TOWARDS A FIRM FARMING

When the country was debating the banning of cow-slaughter, Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh boiled to arson. Five farmers killed in firing. Did the police fired at them? The confusion still reigns supreme with statements of every hue. The farmers in Maharastra are also on protest. Price and product marketing are primary issues. The agitation by farmers in MP or elsewhere is not a very newsworthy. We have seen similar agitations in many states in Haryana, Punjab and Odisha and the march to Delhi sometime last year. Farmers, their issues and plights could never make it to the news, unless the protest method has something new about it, or unless the politicians jump in to the fray or the death of farmers. The political personalities from the left, right and centre became farmers and became suddenly very sympathetic. Charges were traded across – it was worse in your regime or the agitators are not farmers but political goons. Both may be right, but that does not alleviate the conditions of the farmers.

The plights of the tiller have mostly gone unnoticed. The problem actually is different, India has never come out of feudalism, in spite of its socialistic, democratic constitution. The politics of power manifested initially in majoritarianism transcending to regional parties and coalition arrangement scarcely had time for that invisible segment. What has happened in the meantime has been a product of a process. Initially the ideology of Leninist socialism and Benthamite Utilitarianism galvanised the state to bulldoze the upper crust by abolishing Zamindary and intermediary system in agriculture, the era of land reform began. It did not bring the desired result even after so many years except in some stray pockets of the country. As a matter of fact, traditionally, the concept of property has rested on how much land and cattle one owned. The more one has the higher he is in the social scale. But the person who raises the crops is always treated as a menial in most parts of the country – quite low on the social scale. This social dichotomy and irony has persisted in many forms. The land-owning class became powerful in various spheres including in politics. This stratification continued in many different ways controlling the social dynamics. Farmers, a large number of whom are nothing more than agricultural labourers, with their limited means struggled in the vicious circle of poverty.

The problem with agriculture is that it is different from other enterprise. It is dependent on a sequence of continuous operation and there are many unknown natural forces also interact with it. If there is crop failure, less produce or produce quality falls the farmer suffers. If there is bumper crop the farmer suffers too, as prices fall below break-even. The state has failed to provide efficient storage, distribution and marketing avenues. The storage facilities and marketing channels are largely controlled by the private entrepreneurs or the corporate. The market forces are increasingly dominated by the private players post globalisation. This will slowly bring in corporate farming. A good aspect of it is there could be a purchase contract and assured capitalisation. The country has also some very good agriculture universities and research institutes. The students who study and pass out from these universities and work in these institutes are really very bright. The problem is when they pass out, their knowledge, expertise and innovations are put to real use. Agriculture is the concern of both the union and the states. It needs spending by the state too. We do not hear of agricultural infrastructure as often as we hear about industrial infrastructure. Agricultural product marketing has its own niceties and nuances of localities, a common policy cannot therefore work universally.

The silver lining is that the present government told about soil testing, alternate and suitable crop advice to the farmers. But the main issue of product storage and marketing is not approached in a coordinated and calibrated manner. We cannot blame it on federal structure or concurrent list and sleep peacefully. The synergy between the academia and government, research and policies needs to be reinvented.

The politicians across the spectrum cannot leave issues on auto-pilot, they have to manoeuvre the system continuously to make it efficient, progressive and beneficial.

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TOLERATING ‘INTOLERANCE’

Indian history is replete with invasions, repressions, subjugation and feudalistic aberrations. The controversy of Aryan invasion has actually never been put to rest. The other invasions, conquests and rules by the Muslims (from Mohammad of Gajhni to Bahadur Saha Jafar) and the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese are more or less agreed by the scholars. The history has its quota of incidents of invitation, treachery and failures. The landmass that we proudly call ‘India’ has historically been annexed as one by wars and takeovers. The constitution of India also uses a very subtle subterfuge making it both federal and unitary, while in reality it is more unitary than federal.
Indians whether Arya or the Dravida all have followed one common ideology of treating humans as humans, irrespective of the treatment they have been meted out(If we disbelieve or discount the ‘black-hole tragedy’). The Indian idea has been accepting people although as ‘the other’ but not as the ‘enemy’. It has given the marauders and the usurpers an opportunity to settle down here accepting them, integrating them in to their own system. The people who settled down here in this land also accepted the underlying culture of humanism.Everybody wanted freedom, though some wanted a different theocratic recognition.
Indian drama of ‘secularism’ and ‘minority appeasement’ dates back to the days of the British Raj and during transfer process.The concept of secularism and protection to minority came to fore as constitutional principles.
The topmost declared agenda of the winning Party in the last Parliament polls was ‘inclusive development’. It continues to be so, albeit, with asterisks of ‘crony capitalism’. The majority of BJP in the political process has its attendant complications. The BJP unfortunately does not control the RSS and its other splinters. The actions and reactions of RSS, its splinters and sympathizers is giving a political cue to the opposition political parties to masquerade a campaign, rather systematically. The factor of militancy in the ranks of RSS neutralizes the good works they have been doing over the years and is perceived as an organisation with a ‘fire-brand Hinduism’. The seemingly clash of ideologies therefore is nothing more than political.
There has been incidents and activities but then some always happen under any Government. The burning of Graham Steins in Odisha was as heinous as that of the Dadri incident. The problem is more in the reactions than in the actions. The justifications offered in a cascading proportion and the language of a challenge are really issues for the Party. The government under a constitutional system never belong to a Party, it is of the people and for the people. The degeneration of the same with a ‘whip’ has also inculcated a perception that ‘Party’ and ‘Government’ are synonymous.
Let us keep our fingers crossed until we hear the debate in Parliament on this topic on 30th Nov. 2015, Monday.

Tobacco, health and politics …

Nice to hear the noise over tobacco – Indian research or lack of it. The ministers, the decision makers and the Parliamentarians are busy defending the tobacco lobby, rather circuitously though. The most bizarre being its comparison with potato and sugar .. thank God not rice or other cereals! The statutory warning, the negative campaign and the health advisories have not been as successful as we expected to be. The position is not unique in India, campaigns are  designed mainly to contain old users and discourage new ones. There is also the desire that people using tobacco would give up. This is in fact very hard to achieve. Mainly the addiction/dependency is so acute having both physical and emotional ramifications. What we need is a dispassionate political intervention (I said dispassionate which includes non-corrupt!) to create a cascading awareness in the form of both large visuals on the packet and other means of advertisement. The tobacco industry must share the cost of keeping rehab centers and health care institutions. An honest cost-profit analysis of revenue earned and spending for health care for tobacco related diseases be made.

The most important thing is to decide – do we want to do it?

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Social Shame .. Individual Plight

The recent Delhi incident was the last straw on the camel’s back, ‘enough is enough’. Government probably realised that governance is no longer as easy as it used to be (or is it a fleeting reaction to a distress and time would eventually fill the pit yet again!). Perhaps after the 26/11 terror strike, for the first time people, who mandated the politicians to govern them, came on with a force of peaceful protest that reverberated the Raisina Hill. You like it or not the young generation was out angry and anguished, yet subdued in compassion identifying itself with the victim. The scale of the crime and the frequency of it has inundated the ever fragile lines of patience. The good thing about it is that the people came in without being led to a certain consequence. They had their own creativity and were also accommodating to listen, suggest and discuss, have their own slogans and own placards in their peculiar languages. This is a transformation of indian polity signifying power of the people, focusing their discontent about the system. It is not only about the criminal justice system, the failure of which simply acted as a catalyst.
The larger question is why – why do such ghastly things happen at all?
Is law week or the enforcement partisan?
Has the law lost its edge because of delay, distress of the victim?
Or is it the impact of consumerism and visual media that is leading the society ashtray?
May be all of it or may be something else entirely different….
Is it that the male society is threatened deep within that the females have assumed a stature in society or that they have the courage to wear jeans and T-shirt and are willing to take up jobs, which not very recently been thought as purely masculine. They have the capacity and mental make up to celebrate femininity which the male find difficult to digest and manifest in such brutal manner in an attempt to re-subjugate a class. I particularly liked the slogan ‘reclaiming nights’ in the protests, which indeed is all about.
perplexing indeed.
How law can solve a social problem, how could it resolve a political question, when the politicians always search for a bye-lane in the issues to exploit it for vote politics?
The Mathura incident and the subsequent outrage modified the law, now let us see how far we are going.
Let us begin the year with hope.

SELLING SMILES TO SURVIVE

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This is a group of adolescents and children away from home, family and   friends selling plastic toys to children, with which perhaps many would play with a glee. They have not gone to school or are not bothered about it. Their only wish to earn money for survival. The 10-12 member group is from one area and two-three groups work and live together. These groups are from different areas as wide as from Uttar Pradesh to Tamil Nadu. No conflict as every group has its distinct product to put on sale – even there is no conflict in the group as to who sold how much. Every one is happy, enjoying and uncomplaining. I met them at Dhenkanal, Orissa during the 11 day Laxmi Puja festival there. They requested me to use my front veranda to sleep. They will go out to sale in batches in the evening and night till the small hours and sleep to get up around 6:30, sleep a little more during the day and prepare the toys during the day and are ready for the evening. There lunch rice and dal together in a polythene bag. What touched me most is their age and acceptance of life – they are not unhappy even in poverty – most of all they are uncomplaining of their circumstances, of the people around, do not discriminate among themselves on age, language,etc. They have not gone to school, yes but are a school themselves – they teach us to smile and survive.  

Fast Life and Faster Death

The number of road accidents do not deter speed driving, perhaps the trill of whizzing past a shocked driver with the speed of wind is intoxication enough to ally the fears or even the thoughts about road accidents and its attendant worries. I asked a 20 year old what makes him drive dangerously, and the reply was amazing. He said it is the pleasure of going ahead and be the first one on the stretch. His comment that he drives a powerful bike with wide tires, so he should be ahead of all – sort of lead the lot. I realized that the obsession no longer is mileage, it is all about power. The young is restless as usual, and driving provide an opportunity to engage the energy even at the cost of the risks. Youth never recognize fears rather do not believe in the adult cautions it seem as a way of the grown-ups to control them through systematic mendacity. They are part of a fast growing consumer economy, and it is about availability of new opportunities to which they must rush…….

What should be done is discharging of social responsibility by the civil society itself. Let us not try to terrify them with statistics, that is less effective, let us understand them de-toxify their spirit and give them a dimensional view of life and living. It should begin from educational institutions. Let there be ‘safe driving’ discussions in educational institutions involving the NCC, Red Cross,  the  NSS, etc.  first. It should be regarded as a part of co-curricular effort. The students under supervision should lead such efforts themselves. They should devise their ideas and communication strategies. It should begin initially in tech. institutions.