Aug 22, 2015

Reply to Crisis of Sugarcane farmers.

Narasimhan Khadri
Sugar industry has posed serious livelihood problems not just in Karnataka but also in uttar Pradesh. Reasons are

1. The failure of cooperative movement in sugar sector. It has gradually lost the democratic nature and in turn cultivated dictatorial tendencies. AMUL model of Anand should be emulated. Cooperative movements has failed even in Karnataka is a sad thing.
2. Ownership patterns of sugar factories has been permanently skewed in favour of powerful politicians. This has resulted in opacity and goondagiri. There are vested interests on the corridors of power as far as sugar sector sector is concerned. They bear direct consequence from this sector and hence resist any attempts of reforms.
3. Integration with global market hasn't benefited either farmers or factories. There has been surplus sugar production in countries like Brazil and Cuba which has resulted in the fall of prices. This means less profit for factories . Two things can be done. A) Increasing import duty to protect from external shock B) Ensuring that ethanol blending is increased from the current 3 p.c to at least 10 p.c . This will make the factorys' bottom line healthy. But will it lead to better payments for farmers ? Can't say . This move has environmental significance as well.
4. Factories have been demanding that government should buy the surplus sugar to improve their financial position. This should be resisted as it is only a short term measure and will lead to further distrust as this benefit will never be transferred to farmers. Instead long term reforms like improving the governance of sugar factories on the one hand and setting up farmer producer organisation on the other should be stressed. Such FPO s gives the farmers a voice.
5. One can't deny the sociological aspect to these suicides. Much of the suicides are happening on the fringes of a urban centre. There may be a life style pressure on these farmers . Such pressure to become super rich in very less time exists also among urban youth and hence there is high suicide rates in this section as well. This can only be collectively addressed by media , teachers and more importantly families.
6. Improving psychiatric facilities in public hospitals is sine qua non in this modern society. Psychiatric care has been cold shouldered by both governments and the public. It has not received help from the films as well which has stigmatized psychiatric care and that only mad people receive such treatments and electric shocks. Quickly identifying suicidal tendencies and giving proper medication goes a long way in addressing this social malady.

There always is a hooplah that surrounds a farmers suicide. But every suicide ,whether it be a model's or a sslc student's , should create the same stir in our mind as each life is as precious as the other.

I also want to add what Prof Ashok Gulati said in a recent interview in rajya sabha tv(its on YouTube)

He mentions about the dismal picture of agricultural insurance in india. Only 10 per cent or so of the net sown area are insured where as in China it is almost 90 per cent. The reason for such pathetic coverage is as Prof Gulati says, due to the high premium rate. 

Instead of ad hoc compensation and debt waiver schemes, which puts serious burdens on our RRB 's and PSB's , govts should seriously look towards reducing premium amounts and also making this model viable for insurance companies.

This type of institutionalised 'compensation' mechanisms reduces shock factor among farmers. 

Prof Gulati also suggests taking ISRO's help in surveying crop losses using GIS(geographic information system) so that compensation is delivered instantly without any delay. We do have satellites which can help us in this regard.

Once the concept of agricultural insurance becomes a hit among our farmers, there is no turning back. 

Please watch his videos on YouTube for an in-depth analysis about our ailing agricultural sector.

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