(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
1 Jan 2007 - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the National Development Council (NDC) have failed to realise the problems facing Indian agriculture and the farming community. Mere announcement of a food security mission to increase the production of wheat, rice and pulses, and pegging up the Central government’s investment to Rs 25,000 crore within a span of four years will not solve the problems.
The figures and words in the NDC resolution sound great. But what does it means to farmers? The PM, in his opening speech, raised concerns over farmer suicides, but he did not dare to say that he had resolved the issue in Vidarbha through a package he had announced. Incidences of farmer suicides in different parts of the country are on the increase.
Increasing public investment in agriculture is a right approach, but at the same time it should be ensured that the money is rightly used. Imperfections in government machinery should be immediately removed to ensure the success of any development and welfare scheme. The PM has, on several occasions, admitted to corruption and shortcomings in govern- ment machinery. But why is he not prepared to set a definite timeframe for the eradication of corruption?
Instead, a case is being made out that the government machinery cannot be efficient, welfare and development schemes should be scrapped as they are wasteful public expenditure and there should be greater involvement of corporate houses in agriculture for the benefit of farmers. Corporate objectives are to garner greater profit, while the priority of a truly welfare state is development. Unfortunately, the government of the day is abdicating its responsibility.
The recommendations of one of the NDC sub-committees suggest facilitating greater corporate involvement by way of contract farming and corporate farming (of course, with a rider: only when the country attains a reasonable level of food security). The so-called wise men in the country should know that the distress of cocoa growers in Africa and profitability of multinational companies are on account of contract farming. This is just one of several such instances across the world.
What according to the NDC sub-committee is the “reasonable level of food security at both macro and household levels” in the country to allow corporate farming? This is not clear, but indications are there that corporate farming would soon become a reality. The process has already begun by inducing farmers to lease out their land to joint...