The exercise of framing agricultural policy

(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)

Much mid-night oil is being burned to finalize the agricultural component of the 12th Five Year Plan, and many states are working overtime to prepare the wish list to ensure three healthy meals to 1.2 billion hungry Indians.

The economists are still not sure what should be the minimum cash income to BPL household, and majority of our small and marginal farmers fall in that category. Their objective appears to be to ensure cash income to help them buy food and stave of hunger and starvation. Ironic, that the people who feed the nation should be the concern of economists and planners in terms of food.

Therefore, each plan document is replete with a long wish list of productivity improvement, diversification into fishery, goatery, piggery, mushroom cultivation, silvi-culture, etc; you name anything that can be grown on a piece of land or the roof top of a Katcha house, they are in the plan document.

The multinational corporations and their local partners-in seeds, food processing, distribution and retail-have another priority. They want to modify agricultural plans and policies to extract as many sops and as much regulatory protection as they can manage to create local monopolies.

Neither the economists nor the corporations have the interest of farmers and consumers in mind and this is a problem India has suffered long.

As per recent data and trends, nearly all rivers and majority of lakes and ponds are now contaminated with industrial effluents, agricultural chemicals or rural and urban untreated wastes. Rainfall pattern is changing from climate forcing too. Hence, there is problem of availability of irrigation water much more acute in Punjab, Haryana and Western UP as also in nearly all rain fed regions.

India is short of conventional energy resources yet the drive for mechanization of even small farms is being pushed. Diesel price increase directly affects farmers cost of production; non-availability can cause collapse of agriculture because farmers have come to heavily depend upon bought-in energy. Electricity supply in rural India is a big problem making farmers more dependent on diesel oil.

What is important for every state, particularly where majority of farmers are small and marginal with large landless households, is to plan for a system that ensures (a) food security, (b) nutrition security, (c) sufficient cash income from farming and related activities and (d) a healthy ecosystem which supports food production.

It is time that planners recognize the centrality of ecosystems’ role and within this broader system the constraints of availability of land, water, energy and seeds. Furthermore there, is now a dire need for bottom-up planning, from habitation level to Gram Panchayats, Block and district levels. The role of the Central Government should be limited to supporting the required agricultural investments as desired by each state.



(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)