Only Dead Fish Move With the Flow
Turning Bharat into Andhra Pradesh
DEVINDER SHARMA / Deccan Herald (Bangalore, India) 22apr2005
[More by Devinder Sharma]
New Delhi is pursuing the same policies that wrought havoc on agriculture in Andhra Pradesh
Not drawing any lessons from the agricultural debacle in Andhra Pradesh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has now spelled out the same faulty prescriptions for the entire country. The “reforms for raising farm incomes” that the Congress-led UPA Government endorses is strikingly similar to the faulty Vision 2020 that the former chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, Mr Chandrababu Naidu, had unsuccessfully applied. Mr Naidu was swept out of power by an angry rural protest vote.
Inaugurating recently the two-day Agricultural Summit 2005 at New Delhi, jointly organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Prime Minister called for reversing the declining trend of investment in agriculture. Among the measures he mentioned for stepping up credit flow to farmers was enacting a new seed bill. He also talked of creating a ‘single market’ for agricultural produce and setting up commodities futures markets so as to insure against risks.
His colleague, Mr P Chidambaram, made it abundantly clear that though there existed some differences on issues like privatisation of mandis, opening of retail trade to foreign direct investment and on contract farming, the UPA Government was committed to pushing for more reforms.
Agricultural reforms that are being introduced in the name of increasing food production and minimising the price risks that the farmers continue to be faced with, is actually aimed at destroying the production capacity of the farm lands and would lead to further marginalisation of the farming communities. Encouraging contract farming, futures trading in agriculture commodities, land leasing, forming land-sharing companies, allotment of homestead-cum-garden plots, direct procurement of farm commodities and setting up of special purchase centres will drive out a majority of the 60-crore farmers out of agriculture.
The increased migration from the rural areas into the urban centres will upset all the shocking calculations that have been computed so far. The World Bank had in 1995 estimated that the number of people migrating from the rural to the urban centres in India by the year 2010, which is not far away now, would be equal to twice the combined population of the UK, France and Germany.
With the outlines of the second Green Revolution that were unfurled last week, New Delhi seems determined to compound the socio-economic chaos. The migration from the rural areas is sure to multiply several times in the years to come thereby creating an unprecedented political crisis.
In a country where 80 per cent of the farmers own less than two hectares of land, and only five per cent farmers have more than four hectares, the biggest challenge is to ensure how agriculture can be made more attractive for these small and marginal farmers. At the same time, in the green revolution areas, comprising Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, parts of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, agriculture faces a severe crisis in sustainability from the second-generation environmental impacts. Intensive farming has destroyed the ability of the lands to produce enough food, and the mining of ground water has pushed the water table to a precarious level. The green revolution has already turned sour.
As a result, Punjab and Haryana are fast heading towards desertification — a process that leads to the inability of the lands to sustain the production levels achieved at the height of the green revolution era. Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka on the other hand have been witness to a spiral death dance.
Although the land holding size is diminishing, the answer does not lie in allowing the private companies to move in by way of contract farming. Private companies enter agriculture with the specific objective of garnering more profits from the same piece of land. These companies, if the global experience is any indication, bank upon still more intensive farming practices, drain the soil of nutrients and suck ground water in a couple of years, and render the fertile lands almost barren after four to five years. The once fertile and verdant landscape will fast turn grey. These companies would then hand over the barren and unproductive land to the farmers who leased them, and would move to another fertile piece of land.
Andhra Pradesh has witnessed the environmental devastation as a result of this intensive farming systems, which destroyed the natural resource base of agriculture — soil gasping for breath, groundwater mined to unsustainable limits and pesticides contaminating the environment — thousands of farmers took the fatal route to escape the humiliation that comes along with increasing indebtedness. The resulting political backlash threw out Chandrababu Naidu’s government, and the World Bank then acknowledged belatedly that Mr Naidu’s rural reforms were not in tune with the ground realities.
Interestingly, while the Congress government in Andhra is trying to mitigate the unprecedented farm calamity and reverse the crisis created by the over-emphasis on agribusiness, the UPA government is blindly aping the World Bank model for agriculture growth. While the “reforms for raising farm incomes” aims at pumping in huge public finances to push in an industry-driven agriculture, it is not being accepted that the same model has already failed miserably in Andhra Pradesh.
The Government is only trying to make it smoother for the industry to move into agriculture. It is fast extending the reforms that played havoc with rural Andhra Pradesh to the entire country. In reality, Bharat Desh will soon become an enlarged Andhra Pradesh.
source: http://www.deccanherald.com/deccanherald/apr222005/editpage1548262005421.asp 22apr2005