I have never given much importance to the B P Pal Memorial lecture that is held routinely at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) in New Delhi. Of late it has become a boring exercise with retired scientists from the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) being invited, who in their talks tow the same official line that has failed the country's farmers.
Reading the coverage of this year's lecture, delivered by economist Dr Abhijit Sen, who is with the Planning Commission, I was not only pleasantly surprised but delighted. After long, I find someone having the courage to tell agricultural scientists that "there are many achievements that the ICAR can be proud of, yet things don't add up."
I missed the lecture. But what I read in today's newspapers gives me an idea of how elaborate the presentation must have been. The problem with ICAR is basically the mindset the scientists carry. The entire education system, designed on the land grant pattern borrowed from the US, is not only faulty but completely out of sinc with the realities prevailing in this country. This is where the problems begin, and unless the top brass of agricultural sciences make a sincere effort to revisit the farm education system I don't see much hope.
These agricultural scientists will always refuse to accept they are at fault or that there is anything wrong in what they are doing. I am therefore glad that Abhijit Sen was able to show them a bit of the mirror. As he said: "Unless farm sector delivers incomes to farmers, growth will not be inclusive."
In another news report (in the same newspaper), the headline says it all: Let down by agriculture, villagers counting on steel prosperity. The news report is datelined Kulpeni in West Bengal where a Rs 10,000 million steel plant is likely to come up. Not only in West Bengal, farmers everywhere in the country have been let down by agriculture. The challenge for agricultural scientists therefore is to measure up to this desperate call from the farm, and shift focus from technology-oriented focus on crop varieties to integrate farming systems in a sustainable and economically viable manner.
This is where agricultural scientists have failed. This is where even the Planning Commission has failed. They are so obsessed with figures like 4 per cent growth in agriculture that they have simply ignored the human factor, the plight of the farming class. At a time when the entire focus should be to ensure how to raise farm incomes, Planning Commission is mired in this stupid exercise of 4 per cent growth in agriculture.
Even if agricultural growth rises to 6 per cent (it can this year, because 2009 was a drought year) it does not mean that there will be something for the farmers to cheer. Yes, of course the Planning Commission will make us believe that because of growth in agriculture, all is well on the farm. Nothing but a fallacy, which the illiterate media of India will play up.
Another report in The Economic Times (ET, May 28): "Factories set to better farm nos" says as per the advance estimates of GDP growth in2009-10 released by the Central Statistical Organisation in February, the manufacturing sector was expected to overtake agriculture. manufacturing sector contributed Rs 7,07,512 crore to the economy, overtaking the Rs 6,49,370 crore from agriculture, forestry and fishing.
Let me at the outset say that the GDP estimates are done in such a manner that it does not reflect the positive contribution to the economy from agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Take for instance the forest sector. The trees that are standing today are worth three times the country's GDP. Unless they are cut down, it does not add on to GDP numbers. So what are we measuring?
GDP is not an indication of growth, but depletion of resources.
This is a very clever way of hoodwinking the nation to believe that the economy is on the right path. It is a highly biased analysis, and does not reflect on the true wealth that the country has. Therefore do not be enamoured by the GDP figures.
This means that in the days to come, economists, policy maker and the industry lobbying groups -- FICCI, CII, ASSOCHAM and the Business TV Channels/news papers -- will find a justification to encourage industry at the cost of agriculture. We will see agriculture coming under more stress in the near future. Inclusive growth will remain another buzzword, remaining confined to the official press releases.
Here is the news report: "Unless farm sector delivers incomes to farmers, growth will not be inclusive" from The Hindu.