Opinion | The farmer needs tough love, not more coddling

Photograph: Mint

The Indian farmer is a tricky species. For generations, he has weathered drought, floods, pestilence and adversities of each sort. He has picked himself up after each fall and survived, even when barely. If there’s entrepreneurship within the Indian DNA, it comes from the standard farmer.

However after seven many years of state insurance policies that provide ever-rising help costs, subsidies on energy, diesel, fertilizer, seeds, insurance coverage and credit score, and mortgage waivers to high all of it, he has been decreased to a quivering jelly, a pale shadow of his former hardy self. He’s marching to each state capital demanding extra from the state, with a victimhood label pinned to his chest. An entrepreneur has been decreased to an offended supplicant.

The Indian politician and an extractive state have debilitated the farmer in the identical means they’ve disabled our entrepreneurs and companies. However whereas we started dismantling the licence-quota-permit raj in 1991, we proceed to deal with farmers as a particular class. Thus, we nonetheless have APMC (agricultural produce market committee) laws, export and import duties levied arbitrarily relying on whether or not home costs are up or down, and restrictions of different kinds. The state equipment remains to be sitting on the farmer’s chest and pretending to supply him resuscitation as an alternative of permitting his entrepreneurship to flower in a market financial system.

It isn’t that our flesh pressers don’t get this, however they see short-term electoral alternatives in mollycoddling the farmer slightly than administering him powerful love. So, their most popular options are increased minimal help costs (MSPs), extra mortgage waivers, extra subsidies. A latest Maharashtra try to maneuver in the proper course, by permitting farm produce, together with livestock, to be bought outdoors APMCs was deserted even after the meeting handed the invoice as merchants, fee brokers and labourers went on strike.

Isn’t it time we agreed on the plain? That options to the farm disaster should be discovered outdoors the farm? If agriculture generates lower than 15% of gross home product (GDP) and helps the livelihoods of greater than thrice that quantity, farmers should pulled off the farm, not sponsored to stay on it. India’s common farm sizes are just too small to help viable farming, with 86% of them beneath two hectares. These farms have little or no surplus to spend money on productiveness.

That is the message coming not from city intellectuals, however farmers themselves. When landed castes just like the Patidars, Jats, Gujjars, Kapus and Marathas demand job reservations, they’re utilizing a megaphone to shout out: “Get us off the farm”.

India must abandon its rural political mindset. It should embrace urbanism like there is no such thing as a tomorrow. The much less we give attention to rescuing the agricultural poor with senseless subsidies, the extra possible it’s that we are going to truly assist them. Take the stress off the land and the remaining farmers will simply discover the wherewithal to spend money on productiveness and ship their surplus progeny to the town to search out jobs.

A couple of concepts to begin with: The majority of the ₹2.four trillion of meals and fertilizer subsidies may be paid out as money to the city poor and marginal farmers. The centre can preserve fundamental buffer shares, and states must be free to run any MSP or farm help scheme that meets their particular wants. A one-cap-fits-all subsidy regime managed from Delhi is the worst means to assist both farmers or shoppers. Paying money will allow poor farmers to lease out their lands and search for jobs.

The message from Ruritania can also be decidedly city. Villages on the periphery of cities are urbanizing quick. In keeping with a World Financial institution report on Leveraging Urbanization in South Asia, India could also be formally 31% city (2011 census), however 55% of India has “urban-like options”—smaller city centres concentrated close to bigger agglomerations. The migrant villager is creating new cities within the seek for livelihood. However this pure transfer is being badly managed, with city clusters being unfold over a really vast space, as an alternative of being spatially packed in smaller areas the place commutes and jobs are simpler to search out.

India’s jobs nirvana lies in smart and concentrated city development. This can generate tens of millions of jobs. City accountability and governance thus want quick consideration. If the common large metropolis mayor will get the powers of a CEO, he’ll quickly begin fixing infrastructure issues and turn out to be extra vital than the state CM. Perhaps that is what politicians worry. Their honey pot can be gone as soon as city areas assert themselves and direct their very own futures. To make certain, we have to spend money on agriculture, together with irrigation, roads and chilly chains. However it is very important flag the fact that past connectivity and storage, agriculture wants freer markets, and these markets are with city shoppers. Rural and agricultural nirvana rely upon an city nirvana.

R. Jagannathan is editorial director of Swarajya journal.

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