Article (February-2019)


Changing nature of business : the agricultural dimension

Dr. Vinayshil Gautam

Designation : -   Internationally Acclaimed Management Expert. Chairman, DK International Foundation

Organization : -  


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The Indian economy has many components. The normal categories of industry and agriculture are convenient but they are too straight jacketed to make operational sense for delineating the policy norms. The present state of affairs is there for all to see.

Agriculture as a source of livelihood is neither satisfying nor is it a draw for infusion of the younger and other generations. The sector being riddled with multiple categories of land holding : there are the big farmers, the not so big farmers, and the small farmers and the landless farm-labour who make their living from agricultural sources. Thus, the concept of 'agriculturist' becomes an undifferentiated category. Consequently several other issues arise.

It is important to point out that other elements of the agriculture include differentiation between cereal crops, cash crops, vegetables, horticulture, forest products and the list can go on. There is no regulatory agency which even monitors the shift of land use from cultivating one crop to another Illustratively the shift from serial to cash crops can have serious consequences for the national economy and indeed the state of soil for agriculture, yet no agency seems to charged with monitoring the trends and ploughing it back for policy consideration.

Communities derive their identity from the kind the soil they till and products they produce. Thus, it is that communities acquire character. Many communities derives their names from the produce they cultivate especially in the vegetable sector. The caste name "Koiree"is merely one example.

Not only have that, but centuries of livelihood patterns given to these communities an almost immutable role.

The cultivator in deep peninsular India, dealing with Coffee or Cashew becomes a 'planter'. He is rich prosperous and influential.

The so called agriculture crisis is elsewhere.

There are types and types of social classes dealing with agriculture and agricultural produce.

One of the lesser in focus communities are the tribes.

Consider that at the federal level there is a Ministry for Tribal Development, and that many States have their own nodal agencies for tribal welfare, by and large the fate of the tribes has remained unchanged.

There is perennial talk of pulling the tribes into the main stream. Nobody known's for sure what percentage of tribal population has actually merged into the main stream, since independence.

The truth of the matter is that there are few things in common between different tribal communities across India other than that they survive on an economy based on forest produce. Different cluster of tribes have different origins. At an all India level, they have different forest produces. Their economy is still insufficiently monetized. Barter is the rule - it just encourages subjectivity.

In the absence of standards the strong take over and the weak are exploited. This shows itself in the utilization of opportunities open to talent for the tribes. Poster boys are created and a few elite from the tribes monopolise the key positions which are supposed to go to tribal. An exploitation at all levels by the strong of the weak, as said above, is endemic - this would include housing facilities, gender relationship, and accumulation of capital, benefits of the special schemes. The Government and the welfare agencies are continuously announcing schemes, yet something not quite planned happens to them.

It is not surprising that some people harassed by such lay of the land in some areas have taken to naxalism. If there are external (non Indian) agencies waiting to take advantage of this situation the effective solution to this cannot be found by CRPF alone.

If the tribes of Andhra Pradesh are different from the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh and the tribes of Arunachal Pradesh are different from the tribes of Jammu then differentiated models of development are needed under an overall framework to what is currently termed as 'tribal development intervention.'

The individual tribes are deliberately not being named because that would confuse the issues and people would read motives into the situation.

This text is designed towards efforts to find solutions rather than generate controversies.

For the present elaboration it is sufficient to say that no one economic model is a panacea in such a situation. If we work in a cooperative mode the tribes themselves will be empowered to look for their solution. The Government would be there as a facilitator. There are several agencies working in this mode, both private and public in the tribal areas.

However, the bigger successes so far has been in the domain of artifacts and artisans products. This is a good so far as it goes. There is a need to add value to forest produce at their place of origin. This would raise the return which the tribal gets on his produce.

More centrally this would need serious support from the science and technology community for value addition. This does not seem to be happening as much as it is needed.

However, some positive trends are there. Let us hope the best is yet to come.