Sunday, August 07, 2005

moi on rediff regarding agriculture

aug 2nd

reposting this post and changing the date to aug 7 to keep it on top of the blog.

agriculture is an area of great interest to me, and i really like the questions raised by the reader. what do you guys think?

jul 29th

agriculture is one of our biggest assets, although we dont recognize that, instead treating it as a liability.


Anonymous said...

I do share the same sentiment about trying to rejuvenate agriculture in India. There are a bunch of questions that I would like to throw at the readers of this blog and hope that answers to those questions would give a better picture.

1. Was the tenancy act of Indira Gandhi a disaster ? In a heavy dose of populism, she broke the feudal system, but since agriculture follows economies of scale farmers owning small tracts of land could no longer make this enterprise profitable - is it the mistake of yesteryears that has snowballed into this practice of suicide in rural India in spite of getting subsidies? Feudal system was repressive in the north (it still presumably is) and was good riddance.

2. As you have mentioned only in Punjab and adjoining regions have farmers prospered (of course subsidies are a huge reason), but is it due to their enterpreneurial spirit too ? I had read few years back that Ludhiana had the highest per capita income among Indian cities. Smart farmers from Punjab have exploited horticulture and turned into a cash cow catering to markets in Canada and Europe.

3. In Maharashtra and Northern Karnataka, sugarcane is one of the major seasonal crop, supplying cane to the sugar factories. Could the advent of bio-diesel make this crop more profitable to the farmers and regain its status as the bread-sustainer of families, rather than youngsters looking to factory jobs as their ticket out ?

3. Real estate business has eaten into arable land, because the ROI on selling land to be converted to plots is so attractive that farmers can never resist it. Add to it venal officials who with one stroke can convert land from A to NA (agricultural to non-agricultural). Can a statewide database of land records prevent such abuse ?

4. India has some of very fine agricultural departments, but politicians do them a disservice by allowing multinationals to come in (they can come in and compete - that's fine) and impose MNC edicts on poor farmers. Tke the case of the cotton seeds (Monsanto was it ?) Some state agency had developed resistant cotton seeds, but the Maharashtra government through some twisted means, made sure that only Monsanto seeds were available on the market. The deal with the Monsanto seeds was that farmers had to buy them every year - thus they were trying to perpetuate a monopoly.

5. In states where there is shortage of labour , I do not know the extent of success of mechanised farming. But excess labour from states like Bihar and Karnataka is always available. Enforcement of the minimum wage rule can wean workers from going into construnction and manufacturing industries.

6. In regions which do not enjoy good monsoon, there is over-reliance on ground water. Does any body know about what dangers is this practice fraught with ? Will they run out of water ? Or will there be sources replenishing the ground water reservoirs ?

7. Use of inorganic fertilisers, pesticides - is that a good thing in the long run ?

8. Hope schemes such as e-choupal eliminate the middle-men who earn the most profit in the supply chain. Refrigerated transportation and storage (as Rajeev mentioned) are key to maximise utility of the produce. The other factor is the transportation medium - the world's largest railway network and the woes of ferrying goods still remain. Could road networks be better (given that L P Yadav is the rly minister)?

S said...

I haven't read Rajeev's article yet, to me it is meaningless considering so many issues. However to your description, she broke the feudal system there was nothing like a feudal system. The feudal system is a description, just like capitalism where industrialists are inherently bad. It is a description to any body who had land and win over the vote bank, to give precedence to the politicians. This is not to say that, some people had a lot of land, but then land was not scarce, the economy was stagnant in the colonial era, and other economic sectors were not working. So we had issues, but they made a system called feudal system to make the petty politicians as the chief priests. A whole lot is broken, including some desires. So, it is not about Indira Gandhi broke a system when none was existing, you are into the same trap.

S said...

Just to supplement the my above post, let us see the objections. In some populated areas of each state, there was descrepancy. Since independence each populated area has been sourrounded by cities. Isn't there thousands of crores of rupees being handled by the govt and others in land in those cities, where basic amenities like a playground is scarce ? The govt didn't look at this wealth, neither the land in most of the less populated parts[ WHich constituted most of India]. They managed it very poorly. They even target the wealthy people so as to give their fair share and tax the rest amount. Instead they targetted a feudal system was was supposed to be evil. But when one see at thousands of crores in cities with machine like life, one is tempted to spit at the utopia.

Anonymous said...

I've heard a fascinating story from a relative of mine who was a government official back in the 1960s who says the green revolution was due more to repair the wounded pride of the Nehru dynasty than any desire to make India self sufficient in agriculture.

It seems that during the 1966 monsoon failure, the U.S. was more than willing to provide wheat to India with one provisio: the Indian Govt. would literally have to beg for it. LBJ insisted that the Prime Minister would have to call him personally and ask for the wheat. He apparently insisted that each shipment would require a phone call -- and that he might be too busy to always take the call.

Making the first phone call was so humiliating to Madame Gandhi that she ordered her officials to do anything to improve agricultural production. That was the impetus behind the green revolution.

If LBJ had honored Madame Gandhi by letting her speak to Congress and some university had given her a doctorate, we would, most likely, still be importing food.

Kuttan said...

Nice article Rajeev. It is a shame that our country does not give enough importance to agriculture. If you look at the overall agriculture sector through out India one thing that stands out is the lack of Mechanization. Indian agriculture sector is still largely labor intesive thanks to the socialists who want to keep it that way so that they can thrive on the labor unions. This has severly reduced the profit margins of the farmers.
Added to this is also the wrong poupulist policies of various governments rooted in subsidies and freebies which proved as a disincentive to the farmers in making their farms efficient and less capital intensive.

Anonymous said...


Lack of mechanization is definitely a problem, but I think the reason is that the farmlands are so fragmented that modern practices are difficult to implement.

Besides the country has a huge labour force, and wages so less, that is another reason why mechanization is not catching up.

Besides, every Government subsidizes its farmers. I think subsidies are relatively less in India, as compared to Europe and may be even the US.

Anonymous said...

In my opinion, we are grappling with the wrong end of the stick.The problem is with Marketing of the Agricultural produce not its supply i.e. the demand side not the supply side.
Farmers are held hostage by the APMC(Agriculture Produce Marketing Company)& Food Corporration of India(FCI)or some such/other crappy Government bodies that have the monopoly on buying produce from the farmers - especailly incase of perishables like fruits & vegetables.Imagine trying to run a business where you can sell in bulk to only one buyer.the APMCs are a den of corruption - nehruvian structures - wherein the intention to shield the farmers from the market forces has bent twisted out of recognition.The corrupt politicians have their cronies on the APMC who force the farmers to sell their produce at low prices.If the farmers try to sell the produce themselves they are harassed by the police,municipal corporation etc.Add to this another den of thievery, the Food Corportation of India & the misery is complete.
The lesson is clear - let the farmer get an honest return on his produce,let him be free to sell his crops in the open market.If the demand side has been sorted out, the supply side will eventually get sorted out.Scrap the APMC,FCI & other such market distorting strucutres.Alas, easier said then done, e-choupal & Metro stores in B'lore notwithstanding.
The solution is simple - scrap the APMC, allow the farmer to sell.Nehru & his band of idiots have addled our thinking vis-a-vis the market.

Dric said...

I agree with Anon and others.....Simply put, let there be no middle men.Irrigation is also one area neglected by Govt(Some areas where irrigation canals were started by a British engineer(eg. around the Krishna Dt. in A.P. have greatly benefitted out of this.)Its a pity that even after 50 yrs of Independence ,drought prone regions (like telangana,vidarbha...etc) still depend on rains for cultivation.And ofcourse there are promises of free power by Samuel Reddy ..etc.

Anonymous said...

As expected, this discussion has degenerated into another Nehruvian bashing thing: get over it, people. If you are this creative and passionate, go and work on putting up a new system.
That said, I think there are a few popular misconceptions: the FCI or the APMC no longer hold the monopoly in food grain procurement. The farmers do have a choice to sell directly to other middle men. The problem lies in the access to critical financial tools. Farmers have to pay an exhorbitant 14% interest even from nationalized banks, whereas huge industrialists (like the steel industry) have to pay only 4% interest.
The biggest blow to agriculture has come during the non-Congress liberalization era, when the government allowed much lower quality seeds to be dumped on the Indian market. The yield requirement for the seeds has gone down from 85% (set by Nehruvian policies, mind you) to 50% (for the GM seeds). The policies have also been changed on the sly to allow for GM seeds that cannot be stored for cultivation for the next year.
Successive governments (all of Congress, Communist, Right wing, Left wing, capitalist, etc etc), in their dose of populism, have striven to give power subsidies, etc..all of this ofcourse benefits only farmers rich enough to have a borewell. Besides, borewells have drastically lowered water tables. A recent study has revealed that if the governments used the subsidy money to build good irrigation systems, the agriculture economy would be in much better shape.
So, before one starts to bash Nehruvian policies, and point the easy finger to past policies, take a look at the present ones being made by non-Congres, non-communist governments as well, and you'll see that all of them are rats of the same pack. What is needed is a vigilant public that can take up these inane policies and change them.
For those interested, read "Everyone loves a good drought" by P.Sainath. It's a dark, depressing book, but gives a perspective, nevertheless.


S said...

The book you mention must be a depressing book, because frontline has mentioned this book in articles by chinese trained folks. Honestly I don't think 'every one' loves a good draught, for example, one has read articles from JNU folks how the chinese leaders didn't love the chinese draughts, (instead Indian BJP loved it ?) . Tell me why should I buy a book every loves, when I know that none around me loves it.

Your problem is with Neheruvian socialist bashing, liberalization etc ! The Neheruvian socialists talked a lot of about everything to get the votes and to lecture on how the idiots love a good draughts. At the end of it they produced everything least generously, except the maoists. In their addiction for power and ideology , they destroyed a lot .

Kaunteya said...

The hard fact is that of the 58 years of our (so called) freedom,the Nehruvian Stalinist ruled us for 50 years. You can't put the blame on all equally for the disastrous consequences of that rule. The BJP or NDA did not have a majic wand (nor even the required numbers) to undo what Nehru-Gandhi's family's rule brought to the country.
You may keep worshipping them if you want, but I guess the only Congress PM to have ever worked for the country positively was Narsimha Rao, who incidently did not belong to Nehru-Gandhi family.

Anonymous said...

Maoputra's Response to the AEI: underestimating the Chinese threat post.
Just when you think this idiot couldn’t possibly go any lower, he does. It takes a twisted and depraved mindset to call for Muslim terrorist attacks on others when your own people (who he claims to champion) are supposed to be suffering from them.
But on a second thought, I pity him. It must be painful being an “Indian Nationalist”. The Aryan Invasion Theory must tear at his heart everyday. Sure he can lie to himself and google for obscure webpages that claim against all linguistic and scientific evidence that somehow the invasion never occurred. But since he is reasonably educated, deep inside, he knows that these are just idiotic lies invented to satisfy some wounded egos that can never stand up to rigorous scrutiny and that the Indian civilization was not created by indigenous Indians. This, I believe is what makes Srinivasan such a pathetic and twisted person.
But this is becoming pretty obvious as even his fellow Indian nationalists on this board are starting to question his insane “foaming at the mouth” harangues.

Anonymous said...

Your archaic scientific evidence will fascinates other bastards or comrades of the holy father Mao, it did so for long. The comrades don't know that they hold onto the JNU liberal arts dept, and talk science out of frustration. Your comrades will help you familliarize with science, as long as you are capable of selling mother India to Mao and Macaulay. And again you will be familliriazed when science advance, just that you have to keep up your sycophancy. Your only hope is to wage Jehad so that the liberal JNUs will follow orthodoxly to father Mao and couple of other fathers from europe.