Indian agriculture continues to be in troubled waters for the past two-and-a-half decades. The declining state of resources and the decrease of major stakeholders in this profession indicate the gravity of affairs. The crisis among peasants comes should draw attention, given the unabated suicides and continuous migrations to urban centres.
Yielding to political and social pressures, the then Union government appointed National Commission on Farmers (NCF), under the chairmanship of internationally renowned agricultural scientist and principal contributor of Green Revolution in India, Prof MS Swaminathan. The commission submitted five voluminous comprehensive reports between 2004 and 2006.This was commended by all the experts in different fields that aspire to contribute for growth and development of Indian economy.
The recommendations in those reports are centered around protecting the principal stakeholders of food production by assuring reasonably remunerative market prices, expanding modern infrastructure related to agriculture at every level, giving priority to establishing special agricultural zones instead of SEZs in most valuable coastal areas of the country, revitalising public research and extension wings as was done during the Green Revolution era.
They also called for strengthening regulatory bodies to monitor the newly entering transgenics, creating Indian trade organisation (ITO) to protect the interests of local producers, safe-guarding fertile soils and resource belts by not diverting them to non-agriculture purpose, rationalising land relations to conserve family farming that contribute for least green house gases emission etc.
Interestingly, both the central and the state governments lauded the experts’ reports and committed to adopt them on priority. But even after over two years, they could not pay any attention to them. Instead, they frequently talk that they are for the welfare and security of small and marginal farmers. The AP government just announced a special cell for agri growth engines and honoured the expert of NCF, but did not bother to look into the report.
Instead, they proposed to adopt natural farming system. The most apathetic and negative attitude of the Government of AP is evident in apportioning most fertile soil belt for capital construction, that too in the International Year of Soils, for which Prof Swaminathan was a partner of FAO to implement the call in South Asia Recently, MSSRF and Foundation for Agrarian Studies organised a seminar in Chennai with experts on ‘Recommendations of NFC and a ten years balance sheet.’ Prof Swaminathan called for a strong and comprehensive policy support to revitalise agriculture in India that is centered around small and marginal farmers, at least now.
He mentioned that as a Member of Parliament also, he was constantly reminding the policy-makers on this issue. He strongly believes such comprehensive report on agriculture, taking utmost care of principal stakeholders is unique in the world. It is valid even now. In that context, Hannan Mollah, the General Secretary, AIKS, explained at length how several farmers organisations are fighting for implementing at least the NCF recommendations to save the farmers.
He has requested all intellectuals, journalists also to support the cause of farmers in the interest of food security of the country. Prof V K Ramachandran, N Ram, Prof Venkatesh Athreya and many others in the field of social sciences have also underscored the relevance of adoption of the experts’ recommendations by the government to fulfil their commitments. (The writer is Convener, Rythu Rakshana Vedika, Guntur)