good decision

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 06 Jul 2018 13:02:15


THE decision of the Central Government to grant a steep hike of Rs. 200 per quintal in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for paddy and up to 52% for other summer crops, needs to be welcomed whole-heartedly. For, not only does it fulfil a promise made by the Government earlier but also responds to a serious issue in agriculture. It recognises the need to hike the price the farmers must get for their produce. The problem of inadequate pricing for farm produce has dogged the country for decades with no clear solution in sight. On many occasions, the Government did raise the MSP for most items, but could not solve the problem permanently. That kept the farmers all the time in an agitational mode granting opportunity to political Opposition to keep using the issue as a permanent poll plank. Now that the Government has allowed a steep hike in kharif crops, there is a healthy possibility of a solution emerging on a permanent basis.

No matter these details, it is time the country looked at its agriculture holistically. For, just hiking support price steeply will answer only a small part of the whole problem. Making agriculture profitable for the farmers is the main issue, and there has never been any serious attempt to give a considered and comprehensive response to this challenge. Life has been showing its downside to the farmers for several decades after Independence. Because engaging in agriculture is not profitable, farmers are turning away from their traditional profession. In the process, they have allowed the village economy to slide down the prosperity scale in an ever-dangerous manner. So bad is the situation in most villages across the country that the number of poor people has increased shockingly. People are abandoning their village-homes and are seeking refuge in cities where, too, they have to face ungainly conditions and utter poverty with no sign of respite in sight.

In such a situation, only granting a steep hike in the MSP will not solve the rural crisis as a whole. The solution to this problem, therefore, may be found in taking a good fresh look at the agricultural scenario and then fashion a wholesome response. The problem is not just of economic nature; it also has social dimension that has not been responded to so far in a comprehensive manner since Independence. Therefore, even as the Government thinks in terms of a steep hike Minimum Support Price for summer crops, it must also make a comprehensive plan to tackle the agrarian crisis that is dogging the country.
The first step should be to get engaged in detailed planning for rural upliftment with agriculture in focus. The second step would naturally be to thin of ways and means to infuse lots of funds into the rural sector as a top-priority item in national planning. This need not militate against the interests of other sectors such as industry. For, industry and business have an easier access to funds through banks, which is not the case with the rural sector. Once the rural sector is plush with enough funding, things would start moving towards overall improvement in conditions. And the third step should be to treat farmers as not just a vote-bank but as a welfare constituency.
This will grant the farmers a better status in national planning, which they sincerely deserve. There has been a lot of talk of helping the farmers. But much of it has come only through politically-driven slogans. That has served no purpose until now. That makes it necessary for the Government to think in terms of changing the strategy for rural development. This means, the Government will have to do a lot of basic thinking with no strings attached. There is no doubt that this Government is capable of doing it. The last question, however, is if the Government is willing to delve into this area as a top national priority.