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Friday, March 22, 2019
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Beyond Politics

Recently, I was interacting with one successful differently-abled farmer Padma Shri Genabhai Patel from Lakhani Taluka of Gujarat’s arid Banaskntha district. The discussion revolved around whether government sponsored freebies such as loan waiver schemes are benefiting the farmers in need.

More than 85 per cent of farmers belong to the small or marginal farmer’s category. They hardly avail institutional credit facilities. Then, who is benefiting? Government after government, irrespective of any political party or ideology, has been using freebies for vote bank politics.

He spoke in a very clear and succinct manner that what a farmer needs are water, power and price, timely availability of water and power to irrigate his farm land and fair price on his produce. If these three things are available, hopefully no self-respecting farmer would run after the government offices for freebies.

‘Price’ is the main component in whole agriculture ecosystem. A farmer needs to be enabled to get fair or at least remunerative price on his produce. Since agriculture is a state subject, different states are governed by different APMC Acts. They have different levy structures in different mandis. Even most surprisingly different mandis within a state have different rules and regulations, thereby making them virtually incomprehensible for the gullible farmers.

The irony is that agriculture sector involving more than 140 million families and the only largest private enterprise in the county has been left out of the benefits of economic reforms that began in 1991.

However, the present government at centre has initiated certain progressive agricultural market reforms in the country. The New Model APMC Act 2017 is a step in right direction. The act envisages ‘one nation one market’ model for farmers. Though it is challenging, yet it is achievable. Only political will is required. State governments have to come forward to amend their APMC Acts in line with creating one common market platform for farmers across the country.

I was wondering why there could not be a central law in line with GST to govern the agriculture markets in the county. It may require constitutional amendment. It may need consensus among state governments. Time has come the state governments must rise above narrow vote bank politics.