Indian Agriculture Going through Main Technological Challenges In Current Decade
Indian Agriculture Facing Major Technological Challenges In Present Decade
Dr BK Kango
When India became independent in 1947, the debate was about the vision the country was going to have. The options that were to be followed were few. Struggle for socialism was an obvious and continuing factor, uniting with the non-monopoly section of the bourgeoisie. With the growing availability of developed technology, there was the possibility of industrialization offering jobs to a larger number of people. The other option was development through state sector, that too offered jobs but ownership remained in the hands of state.
As the vision of future was based on the available technology, possibilities were there to have the corporate sector grow prominently and throw up the question of who would be the prime employer, state or private sector.
In this background the left and their kisan organizations fought for land to the tiller to end the feudal relations. The process of redistribution of land was also initiated to end the system of middlemen. The questions like remunerative prices were rarely raised. Only exception was cotton monopoly scheme of Maharashtra state, where MSP was assured by government along with sole monopoly of purchase of cotton.
However, the famine of 1967 and subsequent struggles and new technology induced new changes in agricultural sector.
The implementation of the idea of self-sufficiency in food grains, through green revolution assisted by hybrid seeds and bank nationalization along with public distribution system, created a new situation. Increased in irrigation facilities in plain lands of Punjab, Haryana, West Uttar Pradesh, the productivity of wheat, paddy etc. increased and this was partly due to new technology of hybrid crops with assured prices and purchase by government for public distribution system.
This created a section of influential lobby among farmers with rise of leaders like Charan Singh, Devi Lal and several others in national and state politics. There were other new leaders like Sharad Joshi, Mahendra Singh Tikait,etc. emerging with a demand for remunerative prices of commercial crops like sugarcane, cotton, etc.
Due to division of land amongst family members and success of land to the tiller movement and partly due to successful implementation of Land Ceiling Act in West Bengal, Kerala and few other pockets in certain states, the movement for land distribution did not or could not dominate the farmers’ movement subsequently. However, the issue is still alive in Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and in some other states.
Now demand for remunerative prices dominated and left kisan sabhas lost their leading role which was taken over by newly formed farmers’ lobby that were not sure about the programs of land distribution and collectivization or cooperative agenda of the left kisan sabhas. There was also no clarity about how the Left viewed the rise of farmers’ lobby. The question also remained about the characterization of rich farmers, whether they were to be considered feudal or capitalist.
When this picture was unfolding, technology and world economy was undergoing major changes. Emergence of corporates dealing in Agriculture was a new phenomenon so was globalization under the concept of LPG. Corporates saw huge population of 750 crore(world over) as an opportunity to earn profit through control of food, vegetable and fruit trade and they tried to impose their agenda through GATT proposals (also called Dunkel proposals) that was taken up by WTO in 1994 and thus kept expanding their influence and foothold slowly in agrarian sector.
Leaders like Sharad Joshi and their organizations welcomed the withdrawal of government from the market and thought that farmers would be able to get better price for their products but failed to see the domination and designs of corporates. They still hold on to that position and hence oppose farmers’ agitation against recent pro-corporate laws. Left kisan organizations have supported the farmers’ agitation as they are against corporate domination.
Thus was created politically conscious influential farmers’ lobby, because of government’s strategy of green revolution, implemented to become self-sufficient in foodgrain, and along with that there came the rise of big corporates in Agricultural sector. It is a new emerging factor and as per capitalist principle, there is a possibility of big fish swallowing the small fish. Thus on this background the conflict between farmers and present Indian government has to be seen as a conflict between farmers protecting their independence and interest, against pro-corporate government.
However, this conflict has a potential to define “Future India” if farmers succeed in keeping Indian state away from pro-corporate influence or dominance. In this fight Indian working-class is also engaged against the pro-corporate policies of Indian state and oppose any such interest. Hence the unity of farmers and workers has become very crucial. Left could play a very important part in forging such a unity. But there are obstacles, as there are farmers that are also employers and want landless labor at low cost and hence left has to revisit its strategy and work for state intervention by insisting on free universal education, improved and affordable public health services and housing with better public transport, etc. along with allowing MNREGA to be used in selected areas for private farms. The point is there is need for new thinking as new situation is emerging.
China with its self-sufficiency in food grains is not a threat to their corporates as it is not a big player in exports of food grains and other agricultural products. In fact, it is a major importer of agriculture products. But with India the things are little different and corporates are threatened by Indian agricultural exports and hence want to control it and at the same time take advantage of huge Indian consumer market. But to oppose this corporate design what is the vision of immediate future vision of India that we see?
Indian economy is dominated by unorganized sector. MSME and small entrepreneurs dominate the scene. Hence our working force also comprises of 90 percent unorganized labour.
How to give social security to this huge working population without making the employers uncompetitive is a major issue.
Corporate lobby is expanding and also destroying this unorganized sector. Demonetization and GS are two big decisions along with the passing of three farm laws that were passed by this government to help corporate expansion. However, due to spirited and united fight by the farmers the farm laws have been withdrawn. Intervention of government through a concrete program to help farmers must be spelled out by Left. Interest free loan, support of modern technology, food storage facilities, encourage cooperation amongst farmers, fertilizers at affordable rates and logistic facilities including storage etc. are needed. Electricity at affordable rates through extensive use of solar power is also needed.
Thus, new technology must be used to protect and help independent farmers. Corporates are trying to control technology and only government can compete with it and provide this technology to small entrepreneurs and farmers. It is a fact that many small entrepreneurs are suppliers of big corporations but as China became a manufacturing hub of the world through mass production and big factories, India could also become next manufacturing hub through small and medium enterprises if proper strategy is used to strengthen them . A vision of RSS-BJP combine favors big corporates and offers them prominent role in its military industrial complex. Hence, a new vision keeping interest of people in mind needs to be articulated by the Left in the coming years. The real conflict is between people-centric policies and profit-seeking policies of corporates. (IPA Services)