Developed By: iNFOTYKE
Glimmer of hope for farmers
The Meghalaya Department of Agriculture hosted an ambitious two day Meghalaya Farmers Parliament, the first of its kind in the state on December 4-5, 2018. I was intrigued and so gate-crashed into the event by shamelessly inviting myself to the concluding two sessions on the last day of the meet. Participation was mainly from farmers of Khasi and Jaintia Hills and I was informed that a similar exercise is also earmarked for Garo Hills. The Convention hall was packed with over 400 delegates and participation was so passionate and enthusiastic that it even overflowed into the adjoining meeting halls of the Convention Centre. I came away with four strong impressions.
The meet was carried out in the local Khasi language and because of this, active participation by delegates, both literate and illiterate, was easy and effortless. Unlike usual boring English oriented Govt functions there were less lectures from VIPs to the audience and for a change the officers and experts on the dais listened patiently to views, opinions, suggestions, grievances, proposals and ideas from the ground, and these flowed enthusiastically. That it was a bottom up and participatory approach was obvious but what made it more exciting was the eager involvement of the audience in the entire proceedings.
The second impression that came through the discussions was the felt need of the agriculturalists for a voice in the formulation of plans and projects that directly impacted on their livelihoods; the farm production on which they depended on and the incidental relevance Govt formulated schemes had on them individually and as a farming community. One got the impression that our farmers wanted more direct involvement in the formulation of plans that had a direct relevance with their livelihood activities. It sounded like a clear demand for a more and better bottom-up approach in agricultural development be it in Agriculture itself or in its allied activities such as Horticulture, Animal Husbandry or Fisheries. One came away with the direct impression that it was time for the Govt and its developmental departments to think of ways and means to empower and capacitate our farmers towards a more participatory paradigm in Agricultural Planning.
The third impression one got was the verification of a long held suspicion – our agriculturalists from all walks of life were genuinely and basically unhappy with the marketing of their products. They grieved over the hold the middleman or the dalal had over them. They were angry over the short change they received from those who purchased their wares. They resented the absence of alternate markets where they could sell their products, other than Iewduh. They lamented the lack of cold storage facilities that could prolong the shelf life of their produce. There was a universal demand for a MSP (Minimum Support Price) for agricultural goods together with the installation of an Agricultural insurance scheme as a safety net for crop failure of all kind. Agricultural marketing emerged as the weakest link in the chain of activities towards providing a viable and meaningful livelihood from Agriculture.
The last impression that one came away with was that the Govt had opened up a long suppressed need of the agricultural community – the need for a platform from where their concerns can be voiced. In the two days of the parliament, farmers big and small, rich and poor, got a chance to voice, in their own language their concerns, fears and hopes for the livelihood options they had chosen for themselves. One was glad to see some obviously educated youngsters, Co-operative milk society members, pig farmers and fishery enthusiasts among the crowd. Their demands were not unjust but closely linked with what they believed to be crucial for the welfare of their trade. One welcomed the voices raised for the need for more beef cattle farms; more food processing and value adding technologies and last but not least for more and better coordination with the Govt extension services in providing improved methods and technology to our farmers. The Chief Guest of the day, Mr Prestone Tynsong, Dy CM promised that such sessions for farmers would be held every year and that the Govt will take the recommendations of the gathering seriously. A lot of hope has been generated in the rural community. I beg the Govt and the Department not to let it become a false hope!
Enough of political trivia
The discourse on some TV channels on the gotra and the size of chest of our political leaders makes me wonder whether these are issues for the voters before an election or for the negotiating families before a marriage! It has come to such a pass that some television channels even start focusing on whether Rahul Gandhi is a janeudhari (sacred thread wearing) Brahmin or not. This reminds me of what a friend said before his marriage. Whenever he was asked about his priority in marriage, he said, “pehle darshandhari piche gun bichari” (Beauty first; after that comes quality). Obviously he had less concern about whether his would-be wife was going to be a good human being or not. His top priority was the external beauty of his life partner.
Unfortunately, our political discourse is now relegated to the level of ~ “pehle janeudhari piche gun bichari” (Sacred thread first, after that comes quality). It is unfortunate that a symbol like a sacred thread that creates division within a religion is being glorified and even normalized.
Also, there are discussions about whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi indeed has a 56 inch chest as is being claimed by him. Again, this has no bearing on political leadership. Mahatma Gandhi had a skinny body but no one complained about it because the father of the nation was a political leader and not a competitor for the title of Mr. Universe!
Instead of engaging ourselves in such frivolous diatribes we need to judge our political leaders by the yardstick of whether they have a clear vision to generate employment, develop human resources and overhaul the agrarian sector. It is a waste of time to indulge in non-issues that seek to divert our attention from inclusive growth which is the crying need at the moment for our hungry, malnourished children, unemployed youths and poor farmers.