COOPERATIVES SHOULD SHAPE THE FUTURE OF INDIAN FARMING
Never before have farmers bodies been united as is being seen now against the current Farm Bills in India as GOI failed to interact with the farmers’ bodies to understand their nerve and verb of their reactions pre hand for accepting these reforms. The GOI certainly has not done its homework adequately before pushing and passing Farm Bills in Corona times lamed parliament session where it bulldozed the opposition voice. In sharp contrast, it always asks for comments from MSMEs and other Big Industrial bodies before framing policies for the manufacturing sector. Thus, the Centre’s pro urban and pro corporates policies are explicitly visible and the farmers all over India justifiably apprehend that the big Corporates are going to benefit rather than the farmers as the majority of them are small & marginal farmers with no understanding of commercial issues in these laws.
Farmers in fact too are in search of solutions for better deals for them as farm suicides are unabated, notwithstanding, the assured MSPs for Wheat and Paddy- a syndrome which has crippled the States as well in pushing pushing forward the newer farm reforms risking political turmoil.
Land holdings in India are averaging at per capita land at 1.08 acres which are increasingly unviable due to input costs. In this age of digital information, farmers, in fact have come to know that the world over the resentment is brewing in farmers class everywhere and now they are keeping the protest flags high be it USA(with Av.land 440 hectare) or anywhere else. The policies are framed by the governments in a way only to ensure the glut of farm produce be it cereals or milk so that people get cheaper food and the farmers are made to bear losses for consumers sake. In India too, the Food warehouses remain full to the brim and at times rotten. Dry milk is in excess in Indian Milk plants as well as in the world market .In such a scenario MSP insistence is the only weapon with Indian farmers as the Government fails to give viable alternatives by taking farmers into confidence. The boomerang of Indian Govt. Farm Bills at the hands of farmers could have been avoided if the policy makers were serious in giving innovating farm strategies that could have been formed by involving farmers at the ground level and the federal States more honestly.
Encourage farmers Cooperatives not MNCs/Corporates:
In order that migration to urban centers from villages is to be checked, we need to contain discontent in farmers in the villages itself. We should form Village Clusters on the tune of Industrial clusters. Let we encourage farmers cooperatives of small and marginal farmers who must be offered innovative farming solutions with active financial ,technical and marketing support by the Government and farm varsities . Each geographical area in such a cluster can be chosen for different produce be it cereals, vegetables or horticulture or any other farming. Food processing units can be envisaged for such clusters which too be managed in a cooperative structure. This will also help the small farmer to make use of his small patches of land kept idle due to un-viability earlier. The recent passage of ordinance by Punjab Govt. for giving ownership rights to those tillers who were tenants and have been in occupation of small parcels of land for several years by succession is a welcome step.
Cooperative farming will help increase responsibility and confidence of farmers in farming entrepreneurship. Farmers will have more bargaining power be it raising loans or marketing produce with lower transaction costs. Many a large agricultural cooperatives like Zen-Noh in Japan(World’s largest Agri Cooperative ), Rabobank of the Netherlands(operating since last 110 years ),the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation of South Korea and Fonterra of New Zealand (A very successful dairy cooperative ) are an important examples to follow. But, this shall require a strong legislative and administrative action to encourage the cooperative sector. Contract farming experiments failed in many cases as the outside contractors never remained fair in their dealings. In the cooperative mode each farmer will feel its individual responsibility for better utilization of common pool resources. Farm warehouses and cold storage houses too could be encouraged in the cooperative sector. This is always better to keep the farmers knit together rather than disintegrate them. NABARD is an important institution whose officials are expected to be proactive in cooperation with States’ machinery who in turn too should streamline their Block Level Development Officials to shed their slow motion working now.
Check on Corporates:
Corporates globally are increasingly capturing profits from farming and agribusiness thus ruining and uprooting the farmer class. MNCs are investing heavily in land purchases.In fact, off late the capitalist and colonial model of capturing lands in bulk is in vogue and they have scant regard for the workers as they make contracts on their own terms. Here in India, the big landlords too seldom talk of farm workers rights .Notwithstanding, India cannot afford to have let loose the corporate onslaughts on farmers. Writing on the wall is clear that now the farmers have started uniting for their rights. In such a scenario in India, it becomes incumbent on the political masters both in the Centre as well as States to work transparently as far as farmers rights and welfare is concerned. The predicaments of farmers must be understood closely and farming solutions be sought in consultation with them only. Let us help farmers to educate themselves so that they can come forward for viable alternatives of their own.
Cooperation and cooperatives can become the panacea for farmers’ prosperity.
—- Brij Bhushan Goyal ( A retired banker and a social activist )