The Budget and the Indian Agriculture

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

Budget comes with clock-work precision. For over five decades after independence, the ‘Budget’ was announced at 5PM, a vestige of the colonial era for the convenience of the British Parliament. It was only in 2001 that the timing was changed to 11AM.

However, all India-registered aircrafts still carry the tail mark beginning with ‘VT’ which stands for ‘VICEROY’S TERRITORY’ while every independent country has a unique identification number which bears no resemblance to what was used during the colonial era. India remains Viceroy’s Territory. So, while our is budget no longer timed for the convenience of former colonial power, our civilian aircrafts still fly over Viceroy’s Territory.

1.2 billion people wait with bated breath what will the budget bring for them. Various sectors will also wait to see what sops are available. Over the years the entire exercise of “budgeting” has become a cat and mouse game of one lobbyist pitted against another.

The Fertilizer companies and Seed companies have the most powerful lobby, then came the pesticide lobby and then the biotechnology lobby led by criminals like Monsanto backed by the US Government. These lobbyists not only ensure sops but also rewrite regulatory framework. When they rewrite the regulatory framework, the ‘budget’ responds to the desires of the lobbyists.

800 million farmers live in rural India with not one lobbyist in Delhi. So, the sellers of spurious seeds, spurious chemicals, and spurious programs take control of the allocation of public funds. What do the farmers actually need now in 2012? Has this issue been debated in the Parliament? What is causing the massive nation-wide agrarian crisis leading farmers to commit suicide, starvation deaths, ugly poverty, slumization of urban India, and the stupendous growth of beggars who were one time landless people living off farming communities?

All the main causes have been studied and these reports are gathering dust in the Agriculture or Social Welfare Ministry. Has it occurred to the planners that resource allocation process should ensure maximum good for the maximum number of people? I travel all over India. I am a farmer.

I am told what that the farmers of India need. Here’s a simple agenda: First, assist farmers with sound research and development inputs to gather data on soil health and advise the most sustainable and holistic method to build up soil health. Our soils are dead from Green Revolution technologies; our soils will turn putrid from Gene Revolution technologies.

The scientists know it. The first priority should be to ensure soil health no matter how much money is required; without food the economy can’t grow and the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister know this well because they can’t function without food. Second, we need proper water management policy.

India is fortunate to have the highest fresh water resource in the world coming in every year from the Monsoon rains. We must have an effective conservation plan of action, not just statement of intent. And not just a water bureaucracy that pushes paper but a time-bound action plan that progressively resolves irrigation water issue across the country. Thirdly, all subsidies should be given directly to farmers.

I don’t see any reason why seeds and chemical giants should be given subsidies when the users are the farmers. It is for the farmers to decide whether they need a particular seed or particular chemical. If a farmer goes total organic and depends upon nature’s systems he/she should be further subsidized because he/she is not using scarce resources.

And finally, there are millions of educated unemployed youth in rural India. Make budgetary provisions to assist these young men and women to establish small scale food processing units, and even to establish micro-rural warehouse. The assistance can come in the shape of technical assistance, training and capacity building and low interest loans.

Such assistance should only be given to people who live in their respective villages. I am sure the budget is actually prepared in Delhi and people’s leaders are responsible to people’s genuine needs. Unless we take care of our farmers who still constitute an overwhelming majority of India.



(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)