Dr. M. S. Bajwa
(Former Director Research, Punjab Agricultural University)
It is highly distressing that the farming community (called as “Jai Kisaan” and “Ann Daata”) of our country has been forced to protest against the autocratically formulated and imposed “Kisaan and Kisaani Maaroo Acts”. This is the very farming community that brought green, white, yellow and blue revolutions in the country. Now when the country has achieved food self-sufficiency (about 295 mt food grains and 320 mt fruits and vegetable produced in 2019-20), the government is imposing farmer-unfriendly laws and policies under the guise of doubling farmer’s income by 2022.These laws, which seem to have been developed by politicians and economists with negligible practical agricultural experience, are aimed at distorting the well-established existing systems of agricultural production, post-harvest management, marketing and price-fixation and realization mechanisms. On the contrary, these laws encourage the formation of unregulated corporate controlled/dominated enterprises.
The focus of these enterprises is not going to be on the “welfare of farmers”, but to maximize profits through unlimited and uncontrolled storage of farm products, farmer unfriendly ways of contract farming and unregulated, taxation free, corporate-dominated trading/marketing, etc.
Expected systematic withdrawal of MSP system is going to jeopardize the assured net-income sustainability for the farmers. While an interdependent relationship between kisaan/kisaani and industry (public or private) is the need of the day, a damaging situation like “farming-community vs. corporates” is being created. The small-scale land holders (about 86% farmers in India have less than 5 acres land), farm/non-farm workers and related stake-holders are going to be the worst sufferers.Implementation of these laws is going to create large-scale short-term and long-term negative agrarian economic, social and cultural implications. The demands of the farming community about repealing of “kisaan/kisaani maaroo acts” and provision of legislatively assured procurements/purchases of all crops through the existing mandi and arhatiya systems (with whom farming community has symbiotic relationships) at prices above MSP fixed by the government, are genuine and should be accepted by the government.If the governments and their policy makers are really interested in helping farmers to achieve a respectable and sustainable net-income, agricultural reforms should be carried out through the formation of inclusive futuristic policies involving farmers, rural youth and considering State and National goals.
These reforms should provide solutions of complex technological, economic and ecological challenges to improve (not abolish) the entire gamut of existing agriculture system (producer, production, post-harvest management, marketing) and develop it as a highly productive, economically-rewarding and employment generating occupation.
Top priority should be given to build-up the capacity (financial, technological, specialized training, remunerative market, etc.) of kisaan and kisaani for achieving year after year increase in diversified-agricultural production and accelerated agro-economic growth. This is particularly required because the present level of agricultural production cannot be a solace, while the demands of the rapidly growing population (expected to be 152 crores by 2030 and more than 170 crores by 2050) are increasing and roughly 18% of India’s population (about 20 crore) remains malnourished. The Global Hunger Index 2020 report has placed India at 94th position among 107 countries, much behind Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal.
Besides over-exploited soils, depleted water resources, the imminent climate change is also expected to decrease the agricultural capacity in our country by 15-40% by 2050.Another crucial need of the day is development of policies for intensifying the creation of farm and non-farm employment opportunities by expanding agro-processing and manufacturing sectors in rural areas, so that they emerge as sources of respectable income generation/augmentation for the rural households (small farmers in particular) necessarily needed for bringing them out of income-deficit related crisis and reducing poverty. Many reports show that China’s rural non-farm sector has emerged as a major source of the high rates of economic growth in the recent past.
Rural poverty level is as low as 2.5% now in China, while in India it remains as high as 40% in some states.I salute the farmers, who sacrificed their lives for this Andolan. Also, I whole heartedly congratulate the farming community and their leadership for conducting these protests peacefully and intelligently. Credit is also due to the Indian diaspora, all across the world, who has not forgotten its roots and is supporting this movement in every way that it can.
I hope that the policy makers and politicians will consider the suggestions given above and work closely with the farmers to formulate policies that lay the foundation for another much-needed agricultural revolution in our country. But the question here is: do they have the “vision” and “will” to set aside their political and corporate compulsions and ego to do so.