Saturday, December 22, 2012

Kisan Divas

Chaudhary Charan Singh's birth anniversary on December 23rd every year is observed as Farmer’s Day ( Kisan Divas). The late Charan Singh is also remembered for the one and only budget he presented in 1979. That Budget had everything a farmer could dream of in his favor. He also came out with various initiatives in favor of farmers, his passionate appeal and magnetic persona united all the farmers against the moneylenders and landlords. He was also a very effective writer and penned his thoughts on farmers and their problems and solutions. Charan Singh passed away on 29 May 1987.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Re−shaping the small and marginal farmers

Three quarters of the world's farmers cultivate small plots of land, India is the land of marginal and small farmers, the average size of farm land holding is 1.16 hectares ( 2.86 acres). 85% of the Indian framers are cultivating the 70% of farm lands which are below two hectares each, more than 60% of the farm produces come from the small farms only. The productivity of the small farmers is the solution for growing population food needs, the future of the Indian sustainable agriculture is depends on the performance of these small and marginal farmers only. Most of small farmers cultivate the farm land with the support of their family members and local labor which the quality of the work is higher. They spend more time on mulching, trellising, weeding, removing the rock stones, soil conservation and building the irrigation systems which are a part of good agriculture practices . They grow multiple crops and sow as soon as they harvest, small farms have been the most efficient for sustainable and bio-diversified way of agriculture.

India's land holdings average size has been decreasing i.e. 1.16 hectares ( as per 2011 data) and at the same time the number of land holdings are increased to 138 million which are caused by the population growth and family subdivisions. Some researchers argue that small farm land holdings' output is always low and their operating expenses are high. I feel, the farm size is not a constraint for the productivity, small farms are sustainable and the efficiency also more or equal to large farms. Numerous studies have confirmed that there is an inverse connection between the size of forms and yield per hectare, the smaller they are the yield is greater, the contribution of output is higher for marginal and small farmers and they grow high value crops like fruits and vegetables. But small and marginal  farmers have been facing lot of problems like credit and Indebtedness, land titles and tenancy issues, low level education and skills, globalization challenges and climate changes.

The Western model of agriculture is being forcibly advocated by some agricultural policy analysts and economists which is really applicable for only large land holdings. As per Indian agri profile, we can't shift our small farms to larger farms that will cause a decline in food production and also the unemployment of displaced workers that's  going to be a big problem. It is very clear that the Western model of agriculture can't support our Indian agriculture like heavy mechanized, less labor-oriented, chemical-based, high-input agriculture. Actually we should adopt the Eastern model of agriculture which have been implemented in Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia and China. The far east agriculture practices like experimenting with high yield verities, controlled use of fertilizers, drip irrigation, effective use of manpower, multiple cropping and custom made small farm equipments are exactly appropriate to Indian farm lands. Moreover, Indian small scale family farmers can't afford to heavy farm equipment, extraneous inputs and hired workers, so the Eastern style of agriculture is the way forward for India.

While small shops, hawkers, farmers markets are being wiped out and replaced with super markets and hyper malls, the small farmers loss their customers. The large super markets always need the consistent supply, competitive price, high quality produces with safety standards, this will be a big challenge for the small farmers since most of the farmers deliver their produces to local vendors and open markets. Supplying to large chain supermarkets is a great opportunity to the small farmers, to confront the same, the government should enact the collective farming by combine all small farm land holdings in to a farmers' cooperative for mutual benefit. Under this model, the farmer will be an independent share holder and collectively utilizing the supply chain/value chain with their own operated marketing societies or private processors.(Just like dairy co-operatives).

This is the time to reshape our Small scale farm production and marketing systems since we are allowing the FDIs in retail trade, to integrate with big chain retails markets the small and marginal farmers should be strengthened with modern technologies and policy reforms. We wish the small and marginal farmers avail the market opportunities for better prospects.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

I am against to hunger and poverty, not to the technology

Achieving Food and Nutritional security is not easy task, we need to try every option either genetically Modified (GM) or Conventional. The food grains which are cultivated today are not absolutely wholly natural, most of them are altered and hybridized by selective breeding or chemicals or Viruses. We need to depend on modern technologies to get bumper yields, drought tolerant and disease tolerant crops for growing food needs. The government and the progressive thinkers should focus on public understanding on Agriculture technology research.

I am not against to the technology ...but especially in food crops part we have some concerns about safety of human health and environment. We already have so many conventional verities of food crops for centuries which contain rich health & nutrition values.  The agritech researchers are mentioning that the GM food contains same nutritional values as non GM, then why we need GM Food crop?! why can’t our researchers develop new verities by hybridization and natural selection instead of genetically engineering? Food security is not only providing food for all but also the bio - safety must be ensured, the bio technology  has to develop the food crops without compromising safety and regulatory aspects.  

The BT Cotton was developed and introduced in India in 2002 and still the farmers have mixed opinions on the crop. Monsanto claims that the BT cotton  plays a beneficial role in increase of production and reduction of  the costs of cultivation. But the farmers are complaining that the cost of cultivation has been increased comparatively with the traditional verities and the yield per acre did not increase. We have reports on livestock dying allegedly on consuming Bt cotton plants and Farm workers are suffering with allergies including rashes, itches, and irritations while working in GM crop fields. The mainstream scientific community argues that all safety tests have been done but there is no systematic research to address this serious problem.

In India, there are a lot of apprehensions associated with GM foods chiefly relating to the safety aspects both for the environment and for human health. There are fears that novel genes and genetic constructs could escape into the environment and create monster plants like weeds that cannot be destroyed or new, recombinant pathogens like bacteria and virus for which there are no cures. That is the reason there is a strong appose on BT Brinjal and the protesters are claiming that the  BT brinjal is a threat to plant biodiversity, flaws in the data on the gene inserted into the brinjal, no long-term toxicity and cancer-safety tests were done which leads to kidney and liver damage. The technology needs improvement and the safety aspect will have to be tested far more rigorously before it can be declared that GM crops are indeed a safe source of food.

The GM companies should focus their R&Ds on the crops like drought tolerance, salinity tolerance and alkaline tolerance. Farmers will need to grow crops in locations previously unsuited for plant cultivation since most of the  cultivatable lands have been converted to non agriculture purposes. Creating plants that can withstand long periods of drought , high salt/alkaline content in soil will help people to grow crops in formerly inhospitable lands. Ethanol based Transgenic Sugarcane, maize and sugar beet crops have to be developed for support Bio fuels instead of fossil fuels. Genetically Engineered Tobacco plants are required for medical use. Modified Subabul, Eucalyptus and Bamboo plants are required more tonnage for paper production. We expect the crop science  or agriculture research  outputs should be safe for human health and environment. The safety tests and systematic research should be conducted under regulatory measures before launching any crop which is genetically engineered. I am  against to hunger and poverty, not to the technology.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

FCTC - The imposed treaty

Recently the Tobacco Institute of India has given awards to the tobacco farmers on their achievements. I met some of the farmers who attended the awards function , in  casual chat one of the prospective farmer mentioned  that he doesn't know  what FCTC (Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) means until he attend the award ceremony. Most of the  tobacco growers don't know about the FCTC which was  ratified by Indian government in  5th February ,2004. The world Health Organization ( WHO) adopted the FCTC in May 2003 to reduce the tobacco consumption to protect the global public health and this is one of the most quickly ratified treaties in United Nations history. FCTC formulated the policies for the member countries to adopt the better strategies for  tobacco control, those might be mandatory and some of them are provisional.

India is so active in FCTC treaty and was the one among the first signatory countries. Even prior to FCTC, India has been working on tobacco control by several  legislations like COTPA (Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act) i.e. ban on smoking in public places, ban on underage sales, prohibiting the tobacco sales within 100 yards of schools and hospitals and restrictions on tobacco advertisements & sponsorships. Proactively our Union Health Ministry proposed that all new films have to flash a static anti-tobacco message during a smoking scene. The government initiatives are not only with consumption part but also in production and distribution, government is enforcing the heavy taxes  to control the tobacco consumption. The tax on tobacco products in India is are complex and vary for tobacco products, cigarettes taxes are calculated by the length and the process of manufacturing which accounts approximately 38% on retails price and the Bidis (tobacco rolled in a leaf) are taxed very low averaging 9% on retail price.

India is the third largest producer and second largest  group of smokers, over 120 millions of Indians smoke which counts 10% of the total world's tobacco smokers and over 250 million people across the country use tobacco products like gutka, cigarettes , bidis and other kinds. Tobacco will be responsible for 13% of all deaths in India, it counts around 900,000 deaths per year. Worldwide, every 1 in 10 adult deaths  are caused by tobacco and it kills more than 5 million people per year. The World Health Organization warned that if the same consumption patterns continue, more than 8 million people will die per year by 2030. Everybody has the same questions, why farmers are growing tobacco even that is harm for human health and why governments are allowing tobacco cultivation even lot of health organizations and social groups are advocating a ban on tobacco. Tobacco cultivation is a part of Indian agriculture system, it is legally cultivated agriculture crop and globally trading commodity. Tobacco is the best cash crop among all cash crops… in terms of high value returns and suitable to most environments, on top that it’s a labor intensive crop which helps to improve the rural employment .Indian Tobacco Industry is providing livelihood to more than 25 million people in the country, the tobacco contribution to India’s GNP is about 10%.

Consuming tobacco is a fatal addiction and social problem, it keeps the health in hazard. The problem should be dealt with public awareness, anti smoking campaigns by government and other advocacy groups  have not much influenced the tobacco farmers neither threaten to tobacco cultivation nor encourage them to leave the crop. But the FCTC regulations are simple forcing ban farmers from cultivating tobacco. Indian government never consulted and asked the tobacco farmers' opinion before ratifying the treaty in 2004, it's an autocratic decision. The Indian tobacco farmers were not against  to our national tobacco control law like COTPA or any legislation which prohibits tobacco consumption, they do concern about public health but imposing FCTC regulations on tobacco farmers without consulting them is unacceptable, FCTC planned to force all the governments to keep the tobacco farming industry in jeopardy. Indian farmers are opposing  several articles of the FCTC like  9 and 10 which are dealt with regulation, testing, measuring and disclosure of contents.

FCTC proposals will affect our tobacco farmers and industry, more than 30 million of Indians livelihood will be devastated. Especially in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, tobacco growing is the main source of livelihood for farmers and moreover India is the place where the tobacco grow year-around. AS per FCTC  articles 17 and 18, the government should provide technical and financial aid assistance for economical transition to all stake holders whose livelihoods are seriously affected as a consequence of tobacco control programs, but after so many research and field trials they identified that it takes so many years. However,  now the working group abandoned its original mandate and came out with new set of recommendations like restrict/stop all financial and technical support for tobacco farming; mandate the seasons when tobacco can and cannot be grown; limit, then reduce, the land area where tobacco can be grown, dismantling all tobacco governing bodies  and reduce tobacco production. These irrational destructive proposals are going to be destroy the million lives of tobacco dependents by not offering economically viable alternative crops and livelihood.

I think the FCTC treaty is autocratic  and imposed one, because the veto powered nation- United States of America haven't ratified the same and other large tobacco production countries like Argentina, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Indonesia were never signed the treaty. If India implements these guidelines, then non signed countries may dump their tobacco products ,they will increase their production and it may lead to contraband trading, then Indian tobacco farmers livelihood will be in trouble and the Indian economy will go down i.e. almost Rs.13,500 crore of excise revenue and Rs 4,160 crore of export revenue. I am not against to tobacco control, government is spending millions of tax payers' money towards public health and creating awareness on tobacco consumption risks but  I request our Indian government to refuse these unreasonable, imposed FCTC proposals and think in a pragmatic approach to help tobacco farmers for their smooth economic livelihood transition.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Indian farmers need a restructured CACP

The well know basic economic principle for the marketable produces is : Cost of production +  considerable percentage of margin= Price of the product. But this basic principle is not applied to Indian farmers, their farm products are sold at horrible losses. The government and the government  advisory commissions are forcing the farmers to sell their produces with very less prices which are not even matched to the cost of production. The government fixes the Minimum Support Prices ( MSP) for major agriculture commodities  by the  Commission for Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP) recommendations. The CACP considers various valid  points to determine the support / remunerative prices for the agriculture produces. Nevertheless, the CACP has not been recommended the  remunerative price for farmers from past  ten years.

Based on the " Cost of the production theory of value",  each and every product or service price can be decided by the  cost  for producing  the same. CACP has been considering  the Cost of Cultivation (C2) while  assessing the agriculture commodity prices, but there is some serious flaws in  calculation criteria which causes the underestimate of  actual costs and moreover the MSP doesn't even equal to the actual Cost of Cultivation.  As we know that how the input costs have been increased from past few years such as fertilizers, labor cost, diesel, fodder and cattle feed. The average labor wages have increased by 75% in past three years and the fertilizers are more than doubled. But the CACP has announced the MSP hikes for  2012-2013 crops are ranging  from  16% to 53% on 2008 -2009 data. CACP has been using the old data ( 2008-2009 )for assessing the current crops support prices and also the data of 2008-2009 itself had contested by the farmers organizations  in terms of number of samples and calculation mechanism. 

CACP usually depends on Department of Economics and Statistics (DES) of Department of agriculture for data collection and the data contains the information of Area/Production/Yield (APY). But there are some controversies on interpretation of the data among the determining of MSPs and other purposes like  calculating GDP, planning commission and economic indicators. Sometimes CACP also collects the data on its own but it's not collecting ample number of samples and also while computing the cost of production there is no consideration for crop insurance, marketing and transportation cost paid by the farmers. Still, the CACP's recommended MSPs are faulty and unfavorable to the farmers and they are losing  Rs.240,000 of crores every year for just because of underestimated MSPs by CACP. 

All farmers organizations have been reiterating  for National Commission on Farmers recommendations  for fixation of the remunerative price i.e. C2 +50% profit margin on C2, but the CACP is computing the prices on the obsolete data of 2008-2009. It has to take previous year data for computing the consecutive year prices and it should consider all prescribed 12 factors while formulating the price recommendations.  Not only 12 aspects but also other issues like inflation, cost of living for farmers, and losses due to import - export  policies. However, Indian farmers need a revived CACP since it fails to protect their best  interests, it should be dismantled and restructured with new terms and references.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Subsidy CUT, Rupee DIP, Fertilizer prices UP

India uses low quantity of  fertilizers against the global average, the monsoon plays major role on consumption pattern in India, a  good rainfall makes  higher usage of fertilizers for enhancing crop yields. Due to Euro zone crisis the world  markets are volatile, Indian economy  also experienced the same negative impact. India has been depending on imports for its major soil nutrient needs and the Rupee value has gone down with new record level so the fertilizers prices are expected to raise. The components for making fertilizers like naphtha ,fuel and natural gas prices  have been increasing year by year and if the fuel price increases, invariably it is going to affect on fertilizer prices.

Indian farmers are already suffering  from high input costs and  the steep increase in fertilizer prices are going to be more burden for them. India imports a quarter of urea, 100% of potash and almost 70% of DAP (Diammonium Phosphate).  DAP  is widely used by Indian farmers, the price has gone up to Rs.987 per bag( 50 Kilos)  and it is expected to be increased more with rupee dip. similarly  Potash has increased to Rs.720 per bag( 50 Kilos). Not only the fertilizers and also the pesticides, insecticides and herbicides prices  have affected  by  rupee slide. Acetamiprid (ACE) and Imidacloprid (IMI) are widely used pesticides in India, their prices have also increased by Rs.100.

The price of fertilizers and pesticides  may increased by 30% due to rupee value decline and subsidy cuts. The government has  decreased the subsidy on DAP and other NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash) fertilizers by 27% since April 2012, the subsidy for DAP was Rs 19,763 in last fiscal  year now it is  Rs 14,350 per tonne similarly the subsidy for  MOP (Muriate of Potash)  has been fixed at Rs 14,440 per tonne against Rs 16,054 last fiscal. The subsidies for nitrogen, phosphate and potash nutrients have also been lowered by 11.6%, 32.6% and 10.3% respectively. The raw materials for producing fertilizers prices have also increased due to rupee depreciation. so invariably, the kharif crops going to be very expensive for  farmers with raised input costs.

Every Farmer need subsidies since they have been incurred losses without remunerative prices, non availability of credit ,high input costs and many more adverse reasons. If the government feels the subsidy on fertilizers must be reduced  then it should allow the farmers to fix the prices for their produces on their own like other industries and also the government should not intervene in agriculture exports. The UPA government has randomly  increasing  the petrol prices to save the Oil marketing companies from their losses, why can't the government do the same thing for the farmers by fixing the  remunerative prices for farm produces. In fact, the government reduced the fertilizer subsidies as part of their austerity measure to match the fiscal deficit  but the government is claiming that the reduced subsidy funds are going to be diverted to organic manures and bio fertilizers. Actually the organic farmers are very less, organic farming is picking up  but reducing the subsidies on chemical fertilizers are ridiculous since 90% of the farmers are depend on the same.

Ministry of chemicals and fertilizers has intended  to give the subsidies directly to the farmers, it's a welcome move because the retailers are misusing the subsidies and it's not reaching to the real beneficiaries.  At this point of time the government officials should ensure the  fertilizers are sold at MRP prices and most of the retailers might have the old stocks which they got with old prices, they are trying to sell the same stock with new increased prices, the government officials must control the traders not to sell with increased prices. At least it will give little relief to farmers against the increased input costs.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monopolistic and unfair trade practices in Tobacco trade

Tobacco is one of the best cash crop in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and some parts of Orissa and more than 200,000 registered growers are cultivating tobacco. Why do farmers prefer  tobacco is.. it's a non perishable, yield  & value  is high per acre and easy to market. India is one of the biggest producer of Flue Cured Virginia (FCV) tobacco which is used for cigarettes all over the world. Tobacco board estimated crop size for this year (2011 and 2012) is 264 millions i.e. Andhra Pradesh  at 162.5 million kgs and Karnataka at 101.3 million kgs. Tobacco contributes a significant amount  to the national economy , the government earned central excise revenue of RS 13,500 crore by selling cigarettes and foreign exchange of RS 4,163 crore from exports of tobacco and tobacco products during 2010-11.

Andhra Pradesh is the biggest producer of the FCV  quality tobacco in India. Despite natural disaster "Thane" in this year, the tobacco yields are better  but the threat is with price decline. The tobacco prices were peak in 2008- 2009 i.e. Rs.115/ kg and the price came down to Rs.90/kg in 2010- 2011 and now the average price is lesser than last year price. Farmers are in misery  and inescapable position to sell their crop with lesser price,  their distress is not only with the fallen price but also with increase of associated costs of plantation to packing. The labor wages have gone up for grading & bundling, and the  barn fuel  ( firewood & char coal) cost also increased. Farmers are not getting remunerative price and the net realization is negative by calculating all these expenses, farmers have no choice to switch to other crop since they don't have proper irrigation facilities. 

Tobacco board is the sole regulator of tobacco crop, it has right to fix the crop size every year and it arranges the convention every year with traders and growers to  discuss  various issues on tobacco trade. The tobacco board auction system is excellent and appreciable but the Board is not strong enough to control the traders.  Ironically, Tobacco board enforce their rules and regulations on miserable  farmers by  imposing penalties on excess production and others, but it never tried to get the better price for farmers by negotiating the traders. Board shows over enthusiasm to protect the traders' interest in the name of foreign exchange and excise revenue. Since GOI signed in treaty  with World Health Organization's  Framework Convention of Tobacco Control (FCTC) , the tobacco board act as a nodal agency to reduce the crop size with its registered growers and it can encourage to alternative crops but it should not suppress the farmers' right to get the better price.

A very few companies are operating the tobacco trade, the major players are ITC ( India Tobacco Company) , GPI ( Godfrey Phillips India) and some others. Traders are bidding very lesser quotes by convincing various deceptive reasons  like International market has excess stocks , don't have enough export orders, price cut due to competition international markets, Non tobacco materials in the tobacco bundles and  tobacco is not properly graded by the farmers. Of course, the traders are misguiding the farmers by all these unjustifiable reasons..... though the global market stocks are huge, the demand for India grown tobacco is high since it's the best for filter cigarettes. Some of the traders are making direct  unauthorized purchases from the  farmers  by offering less price, Tobacco board has failed to curb such illegal purchases since it doesn't have proper vigilance on non auction trading.

The tobacco cartel make deals with each other traders and  they fix the market price internally and control the market without offering remunerative price to farmers, especially the trade is under control of two companies i.e. ITC and GPI . ITC is the most powerful conglomerate and market leader in Indian tobacco trading and cigarettes manufacturing,   It has diversified into other industries  such as  hotels, FMCG, Lifestyle stores, paper and commodities to continue  its dominance and market share. Surprisingly, the RTI query has revealed that the government has equity in  tobacco companies, Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) has Rs.3500 crores of investment  in ITC. If the  largest state owned corporation involved in a tobacco company, the company will definitely get the competitive advantage over its competitors and  it receives special treatment for its own initiatives. ITC may influence the government to protect its business interests, it's a complex of involvement.  Tobacco farmers have been protesting  and denouncing the Monopoly Trade Practice of ITC , no action taken by the government so far and moreover the UPA government has banned the FDIs  in tobacco industry  and  this is nothing but protecting the dominance of existing players like ITC, GPI and VST .  Department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP) has to review the policies once again and they should liberalize the policies to allow FDIs in tobacco industry.

However, The frustrated  farmers have been  demonstrating  their agony and unrest in various forms i.e.  boycotting the auctions and staging the dharnas,  but the traders are not flexible to pay the remunerative price. Government of India and State government need to take necessary steps to help the tobacco farmers in this crisis situation, the required price hike should be  at least 15% over than last year  since the cultivation expenses were gone up  . The Government has to finance the State Trading Corporation of India or any Tobacco growers’ societies to  make purchase the tobacco  with better price and if possible the central government should allot some  bailout fund to the tobacco board which can compensate to the  distressed tobacco growers . I strongly support the FDIs in tobacco trade because the farmers will get fair price among the competition of traders and manufacturers. If the Government doesn’t curb the traders’ deceitful practices, then the tobacco will be UNHOLY crop for farmers.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Connecting the rivers is a great idea

Over 60% of Indian agriculture is dependent on rains which is very complex, risk prone and low productivity. The problems with rain fed farming is multifaceted; difficult to adopt modern technologies, uncertainty in output and low income which affect  to  livelihood of farmers  that leads to rural poverty and suicides. Being an agriculture dominant country India should have proper irrigation systems to distribute and manage the river water and floods. Supreme Court of India has impelled the mega project which will link the major rivers in north and south for optimum utilization of water.  As we know that our Indian farmers have been suffering with crop losses due to droughts and floods and also their villages were destroyed in floods. The Inter- linking of rivers (ILR) project assures to manage the water from surplus to lacking and mitigates the flood havoc.  The project expands the irrigated land that can increase the food production and able to feed 1.20 billion of Indians. The increased irrigation land will help to adopt modern technologies in agriculture for higher yields.

The river linking project involves on Himalayan and peninsular rivers, the design consists of 30 proposed links i.e. 16 in Himalayan component and 14 in peninsular component.  The grand design of ILR project will add 40 million hectares of irrigated land to India, generates the 34000 million kilowatts of electricity and the navigation controls the floods and mitigates the droughts.  Government of India (GOI) has been implementing the traditional methods like small water tanks, ponds, watershed schemes and lift irrigation schemes which are helpful… but very little, so India needs a durable river management system to fulfill water needs. As we know that how the city dwellers of Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore are in fresh water stress for their daily needs and at the same time 60% rainwater is going waste in seas. To avoid the wastage and proper management of water can be possible through river and canals channeling only.

There are many positive results with ILR but the other end the project is being criticized on various reasons and making controversial for their vested interests and political prospects. They are arguing on environmental, ecological consequences, international disputes and resettlement & displacement of the project- affected people. We have new Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill to accomplish such issues and India need to learn from our neighboring countries like China, Pakistan and Brazil, how they completed the prestigious dams successfully for their national interest.  Interlinking the rivers is an economic development process; most of the countries are constructing dams and channels for their national benefit and progress and ILR is same kind for our national energy, irrigation and drinking water needs of growing population. Population displacement and resettlement is a tough task, the projects disrupts the lives and lifestyles of the people who live in the affected areas. However, the government authorities must focus on methodologies and processes to involve all stake holders and civil societies to smoothen the process.

The arguments of the organizations who are opposing this project are baseless and vested, all these organizations are urban based, non-farm communities and they can’t understand the farmers’ perils. They live in air conditioned rooms, using magnificent and spectacular words to grab the public attention, they are failed to understand the farmer’s agony on water scarcity (so many farmers committed suicides for their crop failures due to drought & floods and unable to repay loans they had taken to drill bore wells) The can’t understand the perils of rural women who walk miles together to get bucketful of drinking water. Some of the political leaders are confusing and exasperating the people by giving the false interpretation i.e. this project is going to divert their own water to other areas. But all these arguments are unjustifiable and their electoral prospects only, because the ILR is a national project and this is for entire nation’s benefit and progress not for particular state.

In spite of these critiques and arguments, the ILR project is the only option to fulfill the water needs of growing population. India has been experiencing the floods & droughts and the sufferers used to get ex gratia payments from Prime Minister Relief Fund or Chief Minister Relief Fund, etc. from past 60 years. Instead of that if this gigantic project is completed… all disasters can be prevented, but it requires lot of money and time. As per Millennium Development Goals by UNDP, safe drinking water and sanitation is a human right and our central government should not consider the political limitations for water resources. The central government should take the control on inter-state rivers, the project must be included in five years plan as top priority, make involving all stake holders efficiently and this should be completed in a time bound manner.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The quest for water

Water is one of the five elements, Water is life and everything. The availability of water is drastically decreasing and so many developing countries are facing water crisis. There is a connection between water, poverty and hunger; developing countries in Asia and Africa are facing water stress, malnourishment and poverty, coincidentally these countries are closely with arid and semi-arid ecosystem. Urbanization has been increasing in developing nations which push to change in water consumption pattern and demand for water has been increased. The United Nations' FAO states that by 2025, 1.9 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could be under stress conditions.

The main share of water is taken by agriculture which accounts globally 70%, rain fed agriculture is most common method and some of the countries have been using massive ground water for agriculture. The population growth usually increase the demand for water, we already more than 7 billion and by 2050 we will be 9 billion, we need to face heavy water scarcity especially in agriculture production. The main task for developing countries is to utilization of water resources productively and efficiently i.e. How to produce more food with less water, how to recharge the ground water aquifer, how to reuse the waste water for agriculture.

Over 60% of Indian agriculture depends on rains, monsoons are very important to Indian economy, if the predictions go wrong or monsoons fails the GDP share of agriculture will be negative. Uncertainty of the monsoons and drought conditions make the farmers’ life miserable. To overcome rain- fed farming and drought, our Indian farmers are investing heavily on tube wells and high powered motor pumps… but water tables are dropping dangerously and the farmers are being dragged in to debt traps. Lot of irrigation projects were commenced by the state governments which are still under construction, huge finance investment must be required to complete these ongoing projects. According to Indian policy the Irrigation is a state subject, the state governments don’t have enough budget to complete them unless the financial support given by central government. As of now 400 irrigation projects are pending in nationwide.

Government of India should take preventive measures in agriculture to face water stress, since most of the Indian population depends on agriculture and need to feed 1.20 billion people. Recently Supreme Court of India has impelled the mega project which will link the major rivers in north and south as optimum utilization of water. This is the better way to manage the water from surplus areas to lacking but the project requires huge investment and takes long time. India needs to improve its agriculture by implementing scientific applications in irrigation system like drip, sprinklers and sprayers and also government needs to promote the low cost methods to harvest and conserve the rainwater. There is still great need of research on drought resistant and climate resistant crops, our agriculture scientists must focus on developing such verities, and Africa is the best example for such innovative crops and practices. India must take inspiration from Israel by their customized irrigation methods and reuse of waste water for agriculture.

Most recent US intelligence report says that in next ten years, water is going to be a bargain chip and as a weapon too... growing demand for water leads to wars. As we know... India has been experiencing many international river disputes like Ganges, Sindhu and Brahmaputra linked with other countries of Nepal, Pakistan and China, and inter-state river disputes like Babli, Almatti, Mullaperiyar, Kaveri etc. Privatization in the urban supplies makes more diversion of irrigated water to cities and Industrial purpose. Private corporations like Coke and other bottled water companies are taping the public water and excessive pumping the ground water which caused to water table aquifer fall. Since the available water is limited, allocation of the water to irrigation, domestic and industrial purposes shall be based on proper methodology, otherwise it leads to clashes among the people within India only not with neighboring countries. I don’t wish the quests and crusades for water; let us all together preserve the fresh water.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My understanding about a fascinating plant

When Columbus and his crew encountered the Native Americans inhaling the smoke of burning Tobacco, they introduced the same to Europe and the rest of the world. Tobacco was the first plant exported to a worldwide market from Americas from 1500s and it has been grown by Native Americans for more then 5000 years. Global tobacco Industry sells around 6 trillion cigarettes every year, China is the biggest consumer of cigarettes about 45% of the global total. After China, the ten countries that consume the largest number of cigarettes are Russia, the U.S., Japan, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Ukraine, Turkey, Korea and Italy. India is the second largest producer of tobacco in the world and ITC limited is the pioneer for India’s tobacco crop. India has different types of tobacco verities i.e. Virginia, Burly and native /oriental tobacco. Tobacco board of India is a government organization which involves in regulating the crop and developing the tobacco Industry.

Tobacco is the hungry man’s food, chilly man’s fire, sad man’s cordial, bachelor’s friend, lonely man’s companion, busy man’s repose: it’s a generic complimentary statement by tobacco lovers. Matter of  fact, Tobacco is responsible for 1 in 10 adult deaths and it kills more than 5 million people per year. The World Health Organization warned that if the same consumption patterns continue, more than 8 million people will die per year by 2030. Smoking tobacco is a fatal addiction; it keeps the life at risk…. not only the one who is smoking but also every one around. Everybody has the same questions, why farmers are growing tobacco even that is harm for human health and why governments are allowing tobacco cultivation even lot of health organizations and social groups advocating a ban on tobacco smoking.

Smoking is a social problem; the problem should be dealt with public awareness. But tobacco cultivation is a part of farming system; it is legally cultivated agriculture crop and globally trading commodity. Tobacco is the best cash crop among all cash crops… in terms of high value returns and suitable to most environments, on top that it’s a labor intensive crop, so it definitely improves the socioeconomic conditions of rural areas and the quality of farmers’ life. Sale of the crop is also assured and it’s sold by negotiable price through government operated auction floors. As per economic surveys, the tobacco farmers monthly income is higher than the non – tobacco farmers. Almost 15 million people are involved in Indian tobacco industry, the tobacco contribution to India’s GNP is about 10%.

Indian tobacco farmers have not influenced by the anti smoking campaigns, neither threaten tobacco cultivation nor promote them to leave the crop. They simply grow the tobacco as a part of the cultivation and more over its high return cash crop.In spite of Indian government has been implementing ban on smoking in public places and a ban on underage sales, tobacco consumption and production has been increasing. The consumption pattern in India is: 85% share goes to tobacco products like Bidi, Snuff and chewing and rest of 15% is cigarettes consumption. Despite the just 15% cigarette consumption generates 75% of taxable tobacco revenue and 25% from the other forms of tobacco products which is 85% market share, since the taxes are more on cigarettes comparatively on traditional tobacco products. Major Indian tobacco market is occupied by traditional products which are unorganized sector and cottage industries, so the government authorities are difficult to enforce the taxes on them.

As per my understanding, young &urban population is consuming the cigarettes and adults & rural population is consuming non-cigarette form of tobacco products and worldwide the non – cigarette form of consumption has been increasing. Tobacco consumption is dangerous to health; no one is going to deny that but the government should educate the citizens about the risk factors and at the same time it should protect the poor farmers’ interests and economic strength of the country; we need lot R&D in tobacco in the direction of  low –nicotine and organic tobacco crops. The taxes on cigarettes should not be increased because the consumption pattern will be shifted to non- cigarette form which is more harmful to health. I hope they won’t increase in coming budget.