We need to thank our agriculture scientists once for all for what they have done for the country’s agriculture. Many of them have already retired, and are unnecessarily being drawn in again and again as chairman or members or for consultations for the new programmes and projects. It is time we let them retire gracefully. There is no need to recall them. If they were so good, India wouldn’t have been faced with an agrarian crisis of such a grave magnitude.
In a few weeks time, the government is likely to come up with a National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture. The proposed Rs 83,000-crore project (I hope my figures are correct) is to be introduced in 100 districts across the country, and will operate for five years. Read the document carefully and you find that it follows the same beaten track. It uses the right kind of language, and under the garb of sustainable agriculture new technologies and machinery is getting ready to be introduced.
Take dryland farming, which constitutes more than 60 per cent of the country’s cultivable lands, the strategy that has been spelled out has been repeated again and again ever since the subject was accorded top priority in Mrs Indira Gandhi’s 20-point programme. I find the National Action Plan on Climate Change that is being prepared under the direction of the Prime Ministers Office too following a flawed approach. I am appaled to learn that in the last meeting called by the PMO it was stressed that the GM technologies are the only answer for the drylands, and in fact it was suggested that we don't even need to reinvent the wheel, we simply need to import these GM crops (and also nanotechnology).
The agriculture section of the National Action Plan on Climate Change is more or less a useless component. It will only add on to climate change. But do you think it will be changed? No, it has been dressed up in an appropriate language, and promotes the commercial interests of the agribusiness companies. So who cares for farmers and the environment destruction that it will bring in?
Coming back to the proposed National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture, Rs 54,000-crore is proposed to be allocated for dryland agriculture. A careful perusal tells you that the emphasis again is on introduction of sophisticated technologies and genetically modified crops. In other words, the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture is merely a facilitating process for the large-scale introduction of genetically modified crops and balanced use of chemical fertilisers. At a time when world over there is an increasing realisation that chemical farming has destroyed soil health and in turn devastated agriculture, how does India’s planners hope to resurrect agriculture by applying faulty technologies and imported concepts of sustainable farming.
The sub-committee that has prepared the approach paper for the National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture is dominated by people who were actually part of the system that turned agriculture completely unsustainable in the past 40 years of Green Revolution. The agriculture part of the 11-Plan document too has been written by experts who were largely responsible for the agrarian crisis that we witness today. Karnataka's Agricultural Mission too is headed by a person who was part of the same faulty system. Punjab's Farmers Commission or for that matter several State Farmers Commissions are chaired by scientists who were part of the system that pushed agriculture into a terrible crisis. I fail to understand how you can expect people who were responsible for the crisis to provide the right solutions. If they were so good, India wouldn’t have been faced with an agrarian crisis of such a grave magnitude.
Why can’t we thank these experts once for all for what they have done to the country’s agriculture? Now don’t get me wrong. Many of them have already retired, and are unnecessarily being drawn in again and again as chairman or members or for consultations for the new programmes and projects. I find them in various committees, commissions and of course form part of the national consultations that agribusiness companies and foreign institutes/universities are regularly holding to promote their own set of technologies. This is certainly not what the country needs.
The proposed National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture will therefore only deepen the crisis.
What we urgently require is a change in mindset, a change in approach and a willingness to listen to the farmers and NGOs who are working relentlessly towards regenerating agriculture. Why this is not happening is because you and I, I repeat YOU and I, accept these faulty decisions without saying a word. We are overawed by the designations of these scientists and policy makers, and so we keep quiet. It is time you stood up, raised your voice, demand correction and if possible over-hauling of such useless plans and programmes. You should ask also for a change in the composition of these committees.
As long as you remain quiet, believe me it will be business as usual.
(I draw your attention to my article today in Deccan Herald: Agricultural Reforms: On the Wrong Track . Part of it had appeared in this blog earlier. but still, it provides a linkage to the issue we are discussing. http://www.deccanherald.com/Content/Mar112009/editpage20090310123264.asp)