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Create special agri zones, manage small farms: Swaminathan

Posted by Ramoo on March 31, 2007…

Express News Service

Ahmedabad, March 30: Managers should start thinking about ways and means to manage small farms in a more profitable manner and like the Special Economic Zones, Special Agricultural Zones (SAZ) should be created.’’ Renowned agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan said this at a function here on Friday.

Swaminathan was giving away the ‘AMA-Metrochem Outstanding Manager of the Year Award 2006’ to Alan D’Souza, Acting Dean, Mudra Institute of Communication Research. The award was conferred on D’Souza by the Ahmedabad Management Association (AMA).

“While the contribution of the agricultural sector to GDP is going down every year, the percentage of population depending upon agriculture is not going down,” said Swaminathan, adding that it was important that the managers now also start thinking about ways and means to manage small farms in a more profitable manner.

Swaminathan, who is credited with Green Revolution in the country, stressed the need for the development and sustainability of agricultural sector.

“While sectors like ICT, BT, nuclear and renewable energy will dominate the world of technology in the days to come, the agri sector should also be better managed,’’ he said.

“We have seen some profitable partnership among the farmers in sectors like tobacco and sugar cotton, however the same has not happened in the case of cotton,’’ Swaminathan observed, adding that in case of contractual farming such formula need to be worked out so that a win-win situation can be worked out between the industry and the farmer.

Later interacting with the media, Swaminathan said that apart from its obvious importance, food is also becoming a political weapon in the changing global scenario and it is important that adequate impetus be given to generate sustainable and enhanced food productivity.

“Like the Special Economic Zones, Special Agricultural Zones (SAZ) should also be created,” Swaminathan said, adding that such zones would serve to conserve prime farm land for agriculture, realise the untapped production potential of rainfed areas, apart from ensuring national nutrition security and food sovereignty.

As in the case of SEZs, special support and incentives will have to be given to farm families in SAZ as well, Swaminathan said, adding that such support package would include support for conservation farming, timely supply of credit, effective insurance system and post-harvest infrastructure for value addition to primary produce, biomass utilization and for producer oriented marketing.

In this connection, Swaminathan lauded the efforts made by Gujarat government to introduce soil health cards and such measures to the farmers. He further said that such measures need to be introduced by the governments across the country.

Posted in Policy issues, Reports/Studies, Second Green Revolution, SEZs | Leave a Comment »

MP committee slams govt’s farmer policy

Posted by Ramoo on March 21, 2007

MP committee slams govt's farmer policyNDTV Correspondent
Wednesday, March 21, 2007 (New Delhi):

Empty promises, persistent government apathy where even the Prime Minister’s Vidarbha relief package does not take off.
This is not an attack by the opposition but a scathing indictment of the government by a Parliamentary Committee.
Farmer anger from Nandigram to Punjab over SEZ. The other face of despair is a suicide graph that stains state after state as a recurring shortage of onions and pulses fuels the price rise.
As agriculture lurches from one crisis to another, a parliamentary report has slammed the entire government saying these are mere symptoms of a deeper malaise.
“The Committee wonders whether the government is waiting for farmers of these states to commit suicides in large numbers before announcing any package.
“Whatever is announced in the budget and in Parliament don’t get into execution because of differences of opinion among ministries. We are not impressed by the rosy picture portrayed by the Planning Commission.”
“Planning Commission is not generous about releasing money,” said Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, Rural Development Minister.
Hard facts
But it’s not just rhetoric hard facts back this attack on the government.
There is prevalence of a draconian law in states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Orissa, which equips the police to arrest a loan defaulting farmer.
A Rs 1000 crore shortfall in allocation for agriculture in this year’s budget collapse of the credit system, and government apathy best evidenced in the failure of even the PM’s rehabilitation package for Vidarbha farmers.
“The government tells us it wants inclusive growth of tribals, Dalits or minorities it never mentions farmers,” said Sharad Joshi, Member, Standing committee on Agriculture.
Elections one after another and tall promises about rejuvenating agriculture but this 70 page document prepared by a committee of parliamentarians belonging to different political parties brings out the brutal truth.

Posted in Debt burden, Economix, Farmers Suicides, Globalisation, Policy issues, Reports/Studies | Leave a Comment »

2 million in Gujarat displaced due to development projects: study

Posted by Ramoo on March 14, 2007…

FIGURE THIS: Vadodara-based Centre for Culture and Development lists displacements in Gujarat right from 1947 to 2004

Ayesha Khan

Vadodara, March 12: EVEN as a national debate rages on the rehabilitation package for Special Economic Zones (SEZs), a study by the Vadodara-based Centre for Culture and Development (CCD), is a stark reminder of the toll taken by displacements due to development projects. The study details all displacements in Gujarat from 1947 to 2004, including the ever-debatable Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP), and says around 2 million people, a neat five percent of state’s population, were displaced as 32 lakh hectares of land was used up for development projects in all these years.

The study, also carried out in Orissa, Goa, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Kerala, took two years to be completed in Gujarat. Lancy Lobo, sociologist and CCD director, said that the study becomes all the more necessary, as the country is still debating a National Rehabilitation Policy that has yet to see the light of day. Also, experts feel that with SSP hogging the limelight in Gujarat, equal focus is needed on the impact of other development projects, for industries, mines, sanctuaries, or even roads and transport systems, which have induced displacement.

The report, which was prepared after studying the state gazetteer, revenue records, using the Right to Information (RTI) Act and also carrying out field studies across the state to survey the condition of those displaced, will now be released.

According to the report, the land acquisition in Gujarat has been divided into four phases; first from 1947 till 1960, secondly during 1961-1980 where the focus was agriculture, industrial development and urbanisation, the ’80s decades witnessed agriculture bearing the brunt of development works, and from 1992-2004, the focus was again on agriculture through SSP, and industry through SEZs. And of the total land acquired, 61 per cent has been used for big and medium dams, 23 per cent for transport and communications, six per cent for industries, four per cent for urban development and a miniscule 2 per cent for human resources.

Interestingly, the study reports that it is after 1990 that the state witnessed a larger transition of cultivable lands for non-agricultural uses. The highest increase in land compensation in South Gujarat, along the national highway, was recorded during this period. But the per capita receipt in the region has declined, suggesting a greater displacement of the people in the wake of the industrialisation of the districts, i.e. Navsari and Valsad, affecting the tribals the most. At the same time, the highest compensation was recorded in Jamnagar for land acquired by the state government on behalf of industrial giants Reliance Industries Limited and Essar Limited. Land values also rose in other districts of Saurashtra and Kutch, like Bhavnagar and Rajkot, due to the quick development of the industries along the coasts and the State highway.

The quantum of acquisition has remained higher in backward districts, mostly due to cheap and easy availability of land. “This has resulted in trends such as the government acquiring more than 35 per cent of the geographical area in Narmada and Bharuch districts,” observed the report. “People have been neglected in the name of development and national interest. It is not just the economic cost, but social and cultural deprivation, which has to be addressed,” said Lobo.

Maximum displacements are from Central Gujarat
NEARLY 2.5 million persons in Gujarat, i.e., five percent of the total population of the state are affected or displaced. Sixty per cent of this figure is due to water-related projects, 23 per cent due to transport and communication systems; and 7 per cent is due to industries. Forty per cent of the 18,700 villages of Gujarat are affected, some partially and others totally.

About 4,32,636 families in Gujarat have been displaced so far due to various development projects. And the regional share of displaced families comes to 20.23 per cent in North Gujarat, 38:42 % in Central Gujarat, 32:30 % in South Gujarat and 10:5 % in Saurashtra and Kutch.

Source: Centre for Culture and Development, Vadodara

Posted in Dams, Displacement, Reports/Studies, SEZs | 2 Comments »

Centre serious about implementing Swaminathan report

Posted by Ramoo on March 11, 2007…

S. Rajendran

Agriculture Minister Pawar says it has been sent to the Ministries concerned for their views

Sharad Pawar

BANGALORE: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday said the Centre was serious about implementing the recommendations of the National Commission on Agriculture headed by M.S. Swaminathan.

He told The Hindu here that the voluminous report had been sent to the Ministries concerned, asking them to give their feedback in quick time. “Thereafter, I will place the report, with the views of the various Ministries, before the Cabinet for approval. I am confident that this exercise will be completed in about three months. We are privileged that an international agriculture scientist of repute headed the commission and the recommendations are highly valuable”.

Mr. Pawar, who is on a two-day trip to Bangalore, said the five-volume report had been sent to the Ministries of Rural Development, Water Resources, Forests, Rural Electrification, Finance, Planning and Women and Child Welfare.

Appreciative of the commission’s findings, he said all importance would be given to the recommendations.

His Ministry was now laying stress on increasing the area under irrigation, providing quality seeds to farmers, ensuring availability of agricultural credit at reasonable rates of interest, enhancing post-harvest facilities including agro-processing, development of cold storages and remunerative prices for all produce.

On sugar production in the current year, Mr. Pawar said he would draw the Cabinet’s attention to surplus availability of about 90 lakh tonnes and the need to open up exports. The production this year was expected to be about 240 lakh tonnes and with last year’s buffer of 40-lakh tonnes, the total availability would be around 280 lakh tonnes compared to the country’s requirement of 180-190 lakh tonnes. “We have no choice but to export around 90 lakh tonnes.” The major sugar-producing States were Uttar Pradesh (90 lakh tonnes), Maharashtra (75 lakh tonnes) and Karnataka (25 lakh tonnes). The others were Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat.

On the incidence of suicide by farmers, Mr. Pawar said that according to the latest reports from the vulnerable States of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, there was a drop in the number of suicides following the implementation of schemes for the benefit of farmers.

The Union Government was closely monitoring the situation.

The first part of the financial package granted to 32 districts in the four States related to waiver of interest on all farm loans and was totally implemented.

Further, the loans taken by farmers from private financiers were transferred to commercial banks.

Of the total of about 1.20 lakh suicides reported in the country every year, around 16,000 cases involved farmers (around 11 per cent).

The suicides were not merely a fallout of crop failure. There were also those who had obtained loans for other reasons and committed suicide unable to repay.

The second part of the package, relating to stepping up irrigation facilities in the 32 districts, would be implemented shortly.

Posted in Farmers Suicides, Policy issues, Reports/Studies | Leave a Comment »

NGOs have not changed the Rural India’s face

Posted by Ramoo on February 28, 2007…

What hopes NGO would make a change this time? President Abdul Kalam inaugurated a three-day national summit on rural NGOs in Delhi in April, 2006. He spoke with much candour and conviction. What he said is that a large number of NGOs that get lots of foreign funds don’t spend them properly. The funds don’t reach the target groups in the grass-roots. Yes, that is what the President conveyed.

What we all know for sure is the fact that all NGOs are no angels. There are rogues and scoundrels as well! Yes, there are many so-called NGO activities that are positively harmful. From being anti-national activities to religious propaganda and also more subtly lots of brain-washing activities in the names of all sorts of new-fangled ideologies and advocacy programmes.

NGOs in micro-finance is an exception. As they are closely monitored by competent agencies. Even today, in the names of so many mispropaganda farmers can’t own land in a clear, legally entitled manner. So much red-tape binds the farmers. In debt and separate situations! So too in getting market access. Why not NGOs engage themselves in propagating contract farming, getting latest market information available at farmers door steps? Our farm research scientists must be made to work along with farmers, students and teachers for a mandatory minimum months in their careers. So on and on..

The summit was organised by the Capart, the apex body of NGOs functioning under the rural development minister Dr.Raghuvansh Prasad Singh. Singh is a senior minister from Bihar and he must be knowing fully well what ails the NGOs, at least some of the big and hard-working ones. Capart has a new Director-General and he too should be knowing what went wrong with Capart under the previous regime.

Given the new mission articulated by the DG, after his travels and interaction with NGOs, it is now royal development, income generating activities in rural areas through SHGs and, rural infrastructure, market access under the WTO regime, technology for rural India and the deployment of IT, empowerment of women etc. Quite a mouthful!

There is a news item about the Central Government banning some 265 NGOs that were receiving central funds and failed to complete projects allocated to them. In fact, 265 NGOs were blacklisted, of which 19 are in Karnataka. The list of NGOs blacklisted for Karnataka is also published in the dailies.

Now, NGOs are wonderful agencies. They have a critical role to play. A society that has no NGOs would be hell! Yes, we need non-government agencies of all types to advance peoples, various concerns, solve various problems of people. Unfortunately, still India is a bureaucratic country, the role of bureaucrats, petty to high sounding pretentious officials is still a bugbear!

The funds received from foreign sources by the NGOs run from Rs. 1865 crores in 1993-94 to now Rs.5047 crores in 2002-23. The highest concentration of NGOs is in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and A.P. Delhi got Rs.881 crores, TN Rs.775 crores etc. The leading donors are Ford Foundation and now may be Bill Gates foundation.

More interesting is the fact the major expenditure item is on establishment! Rs.674 crores, followed by spending on rural development. The largest number of people employed in NGOs work, next only to government jobs. In Government 20 million. In NGOs 19.4 million! NGOs and vested interests! Yes, the funding of the NGOs is much a sensitive issue and there is a feeling and there is much truth that much of the funds, mostly foreign funds are unaccountable! The NGOs are neither under the control of the Company Law or under the Auditor General.

When it comes to NGOs in agriculture and rural development, there are some controversial issues. Take agriculture. In the past 60 years we have made progress in agriculture. But at the same time we witness unprecedented farmers suicides. What are the causes? In our view, we have over-played sustainable farming etc. We haven’t given farmers freedoms to take to market-driven, commercially viable farming projects.

V.Isvarmurti :: Feb.28.2007 :: Rural India ::

Posted in Farmers Suicides, NGOs, Opinion pieces, Policy issues, Reports/Studies | 2 Comments »

A study on the prices of major agricultural crops of kerala

Posted by Ramoo on February 15, 2007

(By: Dr. P.Yageen Thomas . Dept of Statistics. University of Kerala)

In this study, we consider the prices of nine important crops of Kerala viz. (1) Coconut (Derivatives: Copra and Coconut Oil) (2) Paddy (3) Pepper (4) Arecanut (5) Ginger (6) Cardamom (7) Rubber (8) Tea and (9) Coffee. The price indices are calculated by taking 1983 as the base year for the first seven crops and 1995 is considered as the base year for Tea and coffee as for these crops price data are available from the year 1995 only.

To compare the amount of increase in the prices of Agricultural Produces to the extent it is necessary to keep the living standards of the farmers with these of other in the society, we may consider the rate of increase in the salary of State Government employees over 1983 to 2005. From the office records I have noticed that the Assistant Grade-11 of Kerala University (or any other Universities of Kerala State) was entitled to draw a minimum basic pay of Rs. 675/- with a DA of Rs. 123/- during July 1983 and thus the total salary was Rs. 798/- (HRA and other allowances are not considered as it changes from place to place). A person freshly posted as Assistant Grade-11 during 2003 would draw a basic pay of Rs. 7990/- and DA of Rs. 400/- with a total of Rs. 8390/- per month. Hence, by considering 1983 as the base year, the salary index of Assistant Grade-11 during 2005 at the entry level is 1051%. That is the present salary at the entry level of the post has been swelled to an extent of 10.51 times that of 1983. It may be noticed that the pending DA to Government servants for the time being is 15 % of the basic pay, so that the salary index will again rise up further, if the Government releases those pending instalments of DA.

From my personal diary, I have noticed that labourers who were engaged to do agricultural works in the premises of my house during 1983 were given a wage of Rs. 20/- per day. But for the same work in 2005 July, the wage given was Rs. 200/- per day. Hence, by taking 1983 as the base year, the wage index of Agricultural labourers during 2005 is 1000 %. That is the present wages of Agricultural labourers has been swelled to an extent of 10 times that of 1893. The above indices will reflect the overall growth of wages/salaries over all sectors of Kerala.

The computed price indices of the various crops are provided in Table No. 1. From the table we notice that none of the crops observed in the table has exhibited a price growth, which is more than 4.7 times the price of 1983. Further, the price are observed to be highly fluctuating and it indicates that the farmer cannot depend with confidence in raising any of the crops so as to get an assumed and reasonable price to his produce.

For Coconut, the present index is 314 % where as the indices of its derivatives: copra and coconut oil are 277 % and 269 % respectively. Thus I conclude that, if justice has to be done to coconut farmers, the Government have to give a salary of Rs. 3.15 x 798 = Rs. 2513/- per month to an Assistant Grade-11 instead of the present total salary of Rs. 8390/- or the price of coconut has to be increased to Rs. 10.51 x 1653 = Rs. 17,383/- per 1000 nuts of medium size.

The present price index of Paddy relative to the base year 1983 is 274 %. Thus in order to do justice to the rice cultivating farmers, the Government have to increase the price of paddy to Rs. 10.51 x 254 = Rs. 2,669/- per quintal.

The Pepper price have reached a very profitable rate during 1997 to 2000, (10 to 13 times of 1983 price) but later on it crashed and now the index is only 420.6 %. A similar argument for the price equivalence on pepper during 1983 so as to fetch an equal level of growth on wages or salaries can be also worked out.

Arecanut prices also fluctuate heavily and the price index reaches 422.3 % during 2005. The present price index for ginger is 470.7 %.

Cardamom is a much affected crop in terms of its price. The price index of this crop in 2005 reached a very low level of 97.9 % when compared with that of the year 1983. If one speaks of justice to cardamom growers, the Government have to increase its price to Rs. 279 x 10.51 = Rs. 2,932/- per kg.

The present price index of Rubber is 363 %. Thus in order to do justice to the rubber farmers, the Government have to increase its price of rubber to Rs. 10.51 x 16.6 = Rs. 169/- per kg.

Since Tea and Coffee prices are available only from the year 1995, we have taken 1995 as the base year to construct the price indices of these crops. Accordingly, the price index of tea for 2003 is 128.9 %. Similarly, the price index of Coffee for 2005 is equal to 40.7 % which is the worst of all crops in terms of price decay observed.

If we consider the total salary (Basic pay + DA) of Assistant Grade-11, then it is Rs. 2,832/- in the year 1995, whereas the total salary for 2005 is Rs. 8390/-. Thus the salary index of 2005 relative to the year 1995 is 296 %. Hence, we conclude that in order to do justice to coffee farmers, the price of coffee should be Rs. 115 x 2.96 = Rs. 340/- per kg, where as its existing price is only Rs. 47/- per kg.

Our hard working and strained farmers are living in a community consisting of Agricultural Labourers, Govt. Servants, workers of private and public enterprises, families of NRI’s and others. The consumeristic trend of people put them into trouble because of their incapability of purchasing power due to dis-proportionality low existing prices for their agricultural produces. Input costs of agriculture and labour costs are spiraling and this makes them to fail from proper scientific farming and this causes much reduction in the productivity of the crops. Temptations of modern essential amenities such as cell phones, TV’s, Fridges, vehicles, rich food etc. make them desperate. Thus they loss their morale and life become miserable to them and they end up their lives.

A serious by product of these problems makes many of the cultivators either to stop agriculture or switch over to other professions. We have conducted the trend analysis of rice crop and noticed that the area under this crop is diminishing steadily year after year. It is estimated that annually there is a reduction of 22615 hectares of land in rice cultivation. Consequently, the production of rice is also drastically reducing year after year causing much worry to the internal production of rice in Kerala.

In the light of the price study conducted here, immediate steps are to be taken to ensure fair prices to all agricultural commodities of the State if not equal to 10.51 times the price of 1983 at-least to a reasonable multiple of the price of the produce in 1983.

Posted in Economix, Kerala, Reports/Studies | 2 Comments »