Following is an info-graphic of eco footprint of various types of food. A conscious society will prefer to satisfy its food security covering minimum eco-footprint.
Friday, December 11, 2015
The other day I was reading “AntarArtha DEvi BhAgavatam” and came across the definition of Dharma. It says, Dharma is the nourishing milk giving Cow with its four feet as – Satya, Saucha, BhUta-Daya and NishkAma-dAna/Karma.
This made me wonder if the current Prime Minister of India, Sri Narendra Modi is subtly building a DhArmic-RAshtra thru many English sounding schemes. Let us explore:
The first foot of Dharma is Satya.
What is Satya for a society like BhArat? It is nothing but the true essence, nature, spiritual character of BhArat and BhArat alone. This is exactly how Sri Modi described BhArat in his Idea of India speech on the floor of Indian Parliament. In summary, Modi’s definition of Satya (or Idea of Bharat) is - SatyamEva JayatE (Only Truth Prevails), PaudhA me bhI paramAtma hota (Plant life too is the god-consciousness), AppO deepO bhava (Just be a light unto yourself), Tena Tyaktena Bhunjitha (Renounce and Enjoy), Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah, Sarve Santu Nir-Aamayaah | Sarve Bhadraanni Pashyantu, Maa Kashcid-Duhkha-Bhaag-Bhavet | (May All become Happy, May All be Free from Illness. May All See what is Auspicious, May no one Suffer.), Naari, tu Naarayani (Woman, you are none other than Narayani/Goddess), Janani Janma-bhoomi-scha Swargadapi Gariyasi (one's mother and motherland are dearer to him/her than heaven) and so on…
We have heard many of these Satya-vaakyas throughout our life as we celebrated our Bharatiyata. None of the Abrahamic ideologies like Islam and Christianity, nor the modern ideologies like Communism, Socialism and Secularism talk about Satya/eternal-Truth in these constructs. In fact, all the non-Bharatiya ideologies stand against more than one of the above “Ideas of Bharat”. Thus Modi’s definition of Satya is nothing but Veda-Dharmic Satya!
Second foot of Dharma is Saucha.
Bhagavatgita explains that Saucha as combination of Subhrata, Swachata, Sundarata and Pavitrata. Subhrata means getting rid of filth and corruption amidst us. Swachata is the process of adopting the set of practices that help maintain health and prevent corruption. Sundarata is the body of aesthetic knowledge that makes our surroundings and society a celebration. Finally Pavitrata brings the sense of reverence towards our own surroundings, society and nation.
If we closely observe various schemes initiated by Modi Sarkar, we can see the ground work to bring Saucha to Bharatiya society and consciousness that will eventually lead to the Satya (Idea of Bharat) described above. Programs like Toilet construction, Swacha Bharat, Smart Cities, Model villages, Namami Gange and religious-tourism circuits are all part of this Saucha-Bharat initiative.
When completed, these programs together will increase the Saucha-Quotient of India to Vedic-Bharat levels.
Third foot of Dharma is BhUta-Daya.
BhUta-Daya consists of two parts. The first aspect of BhUta-Daya is reverence and kindness towards and protection of flora-fauna of Bharat. This is stemmed from the root consciousness of Vedic-Bharat that says “PaudhA me bhI paramAtma hota”. The Bharatiya concept of BhUta-Daya cannot be found in any of Abrahamic ideologies that are ruling rest of humanity. All these Abrahamic ideologies view the nature as something meant for human consumption (God created earth for human consumption).
This is the angle from which we must see the Beef Ban and anti-Cow-Slaughter movements. When Hindus agitate against Cow-slaughter, they aren’t denouncing only cow-slaughter but supporting goat/chicken slaughter. Cow is the symbol of all animal-world in Hindu lore. It is same as Indian parliament being the symbol of our democracy and any attack on the parliament is seen as an attack on Indian democracy and dealt accordingly. So when a Hindu is agitating against cow-slaughter, one is agitating unnecessary consumption of animal meat/products. As someone said, a Bharatiya killing an animal out of hunger is a reflection of poverty of the nation, a Bharatiya killing animal for taste is one living in lowest level of human consciousness a.k.a ignorant (For one can get same/better taste in vegetarian food) and finally a Bharatiya killing an animal for pleasure is nothing but an Asura to be punished/killed.
Following is an info-graphic of eco footprint of various types of food. A conscious society will prefer to satisfy its food security covering minimum eco-footprint.
Following is an info-graphic of eco footprint of various types of food. A conscious society will prefer to satisfy its food security covering minimum eco-footprint.
Modi Sarkar’s stand on these issues are to enforce better living conditions in animal farms and to ban export of animal products. We have to understand that the indigenous breeds of cattle and flora-fauna are natural evolution over millennia to survive and sustain in indigenous climatic conditions. Foreign imports can give only temporary reprieve and can never be a permanent solution.
The second part of BhUta-Daya is to develop our forestry, natural eco system so it facilitates and nurtures next level of human evolution. The impact/results of this can be seen only in long scales of time often going beyond hundreds of years. Modi Sarkar’s focus on environment, renewable energy and economy and river-cleaning projects like Namami Gange project has the potential to create such a mutually supporting and sustaining eco-system.
Fourth foot of Dharma is NishkAma-Karma/dAna.
At Rashtra level, NishkAma-Karma translates into a corruption free and efficient governance system. The administration is represented by people working in and representing various arms of Rashtra. They are expected to work towards the glory of Bharat without narrow-minded translations and comparisons of their services and sacrifices into monetary gains. For example, recently there was a social media outrage about an IAS officer’s salary being higher than that of a soldier posted in Siachen. This is not only a ridiculous argument but also an insult to both the soldier’s karma/action as well as that IAS officer’s. Karma of any Bharatiya, be one is a teacher, soldier, doctor, riksha-puller or a farmer, is no higher or lower than anyone else's.
Modi’s focus on minimum government maximum governance and SabkA sAth, sabkA vikAs are the foundations of this NishkAma karma awareness. It enforces the sense of belonging and awareness among BhAratiyAs that their individual success/action/well-being comes from collective success/action/well-being.
NishkAma-dAna in this context represents the state support to poor and down-trodden. Not every action/profession can result in monetary results. There could be many reasons. But we cannot condemn a small farmer or daily-laborer or unemployed post-graduate for their poverty. The nation as a whole has to offer them a basic level of social security that ensures that no Bharatiya goes hungry, unhealthy or lack an opportunity to succeed.
This is where Modi Sarkar’s schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana, Universal Social Security, Universal Health and Life Insurance scheme and MUDRA bank etc come into picture. All these schemes, as they gain traction, will form foundation of Nishkama-dAna aspect of Dharmic Bharat.
Seen from this perspective, we can safely conclude that Sri Narendra Modi is establishing foundations for a Dharmic Bharat whose viswarUpa may appear in a decade where Bharat grows to become a $20T economy and Bharatiyas get to enjoy first-world Human Development Indices with minimum environmental foot print and without compromising on their natural Dharma that is Sanatana Dharma!
At this juncture it is important for all Bharatiyas to not get distracted by secular propaganda and become part of Sri Narendra Modi’s Yajna in regaining our Viswa Guru position sooner than later.
This is the single most service every Bharatiya can do to oneself, to our motherland and entire humanity!
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Bhagavan Sri Krishna in BhavatGita says that catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah; “the Varna of an individual is determined by the combination of Guna & Karma”, including the karma of past lives. If an individual is given an option to choose one’s Varna, s/he would choose the Varna that resonates her/his Guna (temperament, attitude) and karma (Buddhi karmaanusaarinaa! In other words one makes one’s own fate). There is no escape from this. Probably that's why Bhagavan continues his statement with tasya kartaram api mam; “thus determined, even I cannot undo that”.
Now if we look around, any individual with absolute freedom to choose one’s life partner, would choose someone that resonates with his/her own Guna & Karma; in other words Sa-Varna marriage. That's why we see the so-called love marriages to be of Sa-Varna in nature to the extent that IT people marrying IT people, doctors marrying doctors etc., of course for convenience and mutual compatibility. In a Sa-Varna marriage the Guna plays dominant role while Karma follows it.
When the society gave the education and work/social profession suitable to one's own Varna, there was no need for love-marriage because parents found them to be not against the system.
Coming to Sa-Kula marriages, these are mostly arranged by families or outsourced to parents by young for, again, convenience. Parents, in addition to looking at basic socio-economic comfort zones, rely mostly on already established Kula-definitions; which themselves started based on some Varna a long, long time ago.
In a Sa-Kula marriage, parents/families rely more on Karma (the reason why a soul chooses a specific life in a given cycle) than Guna because they assume the Karma (or initial conditions) have more influence on a certain outcome than an individual's choices/perseverance. This is no different from the secular and modern liberals thought process concerning things like IITs and Ivy Leagues. Getting into an IIT, the initial condition, is good enough to determine one’s social recognition, irrespective of one's intellectual aptitude or social contribution. This is just a less risky option for individuals. This is same as an Indian preferring an Indian spouse than say an African spouse; Kula being a much more specific preference group.
Going thru the life trajectories that we have gone thru in our lives and those of people around us, we can sufficiently understand and appreciate this rationale. Only a handful of us moved beyond the life-changes that are destined by our initial conditions be it in social, economic, spiritual or nationalistic planes of mind.
For example, say I am an Indian and my spouse is an African. When someone asks our children about their background and my children respond with Indo-African (mixed blood), neither my children nor the society get worked up. But secular minds get worked up if/when my daughter says she is a Nishada because she is mix of Brahmana-Sudra parents! English words are good, Samskruta words are bigoted/outdated to a secular mind.
Sa-Varna marriages (a.k.a Love marriages) bring a new dimension in to social discourse; what happens to the children of these marriages? Their parents created a new “initial condition” for these children. So it is only natural for these children to face problems (in some cases) when they want to rely upon the existing Kula-structures and those families are apprehensive if a Sa-Kula marriage would work for the child as his/her initial condition is more Guna based than Karma based. Often such Sa-Varna children ending up blaming the Kula-structures instead of understanding this simple logic.
Author’s note: This opinion is written as part of a discussion on Bharat Rakshak Forum. Request readers to visit the forum to get complete discussion and participate.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
For a nation to be strong, it has to find an efficient way to provide employment to all its citizens in a way that their incomes are above poverty line (so can be taxable, if needed) and contribute towards national self-reliance, wealth accumulation, and power projection.
Recent economic earth-quake reset certain economic rules that have been prevalent for the past century and half. This proposal is based on the ground rules that, India must:
- Be able to achieve food security for its huge population.
- Develop renewable energy sources (in the absence of proven oil and gas reserves)
- Be environmentally conscious
- Work towards improving Gross Happiness Index
So that, the end result will be a happy, healthy, environmentally-sound base-economy that can offer high level of employment opportunities to its citizens.
The subsidy structure allows that small farmers get the most benefit.
- 1st acre – Rs 2000
- 2nd acre – Rs 1000
- 3rd acre – Rs 750
- 4th acre – Rs 250
Note: This proposal was originally made in 2010. Adjusting to inflation, these amounts should be anywhere between 150-200% of these amounts.
This plan envisions to provide a subsidy of Rs 1000 per acre-month (pro-rated) for all the farming families up to a maximum limit of 4-5 acres per family. For example, if a farmer has 1.5 acres of land, s/he will be eligible for Rs 3000 farm subsidy per month and if a farmer has 10 acres of land her/his eligibility will be limited to Rs 4000 per month.
This subsidy if not 100% free. One can either opt to return this money interest free or pay it thru the harvest up to 30% of the yield, whichever is lower. For example, if a farmer owes the government Rs. 18,000 (12 x 1500) and have a total harvest of say 8 tons of rice in that year, s/he can either pay the Rs 18,000 in cash or submit 2.4 tons (30% of 8 tons yield) of rice at Food Corporation of India (FCI), whichever is profitable to the farmer.
This plan also acts as crop-insurance, because in the event that the farmer got only 3 tons of harvest in a particular year, s/he would return only 0.9 tons of harvest and the loan is closed. The farmer will take a new loan next year towards next year’s harvest.
Employment Scheme in Farm Sector
From CIA Fact Book on India:
- India Total Land = 2,973,190 Sq.KM = 734,691,248 Acres = 73.47 Crore Acres
- Irrigated Land = 558,080 Sq.KM = 137,904,571 Acres= 13.79 Crore Acres
- Arable Land (48.83%) = 1,451,809 Sq.KM = 358,749,736 Acres = 35.87 Crore Acres
- Non-Arable Land= 1,521,381 Sq.KM = 375,941,511 Acres = 37.59 Crore Acres
Out of this available land area, taking out the populated areas such that:
- 100 Cities (population: 20L-1Cr) = 90,000 Sq.KM = 22,239,484 Acres = 2.22 Crore Acres
- 1000 Towns (population: 50K-20L) = 25,000 Sq.KM = 6,177,635 Acres = 0.62 Crore Acres
- 600000 villages (1 sq km) = 600,000 Sq.KM = 148,263,229 Acres = 14.83 Crore Acres
And permanent Forests of about 27% of total land area
- Permanent Forests/nature = 806,381 Sq. KM= 199,261,164 Acres = 19.93 Crore Acres
From the non-irrigated arable land area of 35.87 crore acres, Government of India can assign 5 crore acres to 1 crore below poverty line families and offer them Rs 1000 per acre per month subsidy for first 5 years on the pre-condition that they grow:
- Other type (teak, deodar, other forest type) – 1 Acre
- Permanent Crops (fruit orchids, bamboos, Eucalyptus, type) – 1 Acre
- Bio-diesel (Jatropha, palm oil etc) – 2 Acres
- Arable (vegetables etc) – 1 Acre
- Arable land - land cultivated for crops like vegetables, wheat, maize, and rice that are replanted after each harvest
- Permanent crops- land cultivated for crops like citrus, coffee, and rubber that are not replanted after each harvest; includes land under flowering shrubs, fruit trees, nut trees, and vines, but excludes land under trees grown for wood or timber
- Other - any land not arable or under permanent crops; includes permanent meadows and pastures, forests and woodlands
Given the fact only 20% of the land is used for regular farming, it is highly possible for these farmers to achieve water self-sustainability by following efficient rain-water harvesting techniques.
This plan will automatically bring 1 crore families (~4 crores population = 4% of total population) out of poverty immediately while adding:
- 10 million acres of new forest lands
- 10 million acres of commercial timber
- 20 million acres of bio-diesel = ~3 billion gallons of bio diesel saving ~$3B oil imports from 5th year. The best part is this is green energy and renewable.
- 10 million acres of additional food produce.
- 100 million carbon credits (2.5 credits per acre for the first 3 categories) = 100 million megawatts of electricity production = India can add another 11000 MW of thermal power generation without violating Kyoto protocol.
- If allowed to rent the land to establish Sterling Energy Systems’ solar power dishes at 3-4 units per acre (so they do not over crowd the land) the farmers can earn additional rent at least another Rs 500 per acre.
Thus India can achieve all the stated objectives:
- Poverty alleviation
- Food Security
- Energy Security
- Forests & Environment
- New Economy (eco-friendly employment creation)
- Cultural preservation - the tribal population is given economic security without threatening their unique cultures built around environment.
This program envisions a budget outlay of Rs 108,000 Crores split between
- Farm Insurance Program: Rs 48,000 Crore for 1Cr small farmers
- Agriculture Sector Employment Program: Rs 60,000 Crore for 1 Cr BPL families
Return on Investment
- Even in the worst case, the Farm Insurance Program will return a 30% of the total outlay, equal to 14,400 Crores. The actual subsidy component will be between Rs 33,600 Crores to Rs ZERO. This covers all the small farmers in India.
- As mentioned above, the Agriculture Sector Employment Program will self-finance itself after five years creating 1 Crore permanent jobs. It is calculated that a Rs 1000 Crore investment in industrial economy would create 15,000 permanent jobs. In this proposed program an investment of Rs 3,00,000 Crore (5 years x 60,000 Cr) is creating 1 Crore permanent jobs compared to 45 Lakh permanent jobs the industrial economy would create for the same amount of investment.
- The farm subsidy program needs National-Id in place so the program is not misused and the target population receives the benefits directly to their account IN CASH.
- Close integration is required between Farm Land registration, National Id program, and Farm Subsidy programs.
- The FCI channel can be abused (already highly corrupted channel) during crop collection.
- Unemployment Program has to be devised in a way that the land is allotted to Tribal populations only and not sold/resold to politically motivated groups
Author's note: This proposal was originally made in Bharat Rakshak Forum in 2010 under Alternative Budget Scenarios thread. I request readers to participate in the discussion.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
As the gods of nature disfavor their source of identity and livelihood, a major division of Indians who are associated with the agricultural sector are standing at the crossroads of despair, revolution, vision and opportunity. The political fortunes associated with this ill-informed majority are attracting all varieties of shrill politics, further muddying the national debate on this key aspect of national interest. This article attempts to present various dimensions of this national problem so readers are better informed, and aims to contribute towards a more positive debate and a more purposeful national strategy. The need of the hour is a national vision that views India’s agricultural sector as an opportunity, rather than the cynical political ideology that is trying to throw this ill-informed sector into rhetorical despair and inspire rebellion against a democratically-elected government.
India’s Agri-Sector problems are multi-dimensional and are impacting both bottom-line efficiencies and top-line opportunities of national development. Each of these dimensions individually require focused study, and when they are intertwined the way they are, they require even more careful strategic management. Superficial analysis of such complex problems will only lead to an incorrect understanding of the problem and the deployment of knee-jerk strategies that, in the long term, will only lead to harm to national interests.
Definition of Agriculture
First of all, there is no comprehensive definition or policy regarding the agriculture sector in India. There is no clarification for whether fisheries, poultry, animal husbandry, medicinal herbs, commercial timber, or other forest products fall under the scope of the agriculture sector, and there is very little policy on how to address the natural inter-dependencies of all these sub-sectors. For example, a sudden change in a region’s agricultural produce (say, from rice to medicinal herbs or commercial timber) may have a devastating impact on that region’s animal husbandry ecosystem. A policy decision to encourage beef-production/exports may cause the extinction of low-milk producing but drought-tolerant native cattle species, causing permanent damage to our ecosystem. These complex inter-dependencies demand attention, else disaster strike. By conceptualizing the ecosystem as a complete system and designing healthy relationships between agricultural products and practices, India can identify new top-line opportunities in the agriculture sector, and make it a pivotal part of India’s transformation towards a renewable economy.
Food Security of the Nation
A second dimension of this problem is the food security of the nation. Not all sectors of the nation are suitable for pursuing blind comparative advantages, and the food security of the nation is one such area. While India achieved food production self-sufficiency decades ago, one-third of Indians are still suffering from malnutrition. A solution for this chronic national problem must travel on a sound logistical and food-processing roadmap to achieve this necessary bottom-line efficiency.
Farm Size and Ownership
Another core aspect of India’s agri-sector landscape is the limited farm size. A study conducted by S. Mahendra Dev presents that “there were about 121 million agricultural holdings in India in 2000-01. Around 99 million were small and marginal farmers. Average size has declined from 2.3 ha. In 1970-71 to 1.37 ha in 2000“. Given this scenario, there are two approaches to reducing the labor involved in this sector – (a) make mechanical farming accessible and affordable to small farmers or (b) allow people to accumulate large farms to absorb the high cost of mechanization. Unfortunately, the second strategy goes against a different socio-economic policy called the “Land Ceiling Act”, which limits agricultural land ownership to 5-45 acres based on various factors. Those who want to mimic the success of agricultural reforms in countries like the USA must remember that the average farm size in 1900s America was 147 acres, making the base conditions for reform very different.
Then there is the problem with the labor excess capacity in the farming sector. Studies put nearly 60% of 600-million person labor force as dependent upon the farming sector. However, some of this labor force is not involved in the farming sector not out of choice, but due to a lack of skills and opportunities to move into the industrial and service sectors. Thus, reducing the percentage of the labor force in the Indian farming sector to the levels existing in industrial nations would require facilitating the transition of nearly 300-million working-age people into the industrial and service sectors. To put things in perspective, this would be a feat similar to building a new America, from the ground up, in India without adding a single inch of land or any natural resources.
National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) studies estimate that nearly 60 million jobs were created between 1999 and 2004 whereas only 15 million jobs were created in next eight years (2005-2012). Assuming that the Modi government repeats the performance of the previous NDA1 government, it would take at least 25 years (that is, from 2015 to 2040) to transition the labor-excess capacity from farming to industrial/services sectors, even if we freeze the population growth and demographic trends at today’s levels. But, given the current demographic trends of the Indian population, India will gain more than 350-million working-age people while losing only 150-million people to retirement, thus adding an additional 200-million labor-force people to the agri-sector labor excess capacity problem. The underlying truth is that no matter how quickly India industrializes, it will have to live with its farming-labor excess capacity for at least the next 20-25 years, with the majority being in the 40-70 age group, and therefore too late in life to acquire new skills.
I have done a study in 2010 (posted in Bharat Rakshak Forum ), and calculated that it will cost up to $2 trillion to retrain and employ 150-million of the agricultural sector labor into industrial sector labor. This cost estimate covers both retraining costs and the capital required to set up industries that would provide permanent employment. If the target is to transition a 300-million workforce, then the cost would double to $4 trillion, two times the current GDP of India.
Another factor that has yet to be considered is what will this gigantic industrial base, consisting of 200+ million labor force, produce? How much resources will it process annually, and who will consume its product? This is where the three slogans: Make in India, Made in India, and Made for India have to merge and transform into India’s national power.
Genetically Modified Organisms Vs Organic Products
An additional technological, and even ecological problem we need to solve is whether the Indian farming sector should take the path of GMO crops or Organic farming. Interestingly, the majority of cotton-farmer suicides in India are attributed to the so-called “GMO-terminator” cotton seeds or their fake cousins. On the other hand, the developed world is reinventing the concept of Organic farming for its real or perceived health benefits and long-term health-cost savings. If India decides to take the GMO route, it needs to develop and build the necessary scientific and industrial base. If India decides to take the Organic route, then it needs to detoxify its farming community, which is chronically addicted to chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Given the fact that the farming sector also includes aqua-culture (fish, prawn farming) and animal farms, India needs to alter its land usage for different types of crops (fish/cattle feed vs grains/vegetables etc.). Each choice impacts the Indian farming sector in a fundamental way and needs lot of work to reach the final goal. While complex, this aspect of the farming sector can open up new topline opportunities in terms of long-term health and ecological benefits to India.
Price Support, Food Storage and WTO
Another key aspect of the Indian farming sector is the pricing mechanism. There is no scientific analysis of the total economic cost of each crop and what the price of the produce should be. Oftentimes, the price of farm produce is determined by logistical and political inefficiencies, rather than the cost to produce. For example, after setting consumer preferences aside, a kilo of beef costs a fraction of its calorific equivalent of vegetable food grains because there is no cost-accounting of the materials required to produce a kilogram of beef compared to other food products. Oftentimes, the farmer doesn’t even get a fraction of the consumer price for his produce, just because the farmer doesn’t have awareness of or the necessary logistical access to the demand side.
I urge the readers to not fall into pessimism after reading the above data. The larger the problem, the bigger the opportunity. I believe that current state of India’s farming sector is a boon to India’s national interests because it has the potential to majorly contribute towards a multi-faceted socio-scientific revolution that India desperately needs to get out of the quicksands of triple colonization the nation went thru in the past 1400 years. Only a mind that is firmly rooted in local flora-fauna that can think out of the western-box can propel a well-rounded development of India in next coming decades.
This is where the national vision comes into picture. Modi government correctly identified that Indian Agricultural sector can be and must be turned into a national asset from a drain on national resources and reservoir of national poverty.
The stated goal of Modi government is to increase the share of agricultural sector in national GDP to 33%. Given the exponential growth India is poised to experience in next couple of decades (a 7% annual growth projects India’s GDP in 2040 will be 5 times that of today), this means two separate goals to the farming sector.
- Increase share of farm sector in national GDP from current 18% to 33%. That translates into a farming sector GDP of $660B instead of current $360B in 2015 terms.
- Maintain share of farm sector in national GDP at 33%. This means the farm sector GDP continues to grow at the rate of rest of economy.
Once achieved, these two goals will allow at least 33% of labor force to continue agriculture sector while maintaining comparable per-capita incomes with those in industrial and service sectors. At one go this vision reduces the burden of labor force transition by a whopping 100 million, reducing the timeline of labor excess capacity transition by 10 years (from 25 yrs. to 15 yrs.). The savings achieved in the process (~ $1.5 trillion) can be diverted to transform Indian farming sector to build a renewable national economy.
Given various dimensions of agriculture sector and the stated goals of Modi government for this sector, we can identify following opportunities for the nation as a whole.
Unified Agriculture Sector definition, vision and policy
An opportunity opens up for the nation to integrate all forms of agriculture into one sector and identify synergies between various sections of agriculture. For example the definition of a farm can include, but not limited to, a solar farm that doubles as cattle-shed, a cattle-farm that doubles as captive organic-fertilizer factory, a farm that contains a mix of commercial timber, bio-diesel plantation, food-grain field and vegetable-farm and so on; the possibilities are endless. Such a definition would facilitate long-term large capital induction into farming sector that is not available today, because diverse product base in the farm will reduce overall risk profile of farm loans.
Farm Ownership and Land Acquisition Bill
For Indian society, land ownership is not just a financial aspect but a socio-cultural aspect. There are historical reasons emanating from India’s prolonged fight with colonial ideologies and the entities behind them. The spiritual and emotional attachment that Indians have to land is similar to their emotional attachment to gold; land is Sri Bhudevi and gold is Sri Lakshmi – both consorts of Sri Mahavishnu. Any person or policy that is perceived to be cutting this emotional bond will therefore be seen as an agent of yet another colonial player.
In its current form, the Land Acquisition Bill offers a onetime non-reversible financial transaction to acquire land from current owners. A better approach can be to provide more flexible options to the landowner, such as (but not limited to)
- Land will be acquired permanently for roads and other public infrastructures, but 99-year land lease agreement will be made for the industrial sector. This will address the concern that land is being transferred to corporate owners.
- Equal amount of land swapping within a meaningful distance (say 10KM) for farmers who are not interested in losing their agricultural land holdings.
- Flexibility for the landowner to choose between a one-time cash transaction or a mix of at-face-value shares in the SEZ/Industry. This can also include the economic benefits from public infrastructure.
The Land Acquisition Bill will have more approval and support from landowners if its focus changed from changing land ownership to facilitating the transition of landowner from one economic sector to another sector, along with their land holding. The bill would create new opportunities for the people to transition from one sector to another without losing their financial, and most importantly, emotional, attachment to their land holdings.
Reorganizing the Agriculture Sector Labor Force
The agricultural sector labor force is not a single monolith, and consists of many groups, often with conflicting interests. Remember that 99-million out of 121-million agricultural land holdings are small and marginal farmers, with an average land holding size of 1.37 hectares. There are also millions of farmers who don’t own land, but rent or lease land for farming, in addition to many more millions of daily laborers. The farming sector employs people as young as 12 years all the way to octogenarians.
There is a great need and opportunity in developing a national registry of all of our agricultural labor force and performing a detailed analysis based on their demographics, region, skills and economic status. An accurate understanding of the labor force is necessary for effective land reforms, skill development, and re-employment in non-farming sectors.
Various government schemes and policies can be utilized to reorganize the farm sector labor force in the most effective manner. Some ideas that can be used in this process are:
- Bring farm labor above a certain age group into a newly unveiled Social Security scheme in such a way that they live above the poverty line.
- Identify suitable non-landowning labor for skill development and reemployment using MNREGA-like schemes.
- Turn agricultural subsidies into long-term loan contracts, so that the farming sector can get the necessary capital resources to transform itself into a renewable economy. A recent economic survey  puts the amount of agricultural subsidies (not including Railways, fuel, electricity and water subsidies) at more than Rs 235,000 Crore per year. This works out to be an annual subsidy of Rs 23,500 for those 100 million small and marginal farmers. There is a lot of room for opportunity in utilizing these subsidies better.
Ecological Security for Food Security
Nature, by definition, is the manifestation of the optimized ecological balance of a given region. By extension of that definition, India’s ecosystem is the most optimal balance of India’s regional conditions. India’s long-term survivability and success therefore comes from developing on this natural balance, rather than from disturbing it. Indian crops, fisheries, cattle etc. evolved, by natural selection over millennia, to survive and sustain in local conditions in the most efficient way. The human aspect of our great civilization can thus prosper by designing its own vision within this ecosystem; not, outside of it.
Studies tell us that for all of humanity to live at the current USA/European levels of consumption, we would require more than five Earths. Reaching China’s current level of consumption would require one and half Earths. Any logical mind will realize the futility of India trying to tread this path. However, that doesn’t mean that Indians cannot achieve the quality of life enjoyed by other advanced economies. India just needs to prioritize improving its human development indices while having the minimum possible impact on its ecosystem. This task is not difficult if the national agenda and policy is built around a renewable economic model from the get go.
Agriculture Sector as a Renewable Economy
With proper vision, groundwork, and sound national policies, India’s agricultural sector can give the necessary impetus to leapfrog the Indian economy from an agrarian-economy to a renewable-economy, bypassing the industrial and service phases. A renewable economy is where 100% of human socio, economic, and technological prosperity comes from renewable sources and processes. The advanced economies are already moving in this direction because the age of human and industrial colonization is ending, and each civilization has to live within its own natural means.
Agricultural, industrial, and economic scientists must bring their minds together to identify various models to achieve target per-capita incomes at small farm levels (~5 Acres) using a mix of complementing energy, commercial-timber, animal-husbandry, fisheries, food grains and medicinal herbs farming models and technologies. Governments must change policies and laws to recognize the farming sector as a small & medium business, and encourage necessary innovation in this field.
India’s agricultural sector is a complex multi-dimensional socio-economic-political problem with far reaching consequences to its national security. India, as a civilization, has not just a material, but also emotional and spiritual connection with their land holding. The problems manifesting in India’s agricultural sector are also a reflection of problems in other sectors. A proper understanding of the national vision, overall civilizational needs, and India’s objectives is required to realize the underlying opportunities and possible solution strategies.
An effective strategy and efficient execution of India’s national vision is necessary to achieving a purposeful transition of labor force excess capacity from the farming sector to other sectors.
The Modi government, as articulated in different forums, has set the right national vision as far as the agricultural sector is concerned. Different policy decisions made by this government emanate from that vision to elevate farm-sector as an equal partner in the national economy. Schemes like JDY, Universal Social Security, and farmer pension schemes are nothing but a few relevant parts of this national vision.
All the noise from the political opposition is just tactical maneuvering for their political survivability. There is no alternative vision proposed by the opposition groups, except for demands for the continuation of failed policies and corrupt practices.
The Modi government has many other forums to explain, educate, train, and help the agricultural sector in its transformation into an equal pillar of the national economy, along with the industrial and service sectors. As its vision comes into execution, the beneficiaries would be the millions of people making up the agricultural sector, as well as the nation as a whole.