Freeing up the farmer: Govt to ease curbs on trade, open up markets | India News,The Indian Express May 2020

Freeing up the farmer: Govt to ease curbs on trade, open up markets | India News,The Indian Express May 2020
Third tranche of COVID-19 economic package: Not only can farmers sell to anyone and anywhere, but traders and processors, too, will be able to freely buy, stock and move any quantity of agri-produce within the country. — Read on

A thought provocative article as usual from from Harish Damodaran.

Harish Damodaran is known for his writings on Indian Agriculture. The proposed reforms in Agriculture sector are no doubt praise worthy. However, now that these these long awaited steps have been taken, will the politics of our land make it happen?

We live in times when “Confrontation” has obliterated “Consensus” so much that the very thought of reaching on a consensus on any critical issue concerning any approach to development of Indian economy appears like a dream. The question is that will these policy pronouncements be effectively implemented and if yes by when?

Similar questions can be raised about opening of mining sector, privatisation of six airports, enhancing limit of investments by foreign companies in defence sector etc. too.

Dissent and debate on socio economic issues are as essential elements in a democratic polity as agreement and consensus. However, dissent and debate up to a point is fine but in order to move ahead a decision has to be taken and respected by all as only then some action can be taken for the good of all.

However, the political divide is now so wide that there does not seem to be even a semblance of agreement on the approach to fight the Corona tragedy.

Let us take the example of on going Corona epidemic. Twelve crore migrant labourers have not sprung up this year only. This is our legacy inherited from the way economy has been handled since independence irrespective of which party was in power. As Dr DC Sah argues the “do gooding” attitude of various Governments for the poor without giving adequate attention to the consequences seems to have greatly contributed to the abnormal rise in numbers of daily wager temporary migrant workers.

He points out “Probably, two policies, both taken up in good faith, first one in 1950s, land distribution to tillers and sharecroppers, and another, taken up, some time back, NREGA, are the reasons for this.”

Coming back to the proposed policy change and legislation the finance Minister states “…will amend the Essential Commodities Act (ECA) to “deregulate” agricultural foodstuffs — including all cereals, pulses, oilseeds, onions and potatoes — and allow clamping of stock limits on these only under “very exceptional circumstances” like natural calamities and famines, which cause a “surge in prices”.

Same Government which till September last had declared stock limits under essential commodities act in nine month now proposes to bring out a new liberalised policy which will do away with Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees and Mandi Boards.

How will they do away with the vested interests who run these Committees and boards? Through an ordinance ? But will it pass the test of legislative approval in Parliament?

And was this a time to make policy pronouncements of this nature at this time?

Are we under an emergency?

Could they not have thought of a policy like what Dr Kurien envisaged in late forties and worked assiduously at one place called Anand to achieve his vision for self sufficiency in milk for the nation.?

How soon we as a nation forgot the Market Intervention Operations started during Rajiv Gandhi Government by NDDB headed by Dr Kurien which in a short time made the country almost self sufficient in edible oils and then due to lack of policy support from the government this initiative was given up. The result is for all to see. How much foreign exchange we spend on import of edible oil?

Here is a link to a research paper on Market Intervention Operations carried out by the National Dairy Development Board at the behest of the Government of India. Summary conclusions of this paper by Aneja, Phansalkar and Gulati are provided on pages 56-58.

Shouldn’t have the Government thought of coming out with programmes rather than empty policy pronouncements to free the agriculture sector.

They can do even now but for that we need visionary leaders who are committed doers too not just day dreamers.


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