A farmer sprays pesticide, Larvaene, in a soybean field without any protection gear -- photo: Mahim P Singh/Hindu
Nowadays, you see a number of columnists with the English dailies commenting on the prevailing drought situation. Since they have been provided space by a newspaper, they feel it is their moral right to comment on anything that is topical and therefore they end up suggesting a way out of the continuing agrarian distress. I am not only amazed but shocked to read their analysis, much of it bordering on stupidity. I don't know why do people have to give their views on something they don't know anything about. By doing so, they actually compound the problem. Their views, howsoever idiotic they are, actually go on to build popular notions, which is dangerous indeed for the nation.
Having said that, I came across a very interesting and meaningful report in The Hindu today entitled: Jhabua on its way to becoming Vidharba-II. It is probably for the first time (as long as I can remember) that a journalist has actually produced a report which goes beyond the usual rhetoric. Mahim Pratap Singh, the reporter deserves all the compliments for understanding the complexities of the agrarian crisis, and based on his clear grasp of the political economy, brought before us a true picture of the Jhabua region in Madhya Pradesh. Probably the report is outstanding because it appears Mahim Pratap Singh is not an arm-chair columnist, and has made the effort to travel and spend time in the villages of Jhabua region.
This report needs to be read by all columnists and editors. Then only they can understand as to what is going wrong with agriculture. Notwithstanding the contingency plans that the government talks about (more at times of a drought), the fact remains that the agrarian crisis in India is permanent. The basic reason for the continuing distress on the farm is very aptly described by the reporter in the blurb itself: With shift to a high-input cash cropping system, the debt process bears an uncanny resemblence to the 'catastrophe'.
This is very true. Farmer suicides are happening in places where cash crops have picked up in recent years. They have been deliberately pushed into a chakravyuah (a vicious trap) laid out in the name of intensive farming. Instead of pulling them out of the chakravyuah, agricultural scientists and the agribusiness industry is busy pushing them still deeper and deeper into the death trap by asking them to shift to hybrids and GM crops like Bt cotton. The agribusiness industry, and that includes seed, fertiliser and pesticides companies in addition to the tractor manufacturers -- are busy fleecing farmers in name of higher productivity.
As a child I remember I used to go to religious places, and would spend some time listening to the song: Ram naam ki loot hai loot sake to loot. While no one sings it anymore, I find the agribusiness industry (including the biotech companies) putting it to practical use: Kisan naam ki loot hai loot sake to loot...
Meanwhile here are some excerpts from the news report: The agricultural apparatus in Jhabua is choking under the same processes that led to the ‘Vidarbha catastrophe.’
These include a shift from pulses, coarse grain and oilseed dominated organic and semi-organic farming to a high-input cash cropping system, a vicious debt-cycle with a simultaneous decline in cattle population and an agricultural landscape dotted with Bt cotton crop.
Add to this, “a good drought” looming large and the result will mean small and marginal farmers running short of options in the event of a crop failure.
Read the full report at: http://www.hindu.com/2009/08/25/stories/2009082554841400.htm