10th National Convention (Jalandhar-Punjab), 2, 3, 4 October, 2010

Save Farming - Save Nation

India is witness to a strange paradox of spiraling inflation on food items and simultaneously farm suicides. Theoretical economics allows the government to rationalize, though not justify, the existence of either of the two phenomenon – high inflation or depression in the farm sector. While the prices of farm produce seem to be beyond the reach of the common man it is indeed a challenge to economists to explain why farmers are not the ultimate beneficiaries of the elevated farm prices. It is beyond doubt that future trading in agricultural commodities has been the basic reason for food inflation.

The poor and vulnerable people better known as the AAM ADMI have been a victim of this gross mismanagement of the economy. Studies conducted by multi-lateral agencies as well as independent Indian agencies suggest that all is not well on the food front in India. Today, India ranks as one of the most vulnerable nations on the food and nutritional security as India’s per capita food consumption continues to spiral down (ie from 418 gms per day in 1971 to 375 gms now) when compared to the global average as well as her Asian peers. The neglect of the farm sector is reflected in another form as well – increase in farm suicides especially in the last decade.

SJM clearly believes that both the above are a direct consequence of the fall in food production caused by a direct neglect of our farm sector. The SJM has been repeatedly pointing out to this paradigm of subsidence level of food production and distribution as the conclusive evidence of the faulty economic policies pursued by successive governments since independence. The SJM is of the view that the farm sector remains completely neglected under the New Economic Regime (NEP). In the past two decades since the onset of liberalization capital formation in the farm sector has declined, yields have shown less than marginal increase, area under agriculture have diminished while area under irrigation seems to have reached a plateau. While under the ostensible plea of fiscal correctness public sector has refrained by making investments to the farm sector including irrigation, the private sector expectedly has not yet stepped up investments into the farm sector. Before liberalization period 27% off public sector capital formation used to be on agriculture including irrigation, which has come down to merely 5% now. The net result of all this is that the contribution of the farm sector to the national GDP has virtually halved from more than thirty percent in the early nineties to only 14.6 percent in 2009-10. Agricultural commodities produced by our farmers are simply getting rotten due to lack of ware housing & cold storages. Neglect of agriculture is also getting reflected in lack of investment in ware housing infrastructure as well. Investment in warehouses and coldstorages, upgradation of land, irregation and raising the water table should alos be treated as infrastructure investment.

The SJM also noted that while the input costs have escalated reflecting the overall rise in prices in economy, the farm output at the farm gate level has not shown any significant increase. Further, commercial banks have now turned to chary of lending to the farm sector. The SJM regrets to note that vehicles purchased by agri multinational companies have been classified by the banks as farm credit. While this has the calculated effect of improving the aggregate farm credit, the fact of the matter is that there is no significant improvement in credit to the Indian farmer.

The SJM suggests that our production should be increased to 350 million tons from the present level of 230 million tons ie an increase of about 50% in the shortest possible time. Simultaneously the procurement should also be increased to 50 million tons. The increase in production along with increased production in allied sectors like fertilizer, seeds etc will improve the purchasing power of the rural population substantially.

The SJM further demands thorough review of land acquisition policy. Acquisition of fertile agricultural lands for SEZs or other non agricultural purposes like Vedanta continues unabated. So far above 3 lac hectors of land has already been taken out of agriculture & given for non agricultural usage. In fact need of the hour is to increase the cultivable land to increase the agricultural production. The Land Acquisition Bill 2010 in its present form fails to address any of these issues.

Proliferation of Terminator seeds is also adding to the woes of the farming community. With success limited to certain some pockets, that too for a short period, it is cited as one of major reasons for the mass suicide cotton farmers of the Vidharba region.

In these circumstances this national of the SJM demands:
1. Immediate steps, including provision of finance, to increase food grains production to 350 million tones and procurement to 50 million tons.
2. End to the practice of acquisition of farm lands for nor agricultural purposes and through review of the proposed Land Acquisition Amendment Bill 2010.
3. Complete ban BT technology without giving any scope to MNCs like Monsanto the manipulate the traditional seeding pattern.
4. Water for every farm, that is, universal irregation be made national objective to be achieved in the next 5 years.
5. Declare minimum support price (MSP) for all agriculture commodities.
6. New seed be ammended to incorporate protection of the farmers interests.
7. Forward trading in agricultural commodities be banned with immediate effect.
8. In view of the nation wide flood farmers be suitably compensated.