As usual, I am awake, while it’s dark outside. Soon the birds begin chirping, one can identify pigeons, magpie robins, parrots, tailorbirds, crows, babblers and partridges. Their chirping ushers in the dawn. I step out, the sky is brighter, and the air is fresh. Blissful it seems, till I look down to find a dead bee on the floor and then there are more and some more. I flinch for a moment. Deep down, I would have hoped otherwise, but I half expected it. It always happens after we spray Profenofos, an organophosphate insecticide. When every measure to stop the pests fails, it’s the extremely toxic weapon of last resort. It also affects brain development in humans, particularly children.
Like the monsoons, just when everyone was giving up hope, it poured with a vengeance. The government made a commitment when it repealed the farm laws last year to constitute a committee, which has finally been constituted to promote zero budget-based farming, to change crop patterns and to make MSP more effective and transparent. It is exhaustive body of 28 members with cross representation from the Central and State governments, farmers, agricultural scientists and economists.
My grandfather, Balram Jakhar was amongst the pioneers of citrus plantation in north India, in the mid-1950s. In 1972, when he first became a member of the Punjab’s legislative assembly, he had promised to transform the bleak near-arid barren sand dunes into California. As his days came to a close, he loved to talk of the promise and similarities of the much-diversified farming in the area, when asked about it. We farm in village Maujgarh, in the Khuiansarwar block of district Fazilka in Punjab.
A month back, it was evident beyond doubt that wheat yields were down due to the exceptional heat wave and government procurement of wheat would also remain far below the last year levels. But, the mirage of excess production, caused due to wrong estimates of wheat production and analytics by government agencies has led to misplaced policy decisions. In its exuberance to be a messiah to the world, India prodded private trade to export vast quantities of grain, which they complied with gusto. The central government also bravely announced an extension of the subsidized food programme by six months. Therefore, the government of India’s announcement to ban export of wheat has come like a bolt from the sky not only for Indian farmers, traders but also for the international community. Expectedly India has lost credibility and even the G7 has criticized the move.
The finance minister’s frequent reference to the “Amrit Kaal” — India’s 25-year-long lead-up to its first centenary of Independence in 2047 — in her budget speech, encompasses, in no small measure, its massive accomplishment of running the world’s largest welfare program: that of feeding 800 million of its populace through entitlements of free and subsidized food. As a farmer, one hopes that a better measure of accomplishment would certainly be India not having to feed anyone for free because everyone could afford nutritious meals.
Renowned agriculture economist Dr SS Johl presented two reports on the need for crop diversification in Punjab in 1986 and 2002. After over three decades, overflowing cereal granaries and large budget deficits have finally compelled a serious policy rethink at the level of the Union Government on the open-ended public procurement system limited to paddy and wheat. These two staple crops were favoured for the Green Revolution because with assured irrigation the yields are less prone to erratic weather, can be cheaply stored for long periods of time and are thus more suitable for food security purposes. Punjab provided the ideal conditions for growing these crops and was chosen as the Green Revolution state. When India gained Independence, Punjab had a diversified agriculture landscape. But, under the Union Government’s directives, policies and incentives to ensure India’s food security during its most difficult decades, it turned to specialised agriculture.
The repeal of the three farm laws is a politically astute move by the government and shows the BJP’s tenacious intent to remain in power beyond 2024. It is now for the farmer unions to tactically suspend the agitation and go back to the negotiating table, allowing space for the Prime Minister to deliver on his promises.
Ajay Vir Jakhar in CII Session on Sustainable Consumption patterns | Actions towards strengthening Food Systems in India (Pre-event in support of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021) | 13th & 14th September 2021: Virtual Platform
अधिक महत्वपूर्ण बात यह है कि किसान की आजीविका के लिए खेत पर होने वाली गतिविधियों से ज्यादा खेत के बाहर होने वाली गतिविधियां अधिक मायने रखती हैं । भले ही किसी को पसंद हो या नहीं, जब निजी क्षेत्र अच्छा करता है, तभी अर्थव्यवस्था फलती-फूलती है और हर माह लाखों रोजगार पैदा होते हैं। उपभोक्ताओं के पास भुगतान करने के लिए अधिक पैसा होता है, तभी वह पौष्टिक भोजन के लिए पैसे खर्च कर सकते हैं और तभी किसान को अपनी उपज का बेहतर मूल्य मिल सकता है
A sinister, subterranean, and inexorable development on the e-retail front may well hand over the entire Indian economic system to oligarchs, unless people awaken to the threat