Either the country does not know the answer to all these troubling questions, or it knows the answers but does not have the courage to rise above the temptation of consumerist and corporate culture in which individual farmer has no space.
It must be stated that agriculture education has failed miserably because it does not motivate young people to take to agriculture as life’s profession and advocation.
Union Minister of State for Agriculture Kailash Choudhary, on Thursday,said that there was a need to get rid of the description that “farmer means poor’” as this kind of “misconception” is discouraging youth from pursuing agriculture as a profession.
SUCH cosmetic talk has often affected the national narrative on agriculture or farmers. In sum total, all such talk boils down to slogan-mongering which actually means nothing in particular. If responsible persons such as ministers and farmer-leaders indulge in such hollow statements, then nothing concrete can ever be achieved. This has been the direction of the national narrative in the past seven decades about agriculture or farmers, so to say. And this is where is hidden the actual reason why Indian agriculture has become a failed sector.
This is, of course, a rather harsh judgement, but the factuality in it just cannot be ducked. As a nation, as a larger society, we have only paid lip service to agriculture while thousands of farmers have kept committing suicides as a regular phenomenon. Though the political community in the country has stood divided on the issue as per expediency of being in Government or in Opposition, the narrative has remained more or less unchanged. And that is the actual trouble, for which no remedy has been sought so far by anybody.
How can we just erase the larger perception that farmers are poor without actually doing anything in that regard? How can we just stop using the description and fake a picture of prosperity when Indian agriculture is a tottering sector? And in sharp contrast, how can we overlook another unhappy reality that the country has often patted its own back as being self-sufficient in foodgrains when farmers as a section of the society has reeled under poverty and ignorance and terrible national neglect?
To those who have always manipulated details will feel that such questions are not just naive but also stupid. But every common Indian has these questions simmering in the head and heart -- about large imports of food-grains, about large numbers of farmers’ suicides, about the obscene rural poverty, about the terrible neglect of village-based traditional industry in which rural artisans found happy and prosperous professions.
There are quite many other questions as well: One, how can an individual farmer do well when the economist of the country are confused about treating agriculture as a matter of traditional mix of farming and culture, or as a modern industry in which corporate farming is a new fashionable concept? Two, how can the rural youth continue sticking to villages when those place do not afford them any opportunity of growth -- as against the cities where they do find some employment (though of a base level)?
There are other concerns too, like the current belief that small farm-holdings make no sense. There are good examples in the country where successful experiments have proved that a small farmer-family can subsist with dignity and enough earning even on small plots of land if traditional methods of farming are followed to the hilt.
Of course, agricultural science has scored many advances in the past century. Crops are almost always high-yielding and fast-growing. Fertilisers and pesticides, too, are available, though at an astronomical pricing, market mandis also are doing a roaring business.
Yet, the farmer is in a continued distress, no matter the politically-driven exhibitions and shows and rallies. Villages are going drier every passing year. Young people from rural communities are rushing to cities and farming is suffering greatly besides the decline in the quality of rural culture. Why does this happen despite all so-called advances? Why is Indian agriculture has been sliding down the prosperity ladder all these years?
There are two possibilities: Either the country does not know the answer to all these troubling questions, or it knows the answers but does not have the courage to rise above the temptation of consumerist and corporate culture in which individual farmer has no space -- and therefore no respect.
Even at the cost of repetition, it must be stated that agriculture education has failed miserably because it does not motivate young people to take to agriculture as life’s profession and advocation. Some agricultural graduates do gravitate back to farming, but their number is abysmally small. Most seek jobs and somehow lose connect with agri-culture. This problem has been brought up in public discourse time and again, but only to be brushed aside by wizards of politics and commercial interests.
True, agricultural science has evolved over time. But there also is another reality that the soil has been steadily losing its vitality, virtuosity, virility -- just because we lost a sense of proportion about the use of fertilisers and pesticides. We do have great yields for sometime, and then the those start declining, pushing us to add fuller dosage of chemicals and fertilisers -- and destroy the soil all the more.
And this is not being written out of a bias; this is being written on the basis of a lot of research work by many people. And when such facts emerge in public domain, the so-called experts look the other way, as if unwilling to face the ugly reality of their making. And when farming becomes such a terrible proposition of multiple dimensions, young people in villages turn away from agriculture, desert their homes and communities, and rush away in search of any job that is not even half as good as the ones on agricultural farms.
How does the Government intend to face this issue? Does it really have a genuine blue-print to sort out the ugly problem? At this moment, it appears that we are staring at a problem without a solution.
Is that really so?