Economic Times (India) | May 12, 2006
Integrate Indian farm sector globally? It would have disastrous consequences
Atul Kumar Anjaan
Integration of the domestic farm sector with the world economy would lead to disastrous consequences. Presently, the ever growing number of FTAs without adequate protection for the agricultural sector is a matter of serious concern. This would jeopardise the food security of our country.
We need policies that provide favourable conditions to small and poor farmers. Policy has been moving away from this basic objective. Even as the government was slow to procure grain, new grain operators in the Indian market, including multinationals, directly approached farmers to shore up wheat stocks.
Their storages were full while those of the government, needed for food security, were close to empty. In the absence of the much needed food grain stock PDS and other BPL schemes will get adversely affected.
Growth in agriculture has declined to an average of 2%, ending with only 1.1% in 2004-05. Agriculture is the prime sector of the economy, and the biggest full and partial job provider, contributing about 20% to India’s GDP and supporting 65% of her population.
Living conditions in rural India continue to be pathetic. According to government of India figures about 260 million Indians are still living below the poverty line, most of them in the rural sector.
Moreover, the prime minister’s call for a second green revolution with a focus on dry land agriculture and needs of small and marginal farmers will be a distant dream without adequate budgetary allocations. The logic behind FTAs does not allow the government to extend a helping hand to poor and marginalised farmers.
The domestic agricultural sector is in need of a policy framework that rejuvenates the natural resource base thereby providing sustainable livelihood. WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy has been demanding that agricultural subsidies be reduced in the rich countries.
The reality is that domestic farmers will be severely affected if subsidies are reduced after a nominal reduction in western countries. Protection for the farm sector cannot be abandoned at any cost.
(* National Commission for Farmers)