The present model of cadre based political party system in India, where strength of a party is demonstrated by the size of crowd in public meetings may not be a good sign on the overall development of common people. Larger the crowd, bigger is the dimension of unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, and economic disparity. Such a large section of population is the capital for the political parties to mobilize power of the powerless to carry flags, shout slogans, write posters, block roads and whatnot. This scenario will continue to prevail with the patronage of political parties and elections being held almost round the year, where conducting one by-election costs Rs.15 Crore (150 million) and money flows down the drain.
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In such a situation, should India opt for ‘Two-Party, One-Election’ system and divert election expenditures towards basic developments? No doubt, a million-dollar question, more so where getting engaged in politics is the most lucrative business of profit and way to multiplying assets in geometrical progression, barring a few.
Remember the call ‘GARIBI HATAO’ (Remove Poverty) given by the most powerful PM as back as 1971 but number of poor are still on rise, linearly. India is an agrarian country with an assembly of large number of hungry and malnourished surviving on heavily subsidized or free foods and cash dole as oxygen introduced by the present Govt in 2020. So, ‘Garibi Hatao’ was a political dry run since last 50 years! Anyone having ground reality on the diversity in agriculture in India crop by crop; familiar with cropping systems and sequences may agree, the mission on ‘Doubling Farmers’ Income’ with the present approach, may cause back fire.
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On the event of Agriculture being a State Subject, the rational of meddling in procurement of agri produce by fixing of prices, deciding markets, etc. by the Govt at the Centre appears unjust and not noticeably clear. State should have the liberty to decide about the crops, subsidies, procurement price, marketing and stock making. The Central Govt may procure the commodities at a price fixed by the State as required to supply through PDS to economically oppressed and deprived socially.India being an agrarian country and agriculture being a State-subject, there is a need for a calculated and balanced approach between the Union of India and the States as far agriculture, in totality, is concerned.
1. At the level of NITI Aayog:
a) Centre is often blamed for sky rocketing prices of agri-commodities in the event of crop failures, even though agriculture happens to be a State-subject! A pragmatic approach could be the formulation of ‘Annual Balanced Crop Plan’ (ABCP) assigning specific production targets to States, crop by crop, taking into consideration the total requirements of the Country. This should be deliberated, approved and allocated to States by NITI Aayog with appropriate budgetary support, followed by monitoring.
b) In no case, crop production programs in a given State should be based on convenience, taken up in a complacent manner. There must be comprehensive target oriented production plans, meeting major agri-commodity requirements, locally. NITI Aayog must encourage State Agriculture Depts. to allocate irrigated areas to Pulses and Oilseeds, proportionate to mitigating deficiency levels, backed by incentives. The Central Govt. should come to the rescue of those States where climatic conditions do not favour growing a particular crop, profitably.
2. At the level of DAC, Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India:
a) Suspend all the routine schemes namely National Mission on Oilseeds and Oil Palm (NMOOP), Mission for Integrated Development of Horticulture (MIDH), National Food Security Mission (NFSM), etc., that are in place since the last few decades, and continuing to exist, just by changing names, but having no matching impact in the target areas. The funds could be utilized where it is needed most in supporting seed production of novel varieties and linking it with ABCP at the State levels.
b) In the event of the merger of State Farms Corporation of India (SFCI) with National Seeds Corporation (NSC), there should not be ‘Test Stock Seed Multiplication’ of newly identified varieties any more under the DAC support. The budget for that purpose should be transferred to concern commodity Institutes of ICAR/SAUs so that enough seed is produced for Minikit/ Front Line Demonstrations under the centrally sponsored schemes. This will help in promoting new/novel crop varieties released in the last 5 years, and thereby enabling farmers to realize higher yields, even under the adversities of climate change.
c) The NSC, wholly owned by DAC, MoA must stop purchasing seeds from open markets through a tendering process, often based on L1; this is the single biggest contributor to the gradual destruction of Indian Agriculture. Similar practices must be stopped with other NLAs for seed production and supply.
d) Present Seed Certification System, as practiced and endorsed by the DAC, MoA, is the biggest menace in Indian Agriculture (in fact could qualify as a scam of the highest order), which was documented and submitted to Joint Secretary (Seed) and Secretary Agriculture, DAC, MoA with facts and figures, State by State, for initiating corrective measures, a year back. Appropriate corrective measures must be initiated without further delay.
e) Equip the Food Corporation of India (FCI) with modern warehouses, silos to store food grains and food legumes, thereby avoiding wastage and compromising quality, with other logistic support.
f) Move towards corporate agriculture by clubbing small-farm holders and dry-land farmers, and offering major stakes by roping in leading agri-business houses namely, Reliance, Godrej, Tata, etc.
g) Support State level Agro Industries Corporation for manufacturing of small agricultural tools like improved “ergonomic” sickle & spade, seed drill/planter, weeder, thresher, decorticator, sorter/grader, etc., following approved designs and involving local manufacturers, to be supplied to farmers.
h) Development of Watershed, in a mission mode, in rain deficient areas to recharge existing open wells, and to raise the level of aquifers. Also support land configuration for harvesting rain-water to mitigate moisture stress.
Government is responsible to put the taxpayer’s money in proper use for a balanced growth including minimizing growing disparity between 2.0 million rich, reasonably large farmers and 90.0 million hand to mouth smallholders. So also, in the existing system there should be state specific commodity wise quota for procurement under MSP. Govt should not continue to remain helpless and bound to buy whatever is produced unilaterally by the farmers. That is the reason the Central Govt must bring out a State specific Balanced Crop Production Plan to fulfil the commitment ‘‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’.
Dr Mukti Sadhan Basu is a former director of the National Research Centre for Groundnut, Indian Council of Agricultural Research. He was also International Consultant on Aflatoxin Management, UNIDO and worked in Africa in that capacity. Presently he is Managing Director of SBSF Consultancy.