The debt story less told

The Hindu, February 12, 2015, by K P Prabhakaran Nair

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/the-debt-story-less-told/article6887610.ece

Small and marginal farmers in rainfed regions are trapped in a losing battle with agriculture — and with life

The lot of the poor Indian farmer keeps deteriorating with the passage of time. According to the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) data released on December 19, 2014, during the last decade, the bloated debt of Indian agricultural households increased almost 400 per cent Even the number of heavily indebted households has steeply increased during this period.

The report is titled Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India, and is based on a national survey covering 35,000 households during 2012-13. Though the definition of an agricultural household has changed during the last decade, the basic features remain the same. The survey states that, on an all-India basis, more than 60 per cent of the total rural households covered in 11 States are in deep debt, though wide variations exist, ranging from 92.9 per cent households indebted in Andhra to 17.5 per cent in Assam. Loan patterns show it is 60 per cent institutional loans and 40 per cent non institutional loans. Moneylenders make up most of the non-institutional lenders.

Green revolution myth

Average debt per household is ₹47,000, while average income is ₹36,973 per annum. In 2002-03, India had 148 million rural households which increased to 156 million by 2012-13, a 5.4 per cent increase in a decade.

The data point to another disturbing trend. While average income from 2002-03 to 2012-03 increased by 318 per cent, most worryingly, total debt per household increased by 273.5 per cent during the same period, proving that while income from sale of agricultural products increased due to a price advantage during the last one decade, it has not translated into a reduction in rural indebtedness. Has the so-called green revolution really helped the poor and marginal farmer of India?

Benefits by way of better seeds or fertiliser input have been cornered by rich and affluent farmers in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh, Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The poor and marginal farmers of Bihar, Odisha and eastern Uttar Pradesh are in a miserable state. There are reasons to believe that indebtedness of rural agricultural households cannot be just 60 per cent, as shown by the NSSO survey, but perhaps as much as 70-80 per cent.

 

The enthusiasts of highly extractive agriculture, euphemistically called the green revolution, based on “high input technology” — very liberal, often unbridled, quantities of chemical fertilisers, very expensive hybrid or Bt seeds, copious use of irrigation water — kept proclaiming the “success” of this revolution. But the poor and marginal farmers , primarily in the vast rainfed areas of the country, were simply left out.

 

Their farms remained parched, while their debts soared. The Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, where Bt cotton failed miserably in parched rainfed fields and farmers in thousands took their own lives, unable to repay the loan sharks, became a global shame. Only where rich farmers had access to assured irrigation water coupled with unbridled use of chemical fertilisers could Bt cotton perform well.

 

PDS leakages

Many farmers are unaware of the minimum support price. And, often, these farmers resort to distress sale of their produce to clear the loans from moneylenders, obtained at exorbitant interest rates. In collusion with unscrupulous local traders and commission agents, government agencies delay procurement of grains by, in some cases, as many as 50-60 days.

The poor end up spending more than 50 per cent of their meagre farm income buying food for mere subsistence, while the government procured grain in the FCI godowns finds its way into the hands of corrupt officials, middlemen and grain traders.

Though the contribution of India’s agriculture to the country’s GDP is 18 per cent and it provides employment to more than 60 per cent of the total workforce of the country, if one goes by the NSSO survey, the country is heading towards a crisis in agriculture. The Prime Minister would do well to rethink his ‘Make in India’ strategy. These poor and highly indebted farmers, most with no formal education, cannot be allowed to migrate to congested urban areas to eke out a miserable, daily wage-earner’s life.

Farmers indebtedness: Into the abyss?

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/abyss

Author(s): Jitendra @jitendrachoube1 

Jan 31, 2015 | From the print edition

The situation of India’s farmers has only become grimmer in the past decade, according to the latest National Sample Survey Office report

imageIllustration: Sorit

The lot of the embattled Indian farmer only keeps on getting worse with the passage of time. In the last 10 years, the voluminous debt of Indian agricultural households has increased almost four-fold whereas their undersized monthly income from cultivation has increased three-fold. Even the number of indebted agricultural households has increased in the last 10 years. At the same time, there has been a micro-increment in the number of agricultural households in India.

All this is according to the recent report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), released on December 19, 2014. The report, titled ‘Situation Assessment Survey of Agricultural Households in India’, is based on a countrywide survey of 35,000 households by NSSO during 2012-2013.

It states that 52 per cent of the total agricultural households in the country are in debt. The average debt is Rs 47,000 per agricultural household in this country, where the yearly income from cultivation per household is Rs 36,972.

The report comes after a gap of 10 years. The last Situation Assessment Survey by the NSSO was for 2002-03. In that year, 48.6 per cent of agricultural households were in debt. The average debt was Rs 12,585. And the yearly income from cultivation per household was Rs 11,628. At the time, India had a little less than 89.35 million agricultural households.

In fact, some think that the report may not even be reflecting the entire truth. “The NSSO survey gives us an idea of the existing situation but not the clear picture. In my opinion, it is not just 52 per cent agricultural households that are in debt but 80 per cent,” says Devinder Sharma, a food analyst. “If you adjust for inflation, on an average 7 per cent every year, farmers’ incomes have remained frozen in the past 10 years,” says Sharma.

The other main takeaway from the NSSO report is that the debt is being incurred by the the richer, more prosperous farmers. NSSO data shows that richer agricultural states like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab have the highest average outstanding loans per agricultural household, whereas poorer states like Assam, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have the lowest amount of average outstanding loans.

This is substantiated by the data which shows that among agricultural households which possess less than 0.01 ha the share was only 15 per cent of the total outstanding institutional loan, whereas for households which possess more than 10 ha the share was about 79 per cent.

Reasons behind the rise

The question then is: why have farmers’ debts increased? Ashok Gulati, former chairperson of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), thinks outstanding loans to farmers are natural because of increasing intensification in agriculture. “As the intensification of agriculture increases, so does the loan.

The loan would be in the form of working capital, else the fixed capital will increase,” says Gulati.

image

Others believe that this report is like the one in 2002-2003 and brings out the same systemic problems. They add that India has not learnt anything in the past one decade. One such issue is investment in the sector. Even as agriculture has intensified, investment in it is very less. Even the yearly agriculture budget is not more than that of the flagship employment guarantee programme, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).

“The current year’s budget of agriculture was nearly Rs 31,000 crore while the MGNREGA budget was nearly Rs 34,000 crore. If we see the seven-year budget, the ministry budget was never more than MGNREGA,” says Sharma.

According to A note on Trends in Public Investment in India by S Mahendra Dev, Director, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research, Mumbai, the share of private investment in total investment in agriculture increased significantly over time from about 50 per cent in the early 1980s to 80 per cent in the decade of the 2000s. In other words, the share of public investment declined from 50 per cent to 20 per cent during the same period.

The public sector investment showed a negative growth in the 1980s and 1990s and a growth of 15 per cent in the 2000s. On the other hand, growth rate of private investment increased gradually from 2.5 per cent in the 1980s to 4.1 per cent in the 1990s and 52 per cent in the 2000s.

Another reason debt has increased is that market price of agricultural produce is not commensurate with rising input cost. Dev says that two-thirds of farmers do not get minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and are compelled to sell their crops at lower rates in the open market.

“Seventy-five per cent of farmers in India sell in the open market at lower than fixed MSP. Only the farmers of Punjab and Haryana get MSP. The situation of other states is deplorable,” says Dev. “For instance, in 2009, when I was the chairperson of CACP, in states like Bihar, farmers used to get Rs 700- Rs 800 for paddy when the MSP was fixed at Rs 1,000.”

The reason for farmers not being able to get MSP, according to the NSSO data, is that large numbers of them are not even aware of it. As per the data, only 32 per cent of paddy farmers are aware of MSP. But even then, less than half are able to sell their produce in government procurement centres.

“In collusion with local traders and commission agents, government agencies delay in starting procurement centres by 30 to 50 days. In between, farmers sell their produce to traders at lower than minimum price,” says Yudhveer Singh, a farmers’ leader.

image

Gopal Naik, who teaches agro-economy at IIM Bangalore, feels that total collapse of agriculture extension centres could also be the reason behind the outstanding loans and poor conditions of farmers. “The agriculture extension centres have collapsed. At one time, they were helping and guiding farmers in a number of situations like making the best use of pesticide, fertiliser consumption and modern tech, and making them aware of MSP and the nearest procurement centres,” he says. “Now farmers depend on dealers and sellers of pesticide for all that, which results in losses and non-profitability,” he adds.

Skewed debt

Naik believes the loan-waiving culture of the government also fuels continuation of outstanding loans. “Government policies are uncertain and increase the tendency of not repaying loans. It can also be a reason of increasing outstanding loans.encourage non-repayment of loans. The big land holders have high outstanding loans because they can easily access credit from institutions. They can access loan for other activities like setting poultry and other farms and wait till the government waives their loans,” says Naik.

The data shows that about 60 per cent of the outstanding loans were taken from institutional sources which included government (2.1 per cent), cooperative societies (14.8 per cent) and banks (42.9 per cent). But while the big farmers can afford to take loans, the small farmers still have no access to them.

“Credit from institutional sources is still a dream for small and marginal farmers,” says Jasveer Singh, a Bengaluru-based senior researcher who works on agricultural labourers’ issues. Anshuman Das, an activist who works with small farmers in Jharkhand, thinks that while they do not get institutional loans, they help in maintaining food security of the country.

“The small farmers practise farming which is different from that of big land holders. They try to keep investment low and innovate. For this, they do not access institutions for loans but are still dependent on non-institutional money lenders,” says Das.

The increasing debt and its skewed nature are surely driving many farmers away from agriculture. Agricultural house-holds are moving away to livestock, other agricultural activities, non-agricultural enterprises and wage employment. Data shows that 37 per cent of agricultural households no longer have agriculture as their principal source of income.

The contribution of agriculture in India’s GDP is nearly 18 per cent and it provides employment to nearly 56 per cent of the total workforce of the country. Despite this, as the NSSO report shows, the sector is no longer the first preference of rural households in India. It is heading towards a huge debt crisis and will need serious policy intervention instead of an ad-hoc approach.

Gateway to fair prices

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/features/gateway-to-fair-prices/article6489029.eceVenkat Iyer

Ready to eat: The supply chain for organic produce has long been hampered by poor linkages between farms and consumers
Ready to eat: The supply chain for organic produce has long been hampered by poor linkages between farms and consumers

Grower and buyer find each other directly on the Eco-Farmers Market info-exchange portal

Maridesi Here Gowda of Mandya District, Karnataka, has for seven years now grown sugarcane without using pesticides on his two acres and produced organic jaggery. But selling it has been a challenge each year and it often goes for a low price. This year, Gowda sold a bulk of his stock to a buyer from Hyderabad at a rate he found fair.

This was made possible by the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) and its new information-sharing portal, Eco-Farmers Market. Here the producer and buyer come together on the same page to conduct business. The supply chain for organic produce has been long hampered by poor linkages between farmers and buyers.

According to Ananthoo, the co-convener of ASHA who handles the portal, “Agriculture today is failing because there is no fair pricing for the farmer and consumer. Our efforts are to encourage the local economy and bridge the gap between farmer and market.”

The months-old Eco-Farmers Market has 300 registered farmers and around 20 organic buyers. Those registered can recommend other organic farmers. Each registration request is screened by call agents, who collect from the farmer data regarding the produce, land area and organic practices. Before registering, ASHA co-ordinators visit the farmer, if necessary, to ascertain his or her organic practices. Currently the portal registers only farmers with 100 per cent organic practices and classifies them as “declared” organic, “certified” organic (third-party certification) or “guaranteed” organic (belonging to a Participatory Guarantee Scheme).

To be doubly sure, all the organic farmers are re-verified by a panel of credible referees in each State. And, even after all these precautions, the portal urges buyers to do their own checks to verify the organic nature of the produce.

Once registered, each farmer’s crop details, including the next season’s produce and current availability, are updated on the portal by the call agents. The farmers can update this every 10 days, as also set a desired price for the produce.

When searching for a product, registered buyers or distributors can directly contact the farmer closest to them and thereby reduce both transportation costs and food miles. The actual transaction happens outside the portal. There are no charges for registering or transacting through the portal.

As the portal evolves, buyer loyalties are expected to increase towards specific sets of growers, rendering the portal redundant or free to offer a different kind of service. “In the future, we would like to open the portal to consumers as well, so they can link with the farmer directly to buy their food requirements,” says Ananthoo.

ASHA is an informal network of more than 400 groups in 20 states that came together in 2010 to organise the Kisan Swaraj Yatra, a nationwide mobilisation to draw attention to issues impacting food and farmers. The network includes farmers’ organisations, consumer groups, women’s organisations, environmental organisations, individual citizens and experts working for sustainable farm livelihoods.

The portal has received financial support from German organisation Welthungerhilfe (through Pravah and Forum For Integrated Development). For small farmers like Gowda in remote villages, it is literally a gateway to fair prices.

The writer is an organic farmer based in Dahanu, Maharashtra

(This article was published on October 10, 2014)

UN: only small farmers and agroecology can feed the world

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2566719/un_only_small_farmers_and_agroecology_can_feed_the_world.html

Nafeez Ahmed

23rd September 2014

Governments must shift subsidies and research funding from agro-industrial monoculture to small farmers using ‘agroecological’ methods, according to the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. And as Nafeez Ahmed notes, her call coincides with a new agroecology initiative within the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.
This is critical for future agricultural policies. Currently, most subsidies go to large agribusiness. This must change. Governments must support small farmers.

Modern industrial agricultural methods can no longer feed the world, due to the impacts of overlapping environmental and ecological crises linked to land, water and resource availability.

The stark warning comes from the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Prof Hilal Elver, In her first public speech since being appointed in June

“Food policies which do not address the root causes of world hunger would be bound to fail”, she told a packed audience in Amsterdam.

One billion people globally are hungry, she declared, before calling on governments to support a transition to “agricultural democracy” which would empower rural small farmers.

Agriculture needs a new direction: agroecology

“The 2009 global food crisis signalled the need for a turning point in the global food system”, she said at the event hosted by the Transnational Institute (TNI), a leading international think tank.

“Modern agriculture, which began in the 1950s, is more resource intensive, very fossil fuel dependent, using fertilisers, and based on massive production. This policy has to change.

“We are already facing a range of challenges. Resource scarcity, increased population, decreasing land availability and accessibility, emerging water scarcity, and soil degradation require us to re-think how best to use our resources for future generations.”

The UN official said that new scientific research increasingly shows how ‘agroecology’ offers far more environmentally sustainable methods that can still meet the rapidly growing demand for food:

“Agroecology is a traditional way of using farming methods that are less resource oriented, and which work in harmony with society. New research in agroecology allows us to explore more effectively how we can use traditional knowledge to protect people and their environment at the same time.”

Small farmers are the key to feeding the world

“There is a geographical and distributional imbalance in who is consuming and producing. Global agricultural policy needs to adjust. In the crowded and hot world of tomorrow, the challenge of how to protect the vulnerable is heightened”, Hilal Elver continued.

“That entails recognising women’s role in food production – from farmer, to housewife, to working mother, women are the world’s major food providers. It also means recognising small farmers, who are also the most vulnerable, and the most hungry.

“Across Europe, the US and the developing world, small farms face shrinking numbers. So if we deal with small farmers we solve hunger and we also deal with food production.”

And Elver speaks not just with the authority of her UN role, but as a respected academic. She is research professor and co-director at the Project on Global Climate Change, Human Security, and Democracy in the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara.

She is also an experienced lawyer and diplomat. A former founding legal advisor at the Turkish Ministry of Environment, she was previously appointed to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Chair in Environmental Diplomacy at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, University of Malta.

Industrial agriculture grabs 80% of subsidies and 90% of research funds

Hinting at the future direction of her research and policy recommendations, she criticised the vast subsidies going to large monocultural agribusiness companies. Currently, in the European Union about 80% of subsidies and 90% of research funding go to support conventional industrial agriculture.

“Empirical and scientific evidence shows that small farmers feed the world. According to the UN Food & Agricultural Organisation (FAO), 70% of food we consume globally comes from small farmers”, said Prof Elver.

“This is critical for future agricultural policies. Currently, most subsidies go to large agribusiness. This must change. Governments must support small farmers. As rural people are migrating increasingly to cities, this is generating huge problems.

“If these trends continue, by 2050, 75% of the entire human population will live in urban areas. We must reverse these trends by providing new possibilities and incentives to small farmers, especially for young people in rural areas.”

If implemented, Elver’s suggestions would represent a major shift in current government food policies.

But Marcel Beukeboom, a Dutch civil servant specialising in food and nutrition at the Ministry of Trade & Development who spoke after Elver, dissented from Elver’s emphasis on small farms:

“While I agree that we must do more to empower small farmers, the fact is that the big monocultural farms are simply not going to disappear. We have to therefore find ways to make the practices of industrial agribusiness more effective, and this means working in partnership with the private sector, small and large.”

A UN initiative on agroecology?

The new UN food rapporteur’s debut speech coincided with a landmark two-dayInternational Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutrition Security in Rome, hosted by the FAO. Over 50 experts participated in the symposium, including scientists, the private sector, government officials, and civil society leaders.

A high-level roundtable at the close of the symposium included the agricultural ministers of France, Algeria, Costa Rica, Japan, Brazil and the European Union agricultural commissioner.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said: “Agroecology continues to grow, both in science and in policies. It is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed.”

A letter to the FAO signed by nearly 70 international food scientists congratulated the UN agency for convening the agroecology symposium and called for a “UN system-wide initiative on agroecology as the central strategy for addressing climate change and building resilience in the face of water crises.”

The scientists described agroecology as “a well-grounded science, a set of time-tested agronomic practices and, when embedded in sound socio-political institutions, the most promising pathway for achieving sustainable food production.”

More than just a science – a social movement!

A signatory to the letter, Mindi Schneider, assistant professor of Agrarian, Food and Environmental Studies at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, said:

“Agroecology is more than just a science, it’s also a social movement for justice that recognises and respects the right of communities of farmers to decide what they grow and how they grow it.”

Several other food experts at the Transnational Institute offered criticisms of prevailing industrial practices. Dr David Fig, who serves on the board of Biowatch South Africa, an NGO concerned with food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, said:

“We are being far too kind to industrialised agriculture. The private sector has endorsed it, but it has failed to feed the world, it has contributed to major environmental contamination and misuse of natural resources. It’s time we switched more attention, public funds and policy measures to agroecology, to replace the old model as soon as possible.”

Prof Sergio Sauer, formerly Brazil’s National Rapporteur for Human Rights in Land, Territory and Food, added: “Agroecology is related to the way you relate to land, to nature to each other – it is more than just organic production, it is a sustainable livelihood.

“In Brazil we have the National Association of Agroecology which brings together 7,000 people from all over the country pooling together their concrete empirical experiences of agroecological practices. They try to base all their knowledge on practice, not just on concepts.

“Generally, nobody talks about agroecology, because it’s too political. The simple fact that the FAO is calling a major international gathering to discuss agroecology is therefore a very significant milestone.”

 


 

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author, and international security scholar. He is a regular contributor to The Ecologist and The Guardian where he writes about the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises. He has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, among many others. His new novel of the near future is ZERO POINT.

Follow him on Twitter @nafeezahmed and Facebook.

Website: www.nafeezahmed.com

 

New Land Acquisition Act – Rules for Social Impact Assessments and Consent Provisions Notified (Relative Progressive Rules – Can also be a useful guide for EIA Processes)

New Land Acquisition Act – Rules for Social Impact Assessments and Consent Provisions Notified (Relative Progressive Rules – Can also be a useful guide for EIA Processes)

 

The NDA government – amidst speculations that it is set to dilute important provisions of the new land acquisition act – has recently notified the Rules for two of its most important and progressive sections, those pertaining to the Social Impact Assessments and the Consent provisions. These Rules, notified on 8th Aug 2014 detail out how to implement these two provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 which is the full and formal name of the new Land Acquisition Act( referred to hereinafter as Act).

Overall, these Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Social Impact Assessment and Consent) Rules, 2014 (Rules hereinafter) provide a relatively progressive framework of implementation.

Provisions for Social Impact Assessment

There are some significant provisions for carrying out the SIA. First and foremost, the Rules require that the SIA be carried out in consultation with the local self-government institutions in the affected area. This provision is also there in Act.

The Rules require the state or the central government to establish a Social Impact Assessment Unit, “an independent organisation which shall be responsible for ensuring that Social Impact Assessments are commissioned and conducted by such person or bodies other than the Requiring Body as per the provisions of the Act”. (Emphasis added). This is a critical provision for maintaining the credibility of the SIA. Here, a lesson seems to have been learnt from the problems with the Environment Impact Assessments (EIA) process, where the project proponent selects, commissions and pays the agency that carries out the EIA. This creates a direct conflict of interest, and it’s not surprising that most EIAs are highly biased towards the project proponent’s interests.

The Rules empower the SIA Unit to formulate the Terms of References for any SIA proposal, list the activities required, decide the size and profile of the team required, and prepare the costs estimates for the same. Then, the Requiring Body (the agency that wants the land) will deposit the money with the Government, and the SIA Unit will select the agency to carry out the assessment from the roster that it maintains.

To further ensure a distance between the Requiring Body and the SIA team, the Rules explicitly state that the Requiring Body shall not be involved in any way in the appointment of the SIA agency, and that it should be ensured that there is no conflict of interest involving the team members of the SIA agency.

The Rules allow the SIA team to include independent practitioners, academics, qualified social activists, and mandate the inclusion of at least one woman member.

The SIA Unit is also tasked with building and “continuously expand a Database of Qualified Social Impact Assessment Resource Partners and Practitioners”, “conduct training and capacity building programmes for the Social Impact Assessment team and community surveyors”, and “continuously review, evaluate and strengthen the quality of Social Impact Assessments and the capacities available to conduct them”.

Apart from giving a detailed list of the aspects that the SIA must cover, which include all direct and indirect impacts, the Rules also require the SIA to “assess the viability of impact mitigation”. This is critical because often, the mitigation measures are just listed out as a lip service and the project cleared on this basis, but the affected people suffer because it is practically impossible to carry out the measure effectively particularly when the displacement involves large numbers.

In this context, it is also important that the Rules require the SIA to “provide an assessment as to whether the benefits from the proposed project exceed the social costs and adverse social impacts that are likely to be experienced by the affected families or even after the proposed mitigation measures, the affected families remained at risk of being economically or socially worse, as a result of the said land acquisition and resettlement”.

There are several other important provisions including the time period for the SIA (six months), recording the views of the affected families in writing, involving local voluntary organisations and media in the public hearings, recording and considering in the SIA every objection raised in the public hearings, the SIA and public hearings to be in local language and a web-based flow management information system of the acquisition process.

The Consent Provision

The Consent related Rules specify that the Consent process shall be carried out by the Government, through the District Collector. The consent would be obtained (where required by the Act) at two levels – the Gram Sabha level and for the private and public-private partnership projects, at the individual land owner levels.

For getting the consent from the Gram Sabha, the quorum requirements not only ask for 50% of the total members to be present, but also require that one third of total women members also to be present.

The Rules specify that negotiated terms for rehabilitation, compensation, impact management and mitigation which the Requiring Body has agreed to, shall form a part and parcel of the Consent Agreements. This means that the Consent is given only against these commitments.

It also declares that any attempt to coerce or threaten anyone into giving consent shall be treated as a criminal offence, and most important, if any such threat has been made, the consent so given shall be void.

Two Caveats

Of course, these Rules cannot and do not transcend the fundamental problems with the original Act itself (see here  for a detailed account of these), but within that limitation, provide a much better process than has been available earlier for project affected people.

Second, it’s a question as to whether and how long these Rules will survive, as the very provisions that these Rules help actualise are the ones that the Central Government seems to want to do away with. However, till such an eventuality, these Rules will be the ones that will provide the framework for implementation of the Act.

A Lesson for the MoEF

All in all, even with several limitations, these Rules provide a process of SIA that is miles ahead of all earlier processes. Indeed, at this time, the Ministry of Environment and Forest is examining all the environment protection laws, and it could do well to adapt all these provisions of the SIA for the EIA process too.

22 September 2014

The Rules can be downloaded from http://dolr.nic.in/dolr/downloads/pdfs/RFCTLARR%20%28SIA%20and%20Consent%29%20Rules%202014.pdf

The Man Who Is Solving Some Of India’s Biggest Agriculture Problems With His Simple Inventions – See more at: http://www.thebetterindia.com/10808/man-solved-india-agriculture-problem-simple-invention-innovations/#sthash.wOxdq9yu.kV7TqIw2.dpuf

Shreya Pareek

The Man Who Is Solving Some Of India’s Biggest Agriculture Problems With His Simple Inventions

Girish Badragond, a 28 year old guy from Bijapur District came to Bangalore in 2006 with a laptop, a wireless router and one way bus fare. Now, after six years he is a partner at Santepp Systems, a fast growing technocrat proprietary firm in the field of agricultural technology manufacture.

“Ever since I was a child, I loved playing with the machines. My first experience in machine was when I dismantled my cousin’s watch and fixed it again,” Badragond says.

02102010263

 As we walk inside his office, the light switches on automatically and turns off as soon as we leave the room. His eyes sparkle as he talks about the sensors in his office space. “This saves around 60 percent of the energy,” he says.

When he first moved to Bangalore, he had no money with him. He stayed with his friends for a couple of days and then found a room on sharing basis. With the help of an old DTH antenna he enhanced his router and sold the bandwidth upto 10 kms and earned some money.

SSLC pass Badragond didn’t get an opportunity to study further but this didn’t come in the way of his dreams. When he was in High school, he could easily do projects like making an inverter, power supplier etc. for engineering students.

Supported by NABARD and NIF, Santepp Systems, provides simple solutions to various agricultural needs. Some of his inventions include-

Bore well Scanners

Studying underground water has never been easier. The Borewell scanners have a camera with flash and180 degree rotation in horizontal space. The equipment can click pictures, check inflow and outflow of the water.

“It also checks whether the borewell has stagnant water. There is no point digging a borewell when there is no proper inflow of water as it is waste of money,” says Badragond.

Bore well scanners can also check for leakages and holes.

Advanced Mode Micro irrigation system

micro_irrigation_control_system

This unique irrigation controller helps you to operate the pump sets and irrigation valves from remote places without physically being there.

Micro irrigation controller regulates the flow of water and feeds water to plants to the extent of their requirement. There by water wastage is minimized and available water is put to max usage.

Drip irrigation sometimes leads to excess water to the crops which spoils the crop, while this system works according to the crops’ needs,” says Badragond.

The solar sensors are inserted in the soil at various places, these sensors send signal to the unit. The unit will automatically turn on the motor for water flow according to the priority and turn off after the requirement is fulfilled.

The system can cover over 10 acres of land and costs Rs. 1.5 lakhs. The basic version of the machine covers 2-3 acres of land and costs Rs. 20, 000-Rs.25,000.

Bandragond has also developed an android app for the system.

Bird Repeller

bird_repeller_system

This equipment with eight speakers and a timer repels the bird through various noises. The farms are located in outskirts of the village and noises won’t trouble the villagers. The main unit is kept near an electric point. It also has 3 days battery backup.

Urban Terrace Gardening

You are going on a vacation with no one to look after your garden? This equipment by Bandragond switches on the water flow every day at prescribed time and stops after a certain time. The system costs Rs.5,000.

These are just a few of the many incredible innovations this brilliant man has up his sleeve. For more information about his inventions, please contact Girish: +91 9902133996 or email him: info@santepp.com

About the Author: Born with a hobby to travel, talk, express and write, Shreya gets to do all of that and is even paid for it! Interested in rural development and social issues, she dreams of actually bringing a change in society and writing a book of her own one day. When she is not preaching others about a better India she is busy watching movies and playing video games. Follow her on twitter: @shreya08

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11-point agenda for resurrecting Indian agrculture and restoring the pride in farming: Devinder Sharma

 Time to usher in “Acche din…” for the Indian farmers.
Indian agriculture is faced with a terrible agrarian crisis. It is a crisis primarily of sustainability and economic viability. The spate of farmer suicide and the willingness of farmers to quit agriculture if given a choice is a stark reminder of the grim crisis. What should be the agriculture agenda for the new government? I am being asked this question time and again. Here is my 11-point agenda:
1) Providing a guaranteed assured monthly income to farmers. According to the Arjun Sengupta Committee report the average monthly income of a farm family is Rs 2,115. This includes Rs 900 from non-farm activities. About 60 per cent farmers are dependent on MNREGA activities to survive, and an estimated 55 per cent farmers go to bed hungry. But these farmers produce economic wealth for the country in the form of agricultural, horticultural and dairy produce. It is high time they are adequately compensated for generating that massive economic wealth in the form of food. My suggestion is that the new government should set up a National Farmers Income Commission which should have the mandate to compute the monthly income of a farm family depending upon his production and the geographical location of the farm.
2) The time for price policy is now over. Every time the Minimum Support Price (MSP) is raised questions are asked about its impact on food inflation. Moreover, the Bali Ministeral of WTO has questioned India’s subsidies that it provides to farmers by way of MSP. It is therefore an appropriate time to move from Price policy to Income policy. The income that a farmer earn should be de-linked from the price that his crops fetch in the market. That is why I have been asking for a guaranteed monthly income for for farmers. Let us not forget, if inflation is rising it is also rising for the farmers. While the Govt employees get DA instalments every 6 months to compensate for inflation, and get a pay commission every few year, farmers get only MSP and that too is un-remunerative. In an interesting study from Kerala, it was computed that if paddy price rise was to match the salary rise of govt officials, paddy price in 2005 should have been Rs 2669/qntl. It’s Rs 1,310 today. In other words what paddy farmers are getting in 2014 as paddy price is 50 per cent of what they should have earned 9 years ago.
The burden of providing cheap food therefore to 1.25 billion people should not be only on the shoulders of farmers. The society too must share the burden.
3) There is an immediate need to strengthen the network of mandis (market yards) across the country whisch provides farmers with a platform to sell their produce. Leaving it to markets will result in distress sale. To illustrate, let me take the example of rice farmers in Punjab and Bihar. In Punjab, which has a huge network of mandis linked with roads, farmers bring the produce to these mandis. Last harvest, Punjab farmers got an MSP of Rs 1,310 per quintal for paddy. In Bihar, where APMC Act does not operate, farmers resorted to distress sale with prices not exceeding Rs 900 per quintal. The Commission for Costs and Prices (CACP) is now pressurising Punjab Govt to dismantle themandis and let markets operate. Which means, Punjab farmers will soon go the Bihar way.
4) For a country which was able to build up an excellent marketing network for one of the most perishable commodities — milk — I see no reason why a similar approach cannot be adopted in providing a viable marketing network for fruits and vegetables. If the National Dairy Development Programme could ensure that milk is procured from each and every village, and then through a cooperative chain it is finally delivered to the consumers in the cities, I see no reason why India cannot carve out a marketing chain for fruits, vegetables and other farm commodities.
5) Cooperate farming need to be encouraged. Appropriate laws must be framed to make cooperatives more independent and effective. Drawing from the experience of the Amul cooperative in dairy farming, a similar system needs to be adopted for vegetables/fruit farming. I know of small cooperatives of organic farmers which have done wonders. Why can’t it be replicated to rest of the crops?
6) Aim at making villages self-reliant in agriculture and food security. Feeding the population has to be linked with farming. Chhatisgarh has given an excellent model of self-reliance in agriculture and food security. It has shifted the focus to local production, local procurement and local distribution. This is exactly what needs to be done throughout the country for which the National Food Security Act needs an amendment. Instead of providing 5 kg of wheat/rice/millets every month, the focus should be on making the villages take care of their own food security needs. This will help reduce the huge subsidy bill on food security that is required every year and thereby reduce fiscal deficit. Such a programme will also help in removing hunger in the long term.
7) Green Revolution areas of the country are facing a crisis in sustainability. With soil fertility devastated, water table plummeting and environment contaminated with chemical pesticides and fertiliser, the resulting impact on the entire food chain and human health is being increasingly felt. The new Government should launch a nation-wide campaign to shift farming to non-pesticides management techniques. In Andhra Pradesh, no chemical pesticides are used in 35 lakh acres. Farmers have even stopped using chemical fertiliser in some 20 lakh hectares. Production has gone up, pesticides pollution has come down, insects attack has also come down, and more importantly farm incomes have gone up by 45 per cent because of reduced health expenses. There has been no farm suicides in these areas. The same system now needs to be extrapolated to the entire country with local modifiations/adaptation.
8) Agriculture, dairy and forestry should be integrated. Agricultural growth should not only be measured in terms of increase in foodgrain production but should be seen in the context of the village eco-system as a whole. This will also shift the focus to low external input sustainable agriculture (LEISA) practices. At the same time such an approach will limit the ecological footprint.
9) Importing food is importing unemployment. Recently, apple growers in Himachal Pradesh have been protesting against the low import tariffs for imported apples as a result of which the local produce goes abegging. There are no buyers for Himachal apples, and the prices have plummeted . Similarly for other crops. The Govt must raise the import duties on agriculture, horticulture and dairy products and refuse to buckle under the pressures being exerted through the Free Trade Agreements. It should not accept the European Union’s demand for opening up for dairy products and fruits/vegetables by reducing the import duties. Studies have now shown that indiscriminate signing of FTAs and bilateral agreements has been disadvantageous to the country. Time to revisit the trade treaties and protect domestic agriculture thereby millions of livelihoods.
10) Climate change is certainly going to affect agriculture. But instead of looking at strategies only aimed at  lessening the impact on agriculture and making farmers cope with the changing weather patterns, the focus should also be to limit greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Considering that agriculture share in greenhouse gas emissions is about 25 per cent, the thrust must shift to reducing the application of chemical fertiliser/pesticides in farming. Following the AP model of non-pesticides management being the right approach, the cropping pattern too needs a revision. In the dryland regions of the country, for instance, at present hybrid crops which required almost twice the amount of water than normal crop varieties, are grown. Common sense tells us that in rainfed regions, which occupy 65 per cent of the cultivable area, crops requiring less water should be grown. But it is just the opposite in reality thereby accentuating the water crisis at times of rainfall delay.
I see no reason why Rajasthan, a semi-arid region, should be cultivating water guzzling sugarcane, cotton and rice crops. Similarly I see no reason why Bundelkhand should be cultivating mentha crops, which requires 1.25 lakh litres of water to produce 1 kg of mentha oil. Why can’t the cropping pattern in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh shift to pulses, oilseeds (like mustard) and millets? Why can’t the Goovt provide special incentives by way of a higher price for these crops so that farmers can willingly shift to more sustainable cropping patterns?
11) Lack of storage for foodgrains is appalling. It was in 1979 that under the Save Food Campaign, the Govt had promised to set up grain silos at 50 places in the country. This should be the top agenda for the new government. Not even a single grain should be allowed to go waste. #