While protests by our farming community – our Anna dhatha – is raging at the borders of Delhi, let us look at what exactly ails the agro economy and what is the solution for that.
Historically any country’s GDP has been practically that of the farming community only as the contribution from every other activity was negligible. Industrial Revolution changed all that. In India since 1947 even when the industrial revolution was taking place, farm revolution was also taking place side by side. But since 1970 this situation started changing slowly. Farming was losing the prime of place in the planning. In 1991 – 1992, the duo PV Narasimha Rao and Dr Manmohan Sigh brought the LPG regime – economic deforms (not reforms) – that struck a death blow to farming activity. Yes literally. Since then in the past about 30 years, more than 17000 farmers have been committing suicide on an average year after year and it continues still unabated. The reason: the farmer – our ‘Anna dhatha’ – does not get even the input cost back as sale price, when he goes to sell his produce. He gets only a fraction of his cultivation cost back – not as income, not as profit. Selling his produce at a severe loss repeatedly, he is left with no choice than committing suicide.
Ever since the introduction of the deforms, the prices of agro produce – to the farmer – has not been keeping pace with the inflation in even agro labour wages and not to speak of other inputs. While the cost of cultivation has gone up several folds, the price to the farmer – market price or even the MSP – has gone up only marginally. In effect the farmer is subsidizing our food to the tune of about 80% and losing themselves. The price we pay for rice, wheat, dals etc. is much lesser than the cost of cultivation. That too only a smaller fraction only reaches the actual farmer after the intermediaries extract their pound of flesh from the price to the consumers. The situation of vegetables is much worse. The farmer hardly gets back even the cost of plucking the fruits. He is forced to part off with his produce at 50 paise to Rs 1 per Kg, while the traders sell it to consumers at Rs 40 – 50 and make merry – lead a lavish life.
The solution: farm produce should be ‘cost’ just the same way as industrial products and a ‘Fair Remunerative Price’ offered to the farmer. Cost of inputs – seed, fertilizer, pesticide etc – wages to outside labour, wages of the owner of the land or the lessee farmer and his family – actual work, time spent on supervision, purchases, organizing labour, selling, guarding the crop etc. should be computed. Packing, Transportation, loss in handling, have to be added to the cost. Every crop doesn’t yield the same amount of produce, due to draught, flood, pest attack, shortage of inputs and labour. Hence the average yield for a period of 5 or 10 years should be taken to compute the cost per kg of yield. The ‘Fair Remunerative Price’ should be fixed adding a small profit for the farmer. Not only for paddy, wheat and sugar cane, but for every farm produce including dals and vegetables. It has to be done block wise and for the different types of cultivation – traditional, scientific, modern or whatever.
All the farm produce should then be marketed only through a farm produce cultivation and marketing co operative similar to the NDDB, Amul, milk co op federation. Rice mills, oil mills, and every other processing industry like fruit juice extracting etc., as also the godowns should be managed by this farmers federation. This federation will give loans to the farmers, rent out tractors, harvesters, pesticide pumps etc., and procure the yield at FRP. The produce will be marketed by the federation’s own outlets all over the nation.
This will right away stop wastages of grains stored in the current process. They will automatically go for safe and covered godowns as well as cold storages where required.
This will stop the suicide by farmers immediately. They will come out of the debt trap. Once the loosing farm activity turns profitable, the area under cultivation as well as the number of crops per year will increase. Shortage of food commodities will become a thing of the past.
There are actually two Indias – urban and rural. Above approach will bring parity between the two.
In fact with the majority of the people depending on farming, we can literally feed the world. What the oil producing nations did in the past over half a century, India can do it with food now.
Migration from rural to urban India will be reversed. Villagers will start using industrial products like urbanites. They will build better homes, buy vehicles, fridge etc. There will be an explosive growth in demand for industrial products. They will demand and get better roads, education and health facilities. As a result rural as well as urban employment opportunities will grow enormously. Unemployment problem will vanish. With that the need for caste, community based reservation will vanish too. Need for subsidies and freebies too will vanish. In effect we will attain ‘Subiksha’.
Instead the recent farm laws are just the opposite of this approach to give the farmer his due. They are not designed to affect the farmers alone. Even every consumer and in fact all those who are supporting the government on this issue are also going to be at the receiving end. These laws will drive the whole nation in to becoming slaves to a few business tycoons.
It is the duty of everyone consuming any food to oppose these. It is not the farmers fight. It is our – whole nations – fight to wrest back our right to live. Farmers are just leading and showing the way.
(A technologist by qualification, farmer by option and a Gandhian by conviction)
President – Gandhian Initiative for Social Transformation – Chennai