Wednesday, October 31, 2007

6.INTERVIEW: Ageing Agriculture

The 300th issue of Alive (Oct 2007), one of the Delhi Press Publications' quarterly magazine established in 1940 as Caravan, interviewed Sudhirendar Sharma (your host) for its introspection of Indian agriculture in the 60th year of country's independence.

How do you rate the growth of agriculture sector in India during the 60 years of independence?
Poor or should I say `very poor'. The irony is that the sector that fed the country cannot feed itself anymore. With farmers' suicides more of a norm than exception, the parliament was informed about over 100,000 farmers' suicides in the last ten years, what more can be said about growth of agriculture?

How much successful have been the land reform programmes of the government so far?
Land forms! Heard of this term after a long time. Literally, no significant progress has been made. Interestingly, however, what the government could not move forward in 60 years has an interesting parallel. It is called SEZ, the Special Economic Zone. The government has now advised states to acquire 30 per cent land for SEZ.

Why there is so much disparity found among various states in terms of agriculture development?
Farmers have been lured through loan waivers, free power, cheap rice - all electoral gimmicks. Nothing serious!

What is the future of agriculture in India? Will India conitnue to be an agricultural country (Krishi Pradhan desh)?
A million-dollar question! National Sample Survey (NSS) shows farmers are losing interest in farming; demographic trend indicates rural:urban population will be 40:60 in next 15 years; urban industrial growth is pulling people out of farming; no let down in farmers' suicides; and corporate agriculture gaining precedence. It may remain `Krishi Pradhan' sans farmers.

What are the main problems facing the Indian agriculture today?
Simply put, a skewed input-output ratio with no social protection scheme for farmers.

Does the government keep the promises made to the farmers?
The problem is that the `problem' hasn't been diagnosed properly.

Is opening up of agriculture trade as per the WTO norms beneficial for the Indian farming community?
Not really, because WTO is not a level playing field. While we have reduced farm subsidies, EU has high subsidies. The farm prices cannot compete.

Can't ground level agriculture be promoted as a lucrative career option for the youngsters? Currently, there are various courses in agriculture and rural development. But all of them aim to produce managers, not farmers. Cannot we encourage our youths to take up farming as a career?
Retailing in farm products, yes! It suits urban lifestyle of the young. Taking up farming as a career. a big NO - so I think.

After the Green Revolution of the 60's and 70's, there are now talks of second similar revolution. Why?
It will be even more disastrous as the focus will be on serving the market'.

India is importing food grains once again. What is or who is responsible for this condition?
Policies of the State! Lal Bahadur Shastri had resigned following a train mishap, when he was the minister incharge during the 60's. Today, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar informs Lok Sabha about 100.000 farmes' suicides and then proceeds to attend the all important BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India, of which he's the current President) meeting. The ethos and values are gone!

Mr Chandrshekhar Shrivastava had conducted this freewheeling interview.

No comments: