We often hear that every disaster provides an immense opportunity. Opportunity, for whom? It is invariably an opportunity for business. The more the sale of industrial products, more is the contribution to the economy, and therefore more is the GDP. What happens to human beings and the environment in the process is not any one's concern.
I wasn't therefore surprised to read a news report today: US gun lobby says firm 'no' to gun control (Indian Express, Dec 25, 2012. http://bit.ly/Y8sjIF). After all, how can the gun industry in the US be held responsible for the frequent children massacre being witnessed? Instead of curbing gun sales, shouldn't the US government appoint more policemen around schools and if need be around each home? Well, that's the way industrial lobbies work, and we shouldn't forget America is the land of lobbies.
In India, we are fast catching up. The continuing agrarian crisis, which has taken a heavy human toll with 290,470 deaths reported from suicides in past 15 years, provides a huge market for selling
machines. Somehow the feeling is that more machines you sell, more sanity would prevail on the farm. Agriculture is being viewed as a machine-deficit sector, and more the machines sell more will be the reduction in farmer suicides. At least, this is what is visible from the way State Governments are aggressively promoting machines for the trouble-torn farming sector employing 57 per cent of the country's workforce.
Take Punjab, the country's food bowl. At a time when two farmers are committing suicide ever day, and indebtedness is growing with every passing year, 20,000 big tractors are being sold every year. These tractors are now of 90-105
horse power range, which is beyond any economic rationale. After all, in a State where the average land holding size is less than two hectares what is the need to promote such huge tractors (reminiscent of the Soviet Union era)? Moreover, every second farm household in Punjab already owns a tractor. Once the symbol of pride, tractor has already
become a symbol of suicide. And still, the Punjab government is aggressively promoting tractors.
In neighbouring Haryana, more farm implements are being pushed. I agree there is a shortage of farm labour, but will the sales of all kinds of machines take out farmers from the crisis? Why can't the Haryana Farmers Commission instead urge the formation of cooperative societies which help in leasing farm implements to farmers? I suggest setting up farmer cooperative societies rather than setting up another State agency. But then, this will be opposed by the agribusiness industry just like the gun industry in US is opposed to any move to curb the gun sales.
The subsidy for land leveller has been
increased from Rs 50,000 to Rs 75,000; on multiple crop planter from Rs
10,000 to Rs 20,000; on happy seeder from Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000; on
straw reaper from Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 and on zero till machine from
Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000. Haryana Chief Minister said yesterday that funds for modernisation of
agriculture have also been raised from Rs 1-cr to Rs 3-cr. So if you
have something to sell in the name of helping farmers, you too can make a
lot of money. Rush to Punjab and Haryana (and the rest of the country too will gradually pick up from these two frontline farming States) and sell whatever you can in the name of helping farmers. Lobbying by the agribusiness industry has helped dole out subsidies making the machines cheaper to buy. What happens to farmers (and the destruction wrought on the natural resource base) in the process should not be your concern. After all, this is how business operates.