Of Agri-Culture! - X
   Date :22-Jan-2022

Of Agri-Culture
“Nothing short of an agricultural renaissance and an evergreen revolution with nutrition as the main component can make us realize this ambitious goal. Nourishing the 815 million people who are hungry today and many millions of children who are stunted due to malnutrition are real challenges before all of us.
- Mr. M. Venkaiah Naidu,Vice President of India, while honouring the legendary Dr. M.S. Swaminathan.
BY NO standard has India achieved this lofty goal -- which was why the Vice President felt compelled to make it a point to state it once again. He was actually pointing -- directly or indirectly -- to a national failure to attain the goal of providing nutrition to every Indian child so that his or her growth is not stunted on account of starvation or under-nourishment. The statement may also be interpreted as Mr. Venkaiah Naidu’s comment on the failure of Indian agriculture, though he might not have said so in so many words. His observation deserves a serious attention, to say the least.
For the past nine weeks, this scribe has tried to bring to expand the concept of how India failed to address the issue of agri-culture -- meaning that while some scant attention was provided to farming, the culture of rural India woven around farming was ignored. This is the last episode of the series with an earnest hope that the powers that be will take a due cognisance of the concept and start paying appropriate attention to the issue of rural culture in which farming was a central part supported by entire socio-economic ecosystem.
It is necessary to state again and again because agriculture became a non-profitable enterprise, good numbers of people in average Indian villages started moving away from their homes, leaving the villages bereft of all the glamour that was so endearingly associated with that life for countless centuries on end. This rural outflux was never interpreted seriously by powers that be.
That has been the real problem. The people in power or heading the country’s planning process also associated the rural outflux with rural poverty, but never felt compelled to identify the hidden reasons behind the ever-declining economy of the villages. Only superficial solutions were talked about, but even those were hardly implemented. Only political lip-service, too, was offered in massive doses, but nothing concrete emerged from it. Agriculture colleges and universities were opened by the dozen, but most of their products turned out to be babus who wanted white collar jobs and never wanted to step onto farms and soil their clothes in the soil and mud -- despite the fact that all of them were selected to join agriculture colleges or universities only because their were certified as farmers’ children.
And even as the country started noticing this strange phenomenon, it also realised that life of farms were getting increasingly steeped into poverty. Despite a lot of hue and cry, despite movements like the ones run by farmer-leaders such as Mr. Mahendra Singh Tikait or Mr. Sharad Joshi (who gave up his United Nations job to lead the farmers’ agitation), the nation as a whole just did not bother much about this degradation of agri-culture.
The result was obvious -- farmers’ suicides in massive numbers; and emptying out of villages due to unsustainable life. Yet, the planners and national leaders did not have the time and inclination to sit down and understand the problem in all its dimensions.
In this series, all this has been said again and again in different ways. The main premise of the series was that in Mahatma Gandhi’s India, the Governments allowed a terrible mess of the rural sector -- as a result of which the farms collapsed and village economy so wonderfully woven into village-culture got destroyed.
And, there, in haloed corridors of power, no one even grimaced, no one even felt a pang of sympathy, no one even lost a meal or sleep.
There is little doubt that this is a massive, massive, massive national failure -- no matter what different committees may have said from time to time. Those were committee formed by the Government and headed by experts. This happened with clock-like regularity. Yet, nothing concrete emerged. Nothing substantial was offered as a solution.
And that happened because the country’s planners followed an altogether wrong brand of developmental ideation.
This hurts deep down. This makes one feel sick with frustration that the country did not produce one sane head that had the courage to upend the nonsensical approach to rural planning and dare the people in corridors of power.
As a child, this scribe visited agricultural farms that belonged to his father’s friends, and spent days there. Impressed by that life-style more than sixty years ago, he nursed secretly a dream of becoming a farmer. But with passage of time, his father advised him to see sense and turn attention to something else. So, a teenage boy gave up his idea of becoming a farmer. Years later, the father said, in half disgust, that he knew that the Government was just messing up with villages.
How things went from bad to worse to worst in less than a decade from that point!
How to decipher this ugly metaphor: Whether the scribe’s father was correct in his negative prophecy; or whether the planners were wedded to the cause of messing up with the socio-economic culture woven around farming in average Indian villages!
There still are many successful farmers, but they only carry a symbolic value -- since the majority of farmers keep suffering from poverty whose solution at least they do not have. What the country needs at this stage should be “Nothing short of an agricultural renaissance and an evergreen revolution ...” as Vice President Mr. Venkaiah Naidu insists upon. The country needs an upside down view of its agri-culture.
Is anybody listening?