Tuesday, September 26, 2006

I'm beginning to like Sonia Gandhi

An article in the Hindustan Times ( a paper that I've recently subscribed to, because I got a good deal) carried the following headline-
Sonia effect: No farm land for SEZs
I'm grateful that Sonia Gandhi has made the government realize that industrial development does not and should not come at the cost of agriculture. After all, we need food to survive. None of us can survive on polymers or ancillaries or whatever the industries in the SEZs wish to produce and export. I strongly feel that a country is as strong as its agricultural community. Which means, I would prefer to see farmers making most of the land available to them by cultivating the right crop at the right time.
SEZs, meanwhile, can come upon land deemed unfit for agriculture. After all, they have to build structures which can come up on any type of land.

Another idea that struck me was formation of Agricultural SEZs. Why not try that out? Why don't some industrialists come forward for the creation of such SEZs and then enter into a contract with the farmers to produce a particular type of crop which will then be bought over and sold by the industry itself. Let's say industrial group X enters with farmers in a particular region to form an agricultural SEZ. The group will take responsibility of providing the necessary inputs to the farmers for the crop needed. For e.g. seeds, manure, fertilizers, etc. The group will over a period of time slowly develop irrigation facilities along with the government to cater to the irrigation needs of the farmers. It can also insure the crops against failure at better rates than the farmers themselves. This is because of the financial muscle that X would command. At the end of the harvest season, X will buy the produce, at competitive rates from the farmers, and sell it to retailers like Reliance, Pantaloon, etc. or to further food processing industries.

Slowly, the group can start giving financial help to the farmers at attractive rates to invest in better cultivation techonologies so as to improve farm yield. This would keep the farmer away from the clutches of the local money lender and also keep a tab on expenses. Group X can hire experts to get a feedback on how the area is performing in terms of yield.

There are more details to this issue, but I'd like to stop here. Organised farming can go a long way in developing food security for the country as well as a safe environment for the farmers to live and work. The caveat is that the group X should function with utmost integrity and not try to dupe or undermine the farmers.
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