The other side of Indian agriculture

Farming stories are reported through emphasis on sad stories by Indian media. The flip side can help boost morale and propagate sustainable development

If an outsider googles on Indian agriculture, she would be flummoxed by the innumerable problems Indian farmers face. She would find, much to her dismay, horrific stories on the plight of chilli farmers from Khammam in Telangana — who resorted to burning tonnes of chillis to draw attention of Government about falling prices — to woes of paddy growers of Mansa in Punjab — who continued to burn stubbles despite warning of fines by district administration. Stories of spate of suicides by farmers would agonise her even as she would find it difficult to fathom the severe drought in Tamil Nadu and associated perils. Stories that shock, surprise and sulk us, it is well known, make for compelling news for many. But is it that bad — and is Indian agriculture doomed?

Yes, Indian agriculture is afflicted with severe miseries, but this is not new. Over the decades a cocktail of faulty policies, crippling vote bank politics, disenchantment of policy makers and lack of any concrete vision have resulted in, what mainstream Indian media loves to call, “distress” in Indian agriculture.

Thanks to experts and commentators who perennially choose to deploy high-end skepticism in their analyses of Indian agriculture, public sphere is inundated with negative and depressing stories. The fact is there are good stories as well. We just need to flip the coin.

Meet Dhaneshwari Devi of Husir village in Raidih block of Gumla district; Reeta Devi of Dundigachi village in Gola block of Ramgarh district; and Monika Barla of Catakpur in Torpa block in Khunti district of Jharkhand.

They are new India’s agri-entrepreneurs who are scripting a unique farm prosperity narrative, that may never reach the outside world. The three women farmers are part of a team of 77 such indigenous entrepreneurs working under a Khushal Kisan intervention by Transform Rural India Foundation, supported by Tata Trusts and partners like Pradan and Syngenta Foundation of India, the Khushal Kisan program is designed to drive farm prosperity in a novel way.

An agri-entrepreneur or Khushal Kisan typically enrolls 100 to 200 farmers and handholds them — from providing inputs like seeds at competitive rates, know-how on irrigation and crop protection protocols, selection of crops, to providing market access – or as the punchline of the campaign says — Beej Se Bazar Tak Aapke Sath (with you from seeds to market linkage).

While agri entrepreneurs earn by providing their services, those who enroll with them get to benefit from their expertise and linkages and end up enhancing both their yields and income. Anish Kumar and Anirban Ghose, co-leads for TRI, exult, “The story is fascinating, and heartening, and worthy of being replicated in other parts of the country, especially in pockets which are left out of India’s march to prosperity”.

In fact, along with many other partners, Tata Trusts is running this program across 450 villages across Jharkhand, Odisha, Gujarat and Maharashtra under its five-year mission programme — Lakhpati Kisan-Smart Villages, which started in 2015.

Or, look at this, the Better India story of auto-driver turned farmer Amar Singh of Bharatpur in Rajasthan who through the help of Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation helped to make murabba from gooseberry. After years of hard work and innovation, today Amar’s, Amrita Murabba is a rage and fetches him a good Rs 27 lakh per annum as turnover.

The story of postgraduate farmer Rakesh Kumar of Chakwara village in Vaishali district of Bihar, as reported by VillageSquare.in, is equally compelling. Today Kumar along with few others have taken to rather unusual practice of seed farming, and earning handsomely.

While it is indeed painful to read endless tales of farmers’ suicides, it is a fact that there are other stories like above. Stories like these, in fact, abound and it is only by bringing them too, to the forefront, that we shall be able to do justice to the story of India’s farmers. For these stories also tell us that Indian farmers, and agriculture, are not doomed and may be pregnant with many happy promises.

(The writer is a strategic communications professional)

Source: Daily Pioneer