Exploring Green Agriculture Economics in Bihar
The upcoming policies of the government of Bihar should be inspired by Pandit Deandayal Upadhyaya, Rashtra Rishi Dattopant Thengadi, and People's President Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam. — Alok Singh
Bihar is a natural participant in the agro-based economy. The agro-economy sector is the biggest employer followed by the construction sector in India. The department of the industry of the government of Bihar acknowledges that seventy-six percent of its population is dependent on agriculture-related activities.
The government of Bihar should divert all its agriculture-related resources including men and money for organic farming. The governments should accelerate the works which are to be done to reduce the logistics cost for the agriculture sector. The LPG gas cylinder is costly than the piped gas supply because of the logistics cost. The city buyers pay a much higher price for farm products than what farmer receives as logistics cost has a role to play.
The government of India has equipped the farmers with the three farm-related bills and it needs to be supplemented by organic farming and revival of other traditional agriculture practices. The beauty of organic farming is that it is less capital intensive and risks are diversified. The people of Bihar can form a network among them and create their own market, manage their own supply, and meet their own demand.
The year 2020 is special to Bihar. It is the year of the birth centenary celebration of Rashtra Rishi Dattopant Thengadi. It is the year of pandemic. It is the year of “Vocal for Local”. It is the year of “AatmaNirbhar Bharat” in black and white and in loud and clear. It is the year of the foundation of the new world order. It is the year when all the established concepts of doing business, defining economics, and managing organizations are being challenged. It is the year when big e-marketplaces failed their customers. It is the year when city dwellers realized that the local Kirana shop owner and the local vegetable vendor are a more reliable supplier. It is the year that redefined supply chain partners from being the cheapest supplier to the safest supplier. It is the year when the home to the oldest democracy of the world i.e. Vaishali participated in the festival of democracy and bought gender politics at the center of decision, which is a departure from caste, class, religion, region, or language-based politics.
The people have voted not for fancy mobile phones, not for access to the entertainment channels but for an idea which has been demeaned for a long. Hope is more powerful than fear. The hope of revival of self-employment, organic farming, rural economy at the core of life, vocal for local, the provision of urban amenities in rural areas as dreamed by Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam- is what Bihar is waiting for. It has nothing to lose. It has to start fresh and fast.
There are various acts that will act as a catalyst to speed up the third way for Bihar. The land acquisition act which has made sure those no way agricultural lands can be used for industrial purposes. Bihar has the only way and it is the greener way, it is the organic way, it is the Ekatma Manavvad way, and it is the way of Pandit Deendayal Upadhaya and Rashtra Rishi Dattopant Thengadi.
In the healthcare sector, the government of Bihar should promote the teaching, research, and practices of Ayurveda which even modern-day institutions such as the World Health Organization has finally embedded deep trust in. The traditional medicine of India has been badly damaged by the modern medicine stakeholders in general and big pharmaceutical industries in particular through their project marketing strategies. It is time to come out of the shadow of modern medicine for all the health-related solutions.
The dream of the union governed to double the farm income can be attended in higher volume and in lesser time if the input cost of farmers is reduced. It can be done in many ways. Digital India is a tool that should be implemented to assure the localization of decision making. Then decision regarding what to grow on-farm, what products are in excess, what needs to be speeded up, are few things where information asymmetry can be eliminated to a great extent.
Organic farming practices should be developed all across Bihar. The government should invest all its agriculture-related budget in reducing the logistics cost. Organic farming is sustainable and the dependency on the government for different types of subsidies will also be rationalized. Few subsidies like fertilizer subsidy can be completely withdrawn and few subsidies like electricity and irrigation can be significantly reduced. The traditional agriculture practices will help develop different agro climate zones and the farmers of those zones can optimize their returns using traditional knowledge.
The WTO is a failure, the COVID has simply shut the mouth of critics of traditional knowledge, traditional healing the system is being seen as an opportunity and traditional buyer-seller relationship is gaining reputations as supply chain discussion is moving from a cheap supplier to a safe supplier.
Plastic products can be replaced by bamboo products or other environmentally friendly products. It will promote localization. The plastic dominates as it has lesser transportation costs and so few big payers control the market. The substitute for plastic products with bamboo products will promote low volume and more hands will be gainfully employed.
The state of Bihar receives extreme heat during summer, extreme cold during winter, and plenty of floods. The majority of the time agriculture faces weather-related challenges. Any failure is wastage to government subsidy as well, apart from the irrecoverable damages to time, money, labor, and other resources to farmers. The government’s chemical fertilizer subsidy should be completely banned. These financial resources can be used to develop logistics so that the input cost of farming is reduced and marketing cost is checked significantly. These saved costs can be used to provide insurance to a farmer’s efforts that are at a loss of time, money, labor, and other resources. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act can be extended to accommodate the agriculture laborers in its purview. This will also help reduce the input cost of farming.
The government of Bihar should catch the opportunity of enabling self-employment. The recommendations of Rashtra Rishi Dattopant Thengadi to move towards self-employment goals will be more acceptable to job seekers. The Singur protest in West Bengal was all about the debate between self employments versus the jobs on factory floors of Tata Nana car. The government of Bihar should ban the use of genetically modified foods, uses of all types of chemical fertilizers including Glyphosate and others. The multiplier effect of such policies will be huge on other substitute job opportunities as well as farm-related agro-industries. It asks to look beyond agro-industry, it demands how agriculture-dependent other products can be innovated, for example, the recent development of masks from cow dung.
The philosophy of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya of work to each hand and water to each farmland is the basis for sustainable development. Organic farming will control the depleting water table, will control the spread of carcinogenic diseases, and will boost the allied sectors.
Bihar has nothing to lose rather it has only to gain by moving towards a policy of strengthening traditional agriculture practices, traditional seeds, traditional compost, traditional eating habits, traditional health practices. Moreover, the traditional system is highly decentralized and hence the dependency on government resources will also be significantly lesser. There are a lot of processes that can revive the fate of Bihar without asking for an additional budget. The need is to follow the footsteps of sustainability. The upcoming policies of the government of Bihar should be inspired by Pandit Deandayal Upadhyaya, Rashtra Rishi Dattopant Thengadi, and People’s President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.
Alok Singh is fellow of Indian Institute of Management Indore and currently is faculty of general management at NICMAR.