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'If Agriculture Goes Wrong, Nothing Else Will Go Right'
The recent past saw upsurge of farmers in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu over demands of implementing Swaminathan Commission's recommendation and the protests are fast spreading their arms in other states as well
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Keeping in mind that more than half of the Indian population depends on agriculture but the share of agriculture in GDP is nowhere near expectation, in 2002 the then National Democratic Alliance Government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee called upon MS Swaminathan, an agriculture expert, to file a report for the improvement of farmers' condition in India.
Swaminathan Commission had filed its report in 2006 to then United Progressive Alliance government. Swaminathan is now '92 years old' and is currently on a visit to his daughter in England. In an email interview with BW Businessworld's Prabodh Krishna, we got a chance to know his views on current issues of farmers in India:
What are your views on the recent farmer agitations in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and other states?
Farmers' agitations are due to erosion in livelihood security. This is resulting from lack of proper public policy in the areas of, "pricing, procurement and public distribution." Their demands are not unjustified, they are more than half of the national population. Imagine, living in a society with over half of the population unsatisfied.
Where do you think lies the real problem?
They are demanding that the recommendations of my committee should be implemented. It was "Procurement at the price of C2+50 percent," where C2 is the cost of production. The formula simplistically means that the selling price for a farmer must be 1.5 times of his cost of production. It is one and half times (assured) return on investment. You invest to get some return, otherwise, you will not invest in it.
What is the relevance of your recommendations in the current outlook?
They are as relevant today, as they were 10 years ago. Members of my commission used to say that India has witnessed many commissions on almost every aspect but there was nothing for farmers. "The situation seems to have worsened, which is why farmers are demanding it."
Can you suggest the way forward?
The way forward is to implement the recommendations, I was asked to do it for some reason. For instance, there is a chapter on farmers in 21st century, which contains specific recommendations on insulating farmers from the vagaries of monsoon and the market.
Some main points were, "Agricultural bio security - that covers crops, trees, and farms and aquatic animals which are of great importance as it relates to the livelihood security of nearly 70 per cent of population, then there is Monsoon- which makes farming a gamble in India for which we have suggested many solutions. Further, there is food guarantee act - that will prevent panic purchase of food grains during periods of drought and flood and finally government's preparation for climate change - there must be climate change centers for it."
What is your message for the farmers and the government?
It is not for farmers, they have always been the sufferers and for the other half, my message is: 'If agriculture goes wrong, nothing else will go right'. Food security is fundamental to national sovereignty.