The Modi Government Has Put the Cart Before the Horse -Prem Shankar Jha

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published Published on Mar 28, 2021   modified Modified on Mar 30, 2021

Indian agriculture is in the grip of a crisis and needs to move away from the 'cereal trap' towards alternatives. Deregulation of marketing should come second, not first.

At the Indian Express’s e-Adda on March 21, Punjab’s chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh asked a question that has still not received an answer: Why did the Central government feel it had to change a marketing system that has existed for a hundred years, when it has met not only their every need, but also fed the nation’s poor at times of need for the past 60 years? He went on to stress that what agriculture needed was diversification out of cereals into other, high value products; that destroying what was working was no way to create what did not exist.

There is an answer to his question: Indian agriculture is in the grip of a crisis. It is not a crisis of shortages, but of mounting food surpluses. These surpluses are concentrated in rice and wheat, and have been growing from year to year. To prevent a crash in their prices, the Food Corporation of India has been buying all that rice and wheat offered to it at minimum sale prices announced yearly by the Central government.

The FCI’s purchases have not only backstopped highly-subsidised food distribution through ration and fair price shops, but become the sheet anchor of a widening range of poverty alleviation, employment generation and nutrition programmes, notably MNREGA and the nationwide mid-day meal programme.

Please click here to read more., 28 March, 2021,

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