Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Better Tomorrow

Nothing defines India better than its agrarian identity. It seems reasonably agreeable to see agriculture and India as being synonymous. Agriculture, in India, can rightfully be considered as being among the oldest professions that exist. History teaches us that the practice of agriculture, in India, dates back to well beyond the times of the Indus valley civilization. This is our strength. This is also our identity. Although, it will be judicious to state that it is not our only identity.

It is no small measure of success that our country ranks 2nd, in the world, in terms of agricultural produce. This is by no means an accident. It is the result of generations of hard-working, well-meaning families, who have toiled, in the face of indescribable adversity. To understand that a staggering 120 countries are beneficiaries of Indian agricultural exports is a fact that should, and does, bring immense and eternal pride. It is also powerfully humbling.

But, that is not all. Even in the face of a rapidly decelerating share of contribution to the GDP, agriculture contributes 17.32% with a Gross Value Add (GVA) of Rs. 23.82 lakh crore. If that is a number that appears bewildering and beyond comprehension, allow the effect to sink in. Hell yes, it certainly is incomprehensible! Some of us nouveau, entitlement-willed, math-whiz, logic-driven, page 3 aspirant corporate honchos who do not understand the magnitude of that number - I suggest we open up an online converter that will throw up the dollar equivalent that shall perhaps help us break it down, to the limited connotation of our perception, and assist in understanding the enormity of what it accounts for.

And, while you do so, here is something else that you would like to know: No doubt, India is witnessing a never-before transformation that is changing the landscape of this nation, in ways that were never thought of before. With it comes a massive change in its ethos and demographics. Never before has that been more evident, than it is today. We live in an India where the fashionable persuasions of professions (and disciplines) such as Information Technology and Banking & Financial Services (to name only two of many influencers) have transfigured new-age living to whole new dimensions and possibilities. Well, good, indeed. That surely is the social measure of progress that a vast majority of urban India frenetically yearns to become part of. Certainly, nothing wrong with that. But know this; even while we pontificate about automation and robotics as trends and drivers heralding the next big wave of industry transformations, agriculture accounts for 50% of our workforce. That's some 600 million people across the country. Or 8.87% of world population. Could there be a bigger employer? Perhaps, yes. But, I do not know of it. Neither do I care. What I do know is the obvious - that a vast majority of the Indian workplace cannot and will not be defined as being swanky, temperature-controlled, piped-music ambient, artistically charactered offices that are nestled in monstrously vertical spaces towering into our skies. So, while a great many of us go to work in these classy, upmarket locales, we must not forget that we are only a minuscule populace, if not altogether a negligible lot that exists. We are not a representation of India's progress. We are only an example. A tiny example, at that. It can be estimated (because I have not found updated statistics) that India's arable land-bank aggregates to about 159.7 million hectares (or 394.6 million acres). This is second only to the United States. The stark abjectness of what is Indian couldn't be more saddening than it is today. Surely, we couldn't be more divided - or different!

However, all of that pales in the face of some of our most debilitating problems there are. And, that begins in attempting to comprehend the plight of the Indian farmer. Surely, no one would be more quintessentially Indian than the Indian farmer. Or so, I think - much to the dismay of so many who would fire up a discourse on how our society has existentially been plural and illustrious of individuals with diverse occupations. While we debate, I would like to point out that no class of people have, in India, been more undervalued for their contribution than the Indian farmer. How, you would ask. I only have to tell you about the debt-ridden, compensation-starved, pitiful state of the farming community in India. Could there be a more pronounced state of irony than the fact that the very people who produce food in such volumes are forced a life of starvation and pittance, without adequate recompense? If you have the slightest measure of empathy, you will agree that I'm being mighty charitable in my illustration. Make no mistake, though. My description is a reflection of my ignorance. The situation is frightfully dire and more atrocious than we can possibly fathom. Downfalls in remunerative prices of commodities, woeful cash crunches (thanks to measures such as demonetization), problems related to marketing and selling, and a general slowdown of the agricultural sector apart, it would be handy to know that over 13,000 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2014-15 (No information pertaining to 2016-17 is available since the National Crime Records Bureau is enjoying an onset of summer slumber). And if that wasn't appalling enough, it was ascertained (in 2014) by the National Sample Survey Organisation, that the average monthly income of an Indian agriculture household, in 2012, was Rs 6,426 (Yes, you guessed right - the NSSO, like the NCRB, likes to work between its slumber).

So, when 35,000 weary, tired, and forlorn souls marched into India's megapolis - our lieu déterminé for everything finance, trade, and commerce, we could be absolutely certain that they did so to demonstrate the plight of their deprivation than the collective abilities of their potential. And, in doing so, they couldn't have been more mindful and decent. I might also add, among other things, their ability, in the face of suffering, to be human. Recognizing that the timing of their march coincided with ongoing school-leaving examinations, (that have long been a source of punishing strain to the student community, more for their outcomes which have lasting social implications), they decided to trudge along during the night, to make their arrival inconsequential and not obstructing to the city's functioning. Consequently, there were no disruptions - not one incident, which is so uncharacteristic of a protest, of any protest.

Mercifully, we, as a people, rare as it may seem, invoked wisdom and exercised restrained in not resorting to any callous, lofty, moral, and virtuous preachings that 'such actions of the uneducated and the uncivilized were unwarranted and detrimental to normal living.' Mumbai, on its part, known and loved so much for its resilience and compassion, despite its breakneck, unbroken pace (which is the stuff of legend), welcomed them heartily, offering them a place in what is proximate to the ultimate seat of its executive power. This, to me, is the perfect reflection of Indian ethos. What followed, was, indisputably, a triumph of our democratic values and traditions. The government's accession and the subsequent calling off of the protest are glorious examples of human success. More importantly, they reflect the application of wisdom in the most appropriate measure - in the hope for a better tomorrow.

May history evidence this to become a precedent of sorts, a testimony of our ability to accord significance to our priorities. But, at a more personal level, may this also be an opportunity to express a debt of gratitude to those millions out there, whose thankless job it has been to ensure that we have been well fed.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to know the protest ended up being successful. Me not catching up with the news I guess!

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