another aspect is the structural problems in agricultural governance. The governmental research, education and extension system is well entrenched and available right down to the village level. However most of them are underemployed. There is a central sector, run by the Indian council of agriculture research (ICAR). The universities and the Krishi Vidyan Kendra (KVK) in each district. The State agriculture department who work under the senior Agricultural Officer (SAO) under each district.
The local bodies have deployed agricultural officers. There is colossal duplication in functioning and most of the government expenditure on the agriculture departments is wasted on the pay and allowances of the staff with little left to give the farmers. Corruption of these officers further deplete the resources reaching the beneficiaries.
Thus, agri bureaucracy has practically eliminated the delivery system in agriculture. Today no one does anything without taking everything. Thus the governments agricultural administration is a total failure and not beneficial to the masses. The govt. employees enjoy the fruits of the production of the toiling masses. The agricultural administration needs to undergo complete review and be reduced significantly. One method is to integrate the functioning under the ICAR at the district level through the Universities.
Further, the government research and development focus of the ICAR and all related bodies, universities, the institutions, the KVKs is on increasing the productivity in agriculture. No attention is being paid in the universities in the field of agriculture economics. Farmer income is not included in the realm of research and development. Agricultural Export Development Authority (APEDA) is functioning under the commerce ministry but has no relation with the agriculture ministry and the departments functioning under it.
We conducted annual mango festivals as a direct marketing mechanism for the farmers to the consumers in Mumbai. It gave the famers a 300% increase in returns. The farmers who participated in those festivals have now developed permanent customers in the cities and do not have to send their goods in the brokers. It is appreciated that is not possible for all the farmers. But this is the route.
Barriers between the farmers and the consumers must be eliminated. Govt. can do so by establishing retail chains where farmers can send their goods with minimum support prices (MSP). These chains can be managed by NGOS with proven merit.
It follows that The Most important tricky aspect that confronts the farmers is getting proper remuneration for their products. The farmers get pittance for their products. The Dr. Swaminathan formula of input cost plus 50% profit equals MSP was announced as a poll promise by the current government. Of course promises are not be kept.
The Modi government is receiving drubbing at the polls as a result of negligence toward the farmers and will continue if strong steps are not taken to do something. The cooperative sector meant to give returns to the farmers has become an handmaiden of the broker lobby.
The Agricultural Product Marketing Committees (APMC) are supposed to provide facilities to the farmers to market their products. These have been taken over by brokers who know nothing about the production system. The elected representatives are agents of the brokers.
The national policy framework consigned the agriculture system to mayhem; we need to analyse what should be the alternatives. The first priority is clear. It is the development of a system which will immediately send money in the hands of the farmers. This can be done by many instruments. One such method is of cash transfers in place of subsidies. In the current system subsidized fertilisers are provided by giving subsidies to the fertilizer companies.
Most of the sales to farmers are fraudulent and devised just to enrich the companies and the distributers/brokers. It would be prudent to transfer the subsidy directly to the beneficiary farmers. Extension and training is another aspect with maximum waste and corruption.
The entire funding should be transferred to the panchayat system who can provide extensions services which are required. Essentially it is the reallocation of the expenditure in agriculture to area which will directly benefit the farmers. Provision of adequate power through the solar and renewable energy models will obviate the need to disconnect electrical supply for non-payment of bills.
It is against this backdrop that we will have to evolve systems for the 21stcentury; which will sustain the gargantuan changes of the knowledge civilization. The fields of biotechnology has brought in the possibility of rich nutritious high calorie diet to the population. We can produce vegetables and fruits which can cure cancer. Our diet could have preventive medicinal qualities.
Productivity can be increased incrementally. However, all this progress will be of no use till the tillers are well looked after. Natural organic farming, can reduce the damaging chemical content in the crops. Bio pesticides and bio fertilizers can evolve into a commercially viable proportion. There is much more that can be done which will enhance the agricultural sector to affluence. However, the status and economics of the grower/farmer should become the primary concern of the governments.
Herein lies the challenge of the 21st century. Skill development in agriculture can impel the agricultural sector to a professional level. Integrated models of agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry, dairy, poultry agri tourism and many more diverse functions can be developed.
The basic unit of this model will have to be the sustainability and affluence of the farmer. Smart villages connected on wi-fi and agriculture based on various models will provide the flexibility to the farmers to grow products based on market intelligence. Determination of the quality, quantity and the timings of harvesting will be possible soon.
Another matter which needs urgent attention is the viability of agriculture based on small and fractured holdings. Due to division of land from generation to generation; land holdings have become unviable. New structures of land holdings will have to emerge. Bringing land together by bringing farmers together is one of the methods. The farmers will have to develop a mindset of working together on the basis of common interests. Group farming /group marketing/ are such areas of research and development which can improve the economics of agriculture.
For this the focus of the ICAR and all the related institutions should undergo a complete alteration. The main object must be to develop viable land units of production of minimum 25 acres. These can be formed into Agricultural estates, like the Industrial estates. Common services like water, electricity, tractors/ implements can be used on large tracts. The ownership of land is a sensitive part.
While ownership can remain with the individual farmers; agricultural operations and marketing can be done by bringing farmers together. Incentives to farmers forming groups must be given by the government. Remunerative prices backed by agricultural productivity based on location based models will also support the Agricultural estate concept.
It is time now for the government to accord top priority to agriculture and rural development. If for nothing else but to ensure the wellbeing of the 70% population which is dependent on agriculture. The model followed should be the well-being of the farmers. All strategies should focus on increasing the spending power of the rural population.
The investment in agricultural and the rural development sector will have to grow astronomically. Our attitude to farming should change from a poverty ridden sector to a development sector. Utilise the natural geographical and climatic advantage to produce products which will feed the world. Therein lies the mission for the 21st century.