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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 24

Food Crisis and the Patriotic Task of Kisan Organisations

Monday 2 June 2008, by Chaturanan Mishra

The present food crisis is worldwide and is not a one-year affair because of some natural disasters or drought only. It is because of years of bad government policy in agriculture, as the Newsweek of May 19 has noted. The present abnormal food price in India is also because of years of bad agricultural policy of the government. For the last several years the growth food production was falling and no one took notice of it. The develop-ment of irrigation was badly neglected. The quality of agricultural land deteriorated and productivity decreased. The cost of agricultural input was rising fast including those of diesel and fertilisers but as the prices of agricultural products were falling farmers were not getting even the cost of production by selling their products. This needed a strong movement of farmers to stop the government from acting the anti-farmer way.

For the moment all political parties, of both the Left and Right, are rightly protesting against the high prices but in the past they too were silent. The government is also moving slowly but putting some restrictions on the private sector. This year there has been high procurement but the danger is that due to this procurement complacency may arise and the government may begin thinking of import of food in the name of economic reform. The present worldwide food crisis is so serious that food riots have taken place in 22 countries. Even the United Nations, World Bank, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) etc. are demanding immediate action. The British Prime Minister has said that the next G-8 meeting will also discuss this.

Despite this in our country kisan organisations have not moved. They did not act when thousands of farmers committed suicides. The agricultural crisis is so deep and serious that unless farmers themselves move no solution can be there. In major parts of the country like Bihar, Eastern UP, Orissa etc. the method of cultivation is very outdated. Now scientific cultivation is needed and farmers, including small farmers, badly need soil testing, irrigation, electricity, high yielding seeds, money for cultivation, technology suited to agriculture, reasonable price for their products, crop insurance etc. In our country wastage of agri-products, particularly of vegetable and fruits, is so high that it is equal to that of total of the food production of Australia. Hence new technology is urgently needed. We have enough land and manpower for cultivation, good climate which is producing a variety of agriculture goods. We have enough animals to have milk but that needs improvement of breed. The tribal population badly need this. Meat and fish can be grown on a large scale. Solar and wind energy can be made available on a large scale. All these need village level kisan organisations. Broadbased kisan organisations can also reduce corruption which is prevalent at all levels and kisans hardly get one-third of the government allotted fund. They can also have a bigger say for their vidhayaks (MLAs) and sansads (MPs).

AT the all-India or State level they can work to make the government work in favour of the kisans. The kisan organisations, from the village to the all-India level, have to be broadbased to face the new crisis. As it was in the early years when Communists, Socialists, Congressmen and independents all worked in one Kisan Sabha. Independent kisan leaders like Swami Sahajanandjee of Bihar rallied thousands. To face the new tasks on the kisan front and to face large scale malnutrition and starvation the Kisan Sabhas have to remould themselves. This is their patriotic duty.

Similarly agricultural scientists have to implement the slogan of lab to land and help the farmers to raise the productivity of land. They must organise Krishi Vigyan Kendras in every block of each district and help the kisans to develop cultivation scientifically. They have to invent new and high yielding varieties of seeds, prepare programmes for each crop and every region for scientific cultivation. And the government should work on these on a mass scale to help the farmers. If productivity is raised small and marginal farmers will have more produce even in their small holdings and thus they will take less from the government. This will reduce their poverty and also the food subsidies.

As it has come in the world press, the highest gainers from this food crisis are multinationals like Cargill and Monsanto of the USA by hoarding. The USA and also Europe is manufacturing ethanol, bio- diesel from some grains for which huge subsidy is given by the US Government. This has also caused the present food crisis. Hence to fight it by raising our agri-productivity our kisans will be performing an anti-imperialist task in the globalisation period.

At present the government does not speak against the multinationals. The government also does not speak against the moneyleaders. The All India Kisan Sabha, if broadbased, can also force the government to change this policy.

The corporate sector is entering the villages on a big scale. They will supply inputs for scientific cultivation to farmers, specially the big ones, at cheaper rates as they are manufacturers or wholesalers and also purchase the products at higher price as they would not have to pay the retailers. This will politically unite the farmers with the corporate sector. This alliance will increase the influence of the corporate sector on the government.

Hence it is urgent that kisan organisations unite to help farmers for scientific cultivation.

The author, who was the Union Agriculture Minister in the United Front Government at the Centre (1996-98), functioned as the AITUC President for several years.

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