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Farm vision statement

We need a national framework to address agricultural problems.

Written by R Gopalakrishnan | Updated: January 14, 2016 5:07 am
The government can do many things to bring agriculture back on track. We focus on three. India does brilliantly when the government decides to do brilliantly — green revolution, dairy revolution, Param supercomputer, Mars mission.

The government must decide that it must do brilliantly with regard to farming. India lacks a focused managerial framework to usher in the transformation that agriculture requires. That framework is what the Sarthak Krishi Yojana advocates (www.rallis.co.in/sarthakkrishiyojana.html).

Common readers may not have used the word “mathiness”. University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler said that economists increasingly suffer from theory-induced blindness, ignoring real-world phenomena; Paul Romer coined “mathiness” to label the misuse of mathematics in economic analyses. Mathiness is a smokescreen of equations that disguises an ideological agenda through unrealistic assumptions.

And what is “truthiness”? “Truthiness” was coined for truth that comes from the guts, not from books. American comedian and talkshow host Stephen Colbert popularised the word truthiness, thanks to the reach of television. Truthiness presents stories which are consistent with the worldview of the person telling the story. When data manipulation becomes dodgy, truthiness steps in.

If there is one subject in India’s economic agenda that is a victim of mathiness, it is farming and agriculture. My sense of truthiness hollers that India lacks a credible and focused managerial framework to usher in the transformation that agriculture requires. That is why Y.S.P. Thorat, former chairman of Nabard, and I wrote the Sarthak Krishi Yojana, meaning mindful agriculture. A 29-page booklet with appendices is indeed brief for agriculture.

India does brilliantly when the government decides to do brilliantly — green revolution, dairy revolution, Param supercomputer, Mars mission. The time has come for the government to decide that it must do brilliantly with regard to farming. India is faced with a serious
crisis in farming. I wonder why our national programmes like Digital India, Skill India and Make in India have so little discourse with respect to farming, considering that over half the working population is employed in agriculture and we have over $40 billion of farm exports.

The Sarthak Krishi Yojana notes the following: One, from 1999 till 2012, India’s farming sector has experienced about the best record of growth, production and farmer income, compared to India’s record in previous comparable periods. Two, India’s “best” records of productivity lag other nations by a large margin. Three, during the last two agricultural seasons, India’s farming (and, therefore, farmers) has been devastated by inclement weather — patchy rains, drought, unseasonal weather, you name it. We, doubtless, have a crisis in a sector that employs more than half of our workforce. Four, India does not lack funds or skills. India needs an integrated, managerial framework for agriculture — state-led entrepreneurial risk-taking with respect to farming (not farmers, please note).

Eleven fine and technically sound players do not make a great cricket team — it requires a great captain, a manager and teamwork. This metaphor illustrates the problem of agriculture.

Notwithstanding the availability of several expert reports, the paper suggests a framework to be populated with expert recommendations.
Unlike industry and telecom, agriculture is a state subject. The solutions as well as actions with regard to agriculture tend to get political and fragmented. They do not lend themselves naturally to a holistic design by a single agency. In this context, it is worth noting what Y.K. Alagh has said: “The future of agriculture is not in the stars, even in a country deeply committed to the inevitability of predictable karmic outcomes… pull together the main analyses and place them in a holistic framework… Indian agriculture responds well to well-thought-out policy stimuli.”

Developing a consensus with the states and executing a national agenda is an urgent option to be exercised by the Central government.

A holistic national framework to address agricultural problems could derive structural lessons from the way India industrialised. There were four pillars on which the industrialisation strategy was based. These played out over 60 years, admittedly with flaws and strengths, but today, India is counted among the top industrial powers in the world.

Putting together a similar set of pillars for agriculture is essential for aggregating the wisdom that already exists and for addressing the development issues that the nation faces. The holistic plan should encompass technology, risk, institutions, policy and skills, and the nation needs a forward-looking Sarthak Krishi Yojana that encompasses five pillars: One, technology incubation — outcome-based technology policy encouraging research, innovation and incubation. Two, risk institutions and financing — banks and financial institutions to help promote technology infusion, insurance and mechanisation. Three, institutions of governance — promote farmer producer organisations to be agri SMEs/ MSMEs. Four, policy for farming — focus on improving human and farm productivity. Five, Skilling — agricultural technical training institutes

To ensure the success of the Sarthak Krishi Yojana, it should be a collaboratively driven project with the states similar to the Jan DhanYojana, Atal Pension Yojana and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. The government must articulate the features and components that would constitute these five pillars, seek consensus with states and implement it as a comprehensive national agricultural mission. This has the chance to instil enthusiasm in the agricultural sector and invite wide participation.

The writer is director, Tata Sons Ltd

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  1. S
    Satendra kumar
    Jan 14, 2016 at 1:04 pm
    Agricultural mythology has been a history binding land with humane culture the central government should focus like other industries making viable and compeive on world markets.
    1. K
      K SHESHU
      Jan 14, 2016 at 7:25 am
      Agriculture has not received the care it deserves. There is neither financial support adequate for producing high yielding crops nor support from weather for the past few years. The farmers are unable to access to latest agriculture technology and patterns of cropping in the case of deficient rainfall. Crop failures and farmers' suicides are forcing farmers to fetch other alternatives.
      1. BG.Subhash
        Jan 14, 2016 at 3:24 am
        India is a heterogeneous country with diversity in agriculture unparalleled. But this diversity when it meets the market it just fails. Why? 1.There is no profitable price for the produce of the farmer. 2. Farmers do not have access to latest Agri knowledge.3. Present govt Insutions or rather base Insutions are ry takers wrt people who actually go to fields/do not go to fields.4. As you say Banks do not have expertise to take agri risks like what venture fund people take for start ups. 5. There is no sufficient situational awareness on the fields , field by field by the people who make policies.6. Availability of Agri labour at farms who are simply going to urban centers and not there in the farms. Together these produce a toxic mix which farmer simply drinks every crop season and he is unable to perform. Solution is in innovation and modern Technology and a great churn in the govt policy making/Insutions. Govt Insutions in Agriculture must be enablers and not the performers in place of farmers. This is my take!
        1. BG.Subhash
          Jan 14, 2016 at 4:24 am
          One more point I missed. Overall Insutions/Pvt sector must ensure both Technical and Financial inclusion which must be to day in the region of 35%. Unless this Agriinclusics factor is@ 65 to 70% with the farming community in focus it will be tough for Indian Agriculture.
          1. Deepak Rannot
            Jan 14, 2016 at 9:39 am
            Agriculture has long suffered due to very proximity of agricultural cles in the political economy's arithmetic. The MSPs, agri-markets, unemployment benefits, credits, land development etc are always forced on the farmers without any broad based consultations with farming cl. Farmers will definitely respond well with the well-charted policy. There is urgent need to elevate the staus of occupation called "farming", which requires close cooperation of political will, science, youth and technology with the farm sector human resource.
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