A refusal to understand and learn from farmer experience has been the bane of Indian agriculture. So has the refusal to invest in Indian research and development.
Security means being able to fend for oneself. India can only feed everyone if it first ensures soil health in its farms and the financial health of the farmer.
The budget reveals the government intent to increase agriculture production, but unfortunately this budget will not increase farmer prosperity. A national mission on food processing being established to help in diversification of agriculture. Along with tax incentives to the private sector to provide extension services, it will be a boon for agriculture producers. By giving incentives for increasing fertiliser production capacity in India, there is hope to reduce dependence on imported fertilisers.
Despite myriad difficulties, farmers will meet national targets of food production but will the nation work to make farming a profitable profession?
The problem is agriculture, the largest private sector enterprise, is unprofitable today. It would not have become so had the country made serious investments in agriculture.
Mahatma Gandhi said that “the world holds enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.” Being a citrus fruit farmer from Abohar in Punjab I can tell you how right he was. The same citrus that I sell on my farm at ₹16 per kg. Sells for ₹50 at Khan market in New Delhi or on the sidewalk of Napean Sea Road in Mumbai after two days. Now that is what one would call a killing,” says Mr Ajay Jakhar, Chairman, Bharat Krishak Samaj, New Delhi. Over 50 per cent of Punjab’s citrus cultivated in 55,000 acres grows within 30 km of the villages.
There is nothing black and white, every policy and decision is grey, some with deeper hues of black or white. Policies represent trade-offs between benefits to one and losses to others.
It is perfectly fair for the government to consider the plight of small and medium enterprises and small kirana store owners vis-à-vis FDI but what about the farmer?
As the farmer becomes irrelevant in the political sphere and the urban electorate gains prominence, the government takes sides to retain power.
Farmer organisations can play a positive role only if they serve the farming communities interests, irrespective of political affiliations and vested ideologies.