It was to a TV news crew that the farmer sat in his field showing the once golden corn, now browning. His shoulders hunched and hands outstretched in despair. The monsoon has not yet reached the farms and his produce, due to lack of water, is wasting away.
Farmers toil very hard to fill the stomachs of those who live in the city. My own experience of extensively covering the wheat bowl of India a few years ago gave me a sense of how much effort goes into the process of farming, of working hard in intense weathers, on relying on rain gods for success. I came back to the city with a new respect for those we consider our poorer or less-cultured compatriots. They are the reason I have food on my plate.
But the axis on which the food security of this country hinges is Monsoon. A good monsoon means more food stocks. Which means simply – less inflation and a happier government. A bad monsoon strikes fear deep in the government. It has known to lead a government to collapse (just because onion prices rose so much after a bad spell of rains).
And this year in a rain-starved India, the metrological department has predicted a 31% deficit in rainfall. The government has sprung into action and the Agriculture Ministry has rolled out a contingency plan with the Minister assuring that the situation is ‘not that serious’ (he seems to have a direct connection with the rain gods!).
India has launched agricultural and weather satellites in space, it has agriculture scientists, it has a government machinery geared towards providing agricultural support. About 70% of this country is rural and about 60% are directly engage in agriculture and 10% indirectly gainfully employed because of it. What gets my goat is why after such technological advancement, about 70% (a conservative estimate) farmers rely on a good monsoon for a bumper crop. The yield varies every year according to the rainfall. And rainfall is often ‘abnormal’ – less or more.
Since weather as an entity cannot be controlled (except in China where they do rain-seeding), why can’t the government let farmers take control of their destiny using other methods? Why can’t the government help evolve a system of irrigation where farmers don’t have to depend on the Monsoon? Why can’t it resolve water issues, make canals, encourage drip irrigation? Why can’t it evolve strategies where farmers can grow their produce in a temperature and water controlled environment? Why can’t we have a government that doesn’t think of ‘Monsoon contingency plans’ instead of providing long term solutions? A country where the inflation in the third and forth quarter of the economic review does not depend on the weather!
To the powers that be, my only plea is review the system, change policies and do something for our farmer-folk. Amen!