Hot News

The ‘Farming-Challenge’

The ‘Farming-Challenge’

As the largest recipient of its loans, according to the lending reports of the World Bank, it is quite obvious that the international financial institution exerts a considerable hold on the economic affairs of the country, which further implies that India will now be compelled to tread a path that serves the interest of the US.

An article describing the agrarian crisis that has India in its throes quotes a recent report in ‘The Guardian’: “The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agriculture and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains.”

It goes to narrate the drive to entrench industrial farming, commercialize the countryside and replace small-scale farming, the backbone of food production in India.

The spurt in suicides by farmers in India has been garnering headlines in the past few decades. Their plight remains a matter of utmost concern, but sadly continues to be an issue that has been denied a veritable solution by successive governments. An equal number having experienced economic distress have quit farming.

“For all the discussion in India about loan waivers for farmers and raising income levels, this does not address the core of the problem affecting agriculture.”

While there are talks about India becoming food-secure and self-sufficient, the evasive actions taken by the government in ‘denying’ the farming community its dues do raise serious queries.

Come elections, the manner in which political parties wax eloquent about the importance of agriculture in Indian economy to garner invaluable rural votes cannot be termed anything but disgusting. But then, politics in India has always been about raising unresolved issues and using them as poll planks to appeal to the voters.

Farmers’ suicides will continue to stigmatize an insensitive nation that just refuses to understand the problems of the farmers. While a lot many reasons have been proffered for the ‘menace’ of suicide that has been visiting the farming community with a ‘promptness’ that is frightening, it is the ‘alacrity’ with which the government has been side-stepping the issue of bettering the cause of the farmers that is quite disturbing.

It is only when some resourceful individual with ingenious ideas comes to the forefront to understand and help improve the condition of the farmers that one could say that efforts in this direction have begun in right earnest.

Although I have tried to understand farming from the Goan perspective, it has been rather difficult for me to comprehend issues that have forced the locals to forsake agricultural activities and think about ways to get rid of their farmlands.

Hence when a youngster - the young and dynamic Sarpanch of Aquem-Baixo, a village panchayat in South Goa - decided to raise cudgels on behalf of the farmers and was sincere enough in his efforts to highlight the predicament of the farming community in the state in his own unique way, the results were electrifying.

His comments that the elected representatives needed to promote farming in a big way, more so as agriculture could be taken on as a major occupation with the mining ‘embargo’ in the state having severely affected the economy, deserves a serious thought.

It is indeed unfortunate that a state with enough cultivable land has to depend on neighbouring states to ‘import’ fruits and vegetables. The fondness shown by Goans for the locally grown variety - the ‘Gavti’ range- should have been an encouraging factor to promote agriculture in a big way in the state. But alas!

Barring an enterprising few who have realized the true potential of farming, the locals are yet to grasp the ‘economics of agriculture’ in its totality.

Under-utilization of agricultural tracts in the state has its own stories to narrate. It is all the more despairing to know that the local youth too have been shunning farming as a vocation.

With the steep rise in labour costs putting paid to the aspirations of many land-holders who would have otherwise willingly opted for farming as a revenue-generating venture, locals are seen restricting their farming activities only to grow enough produce for the families.

The state government should have by now realized the limitations of putting over-emphasis on industrialization as a means to attain higher per capita real income.

It is observed that increased agricultural output and productivity tend to contribute substantially to an overall economic development. The industrial and agricultural developments are not alternatives but are complementary with respect to both inputs and outputs.

How justified is the claim that one fourth of its population is sustained by agriculture in Goa? Agriculture has never been a source of income for the state. It is no secret that due to rapid urbanization the availability of agricultural land is reducing. Barring a few tracts of agricultural land in the state that uses water supplied through canals, a major percentage of the land is still rain-fed.

With the exception of a few innovative who devised ingenious farming methods to increase their yields, traditional farming in Goa has always cried for attention.

Moreover, the Chief of the Water Resources Department in Goa way back in 2013 had mentioned that the state’s fertile ‘Khazan’ lands have the potential to become a food bowl for people for years to come if the lands are managed properly and old technology is blended with the new to evolve efficient mechanisms to manage the centuries-old system.

The very fact that nothing impressive has happened along these lines even after so many years speaks for the indolence that has gripped the concerned government departments.

If not for the lack of a political will, Goa has every potential to grow as a hub of agricultural activities. By throwing down the gauntlet on the farming issue, the Sarpanch has only touched on one aspect of agriculture.

However, it remains to be seen whether the challenge has been taken in right earnest by the political leaders in the state. For, it was not at all amusing to have some of the legislators having a ‘recreation’ of sorts in the fields tom-toming their ‘Goemkarponn’ credentials as they took on the ‘farming’ challenge.

If the political class had been all that serious about agriculture in the state, Goa wouldn’t have had its ‘green-belts’ disappearing at an alarming regularity.

(Published on 16th July 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 29)