Prefer Cooperatives not Corporates for farmers’ well-being

Prefer Cooperatives not Corporates for farmers’ well-being

Never before have farmers bodies been united as is being seen now against the recently enacted farm laws as the Government of India has failed to address their genuine doubts about these being in their favour. All efforts of the Government to take along the farming community have so far proved futile.

It looks the Government certainly has not done its homework before pushing through the legislation during pandemic situation. While passing the legislation, it also bulldozed the opposition voice.

In sharp contrast, it always invites responses from the industry and trade quarters whenever any recently enacted Farm Laws in India as the Government of India has failed to understand and address farmers’ strong reservations on the issue. The gesture of interacting issue related to them is up for consideration. This explains the present Government’s pro-urban and pro-corporate bias. It seems the farming community all over the country has seen through this and for this reason, it has resorted to protest mode apprehending their exploitation at the hands of the corporate sector in the agriculture sector as a direct fallout of the new laws.

Farmers too, in fact, are in search of solutions for better deals for them as farm suicides are unabated, notwithstanding, the assured MSPs for Wheat and Paddy- a syndrome which has crippled the States as well in pushing forward the newer farm reforms risking political turmoil.

Unviable farming:

Land holdings in India are averaging at per capita land holding at 1.08 acre which is increasingly unviable due to high input costs. In this digital era, farmers have come to know that the world over the resentment is brewing in farmers class everywhere and now they are keeping the protest flags high be it USA(with average land 440 hectare) or anywhere else.

The policies are framed by the governments in a way only  to ensure the glut of farm produce be it cereals or milk so that people get cheaper food and the farmers are made to bear losses  for consumers sake. In India too, the Food warehouses remain full to the brim and at times rotten. Dry milk is in excess in Indian milk plants as well as in the world market.

In such a scenario MSP insistence is the only weapon with Indian farmers as the Government fails to give viable alternatives by taking farmers into confidence. The backlash on Farm Laws could have been avoided if the policy makers were serious in giving innovating farm strategies that could have been formed by involving farmers at the ground level and the federal States more honestly.

Encourage farmers Cooperatives not Corporates:

To curb migration to urban centers from villages, we need to contain discontent in farmers in the villages itself. We should form Village Clusters on the tune of Industrial clusters. Let us encourage farmers cooperatives of small and marginal farmers who must be offered innovative farming solutions with active financial ,technical and marketing support by the Government and farm varsities . Each geographical area in such a cluster can be chosen for different produce be it cereals, vegetables or horticulture or any other farming.

Food processing units can be envisaged for such clusters which too be managed in a cooperative structure. This will also help the small farmer to make use of his small patches of land kept idle due to un-viability earlier. The recent decision by Punjab government to give ownership rights to those tillers who were tenants and have been in occupation of small parcels of land for several years by succession is a welcome step.

Cooperative farming will help increase responsibility and confidence of farmers in farming entrepreneurship. Farmers will have more bargaining power be it raising loans or marketing produce with lower transaction costs. Many a large agricultural cooperatives like Zen-Noh in Japan(World’s largest Agri Cooperative ), Rabobank of the Netherlands(operating since last 110 years ),the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation of South Korea and Fonterra  of New Zealand (A very successful dairy cooperative ) are an important examples to follow. But, this shall require a strong legislative and administrative action to encourage the cooperative sector.

Contract farming experiments failed in many cases as the outside contractors never remained fair in their dealings. In the cooperative mode each farmer will feel its individual responsibility for better utilization of common pool resources. Farm warehouses and cold storage houses too could be encouraged in the cooperative sector. This is always better to keep the farmers knit together rather than disintegrate them.

NABARD is an important institution whose officials are expected to be proactive in cooperation with States’ machinery who in turn too should streamline their Block Level Development Officials to shed their slow motion working now.

Check on Corporates:

Corporates globally are increasingly capturing profits from farming and agribusiness thus ruining and uprooting the farmer class. MNCs are investing heavily in land purchases.In fact, off late the capitalist and colonial model of capturing lands in bulk is in vogue and they have scant regard for the workers as they make contracts on their own terms. Here in India, the big landlords too seldom talk of farm workers rights.

Notwithstanding, India cannot afford to have let loose the corporate onslaughts on farmers. Writing on the wall is clear that now the farmers have started uniting for their rights. In such a scenario in India, it becomes incumbent on the political masters both in the Centre as well as States to work transparently as far as farmers rights and welfare is concerned. The predicament of farmers must be understood closely and farming solutions be sought in consultation with them only. Let us help farmers to educate themselves so that they can come forward for viable alternatives of their own.

Brij Bhushan Goyal

The author is a Ludhiana-based retired banker and social activist.

Disclaimer: Opinion/facts in this article are author's own and does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

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