Fund for important agricultural commodities the way we have it for petroleum. We do have a Price Stabilisation Fund in the case of petroleum. The State kicks in when the price becomes unbearable and withdraws when it stabilises.
Almost every major farm union in this country has supported report from National Commission on Farmers regardless of party – whether it is the Congress or the Communist or the BJP or the Dravidian parties. Across the political spectrum, people have supported the recommendations of the NCF. Then, what prevents us from moving ahead on at least the major recommendations?
It is time for the government to rise above the cheep political tricks they have been playing to attract the votes of the farmers and take steps that are in-lined with the recommendations of the pioneers in the country. They may take time to show result but the most major thing they demand is the commitment to resolve this crisis.
There is a rule, a law in this country that 1 per cent of all loans (at 4 per cent interest only) have to go to the poorest of the poor. Over the last 10 years, we have not even fulfilled that one per cent, according to the bank unions of this country. The industry wide average is 0.25 per cent! We could do a five-year credit cycle. You can give the farmer a loan over a five-year cycle instead of making him go back on his knees to the corrupt bank manager every six months, every season. In five years, you will have two good years, two bad years and one neutral year. So you might manage.
We have given no protection to the farmers against dumping and the Western subsidies. The government must take decisions that are in the interest of farmers above all other groups. After all 600 million Indians still rely upon it.
We have not sought the revival of the agricultural universities as the National Commission has appealed for. Rather than have them as centres for technology development for the companies, they should be aligned to satisfy the direct needs of the farmer.
Change Mindset towards Agriculture
- First, do not treat agriculture as a headache or a cancer. It is not. It is central to the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people. We have to approach it with reverence for what it represents.
- Second, declare agriculture as a public service and treat it as such. Those who work in agriculture, they lose out a lot. Average incomes in agriculture are much lower than any other sector. Let them be compensated for the food they put on our table. They lose out a lot. Those remaining in the sector should be compensated by society.
- Third, let us end the hypocrisy of subsidies. There is no part on the globe where agriculture exists without State subsidies, without State intervention. In fact, the richer the country, the greater the subsidies -- but they are not going to the farmers -- they are going to the corporations. What we give our farmers does not even qualify for subsidy but as pathetic life supports. Let us not remove them. Let us honour those who put food on our table.