Sunday, July 17, 2011


There was a time when every politician was singing the song of rural development day in and day out. Considering that India is an agriculture predominant country, focus had to be on the welfare of the farmers who stay in villages laboring hard to provide food to the whole country. Unfortunately GOI seems to be thinking that providing heavy subsidies to the farmers can take care of all their problems. If the increasing number of farmer suicides taking place in the country is any indication, the country has failed its farmers, failed miserably at that! With economic liberalization, GOI's attention has shifted to big farmers and big businesses, leaving small ones way behind to fend for themselves. To add to the woes fertile agricultural lands are grabbed under the pretext of industrialization, the small and marginal farmers being deprived of their livelihood. A recent report by a credible group on the state of affairs of government services to the farmers must raise alarm bells in the corridors of power at Delhi who must wake up to save the country from hunger and starvation in the coming years.

"The survey included responses of several private sector agri input providers such as Tata Kisan, Vishwas and Hariyali. It also found that 17 per cent of the medium and large farmers hold 52 per cent of the area, have more marketable surplus and are demanding more agri services.The project, titled 'Rural service hubs: Business Catalysts for rural competitiveness', was conducted in Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, during May 2009 to June 2011. Overall, the supply of services was found to be very much short of the growing demand. Except extension services, the study found that the state had retreated from other services. According to PK Joshi, director, IFPRI, this led to glaring shortfalls in the small and medium farmers' access to services. He said there was deterioration in the institutions too, with the old ones still looking with the lenses of 1960s and '70s.In Andhra Pradesh, where the study included six districts, East Godavari and Guntur were found to have best access to agri services followed by
Karimnagar and Nalgonda, while Anantapur and Kurnool lagged behind. CH Hanumantha Rao, honorary professor, CESS, called for monitoring of the slippages in indicators of inclusiveness with more focus than for the overall growth as it would disproportionately weaken the investing and staying capacity in the backward regions. He called for tenancy reforms to improve security of ownership, institutions to strengthen the bargaining power of small and medium farmers, among other steps. Joshi said the faster rise in demand as compared to supply of fruit, vegetables, milk and fish led to inflation, which would have implications for food security. USAID representative Alok S Dasgupta said the American aid agency wanted to know the ground reality to plan its latest five-year programme called Feed the Future, and that the study was useful".

Is it not a pity that the country, on the threshold of launching its 12th Five Year Plan, needed a foreign agency like USAID to tell that agricultural services to the small and medium scale farmers are being systematically downgraded? What is the top heavy NPC, vested with planning, is doing all these years? A clear sign of declining priority for the agricultural sector is manifested by the systematic dismantling of Agro-industries Corporations at the state level which had the designated responsibility to provide farmer services. To day most of them are either languishing with not sufficient funds and personnel or have been liquidated. With Green Revolution having run its course, GOI does not have any clue as to how food production can be augmented adequately to feed the growing population. Probably GOI is on a limbo after being weighed down by scandals after scandals with no time or will power to really govern the country!


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