FDI in Agriculture and Afforestation

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

Awfully enough, the reported proposal submitted to the government by the Group of Ministers led by Agriculture Minister Sh. Sharad Pawar which paves way for 100% FDI in agriculture and afforestation, is silent on the unsavory consequences it will have on India's agro-rural economy. Perverse and incongruous as the proposals are, they will enlarge the scope for gradual and progressive takeover of India's agro system and allied vocations by the MNCs.

The proposal of 100% FDI in agriculture and afforestation will give a fine burial to the remains of our agro-system, already passing through a phase of severe economic stress and strain. It is much more than the tip of the ice-burg. We apprehend, FDI in the sphere of agriculture will usher India into a countdown time for privatization and corporate takeover of agriculture through contract farming.

It is extremely impractical and highly improbable to think of a situation of feeding over a billion people by importing food grains. It is not a compulsive situation at all but a brand utopian culture of the policy makers who have miserably failed to check inflation and substantially replenish the food grain buffer.

The corporate sector has intruded in the sphere of poultry and aquaculture also. Industrial poultry has brought in exotic diseases like avian flu and industrial aquaculture has displaced small fishermen out of their livelihood and endangered the coastal ecosystem. Inflation and artificial shortage of food grains have arisen on account of large scale hoarding of food grains and other essential commodities by MNCs.

Lack of prudence and diligence are ready recipes for inviting destruction and demolition of a system that withstood the stress and unevenness of time and sustained not only the livelihood of 70% of our country men, directly or indirectly involved with agriculture but also ensured a respectful position for India as a self reliant and self-sufficient nation with respect to production of food grains.

Despite constraints and impediments, we still have an edge over many developed and developing countries in the sphere of Dairy, Fisheries, Poultry, Fruits, Vegetables and Forest products.

There appears to be no strategic planning for agriculture. The policies being pursued and the proposals submitted by the group of Ministers do not seem to be credulous and are suspect in nature with a definite design to grant unbridled liberty to MNCs and facilitate dumping of highly subsidized products of developed countries in Indian markets. This will render our natural resources and wealth open to unrestricted exploitation and plunder by MNCs for their commercial gains.

Bizarre and utterly confused, the prevailing situation is indicative of a clear departure from the declared goal of economic sustainability of Indian agriculture and empowering it to attune a prime position in international trade. Any mid way policy reappraisal and induction of correctives should apply to achieving self-reliance and not abate sliding the country into a disgraceful position and ridiculously branded as a food importing nation.

It would be a gross misapplication of the panacea of economic liberalization and globalization. FDI in agriculture and afforestation perhaps might not be the last nail in the coffin.

The seeming policy drift suggests that there might be some more in the basket, even more destructive and disastrous than the 'Terminator', which leaves back everything marooned after the catastrophe.

Making farming economically non-rewarding, snatching the livelihood resources of our agro-rural masses and inventing unjustifiable reasons for the imports of food grains will not only lead to economic bankruptcy but kill the incentive and enterprising culture of our industrious peasantry and further aggravate the agrarian discontent.

Such aberrant policies like FDI in the agro sector will put India into a shameful and worrisome situation where suicides by farmers will become a permanent phenomena. The proposal for 100% FDI in agriculture sector should be nailed down in the budding stage itself in the larger interest of the country and that too before the situation becomes irreversible.



(Editorial : Farmers' Forum Magazine)