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 The government made a commitment when it repealed the farm laws last year to constitute a committee, which has finally been constituted to promote zero budget-based farming, to change crop patterns and to make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.
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.
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.
Global e-retail overrunning the Indian space threatens both informal and formal retail chains in India. The overall economy is set to lose its entrepreneurial culture
The budget, like farm laws, is marred by a gap between intentions and ground realities in Indian agriculture, with research and extension desperately lagging behind
As the government digs in deep to crush the farmers, who cling on for their survival, it is imperative that both reevaluate their positions to come out of the mess with positive outcomes
An opportunity has been lost in the politicisation of a critical issue as the farm bills get enmeshed in a cesspool of vested interests while the farmer interests stay ignored
Every poverty alleviation programme seems to have a recurring theme — being funded by the poor themselves; the numbers give the game away