By Ganesh Bhatt
Revolution is defined as a dramatic and wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes, or operation, a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system, a drastic change in a field such as industry or technology, or similarly, a sudden, often violent uprising from the people to change the political system.
This becomes relevant when people have started expecting a farmer revolution in the near future in view of the ongoing peasants’ movements throughout the country. Thousands of farmers under the banner of more than 200 peasants organizations supported by more than 20 political parties gathered on 30th November 2018, in New Delhi, the capital of India to protest against the injustices they face and to press for their demands. This is a second such big protest march of farmers in less than two months. Mumbai witnessed two such show of strength by farmers in recent months, which happened in M.P., Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and other states.
Some people claim that the agitations of farmers and their demands form an ante- thesis to the existing socio-economic system and they expect a revolution to take place. Demand for major share of the national cake for the villages of India, suggestion to limit income of the urban people and ceiling on land in rural areas, urban commercial property cannot be viewed as a new paradigm of development. Continued support and involvement of farmers on a large scale, persistent agitation to get their demands fulfilled from the Government, at best can create awareness among farmers or some sort of anarchy in the society, but not revolution in strict sense; because these leaders are yet to propose an alternate viable socio-economic system.
A New Approach is the Need
The government policies have not fared well in providing relief to the problems of farmers, but aggravated their miseries. The Rural agrarian society is seething with discontent and suffering economically after independence.
Numerous attempts and ways suggested so far to solve the agrarian crisis has revolved round the acceptance of individual ownership of the land which they consider as natural right and that land should be owned by individual cultivators because they are deeply attached to their land. Actually in this matter we should give more importance to collective welfare than to the sentiments of the individual.
Peasants agitations throughout history have mainly focussed on the issues connected with cultivators, i.e. the land owners, share croppers, tenants etc. There are hardly any movement to address the problems of landless agricultural labourers except the movements demanding grant of land to them. This proposal is neither technically sound nor practically possible.
The modus operandi of exploiters has changed. To attribute the luxury life in urban areas to looting farmers is too naive. It is no more a physical and economic exploitation of the farming community; there are other aspects like cultural subjugation, language suppression etc., and newer methods of psycho-economic exploitation are forced upon the people including farmers.
People expecting solution from the political parties is sure to get disappointed, because none of them have a viable alternative. The major causes of agrarian crisis of modern India are uncontrolled liberalization, privatization and globalization which were started by Congress and its allies. All the parties which extended their support in Delhi have been in power at the Centre or one of States at one or the other point of time, either directly or indirectly. BJP and its allies have been rigorously implementing these policies, because of which the country is reeling under crony capitalism. There is no reason to believe that these parties will trace back from these policies.
Old methods of fighting the exploiters have become outdated and obsolete. Agrarian crisis cannot be addressed in isolation overlooking other aspects of the economy. A comprehensive and holistic approach is necessary.
There is an urgent need to think beyond Capitalism in a different pragmatic way. Shrii Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar, more profound of a new socio-economic theory –PROUT-acronym of Progressive Utilization Theory, opines that until now the structural locus standii of agriculture has not been properly developed. In fact, all aspects of the structural side of agriculture have been neglected. To solve India’s agricultural problems, there must be a radical change in the entire agricultural system.
Farmers’ agitations on a massive scale in India can be traced from the Mughal period. Till then and even in ancient India the socio-economic set up was such that peasants had hardly any reason to protest. The oppressive British rule added fuel to the fire of agrarian discontent.
The Economy of Ancient India
In ancient India a form of elastic economy was prevalent which supported the collective economic endeavour of the people. In the Vedic Age the economic system of India evolved on the basis of social classes and remained content with specific economic activities of their choice. One particular class engaged itself in farming, while other classes undertook different occupations. People did not rush towards agricultural work as is happening today. As this class system was hereditary, there was little scope for socio-economic imbalance.
In that age agriculture reached a high degree of expertise and efficiency. Kings used to be directly involved with the different aspects of agriculture such as planting multiple crops according to the different seasons, large-scale and small-scale agriculture, the use of manure, the application of insecticides, irrigation systems through rivers and canals, and dairy farming. In those days the state had the duty to confiscate land from landlords who kept land unutilized, and transfer it to those who could properly utilize it for agricultural purposes. The value of land was determined by the extent of its productivity. The state used to fix the price of agricultural produce, and as a result there was little scope for the business class to exploit farmers.
The Impact of the British
After the arrival of the British in India economic balance was lost, mainly because the British government was totally indifferent to the development of indigenous industry and agriculture. It introduced a new system of education which mainly produced a class of clerks which was utilized by the British government to consolidate its administrative power. Many people gave up their hereditary occupations and sought posts in the British administration. This seriously damaged the agricultural system.
Another cause of economic imbalance was the gradual collapse of indigenous industrial enterprises, e.g.-the hand weaving industry. As a result of the supply of cloth from the Manchester cotton mills, the demand for handwoven cloth began to dwindle. The supply of aluminium utensils also destroyed India’s pottery industry.
Consequently, those employed in these industries gradually gave up their traditional occupations and crowded the agricultural sector for a livelihood.
This problem was compounded by growth in the population, which led to the subdivision and fragmentation of agricultural land.
Three Phases of Farmer Agitations
Based on the situations and background of revolt by farmers, they can be classified into three categories or phases.
The first phase consists of agitations and revolts against the oppression of the rulers or their representatives like Jagirdars, Zamindars landlords etc., and the money lenders who snatched farm produce from the hands of growers in the name of taxes, levies, share, interest and the like.
The second phase is dominated by agitations to demand ownership of land by tenants, sharecroppers, regularization of encroachment in revenue and forest lands and clashes between the landless and the landholders.
The third phase agitations are centring round farmers struggle for survival and fight against the government policies which are enemies in the guise of saviours. On the one hand, farmers have to face the vagaries of the environment and on the other side tough competition from corporate farmers.
A Brief Look at Farmers Agitations
The first phase of farmers’ agitation can be noted from Moghul rule during 17th century when peasants challenged the domination of the Emperor, local feudal landlords and Mullahs under the leadership of Shah Ïnayatullah (c. 1655 – 1718), popularly known as Sufi Shah Inayat Shaheed, Shah Shaheed, sometimes referred as the First Social Reformer of Sindh, with the slogan ‘one who ploughs has the foremost right on the yield’
The tyranny of zamindars along with the exorbitant rates of land revenue led to a series of spontaneous peasant uprising in different parts of the country during the period. The periodic recurrence of famines coupled with the economic depression during the period further aggravated the situation in the rural areas and consequently led to number of peasant revolts. The following are a few among many notable agrarian movements before India got independence.
The Santhal rebellion commonly known as Santhal Hool, was a native rebellion in present-day Jharkhand, the tribal belt of what was then known as the Bengal Presidency in eastern India against the British colonial authority, zamindari system and corrupt system of money lenders who turned them into bonded labourers by the Santhal people. It started on June 30, 1855 and on November 10, 1855 martial law was proclaimed which lasted until January 3, 1856 when martial law was suspended and the movement was brutally crushed by troops loyal to the British.
Indigo cultivators strike in 1860
Centuries before the modern chemical industry began producing artificial blueing dyes, Indian cultivators had been growing a plant called indigo which yielded the dye necessary for blueing cotton cloth. With the growth of the modern textile industry in Great Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, there was a great expansion in the demand for the dye. Thus the indigo trade became a source of high profits for the East India Company in India. However, its cultivation was too limited to meet the growing needs of the British textile industry.
Tenants were forced to grow indigo instead of food crops. The problem was that once indigo was planted it took two to three years to mature, and in this time no other crops could be cultivated. The peasants refused to cultivate indigo instead of paddy, and consequently, they were subjected to inhuman torture and oppression. This continued for eighty years, then the people of Bengal revolted and the cultivation of indigo stopped.
Maratha Uprising: 1875
The main concern of the East-India company administrators was to obtain a steady flow of large revenue from the land. At the time of land settlements, the assessment imposed on the cultivators was excessive.
Famines and Scarcity were also very common in this area. But rain or no rain, the government demands had to be satisfied. The Price of agriculture produce was also fluctuating under these circumstances, the farmers, to save their land on forfeiture and public action by the government for farmers to pay revenue demands had to turn to money lenders. If the peasant repaid the loan he would benefit from a high rate of interest, if the loan was not repaid he would get the peasants’ land through a government decree.
Peasant’s indebtedness was mounting. With it was also raising the number of civil suits to take possession of the peasants land. Once the Farmers land was mortgaged, it was practically lost. Farmers’ cash incomes suffered a disastrous blow. Added to this was a major famine in 1876. Land revenue, which even in prosperous years was an unbearably heavy burden, now became impossible to pay. Nearly one-third of the cultivators were reported to be suffering under heavy indebtedness.
Enraged at the loss of their lands, the peasants of Poona and Ahmednagar districts let loose their accumulated anger against the bonds, documents, deeds and decrees which the money-lenders held against them.
The government suddenly burst forth into repressive activity, by justifying money lenders activities forcing the peasants to abandon active struggle.
The Bengal tenants struggles against Zamindari tyranny during 1870-85
The fundamental cause of friction in East Bengal was the land-lords persistent refusal to recognize and deliberate attempts to destroy tenant right which even the law of the country partially accepted. This brought about a sharp change in the relations between the landlords and tenants and planted the seeds of mutual discord and animosity which directly led to combined peasant resistance in many east Bengal districts during 1835-85.
Farmer movements in Punjab
The slogan of ‘Pagri Sambal O Jatta’ (Hold your head high, Oh peasant) was the outcome of farmer movement in Punjab. The poem entitled Pagri Sambhal O Jatta (O Jat, take care of thy turban) was recited by Prabh Dayal, a local editor, in front of 9,000 colonists (agriculturists) in Lyallpur in March 1907. That poem came to symbolise the resistance of Punjabi peasantry against the stringent measures of the British officials, enforced in the Chenab Colony. Canal colonisation in the 1860s and 1870s brought about a qualitative change in the lives of Punjabi people. In that changed scenario, money lenders (Khatri banias) appeared to be the biggest beneficiary. The dire consequences ensued for the peasantry like big swathes of land began to change hands. The Punjab government announced in November 1906, a drastic increase in the occupier rate — the charge paid by the colonists on their use of canal water — on the Bari Doab Canal running through the districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur, and Lahore. a sharp increase was announced in the winter of 1906. The enhancements averaged 25 per cent on cash crops such as sugarcane, and on vegetable gardens bordering the urban areas were as high as 50 per cent. This led to a revolt on the part of the rural Jat peasantry, who rallied behind the anthem of Pagri Sambhal O Jatta. What is remarkable about this movement is that it did not have any particular religious colouring. It was a unifying force for peasants to rise above religious differences. The power of this movement’s central image of the turban, the dominant symbol of the hard-working Punjabi rural peasant..
Farmers’ movement in Gujarat
Mahatma Gandhi had led two great revolts of communities of poor Indian Farmers’ against the tyranny of the British government and allied landlords in Champaran, in Bihar, Kheda in Gujarat, success in both struggles had helped win the farmers’ economic and civil rights and electrified India’s people. After the Champaran satyagraha, the British stopped the export of Indian farmers to work as bonded labourers overseas. However, Gandhi then recruited those simple farmers to fight for the British army against the Germans in World War II instead of fighting to liberate their homeland.
In 1925, the taluka of Bardoli in Gujarat suffered from floods and famine, which hurt the crop, leaving Farmers’ facing great financial troubles. However, the government of Bombay presidency had raised the tax rate by thirty percent that year and despite petitions from civic groups, refused to cancel the raise in the face of calamities. The situation for the Farmers’ was grave enough, that they barely had enough property and crops to pay off the tax, let alone for feeding themselves afterwards.
The government declared that it would crush the revolt. Along with tax inspectors, bands of Pathans gathered from North West India to forcibly seize the property of the villagers and terrorize them. The Pathans and the men of the collectors forced themselves into the houses, took all property, including cattle.The government began to auction the houses and lands. But not a single man from Gujarat or anywhere else in India came forward to buy them. Vallabhabhai Patel had appointed volunteers in every village to keep watch. As soon as he sighted the officials who were coming to auction the property, the volunteer would sound the bugle. The farmers’ would leave the village and hide in the jungles.
The officials would find the entire village empty. They could never find out who owned a particular house. Members of the legislative councils of Bombay’s and across India were angered by the terrible treatment of the protesting farmers. Indian members resigned their offices and expressed open support to farmers. Even many in the British offices heavily criticized the government. In 1928, the government agreed to restore the confiscated lands and properties, as well as cancel revenue payment not only for the year but cancel 30% raise until after succeeding years.
Farmer movements in Champaran, Kaira
In 1917-18, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian National Congress led two significant peasant struggles. It organized the struggle of the peasants of Champaran in Bihar against the indigo planters, most of whom were Europeans. It also launched the satyagraha movement of peasants of Kaira against the collection of land revenue, which they were unable to pay due to the failure of crops.
Radical sections of the peasant movements increasingly realized that the Congress was solicitous of the interests of the capitalists and capitalist land magnets. They felt that to protect the interest of the kisans, their own class organizations and leadership must be evolved. Consequently, the Kisan organizations came into existence in different parts of the country. The first Kisan congress held in Lucknow in 1935 led to the formation of the All India Kisansabha.
Agitations occurred against Zamindari in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Utter Pradesh and other parts of India, struggle against the oppressive forest laws in South India in 1927.
Farmers’ movements in the 20th Century
The First World War had a damaging effect on the overall economy and the living conditions of the masses of the Indian people. The ruthless policies adopted by the British against anti-war movements aggravated the situation in the country. The working people in rural and urban areas suffered heavily as a consequence of the effects of the war on the Indian economy. The nationalist forces launched movements for constitutional reform, responsible government and Home rule. Anti-British sentiments deepened and reached the layers of the peasantry and prepared them to fight the oppression and exploitation of their own landlords, Zamindars and money-lenders supported by British rule. A social climate for an all-India anti-imperialist nationalist, militant struggle to throw British rule from India in the next phase.
The Kisan Sabha movement
The Kisan Sabha movement started in Bihar under the leadership of Swami Sahajananda Saraswati who had formed in 1929 the Bihar Provincial Kisan Sabha (BPKS) in order to mobilize peasant grievances against the Zamindari attacks on their occupancy rights. Gradually the peasant movement intensified and spread across India. All these radical developments on the peasant front culminated in the formation of the All India Kisan Sabha (ALKS) at the Lucknow session of the Indian national congress (INC) in April 1936.
Farmers’ movement in Rajasthan
“Everything that the kisan had, never treated as his own. In Jagir areas all cultivators were really landless. There was no tenancy law and one could be thrown away from the land one cultivated at the pleasure of Jagirdar, his ‘malik’. In most of the Jagirs, a Jagirdar would in the first place betaking fifty per cent of the produce. This would be taken by the actual division of the produce on the thrashing floor or by appraisal of the standing crop (Kunta). Then over and above the share of the produce the kisan had to pay numerous ‘Jags’ or cesses. Together with the share of the produce known as ‘Hasil’, these cesses meant that the kisans had to part with more than eighty per cent of their produce. Kisan had to pay for getting his daughter married and even for hosting dinner. The revolt of farmers against this suppression is popularly known as Shekhawati Farmers’ movement. Kisan agitations listed above are a few among many such small and big incidences. All most all of them were against the oppression of the rulers and their representatives.
The Second phase of peasants’ agitations can be observed in Post-Independence India
The “Grow more food” campaign, to solve food problems of independent India was a failure because the system of agriculture was not changed to increase output. The government adopted the policy of increasing the area of arable land and not the productivity of the existing land. There was no planning to determine whether or not the new land was suitable for agriculture, and no proper irrigation facilities to improve productivity. But above all, in the democratic system bureaucrats had ample scope to neglect their responsibilities, and due to defective administration much agricultural potential was wasted. Consequently, dishonest traders conspired to make the agricultural sector ineffective. They perpetuated the food problem to satisfy their own selfish interests.
Demand for Land to Everyone
According to some political groups every citizen should own a certain portion of land – no one should remain landless. Poor people are easily won over by these sentiments. Politicians espouse these ideas merely to lure people so that they can fulfil their own political aspirations. Poor landless peasants become overjoyed at the prospect of owning their own land, and then politicians use them to achieve their objectives.
One political party advocates forcibly depriving landowners of their land and distributing it to the landless peasants. By creating a rift between the landowners and agricultural workers, these politicians try to cultivate a revolutionary image. However, in reality they only gave land to the sharecroppers and betrayed the landless labourers.
Because of the political interest and power game of a few people, hatred and violence coloured with caste and communal sentiments engulfed the peaceful atmosphere of rural India. Plantation and fruit trees were cut down by the agitators to express their anger against the land owners, thus damaging yielding gardens and breeding animosity between the landholders and the landless.
Hence today a movement for social equality (sama-samaja) to create brotherhood and annihilate caste and communal sentiments is as crucial as a movement to liberate farmers from economic slavery under the corporations.
The Defects of Distributing Plots of Land
Let us analyse to what extent this approach would be conducive to the overall economic growth of India. First, if surplus land were distributed among landless people, no one would get more than an acre of land at the most. This acre of land would not be an ideal economic holding because it could not be cultivated with the latest scientific methods. A sizeable portion of the land would be wasted in demarcating boundary lines, so it would be impossible to increase productivity. Increased productivity is the most important agricultural requirement in India today. Besides this, if land were distributed in this way, land would be further subdivided with the increase in the population, further aggravating the problem.
If landless peasants acquired a plot of one acre, they would certainly get some psychic satisfaction, but when they fail to earn anything after cultivating the land, they would definitely become disheartened. It would require all their time, energy and money to cultivate one acre of land productively because the land would be too small to utilize modern agricultural techniques. The amount of produce they would get in return would not be enough to maintain their families. They would have to lease a portion of the land and try to earn their income through other methods. By this process, the number of landowners would increase and they would all become part of the petit bourgeoisie. Politicians who claim that they hate landowners and raise slogans for their destruction deviate from their professed platform, because such an ideology only results in the creation of more landowners.
Thirdly, before the redistribution of the land, these politicians forcibly occupy the land, steal the produce, set fire to the crops, and through a host of other subversive methods, instigate hostilities against the landowners. Consequently, landowners become increasingly indifferent to the agricultural production of their land as they have no economic security. When these factors are combined together, they only aggravate the agricultural problem rather than solve it.
— Shri PrabhatRanjan Sarkar
Movements by political parties for relief measures for the famine stricken areas of Utter Pradesh, protest movements against irrigation Cess levies in Utter Pradesh, a struggle for proper implementation of land ceilings in Bihar, an agitation against heavy water tax in Rajasthan, a movement against food scarcity and for rehabilitation of landless labourers in Madhya Pradesh and the Blurt agitation against oppressive forest laws in Rajasthan are some of the significant peasant movements of this phase.
Movement of crop sharing in Bengal, Worli revolt against forest contractors and money lenders in Maharashtra, Anti-betterment levy in Punjab, agitation against food hoarders and seizing food-grains, prices in Bihar, movement for implementation of land ceilings in Bihar, agitation for fixing higher prices for sugarcane, struggle for land reforms in Kerala, in Andhra for rehabilitation of landless labourers on wastelands, for higher wages of agricultural labourers in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are to be noted as important farmers movements.
The period of late 1930s together with the Post-war period 1947-50 saw the most intense politically sponsored activity among middle and poor peasants that has occurred in south India. These agitations known as tenants’ agitation, such as Kagodu Satyagraha in Karnataka during 1950-51, Uttara-Kannada during
1950-70 etc., in Karnataka were carried over the issues such as forcible evacuation, debts and rents.It took the forms of forcible occupation of lands and sometimes culminated in violent agitations as in Naxalbari, West Bengal, which has grown into naxalism.
The other type of agitations, demanding secured employment, better wages, rights over a certain share of the produce, better working conditions and minimum wages brought the farmers and labours to face each other, in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh etc.
Modern India’s Agrarian Crisis
The third phase of farmers movement is facing in the present day, a complex matrix of problems – the deepening of Agrarian crisis with the cropping up of new problems due to change in social equations, misuse and abuse of scientific inventions, expanding economic arena, policies of globalization, liberalization among others. Some of the more prominent ones are:
More than half of India’s population lives in rural areas and depends on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, fisheries and forestry for their livelihoods. Climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes in India in the range of 15–18 per cent on an average, and up to 20–25 per cent for un-irrigated areas in India by the end of the century (Economic Survey of India, 2018). Climate Change is not ignorable anymore, especially for the agriculture sector.
Studies show that there has been a significant increase in the area, duration and intensity of monsoon droughts in India since the mid-1950s. Droughts are not just about reduced rainfall: higher temperatures also increase the incidence of droughts, and their intensity and impact.
Agriculture, as practised now, also contributes to climate change due to massive emissions of greenhouse gases. Shifting temperatures, rainfall patterns and extreme climate events are changing some critical factors that have an influence on farming, such as carbon dioxide levels and ozone concentration. These are in turn causing an increased incidence of climate change at a large scale and localised sporadic disasters such as intensive rains, floods, drought, cloudbursts etc. All these are also causing unexpected changes in soil quality, crop growth, pest and disease, and even nutritional quality of the produce, making farm management a huge challenge and farming a highly risky affair for farmers.
This problem can be overcome by adopting a farming system that is sensitive to the specific agro-ecology of the region and adopting methods that are best suited to that particular zone. This actually means applying ecological concepts and principles to optimize interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment while taking into consideration the demands of social equality that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system.
If this problem remains unattended, perhaps we can visualise a farmers’ march 10 years from now, with one more demand: resettlement, for lands and homes they have lost to the vagaries of a shifting climate.
Perspectives on Water / Irrigation Development
Post-1980s, the groundwater-based irrigation took over with the expansion of electricity and tube-well or bore well technologies. Meanwhile, groundwater extraction has surpassed the limits of its replenishment in several parts of the country, making private investments more and more insecure.
Subterranean water should not be disturbed; otherwise, the level of the water table will drop, leading to an acute shortage of water. The best system is to collect surface water. The rainwater, even from light showers, should be collected where it falls. It is always better to conserve surface water.
Water conservation, irrigation and afforestation are essential for desert reclamation.
Impact of Globalization and Liberalization
Production and marketing of agriculture products are no more protected activities. The Indian farmers unprepared and unsupported have to face tough competition from corporate farmers within the country and imports from other countries.
Movements are taking shape to face this situation with the following demands.
- The Government of India must put a moratorium immediately on New FTAs.
- The government should conduct an ecological and social impact assessment study to assess the costs and benefits of all FTAs including RCEP, which India is currently negotiating, and make it available for public scrutiny.
- The government must bring transparency in FTA negotiating process and make all FTAs (including RCEP) negotiating texts public and institute a mechanism for public consultations on FTAs with all stakeholders and state governments.
- India should not open up for negotiation the critical sectors such as dairy and agriculture; agriculture must be kept out of any FTA negotiations.
- No patents to be allowed on any seed/planting material-related technologies.
- Exclude essential public services such as education, health, water and sanitation as well as government procurement from FTA negotiation.
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) & India
Dangers of the proposed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) for agriculture & smallholder farmers
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are arrangements between two or more countries or trading blocs that primarily agree to reduce or eliminate customs tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) on their imports and exports.
FTAs are another way to ensure that governments implement the liberalisation, privatisation and deregulation measures of the corporate globalisation agenda. Most of the FTAs today go beyond WTO rules and create legally binding obligations on their member/s, restricting their policy space and have far reaching impacts on livelihoods, access to affordable healthcare, medicines and public services, and protection of traditional knowledge systems. In agriculture, FTAs leads to drastic reduction of import tariffs, facilitate entry of foreign agro-processing and retail firms, and provides for strict IPR provisions that could adversely impact small and marginal farmers and their rights to save and sell seeds.
The Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) are treaties between two or more neighbouring countries that agree to offer more favourable treatment to trade between them than they do to goods/services imported from outside the region. India has signed an RTA with its partners in South Asia in 2004, known as South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in order to improve trade and economic relations amongst the member nations of SAARC (South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation).
India is currently negotiating a plurilateral/ trade agreement known as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which has sixteen members that include ten members (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines) of Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. These plurilateral/multilateral trade agreements are referred as New Age mega-regional FTAs not only because of their size in terms of multiple and geographically diverse member countries but also because of ambitious coverage of issues, which are often referred as ‘WTO-plus’ issues.
Impact of Current FTAs
India is already facing severe impact of FTAs in the industrial and agricultural sectors. Almost in all these FTAs, imports have grown at a faster pace than exports after the India government agreed to slash tariffs.
In the agriculture sector, the consequences of FTAs are quite worse, as tariffs are commonly not only reduced (as it is the case in WTO) but most often completely eliminated. After the signing of India Sri Lanka FTA, pepper and cardamom growers were hard hit as they were imported on a duty-free basis. The Indian pepper farmers were further hit by the signing of the India ASEAN FTA, and now most of the pepper imports come from Vietnam (the world’s largest exporter of black pepper) and Indonesia which are both still far below the Indian price. The excessive imports of pepper and rubber impacted their price in India,
Coconut farmers in South India also witnessed an unprecedented crisis. Because of the cheap import of coconut oil cakes from Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
Despite these serious impacts of FTAs on Indian industry and agriculture, the Indian government is quite enthusiastically negotiating around 18 more FTAs currently, some of which include an FTA with European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the European Union (EU), Israel, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Colombia, African Continental Free Trade Agreement, Uruguay, Mercosur, and Venezuela.
Besides the impact, the process of negotiating these FTAs are also quite problematic, undemocratic and in complete secrecy. During the negotiations, the general public and their Parliamentary representatives are denied the right to see any text of these secret trade deals.
Major Concerns about RCEP
It will be a disaster for India’s agriculture and manufacturing sector if India agrees to reduce/eliminate import tariffs on 92 per cent of products under RCEP.
India is already experiencing flooding of our markets with Chinese products and the impact is quite visible in India’s toy industry, lock industry, textile machinery sector, Bicycle manufacturing, diesel engines pump sets and others.
Two of the RCEP member countries, New Zealand and Australia, have an aggressive interest in the dairy sector and if Indian government decides to slash duty on dairy products especially liquid milk, milk powder [Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP), Whole Milk Powder (WMP)], butter, AMF (Anhydrous Milk Fat or butter oil) and cheddar cheese, Indian dairy industry will be heavily impacted because all these products are important export products for New Zealand and Australian Dairy Industry.
Genetically Modified Crops
The farming community is facing threat of losing their independence of seed and farm technology because of pressure and allurement from MNCs to grow GM crops. Movements have already started on this issue.
According to the World Health Organization, GM food are those “Genetically modified (GM) foods are foods derived from organisms whose genetic material (DNA) has been modified in a way that does not occur naturally, e.g. through the introduction of a gene from a different organism”. For example bacterial/viral/animal genes being introduced in plants so that the selected plant shows characteristics of these transferred genes.
There is a growing body of scientific evidence on the adverse impacts of GM crops on human health and the environment.
A Technical Expert Committee (TEC) set up by the Supreme Court comprising of leading independent scientists from the fields of molecular biology, toxicology, biodiversity, nutrition and sustainability studies in their final report to the Supreme Court recommended against any open release of GM crops until there is an effective mechanism to assess the long and short term as well as specific and cumulative impacts of GM crops on human health, biodiversity and farm livelihoods. They also recommended a ban on any release of Bt food crops and HT (Herbicide Tolerant) crops as there is enough evidence pointing to their adverse impact on human health and the environment.
The opposition to GM crops became loud and clear when BT Brinjal, a GM food crop was cleared for commercialisation.
Karnataka Rajya Raita Sangaha (KRRS) argues that the causes for the poverty and indebtedness are not farmers themselves, but due to the policies towards agriculture like levy policy, price policy, credit policy, revenue policies of the Government and the misery inflicted on farmers should be removed by the state itself. For this they demand all debt of farmers’ has to be written-off. In future the farmers should be ensuredwith scientific price so that he can never be in debt. Therefore the pricing of industrial products and agricultural produce should be on the same principle of pricing; only then the poverty of farmers can be removed, argues KRRS.
It is only in the last one year that a serious movement to get two statutes around Freedom From Indebtedness and Guaranteed Remunerative Prices has begun in the country, through a national platform of more than 200 farmer unions called All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC).
Farmers in India often and routinely obtain prices for their agricultural produce that are lower than the cost of production. This means that farmers are left with no profit margins for meeting living costs of the family or to invest on their enterprise’s growth. This is a direct and proximal reason for their low incomes, lack of social status and decreasing interest in farming. The reasons for such low prices are many and complex, including the fact that in a globalised world driven by liberal trade, our farmers are made to compete with heavily-subsidised imported cheaper produce.
The low prices that farmers obtain and the chemicalised, corporatized external-input based agricultural paradigm that they are caught in, that too in the age of climate change, pushes them into deep debt. Such indebtedness, with pressure from creditors for repayment of outstanding loans (including institutional creditors) has been a trigger for lakhs of suicides of farmers in the country.
The farmers’ suicides in India, also known as the agrarian crisis, is the phenomenon of suicides among Indian farmers from 1990 to the present. It has been exacerbated by the inability to repay growing debt, often taken from local moneylenders and microcredit banks to pay for high priced high yield seeds marketed by MNCs and the non-implementation of minimum support prices (MSP) by central government and state governments. During the duration from 1998 to 2018, it has resulted in the suicides of 300,000 farmers in the country.
Farmer suicides have occurred in large numbers in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand.
Women Farmers’ Rights
Women have been forced to play subjugated role in the society for long. Under the changed circumstances of increased awareness, social and economic needs it is necessary to reserve equal spaces in all decision-making and monitoring/reviewing posts for women farmers at all levels, in all institutions in agriculture and allied sectors.
Suppression of Adivasi Rights
The tribal people have always been closely associated with the forests and earning their living from there in an eco-friendly sustainable way. Of late, usage and access of forest resources by India’s Adivasi community and other forest dwellers have been considered as encroachment and their efforts of forest land acquisition have been used as evidence of their anti-development attitude. In 2006, the passage of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (hereafter FRA) tried to make amends by recognising customary rights of forest dwellers, including the right over common areas and the right to manage and sell forest produce. However, the overall implementation of FRA still suffers from inadequate community awareness, conflicting legislations, lack of dedicated structure for implementation and devoted staff, administrative roadblocks to smooth processing of claims, and governance deficit.
Educating communities about usufructuary rights and ownership, assisting them to avail community forest rights claims under the Forest Rights Act 2006, and facilitating community led re-generation and conservation of natural bio diverse forests is need of the day.
There have been strong movements for farmer debt relief, demand for fair price to agriculture produce etc. starting from Karnataka and Tamil Nadu during 1980s and spreading to other parts of the country.
The farmers, struggling to cope with the agrarian crisis, are demanding:
- One time Waiver of all agriculture loans of the farmers.
- Remunerative price to all agricultural produces
- Implementation of Swaminathan Committee Report
- To convene a special parliamentary session to discuss about the problems of agricultural sector and approve the following two bills proposed by farmers and enact comprehensive laws which confer legal rights on all farmers on the following issues:
The Farmers Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018
The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices Bill, 2018
Highlights of the bills:
The Farmers Freedom from Indebtedness Bill 2018:
- Expansive definition of Farmer to include agricultural workers, women farmers and others, with or without land ownership
- Right of every farmer to access institutional credit by enumeration and registration of all actual cultivators/farmers
- Statutory, institutional provisions for setting up of a National Farmers’ Distress and Disaster Relief Commission and State Farmers’ Distress and Disaster Relief Commissions.
- Various options of Debt Relief for Distress-affected farmers, to be invoked by Commission based on the situation, including interest-free reschedule, interest waiver, partial/full loan write-off
- Effective disaster relief and crop insurance
Importantly, this bill also provides a right to all farmers to receive a one-time immediate and complete loan waiver to start afresh to build their lives and enterprises.
The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices Bill, 2018:
- This statute confers a right on every farmer to guaranteed remunerative minimum support prices (GRMSP) for all agricultural commodities.
- A Central Farmers’ Agricultural Costs and Remunerative Price Guarantee Commission is the institutional mechanism at the central level, while State Farmers’ Agricultural Costs and Remunerative Price Guarantee Commissions are to be set up at state level.
- The Bill specifies numerous mechanisms for implementation of the GRMSP, in terms of regulation in market yards as well as procurement centres, other market interventions, measures to regulate imports, measures to prevent distress sales, investments on Farmer Producer Organisations, measures to reduce and regulate input costs.
Loan Waiver is not the real Solution
Farmers are demanding loan waiver, political parties are vying with each other in announcing farm loan waiver. Some state governments have announced waiver of crop loans up to some limit per individual at different times and the beneficiaries were mostly the borrowers from cooperative sector. When the Central government announced waiver of agriculture loans in 2008, it was the borrowers of the Nationalised Banks who got the benefit.It is not correct to think that all the defaulting farmers under loss and all those who have repaid the loans regularly are in profit and are well to do people. Prestige issue, moral conscience, cordial relationship with the Banker, necessity to avail additional loan and many other factors are responsible for prompt repayment. Loan waiver on a mass scale will benefit the defaulters only, irrespective of whether one is a wilful defaulter or could not repay because of crop failure, low prices etc.
All the farmers do not have access to institutional finance. Many a time the apathetic attitude of the Bankers towards the village folks and the complexity of the formalities to be fulfilled, turns them to private lenders. The scale of finance followed while lending to agriculture sector is unscientific, irrational and inadequate forcing the farmers to approach private money lenders. To avoid the ignominy and insults they may have to face while availing loans many farmers, that too the small and marginal farmers use their hard earned savings for cultivation. All these category of farmers never get the benefit of loan waivers.
Peasants avail short term crop loans, medium or long term loans for development of land, creating irrigation and other facilities, purchase of machinery, equipment etc. Waiver of crop loan alone will not benefit those who have availed term loans.
Loan waiver is sure to demoralise those who repay promptly and force them to become dishonest in future. As a short term measure it is better to reschedule the repayment of default loans and advance interest free fresh loans to the needy as well as the prompt borrowers. There is a trend to avail agriculture loan when it is available at a cheaper rate of interest and invest it business or deposit it for a higher rate of interest. Waiver of loans to such people and to wilful defaulters cannot be justified. Permanent solution to the problem of farm loans is to get industrial status to agriculture
The solution for The Agrarian Crisis
There is no alternative but to implement the agrarian reforms of PROUT – Progressive Utilization Theory, propounded by Shri Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar to solve the present agrarian crisis. He has suggested revolutionary ideas of agrarian reforms. The decentralized Economic System of PROUT includes the concept of balanced economy, block level planning, industrial status to agriculture, cooperative management of agriculture, phase-wise socialization of land etc.,
If agricultural labourers only raise slogans of agricultural reform and assault and kill the landowners, they will not change the agricultural system. It is only possible to consolidate the economy through a constructive approach. This is for the first time that a viable, permanent solution is given to address the problems of landless agricultural labourers by PROUT.
Shri Sarkar opines that the agricultural potentiality of the country must be developed by reducing the percentage of the population working in agriculture. Secondly, the excessively high percentage of the population dependent on agriculture must be reduced by developing industries. He firmly says that problems of India can never be solved by following the policies of China and the only solution is to increase productivity within the country.
The fundamental characteristic of any developed economy is this: about thirty per cent to forty-five per cent of the people should remain engaged in agriculture and the rest of the population should be employed in industry or other sectors of the economy. Excessive pressure on agriculture is not a sign of a healthy economy. Those who are engaged in agriculture remain unemployed most of the year and this is an enormous waste of human labour. This unemployment problem in agriculture must be solved immediately – it brooks no delay.
PROUT suggests that for a perfectly balanced economic environment, it is required that some thirty to forty percent of the people should depend directly on agriculture, and about ten to twenty percent on agro-industries (post-harvest), ten to twenty percent on agrico-industries (pre-harvest), about twenty percent on general industries, ten percent on general trade and commerce, and ten percent on intellectual or white collar jobs.
Block Level Planning
Planning should function on various levels such as the block, district, state, national and global levels, but block-level planning will be the basic level of planning. Block-level planning is essential for economic decentralization, so it should be adopted in all blocks. There should be a provision in the constitution for block-level planning for socio-economic development.
The amount of natural and human resources varies from block to block; hence separate economic plans will have to be made for each and every block. There should be a block-level planning board in every block for this purpose. The block-level planning body will prepare a plan for the development of the block and accordingly implement the local developmental programmes. Above the block level, there will be a district-level planning board. Thus, from the block level upwards, there will be planning boards to prepare and implement the local plans and programmes. It must be remembered that planning should be of ascending order, starting at the block level, and including all the levels of a socio-economic unit.
Most blocks are currently demarcated on the basis of political considerations. PROUT does not support such divisions. Block divisions should be reorganized according to such factors as the physical features of the area (including river valleys, varying climatic conditions, topography, the nature of the soil, the type of flora and fauna, etc.), the socio-economic requirements and problems of the people, and their physico-psychic aspirations. Thus, blocks should be scientifically and systematically demarcated as the basis for efficient decentralized economic planning.
Industrial Status to Agriculture
According to PROUT, agriculture should be given the status of industry. This means, adopting the methods, standards and factors in deciding the price of an industrial product while deciding the price of agriculture produce.
Industrial status to Agriculture does not mean tolerating inefficiency or giving doles to that sector. It means making the agriculture sector more strong and competitive (by competing cooperatives) and put an end to exploitation and suffering of the farming community including agriculture labourers.
Price of any industrial product is decided by the manufacturer, whereas the price of agriculture produce is decided by the middlemen or the traders. Neither the growers nor the consumers have the opportunity to decide the price of agriculture produce. Though the regulated markets and online trading are supposed to give better prices and opportunity for the growers, the system remains the same, that is the middlemen or the traders decide the price of agriculture commodity. The grower, at best can only refuse to sell the produce at the quoted price, but due to the limited preservation period of agricultural produce, and pressing economic needs he is forced to sell it on someday soon, for the price quoted by traders, even if it is uneconomical, which is called distress sale. At no point of time, the farmer gets an opportunity to quote the price based on the cost of production.
How should the prices of Agricultural produce be fixed?
The following points need to be considered while fixing the price of Agricultural produce:
- Cost of inputs like seeds, manures, fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, plant protection measures, labour and other direct and indirect cultivation costs.
- Cost of harvesting, drying, processing, protection, transport etc.
- Interest on loan, depreciation on agriculture equipment, cost of maintaining livestock etc.
- Cost of family labour including cost of watch and ward
- Supervisory costs for the farmer
- Cost of insurance, sinking fund etc.
- Minimum percentage of return on investment, that is to consider the return on the value of land or the land rent that is the amount a farmer would have received by giving the land for cultivation to someone else.
- A minimum profit of 15%
Even while fixing the support price for any crop, the government takes into consideration very few of the above points and the majority of them are overlooked, resulting in unrealistic, unfair price fixation. The Swaminathan Committee report has some lacunas, as it does not consider all the above-mentioned costs nor it considers the local variations in yield while fixing the support price. Hence, it is not possible to solve the agrarian crisis by implementing this report alone.
How to Accord Agriculture Industrial Status?
Industrial status to agriculture also means improving the efficiency, reducing the cost of production, addressing disguised unemployment, introducing scientific cultivation methods, mechanization healthy competition, Co-operation, creating economic holdings, etc. in the agriculture sector. Just an announcement by the Government itself is not sufficient; nor should it depend on the mercy of the ruling party. The following steps are necessary:
Land Use Planning
There should be scientific land use planning for each agro climatic zone which is the consolidated plan of each water shed area. Watershed is a drainage basin or drainage area of a stream; it is also defined as elevation separating the catchment area or drainage basin of one river system or group of river systems. There should be land use planning from Aqua Culture to Silviculture in every watershed area. This will enable efficient use of land, increase yield and reduce the cost of production.
At present, because of individual holdings, every farmer wants to cultivate a crop of his or her choice which may or may not fit into land use planning of watershed area resulting in inefficient use of land and resources.
Co-operation in cultivation
Implementing a land use plan requires co-operation among the farmers in that area. Though favourable supportive law is required for the implementation of land use plan, enforcement of law alone cannot achieve the goal, unless the landholders join together with the spirit of co-operation.
Cooperative cultivation is the simple solution for the problem of uneconomic holdings. When the size of the holding is small, the overhead costs go up and makes it uneconomical.
According to PROUT, to facilitate increased production economic holdings must first be reorganized. An economic holding means a holding where output exceeds input. It is not possible to predetermine the size of this economic unit. While considering input, output, productivity, etc., to determine the optimum size of an economic unit, factors like the fertility of the soil, climatic conditions, etc., will have to be considered.
Distributing land to people will not solve their problems. The ownership of the land is inconsequential; what counts is the production from the land. Merely delegating the management of land to someone will not yield the desired production.
Grading, primary processing and initial value addition and storage of agriculture produce are made easy by co-operation in farming.
Procurement Distribution and Marketing of Agricultural produce should be through producers and consumer cooperatives.
In the present setup, each farmer guesses the demand for a particular crop and takes up cultivation. Many a time the supply exceeds demand and the prices crash, making farmers to suffer.
To overcome this problem, it is necessary to assess the demand at the micro and macro level and plan the cropping pattern in advance. Co-operative cultivation helps to implement such a scheme. There is a good number of experts working in Agriculture, Horticulture, Animal husbandry and other various Government departments at Block/ Taluka levels also. Their technical expertise is hardly utilized; rather they work like glorified clerks to implement different unproductive popular schemes of the Govt. Their expertise along with the experience of local farmers should be utilized for crop planning and marketing.
In the initial stage, interested farmers should be asked to register with the taluka committee and have to agree to cultivate the crop as per their direction. It should become obligatory for the taluka committee which is also a representative of the Government to purchase all the agricultural produce of the participant farmers at the Minimum Support Price fixed on a rational basis as done for industrial product. The scheme should include all the farmers in this monitored scheme in due course.
Prout suggests phase wise agrarian revolution by step-wise management of agricultural land through the cooperative system. However, it is not wise to suddenly hand over all land to cooperative management because cooperatives evolve out of the collective labour and wisdom of a community. The community must develop 1) integrated economic environment, 2) common economic needs and 3) a ready market for its cooperatively produced goods. Unless these three factors work together, an enterprise cannot be called a cooperative.
After creating a congenial environment, land will have to be handed over to cooperative management. Then, with the help of appropriate scientific technology, it will be possible to increase agricultural production.
Shares and Dividends
In the initial phase of transition to cooperative management, land shares should be in the hands of those who are landholders. That is, initially the shares in agricultural or farmers cooperatives should be distributed on the basis of the land vested in the cooperative. When the cooperative system is fully implemented in the agriculture sector, there will not be any distinction between landholders and non-landholders, as all members of the cooperative will be collectively responsible for the management of the land. However, this stage can only be achieved after the proper psychological preparation of the people.
Members of agricultural cooperatives will get dividends in two ways – according to the amount of land they donated to the cooperative, and according to the amount of their productive manual or intellectual labour. That is, the owners of the land will get fifty per cent of the total produce in proportion to the land they donated and those who create the produce through their labour will get the other fifty per cent. This ratio must never decrease – rather it should increase in favour of the agricultural labourers who work in the cooperative.
The managerial staff body of the cooperative should only be constituted from among those who have shares in the cooperative. They will be elected. Their positions should not be honorary because that creates scope for corruption.
Managers will have to be paid salaries according to the extent of their intellectual expertise. In addition, the members of the cooperative may also employ their manual labour if they so desire, and for this they should be paid separate wages. Thus, cooperative members can earn dividends in two ways – as a return on the land given to the cooperative and on the basis of their productive labour. For this, the total produce of the cooperative should be divided into equal parts – that is, fifty per cent on wages for labour, and fifty per cent for the shareholders of the land.
Phase-Wise Socialization of Land
The controversial problem of the ownership of land can be solved by phase-wise socialization of land through agricultural cooperatives. Cooperative land ownership should be implemented step by step in adjustment with the economic circumstances of the local area.
In the first phase, all uneconomic holdings should be required to join the cooperative system so that they will become economic holdings. In this phase, cooperatives will only consist of those people who merged their land together to make uneconomic holdings economic. Private ownership will be recognized. For instance, one person may own one acre, another two acres and a third person three acres within the cooperative. Each cooperative member will be entitled to a dividend based on the total production in proportion to the land they donated to the cooperative. Each individual will retain the deed of ownership of their land, but agricultural activities will be conducted cooperatively. Consequently, land which remained utilized as boundary lines will no longer be left uncultivated. In certain places in Bihar and Bengal, the total area of arable land is less than the amount of land wasted on boundary lines. If this system is implemented, all will benefit.
In the first phase of the plan, those owning land which is produced as an economic holding need not be persuaded to join a cooperative. But if an economic holding comprises land which is dispersed in small plots, the scattered plots should be consolidated into one holding. Alternatively, wherever small, scattered, uneconomic plots are located, they will have to be joined together under cooperative management.
In the second phase, all should be encouraged to join the cooperative system.
In the third phase, there should be a rational distribution of land and redetermination of ownership. In this new system, two factors will determine the rational distribution of land – the minimum holding of land necessary to maintain a family, and the farmer’s capacity to utilize the land.
In the fourth phase, there will be no conflict over the ownership of land. A congenial environment will exist due to psychic expansion because people will learn to think for the collective welfare rather than for their petty self-interest. Such a change will certainly not come overnight. Unless there is suitable psychic preparation through internal urge and external pressure, adjusting with the time factor, people will never accept this system, and it cannot be forcibly imposed on them.
For the development of agriculture there is a great need for specialists and technicians, so cooperatives will have to train unskilled rural people so that they can acquire the necessary skills to develop the agricultural sector. In addition, all types of agro-industries and agrico-industries will have to be developed according to the needs and resources of the local area, and these industries should be managed as cooperatives.
Peasant leaders are against modernization and mechanization of Agriculture; they fear that it is employment-displacing which remains unfounded in Cooperative economy.
PROUT advocates maximum modernization in agriculture and industry. In the cooperative agricultural system, modern equipment must be utilized because such modernization will facilitate increased production. If modern equipment is used in agriculture, agriculture will not remain labour intensive and people can be utilized in other activities to enhance the development of the country. For this, new arrangements will have to be created. If fewer people work in agricultural cooperatives, there will be substantial savings. Simultaneously, women and children will be freed from related work so they will get the scope to develop themselves. In addition, increased mechanization will link the villages to the cities and towns, and as a result, the standard of living in the villagers will be increased.
Intensive research should be conducted on how to use chemical fertilizers in agriculture without producing any ill effects on the land. In the system of individual farming it is not possible to escape the ill effects of chemical fertilizers.
Better techniques to increase production should also be developed. For example some plants are sun affected and others are moon affected. In moon affected herbs the effect increases on the full moon. Sun affected and moon affected plants should be grown in separate areas.
Detailed research needs to be done to make farming more scientific and increase productivity.
In PROUT’s system of agriculture, there is no place for intermediaries. It advocates that production, collection, processing and distribution of agricultural produce and essential goods should be exclusively through cooperatives.
It is undesirable for business people to have the right to distribute food grains. Only consumers’ cooperatives should have this right. Local consumers’ cooperatives should have the sole right to distribute essential, though not all, varieties of clothing, and the essential fuels produced in their countries at any given time.
Shares and Dividends
In the cooperative system, there should not be any scope for interest earning shares; that is, there should not be profit earning shares in cooperatives. Rather, shares should be according to the production of the land. If there is profit earning shares in farmers or agricultural cooperatives, then these shares will be sold in the share market, capitalists will buy the shares, the rate of share prices will fluctuate according to share market prices, and cooperatives will become part of speculative enterprises.
Similarly, in industrial cooperatives there should be dividend earning shares and not profit earning shares as in bank interest; otherwise, these cooperatives will also become commercial enterprises. If there is profit earning shares, the spirit of the cooperative system will be destroyed and cooperatives will go into the hands of the capitalists.
So, there must not be any preferential shares in any farmers, producers or consumer’s cooperatives, only dividend shares. Shareholders with preferential shares earn a fixed amount of interest from their shares regardless of whether the enterprise makes a loss or profit.
Shareholders must be people of high morality. In cooperatives, voting rights should be on an individual basis and not on the basis of the number of shares a person holds
For the development of agriculture there is also a need for agricultural specialists and technicians. Producer’s cooperatives should employ such skilled labour. Thus, educated people will not remain unemployed, and they will not leave the villages for the cities. This will ensure rapid agricultural development.
PROUT believes in a decentralized economy. So policies must be adopted which not only develop one particular region but accelerate all-round development at a uniform pace throughout the entire socio-economic area through the planned utilization of all local resources and potentialities. To achieve this aim, local people must first be employed in agricultural cooperatives.
In modern India, there are two distinct areas – one of surplus labour and the other of deficit labour. That is why people usually migrate from surplus labour areas to other regions. However, the very concept of surplus labour is a relative one. Where adequate opportunities for proper economic development have not been created, there is surplus labour. Labour becomes surplus in all undeveloped socio-economic areas. When surplus labour moves to another region, the undeveloped area has every chance of remaining undeveloped forever.
According to PROUT, wherever there is surplus labour, top priority must be given to creating employment for all local labour. This policy will raise the standard of living of the local people and the whole area. If this policy is not implemented and surplus labour is allowed to move to other regions, and the Marxist policy that, “those who sow shall reap” is followed, then all tea plantations, coal mines and other natural resources will be controlled by outside labour. Local people will lose control over their natural resources. This will create a very dangerous situation.
PROUT’s opinion is that local people must have first priority in employment opportunities. As long as there is not full employment for local people, continuous efforts must be made until all local labour is fully employed. In addition, no fresh developmental programmes will be started until there is further demand for labour.
While creating employment for the local people, consideration must be given to local sentiments. For instance, many areas of India are regions of surplus intellectual labour. People in this category are ready to work as clerks for the very low salary, but they are not prepared to work as porters and earn more money. The problem of surplus intellectual labour is a special one and should be solved in a proper way. In these areas industries which require less manual labour should be established. Thus, different development schemes will have to be adopted in different socio-economic units depending upon time, place and person.
Mitigating disguised unemployment
In villages, the farmer and his/her family people are entirely dependent on agriculture. At times, the farmer will have to work for a few hours only and has to remain idle for rest of the day. They remain unemployed during intermittent periods and also after harvest of one crop till the sowing season of another crop. In the absence of alternate employment opportunities in villages and because of small holdings and inevitable circumstances the farming community faces disguised unemployment.
When cultivation is taken up with proper land use planning on a co-operative basis, it is possible to generate full employment potentiality to the dependent landholders and landless labourers.
Starting of Agro (post-harvest) and Agrico (pre-harvest) industries in rural areas are the solution not only to mitigate the problem of disguised unemployment but also to increase the income of villagers.
This system is sure to stop the exodus of youth from villages and attract them to rural areas.
Security for landless labourers
PROUT system recognises land less agriculture labourers on par with land holders. They will also be members of cultivator’s co-operatives, which enables them full employment and also for dividends on their share.
Fear of price hike
In a PROUT society, buyers will have to purchase agricultural produce at this newly calculated price. In such a system farmers will not be exploited or put to unnecessary hardship. In Prout’s decentralised economic system, minimum essentialities of life are guaranteed to every individual by ensuring adequate purchasing capacity and hence, the fear of inflation, price rise etc., remain unfounded.
According to PROUT, a certain percentage of the farmers produce should be collected as direct taxes. It is also convenient for the government to realize taxes in the form of goods because it needs to store produce as insurance against future contingencies. Taxes in such a form can easily be distributed from government stores when the people are in need. Moreover, this system will easily meet the requirements of people in the towns and cities. Such a system can rapidly transform the Indian economy.
Success of Cooperatives
Many people raise questions regarding cooperatives because in most countries the cooperative system has failed. On the basis of the examples to date, it is not appropriate to criticize the cooperative system. This is because most countries could not evolve the indispensable conditions necessary for the success of the cooperative system. Cooperatives depend upon three main factors for their success – 1) morality, 2) strong supervision and 3) the wholehearted acceptance of the masses. Wherever these three factors have been evident in whatever measure, cooperatives have achieved proportionate success.
As this kind of mentality was never created in India, India is a classic example of the failure of the cooperative system. Indian cooperatives were not created for economic development but for the fulfilment of political interests. Under such circumstances, it was impossible for the cooperative system to succeed.
There are a number of farmer groups in India, representing the various interests of individual leaders and farmers in common. But all of them try to find solution to agrarian solution within the frame work of Capitalism, the casteocracy of communalism or on the basis of hatred sown by communism.
Advising farmers to adopt a simple lifestyle, as a measure to stop corruption in the society and asking to free themselves from political shades is nice slogan, but impractical.
Universal Proutist Farmers Federation (UPFF) is the only organisation which has accepted the holistic agrarian revolution philosophy of PROUT, but it lacks numerical strength of farmers. Working together by combining the numerical strength of various farmer organisations with the pragmatic ideological strength of UPFF will solve the problems of peasants and the agriculture sector in a very short period. Unlike the communists who have betrayed the landless farmers and failed to eradicate their social (caste) and economic exploitation, PROUT’s cooperatives will unite all farmers as equals in collective family enterprises that will given them economic security. In addition PROUT’s participatory economic planning focused on the block-level will give them economic control over the economic and ecological planning of their local area. The Indus Valley farming activities took place free from the curse of caste or the sophisticated exploitation of capitalism. This lost legacy of Indian history will undergo a renaissance due to the service and sacrifice of the cadre of UPFF.