Pilot project to attract rural youth to farming in the pipeline

Farming Activities

Text from:The Hindu Dated: July 3 2014 By B. S. SATISH KUMAR

The recommendations of the ICAR committee with a theme — “Attracting and Retaining of Youth in Agriculture (ARYA)” had been scrutinised by the vice-chancellors of all the agricultural universities in the country, agricultural experts and innovative farmers before forwarding to the Planning Commission.

University of Agricultural Sciences-Bangalore Vice-chancellor K. Narayana Gowda, who headed the ARYA Committee, told The Hindu that the Committee had recommended that a Rs. 200-crore pilot project should be taken up in 30 different places across the country to motivate the rural youth to remain in agriculture. “The prospects of agriculture are getting affected because of the youth shunning farming and migrating to cities in search of menial jobs. The only way of attracting them to agriculture is to turn farming into a profitable venture. The proposed project aims at not only making farming a profitable venture, but also increasing the farmers’ incomes by three folds in five years,” Dr. Gowda noted.

According to him, efforts will be made to increase the farmers’ incomes under the proposed project through various technological interventions depending upon the local requirements and bringing about –Read more

Our own wars

While the world is at war, India is battling with poverty. It is a battle not fought on the ground but in the precincts of some hallowed chamber, and those that are involved in the battle are not armies but highly estimable economists. They are trying to figure out where to draw the line…the line that would inform policy makers how many poor people there are. In the meanwhile, with blessings of the weather gods, the crops are failing, economy is failing…more people are becoming poorer by the day. The food prices have shot up, so their income cannot keep pace.

So why can’t they reach a consensus. They are after all eminent in their field and have been conferring for days now. As Angus Deaton and John Dreze  (The Hindu, July 25 2014) explain:

The Rangarajan expert group on poverty measurement has done a great deal of hard and useful work. In its recent report, the group probes a wide range of critical issues — how to set poverty lines, the choice of price indexes for poverty comparisons, the discrepancy between National Sample Surveys (NSS) and the National Accounts Statistics, and more. Massive amounts of data were crunched to shed light on these issues.

Surely this would have led them somewhere. But you know, India is a vast country. A country with so much diversity, a nation with many nations. If that is at all comforting, there is that fact that India needs to do something about the hungry and malnourished people very quickly. Well there are several factors. India has a serious problem with sanitation. Poor sanitation leads to disease, that contributes to malnutrition. The problem is since we have not taken care of sanitation, the disease bearing viruses make their way into the soil on which the crops are grown, and the water bodies also get contaminated. That water is used by the livestock and humans to bathe, and drinking water comes from this source.

So if we compute the statistics for the number of malnourished, stunted and wasted children and adult who are unable to work due to disease this gives us an idea about what we are dealing with. Not just the previous generation, the future generation that ought to join the work force would be unable to do so because they would be physically unable to do so. So here are some figures:

Over 7 years (1998-99 2005-06) malnutrition has “declined only 1.1 percent” (The Hindu), Stunting has declined 7.1 percent, The decline in the percentage of underweight children is tiny. The variation in the decline of poverty and malnutrition needs to be examined, since the level of decline has not been according to expectation. According to a paper prepared by the Planning Commission, this can be due to poor investment in public health infrastructure, According to the paper quoted by The Hindu:

That is, the weakening of the absorptive capacity of the stomach due to gastrointestinal diseases and germs played a much more significant role in malnutrition than the availability of cereals which are the focus of the PDS system and ‘right to food’ advocates. The paper also suggested that basic public health information, nutritional knowledge and availability about nutritional foods may also play a role.*

*(Virmani, Arvind, The Sudoku of Growth, Poverty and Malnutrition: Lessons For Lagging States, Working Paper No. 2/2007-PC, Planning Commission, July 2007 http://planningcommission.nic.in/reports/wrkpapers/rpwpf.htm) cited in the Hindu,Investing in health through hygiene dated July 28 2014.

As was illustrated in one of the paragraphs above, there is non-existent to very poor sanitation infrastructure available in most cities, towns, villages of India. More likely there is heavy use made of the open spaces – both in the urban centers and the rural areas. This spreads diseases that culminates in inability to take advantage of improved nutrition availability through improved distribution and other schemes.

Of course as is the case with everything in India, this does not cover all the ground. There are things like housing, socio-economic status, etc. Gender issues also play a role as food distribution within households is gender centric, a fact that has been brought out by Graffiti, time and again.


The budget’s ecological bankruptcy

From: The Hindu Dated: July 21 2014 By Ashish Kothari

The NDA’s first budget has thrown a few sops in the direction of the environment and the millions dependent on it. But much like its predecessors, in painting the big picture it remains embarrassingly devoid of innovative ideas on how to move India towards ecological sustainability and justice

“While 2015 will be a landmark year for sustainable development and climate change policy, 2014 is the last chance for all stakeholders to introspect to be able to wisely choose the world they want post 2015.”

These are significant words, contained as they are in the government of India’s Economic Survey 2013-14. The reference is to the framing of a new set of sustainable development goals to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) that all countries agreed to in 2000 (due to end in 2015), and to a possible new climate agreement to be framed in 2015. The Economic Survey was released a day before Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the first annual budget of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

So, does the rest of the survey and the budget reflect such introspection? Are the new power-holders in New Delhi any wiser about protecting the interests of the next generation while meeting the needs of the present? Or indeed about how several hundred million people of the present generation, who are directly dependant on nature and natural resources, can have more secure livelihoods?

Lower carbon emissions economy

Let us first look at the good news. The survey contains (for the third year running) an independent chapter on ‘Sustainable Development and Climate Change’, which contains a few more pearls of wisdom –Read more

Dams without responsibility

From: The Hindu Dated: July 6 2014 By Meena Menon

Uttarakhand has to ensure that the quest for hydro-power cannot come without a responsibility to preserve a region that is limping back to life after a calamity aggravated by unplanned human interventions neither scientifically assessed nor endorsed by the people of the region

The devastation in Uttarakhand had already happened much before the cataclysmic events of June 2013. The unprecedented rainfall and floods and loss of life drew attention to the alarming situation in a State known for its pristine forests and rivers. It also drew attention belatedly to the “bumper to bumper” dams in the mountains.

Construction on all dams in Uttarakhand was halted by the Supreme Court in August 2013 and on its instructions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) appointed an expert body which said that 23 hydropower projects out of the 24 it was asked to examine would have an irreversible impact on the biodiversity of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi basins and should not be constructed.

In May, the Supreme Court reiterated its orders stopping work on the 24 hydropower projects –Read more

State and economy: India’s dilemma

There is a debate on about the Planning Commission’s relevance in the present context of market led economy. Graffiti has often taken a stand that the centrally planned model has not delivered socio-economic gains for the people of India. However, Graffiti has stopped short of criticizing or questioning the relevance of the institution. The institution is relevant in the context of being a mechanism to counter balance the vicissitudes of market led economy. The representatives of the people and the planning commission must form a back bone; in this context the commission should be re-formed to embrace new realities.

This post does not delineate how the planning body should be modelled but attempts to build a scenario where the market forces rather than state institutions influence the economy. With the 2014 elections the NDA was brought to power at the Centre. However, with the near total annihilation of the Congress party, a viable opposition is a pipe dream, not just in context of sheer numbers but the fact that the dynasty led party is in some disarray of its own making. So what does it all build up to. When decisions are taken by states or the Centre, that affect the people, there must be a system of checks and balances.

Such anomaly can be overcome by resolving relevant issues when there is a mechanism that is able to look at the problems in a dispassionate manner. Part XI of the Constitution (concerned with the relations between the Union and States) delineates matters that are state subjects or concurrent or subjects for the Union. However, as D. Shyam Babu has outlined in his article, “Should Planning Commission be closed down?” (Down to earth July 15 2014), it has, “adversely affected both our federal structure and Cabinet system of governance.” There needs to be a mechanism that can work with the states to examine issues concerning not just allocations to the states but to ameliorate problems that may be caused by market forces – the classic dilemma of guns vs butter. Market forces may point to greater allocation for things that are relevant to the few vs allocations towards improving water availability for farming, greater investment in health and education.

Often enough there are such dilemmas and the state governments take decisions based not on relevance but based on extraneous factors. In this context, the political mechanism may tilt in favour of the market – this would have an adverse impact on the people. Resources that bring revenue may ultimately find their way in the hands of the vested interests, this would be especially damaging in the regions where there are mines and other mineral resource concentration together with high levels of poverty and under development. In this scenario a body that monitors and resolves such issues is needed.

Strategies that recognise the new realities (of a market economy), and have an understanding of the issues that the people face: the low levels of social development and the high levels of income disparities, would go a long way in setting a growth trajectory. Rather than fighting “the beast of market led economy” with some dogmatic ideological paradigm – that is only relevant to some esoteric worshippers, we need to prepare the next generation to embrace the “new economy”.  For this newer institutions should be put in place that work for the people.

Noises and priorities

Does a statue of Sardar Vallabhai Patel need to have an allocation of Rs. 200 crores? Isn’t it fundamentally wrong when the construction of the statute is going to submerge forest land and displace tribal people (www.downtoearth.org.in)? The allocation for the hand loom sector is 50 crores, 50 million people depend on this sector.

This is not the first time the government of the day has got its priorities wrong. Allocations that impact the lives of million of people have got step motherly treatment. The non essential displacement of people is an issue on which one would like an answer from the government.

Considering that the mainstream economy with its emphasis on urbanisation and large industries is of little consequence to those dependent on agriculture and agro-based cottage sector, large allocations are not going to bring change in their lives. Allocation of monetary resources and fiscal benefits have not been effective tools in the past.

The tenor of debate in the mainstream media has focused on the priorities of the urban centric, industrial economies with little for the millions who are either displaced or have to uproot themselves from their environment to find viable but elusive opportunities elsewhere.

Now a site for Indian stories

There are news events from different parts of India, they can be usually categorized as politics, entertainment, crime, developmental news. This site is about developmental issues. About how we are faring, as a nation, in the area of maternal child nutrition, food, environment, etc.

This site is not about politics. Its about developing stories around issues of human development, to that extent it is also politics; it would look at the policies of the state and its impact on human potential.

Graffiti has since its beginnings in January 2012, focused on issues of social development, about how the distance between state and people has deleterious effect on the them. They are uprooted time and again, or they go hungry as the mechanism for public distribution is unable to reach them.

India’s record, as everyone knows, in social development hasn’t been remarkable, the statistics cause widespread pessimism as state is unable to come out with workable action programs. The UNDP report makes for a grim reading; the annual publication tries to be optimistic and points to positive developments, however, the grim realities of a floundering economy, ever higher food prices bring newer challenges.

The site would discuss the issues and point to stories that bring hope.