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The Indian #farmer is very small in size compared to developed countries—tens of acres vs thousands of acres—so the parameters of ‘free market’ cannot be applied to him equally. For eg., unless there are village link roads like in Punjab, a farmer cannot even transport his produce to a mandi 30 km away. So even small arhtiyas (commission agents) can exploit them, what to talk of corporates such as Adani.

Moreover, nowhere in the world is #agriculture free of subsidies. Because even as these subsidies are paid to the farmer, in reality they are #food #subsidy for the entire #consumer base. (Without profit, the size of the farmer also becomes irrelevant, because the loss also gets multiplied by the size of the land holding.)

The point here is that farming—and farmer—both need help from the government. Ideal help would be in the form of providing suitable plant material (which requires research for each agro-climatic zone), introducing relevant cultivation practices, and making available the machinery and equipment along with finance on reasonable terms for it. Once the produce is ready, it needs help in the form of a market and access to it – Warehousing and transportation.

None of this can be worked out instantly. It takes decades of sustained policy and effort. Govts—sates included—after the initial initiative of Green Revolution, became lazy once the crisis of famines was overcome.

The consequences were different in various parts and states of the country—seen in the environment, economy, health, politics, society. And the situation was constantly changing, and continues to be changing. The redress, therefore, too has to be dynamic. There is no one-time one-solution-fits-all policy possible.

The government in 2021 tried to pass on the responsibility of providing help to the corporate sector through the farm laws. But those were rightly rejected by the farmer—simply because (all would agree) the only motive corporates have is profit. Farmer’s well being, environmental degradation, consumer’s affordability, consumer health, long term food security are none of their concerns. They will promote whatever is produced most efficiently in India, and import the rest from the cheapest source available anywhere in the world (eg. oilseeds). Consequences of such an arrangement are already seen in the US, where the working class is overweight and unhealthy, living on refined wheat flour (bread), sugar (Coke), and South American oranges (packed juice), all of which are relatively cheap, and everything else very expensive (not going into American details).

On the other hand, govts—if they are not lazy— can develop policies that are tailor-made for Indian and regional requirements, keeping a balance between all stakeholders in mind, ie, #farmer, #trader, #consumer, and the government’s own revenue.

As things stand today, the devious farm laws are out, and the mess in agriculture created over decades has come to a head vis-à-vis all stakeholders, govt included. What the Central govt is trying now (under pressure) is overnight policy-making—when it had been two full years since the withdrawal of farm laws. No good can come of such an exercise. Even accepting the demand for #MSP is not going to solve all problems, because it is only one instrument of intervention, when many others are equally required.

So what is the solution? The answer is give MSP as an immediate measure. Thereafter make policies and start helping farmers in implementing all the ‘gyan’ that everyone is giving them to diversify, etc. There can be no shortcuts, it’s a long hard road. But it has to be travelled because 60% of the population still depends on agriculture financially, and 100% depends on it for nutrition and health.

Bringing nationalism, regionalism, or religion into this is not going to help anyone.

May calm and good sense prevail all around.

About the author:
Kuljit Bains

Kuljit Bains Kuljit Bains is a retired journalist and trainee mid-size farmer. He is a prolific writer with expertise in a variety of fields.

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