India is not ready for corporatization of farming

Devsagar Singh

New Delhi,  Nov 21: India is not ready for corporatization of  farming, the Narendra Modi Government has learnt it the hard way. In the name  of reforms in agri sector, the Government took hasty decision to push through the three contentious laws. It came to grief. The Manmohan Singh-led UPA government desisted from doing  it despite ten years of its rule. None can claim to be greater reformer than Dr Singh who , indeed, was the architect of reforms as Finance Minister under progressive late Narasimha Rao as Prime Minister(1991-96).

         So where did Modi make mistake? He blundered by making haste in rushing through the three farm laws  in utter disregard to Opposition advice that the bills be referred to the standing committee of Parliament. Some saner elements in his own party , BJP, are said to have been in agreement with the Opposition, but they mustered no courage to speak up even in the internal party forums like its parliamentary wing where legislative items routinely come in for discussions. The general refrain in the ruling party is that the Prime Minister does not like to hear dissenting voices even if they come in cloistered discussions.

             Farmer leader Rakesh Tikait, national spokesperson for the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) which spearheaded  the agitation against the three laws,  has now  rightly demanded that the minimum support price (MSP) be made statutory for all major produce of the farmers through legislation in Parliament. Farmers are the worst lot in the country. Barring a miniscule few , most of them are living in hardship. The Rs 6000 annual grant to small and marginal farmers under PM Kisan is  a pittance and a cruel joke on them.

            In the absence of a statutory MSP, poor farmers are compelled to sell their produce like paddy, wheat and other subsidiary crops below cost prices to meet their daily needs. The existing MSP is  a misnomer. It helps only well-to-do and organized farmers like those from Punjab, Haryana and parts of Western UP. The farmers in far flung, interior areas derive no benefit . They sell in local markets where they hardly get remunerative rates.

           The intent of the three repealed laws may not be suspect. The timing was not appropriate. Indian farmers are not ready for such a leap. If only Modi  had lived as a farmer, he could have understood their plight better. They need to be helped and supported till such time their living conditions improve. It is foolhardy  to think of corporatizing Indian farming now. The Westminster model international institutions like the World Bank  and the IMF have little knowledge about farm practices in India and the true condition of  the farming community. They cannot dictate Indian policy makers.

                 Modi may have his ideas on reforms in the farm sector. But he cannot  ride rough shod. He must listen to the farmers. That good sense prevailed at long last is welcome. It is time now to introspect and take steps to ameliorate the condition of farmers by policy initiatives in the short and long run.

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