TWENTY FIRST CENTURY MISSION: Living with Nature in the Modern Form. AGRICULTURE: PROCESS AND POLICIES Appeared in KISAN WORLD February 2011 Vol 38 No.2

TWENTY FIRST CENTURY MISSION: Living with Nature in the Modern Form.


Appeared in KISAN WORLD February 2011 Vol 38 No.2

          We had planned to survey various technologies and the types of modern agricultural infrastructure needed for India, systematically. They are intertwined with modern energy inputs, modern manufacturing technologies, life sciences and biotechnology, information technology  - to mention a few.

          But we are making a deviation from that plan for the series to address a crucial issue: emotions around prices, mindsets of the media and urban middle class and the reactions of the political system as a whole.

          The way the issues of onion prices was whipped around, is merely symptomatic of such mindsets and non – policies (knee jerk reactions). They are dangerous to the growth of agriculture in India in a modern form leading to agricultural prosperity. It is not good for the farmers either. More of them will run away from agriculture and those who remain with it, will have to face and suffer the wrath of nature, vicious cycles of debts, and dwindling incomes.

Crocodile ears and invocation of essential commodities act to control prices are not at all in favour of farmers.

Urban middle class person and workers from organized sector have a better stability of their incomes. Not that they do not suffer from inflation. But they consume much more goods and services than the farmers or agricultural workers do in villages.

Is there a hue and cry when cement, steel and sand prices go up? Or when manufacturers up their price tags for their goods either directly or introducing a new model (by quietly pulling out an old model)? Even fees for schools, colleges and private tuitions are upped periodically. Salaried employees consider annual increments as their rights.

Even when a stores room or a godown in a factory is destroyed in fire or flood, the employees continue to get their salaries. At best some of the losses may be recouped by the business company by passing on the redevelopment costs to the consumer or else in most cases the losses are recouped through the insurance company. (Note that the payment for insurance company is taken as a operating expense by the company and is passed on to the consumer). Now taxes levied by the governments get passed on the consumer.

What about a farmer? In a good season when the farmers work hard and use better seeds and other inputs, yields (and production) go up. Better yield need not always be a very good news for the farmers. Agricultural workers may get more income. But the farmer who invests on the land and takes risk, may oftentimes be faced with a glut in market if agricultural production goes up beyond the demand of the consumers. Urban consumers may enjoy lower prices but there are not infrequent cases when farmers dump tomatoes, potatoes etc in the farm itself without harvesting, as they do not even get the return for the labour costs of harvesting for selling in the markets! Also better yield seasons may also bring in pests and rodents thus increasing the need for more expenses for pest and rodent operations.

On the other hand when there are poor rains (in their lands – not an all India average we read in newspapers!!) farmers’ yield goes down. Oftentimes, they may not be able to recover in the input costs (of seed, fertilizers, energy for pumps, water, pesticide, labour costs etc). So is the situation when there are excessive rains or floods in their fields. Recent rise in prices of onions is partly due to the loss of crops due to floods in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.

In fact indebtedness of the farmers can be traced to such severe uncertainties in production, yield, and markets.

Most debates in the public space in the English or local language media, almost fully ignore the fact that the sale of agricultural produce from food grains, to pulses to vegetables to cash crops, is one of the most regulated activity. From local level officers to the State Govts (multiple agencies) to the Centre can control the procurement or movement of produce under various pretexts of public interest. A delay of a few days in announcing a minimum support price by govt. can lead to distress sale by some farmers. A temporary ban on exports can affect some sections of farmers who have worked hard to enter a few foreign markets which fetch better price for their products. Such on or off mode create problems in business development in foreign markets. Will we go to a shop which has stocks but the shopkeeper denies you (a new regular customer) the sale of some products on the pretext that he has to supply to govt. designated consumers? When we accept the logic of free trade for all other economic activities why not for agricultural produce? Why does not a farmer have a right to sell to the person who pays him / her a better price (and better terms such as some advance money at the time of placing order and full down payment on receipt of goods?

After ignoring the farmers’ right in the pretext of food being essential (that starts for basic grains and extends to sugar to pulses to vegetables and even sometimes to cash crops like cotton!), we discover periodically another villain – the trader and the middle – man! Not that all of them are angels. But on – off controls, knee jerk non – policies etc encourage speculators. If there is a stability and sincerity in policies, it is possible to evolve trading systems which can judiciously utilize futuristics to remove violent fluctuations of the market. We have institutions in place for it but do not use them!

Govt. procurement of grains at the time of green revolution did a great help to support the farmers adopting high yielding varieties. It was a bold decision by CS (C.Subramanian) to procure the large production of wheat from farmers in Punjab through FCI (Food Corporation of India). Had he not done it they would have suffered a market failure – oversupply and fall in prices. Those who produce more will suffer losses! But today’s India is different. Also our experience with govt. procurement systems and public distribution systems has been very bad. In spite of a number of inadequacies and govt. controls, it is the private sector trading which is maintaining the flow of agricultural produce to ultimate consumers.

One may point out the subsidies to the farmers for fertilizers, electricity etc. Some subsidies are required. But these policies are more used for political ends and not for building up a robust infrastructure for the farmers to be resistant to the vagaries of monsoon and weather; for building up some sustained future trading systems; and to create a protective insurance cover against natural disaster. For all these three items, a stable policy system which allows amongst other things a free market trading system which can help farmers and which can look at traders also as good economic citizens, is essential.

If such policies are implemented then corporate sector can also invest in agriculture and assure a profitable price to the farmers, bring them good technologies and inputs and above all free them from continuous indebtedness. Govt, also can attempt forming a few such major corporate entities run on professional lines to compete with private sector and be able to act as a regulator by making others to emulate them.

Some persons may be totally cynical about govts capability to set up such corporate entities. Some others may continue to insist that corporate sector entry into agriculture will spell a disaster for farmers and will further worsen the current levels of exploitation of poor and marginal farmers. Experience in Maharashtra and southern part of India in terms of sugar cane producers and sugar mills is encouraging, as also many green vegetable outlets which are operating in southern part of India.            

The model we suggest is not an extreme swing from total govt. control to total free market. But we should have some vital elements of free market – not to interfere with prices and supply chains through knee – jerk fiats. To buttress the swings and the normal business cycles (if demand of a agri produce increases supply of it increases to a point of over supply and then starts reducing to a level below real demand. This is so in all sectors be it steel, cement, cars etc), scientifically managed futuristic systems can help the trading by farmers. The corporates who invest in agriculture may work with farmers’ cooperatives, NGO’s and / or   local trading chains. Of course, there will be some disturbance to exiting vested interests – in the private and public (govt) sectors which operate now.

But our approach and policies should be to educate people that some price rise fluctuations are inevitable and we cannot expect farmers to keep on giving their produce at a low price while other sectors enjoy growth and better consumption. Farmers need more income; intermediating supply chain managers like traders, transportaters etc also need to be profitable in their business. Agricultural produce is perishable; therefore things have to move fast.

If good futuristic systems and scientifically planned information systems (to be funded by Govt. but run by professionals) are in place, all over India data can be speedily and efficiently collected to inform the farmers, traders, govt. etc in advance so that unnecessary supply (and production) bottlenecks do not develop. If free trade is allowed with better information, it will help the producer, supply chain manages and consumers.

Also public regulators can use technology to even out supply chain distortions – under supply or hoarding through release of agri produce preserved over longer period. (Let us not tinker with control of exports. We should encourage exports also. That will help Indian agriculture in the long run by giving newer challenges). In a keynote address given by Dr.R.Chidambaram, DAE Homi Bhabha Professor (currently Principal Scientific Adviser to Govt. of India) at Chennai, June 25 – 28, 2001 he describes about food preservation by radiation being used by 40 countries for over 100 food items. He has described that DAE has set up commercial food irradiation facilities for potatoes and onions at Nasik. What about using them for storing potatoes and onions for a large time and release them only at a few selected times when normal supply from farmers is low? It is about a decade after his talk. What are the public systems doing to make it large scale in other places and run them commercially?

Freeing agriculture is a complex issue. Our main focus had been on the need to free the farmers from draconian and knee – jerk market controls. We are aware that there are other critical issues like the large scale debts in which many farmers are already locked up. How to salvage them? Then how to make the money flow to them being maintained from pre – sowing time onwards to post harvest sale? Once debts are “released” as one – time action and also free – market mechanisms and corporate sector activities are set in place it is possible to maintain the money flow. Also creation of a good insurance cover for all farmers is a must. Govt. has a major role. Many currently marginal farmers may get upgraded or they may shift to other professions. We will address these some time later.

The above suggestion does not mean that we should expect the farmers to create enough surplus to upgrade their infrastructure for water, seeds etc. For many of these as one time investment, govt ought to provide as they invest for urban infrastructure,  and as they used to do far dams. Also support key R & D needed for them through different responsive mechanisms. We will address these later.

First and foremost let us look at agriculture as a modern economic activity and learn to treat the actors in it as important as we all are. They need their economic freedom and not be mere plowers and suppliers of “cheap food” and other agri produce. They need to earn more taking advantage of market mechanisms.

Let us begin thinking in these lines. Then we can aim at an agricultural growth 6 to 7% and also importantly more wealth to the producers and agri supply chain managers.





TWENTY FIRST CENTURY MISSION: Living With Nature in the Modern Form AGRICULTURAL PROSPERITY Appeared in KISAN WORLD January: 2011 Vol 38 No.1

Article 2

TWENTY FIRST CENTURY MISSION: Living With Nature in the Modern Form


Appeared in KISAN WORLD January: 2011 Vol 38 No.1

We have taken up a great challenge on ourselves last month. But it is not on utopia nor one of the pleasing slogans which are mouthed in the country, very often. It is an achievable target though having many exciting challenges.

          First and foremost base for such a society is agricultural prosperity. It is not merely in terms of agricultural GDP alone. It is about the prosperity of all those who are engaged in agriculture as a profession (Dependent on agriculture is a negative and pessimistic formulation!). It is about those who will proudly embrace agriculture as a profession just as one may do for other professions such as being a scientist, lawyer etc.

          Can it take place in India? Yes, if we start organizing agriculture in the modern context and not be lingering about the agriculture we have inherited over 10 millennia.  Of course, over the ten millennia, India’s agriculture had transformed itself in many ways. Over the past two – and half – millennia Indian agriculture was the primary anchor for India’s glory in arts, sciences, technology, military etc. It is the agricultural prosperity of those periods which supported artisans and innovators.


         The great Chola empire spread to several countries of the now south east Asia. Its ship technology, dam technology, and above all the majestic temples, arts, literature etc. made a great mark in Indian history. Some of them continue even today. So was the great empires which rose in the Indo – Gangetic plains. About 200 villages around the ancient town Nalanda fully supported the world famous Nalanda University since seventh century for over five centuries till it was destroyed.

          India’s strength in world trade derived from such an agricultural prosperity continued. India along with China dominated the world trade till about 1850 A.C.E. Later it was lost out due to the lack of its adaptation to the Industrial Revolution and also due to the colonial domination.


         Post industrial revolution, the national economies in Europe and later USA, even while dependent on the basic foundation of agricultural prosperity, started expanding into manufacturing on mass scale. Science, technology and engineering gave unprecedented strengths to make goods, military equipment etc. These also led to generation of electricity which later revolutionized the world of manufacturing, lighting, living etc. It is a great modern strength which did not exist in the earlier centuries.

          Availability of electricity made possible emergence of new metallurgical industries and also importantly large scale availability of many chemicals like fertilizers, pesticides etc. Also helped in pumping water and regulating irrigation.

           Thus the old forms of agriculture got transformed to mechanized forms and also had the benefit of giving more nitrogen, phosphorous and other micronutrients required for the plants. Thus agricultural yields grew to unprecented levels. Also the productivity of individual agricultural worker increased many fold. Growth of manufacturing sector allowed many older forms of value additions (making juice, jam, milling of grains etc) to expand to many areas hitherto unforeseen.

          Cash crops like cotton sugarcane also were grown in much larger quantities and with much better qualities (due to the increase of knowledge in agricultural sciences).

          Similar major changes took place in fisheries, poultry, animal husbandry and forestry – the basic elements of agriculture.

          New industries in agro food processing sector grew up. Also agricultural wastes were used in many new forms including making of paper and other materials. Commercial forestry led to newer industries in construction and furniture making.

          If one describes all of these, it will be mind boggling. Simultaneously manufacturing sector and related services sector like marketing, shipping, tourism (due to better transport) etc also grew during the 19th and 20th century in the (presently) developed world (which were developing then!) When they were developing, Indian economy had to stagnate under the colonial rule and then decay during the later part of 19th century and early 20th century.


          But in the developed countries, the growth of manufacturing and related services was so high and diverse that in the overall GDP of those countries, the share of agriculture began to diminish. But still overall growth and diversification of agriculture was very high. The number of persons engaged in agriculture started to diminish fast and came to a level of less then about 10% of the total employed population. But the prosperity of agricultural sector is still very high in these countries. Individual farmers in the developed countries are rich or having better incomes compared to their own country’s standards. This situation prevails in USA, France, Germany and many other countries of Europe. Japan which is an industrial giant and having limited land resources, still maintains a good agricultural base. Yields for grains in Japan is about three times that of India and that of China is about twice that of India. All developed countries realize the basic importance of agriculture and act on the principle that agricultural prosperity is crucial for their national prosperity and the sustained security of that prosperity.

Let us again recapitulate the basic concept of  agricultural prosperity: Persons having agriculture as a profession are rich, the country has abundant agricultural products for their own country’s people in the affordable prices and also have enough to export. Consumer options are plenty. Not all countries can have all these elements. But India with its size and natural endowments such as arable lands, available water, rich biodiversity, conducive weather, diverse agro climatic zones, vast coastal regions, highly skilled and fast learning workforce, and good science and technology infrastructure in agriculture and related areas, good industries and business houses and trading networks, can excel in all of them. 

What about the current status in India:

Look at a quote: “The All India policy is to promote the welfare of the people and to secure a progressive improvement in their standard of living. This includes the responsibility of providing enough food for all, sufficient in quantity and of requisite quality. For the achievement of these objectives high priority will be given to measures for increasing food resources of the country to the fullest extent and in particular to measures designed to increase the output per acre and to diminish dependence on the vagaries of nature. Their aim will be not only to remove the threat of famine but also to increase the prosperity of the cultivator, raise levels of consumption and create a healthy and vigorous population.” The ten objectives of the policy included: “increase in production of food grains and protective foods; improvement in methods of agricultural production and marketing; stimulating production of raw materials for industry and exports; securing remunerative prices for the producer and fair wages to the agricultural labour; ensuring fair distribution of the food produced and promoting nutritional research and education.”

          I think, almost all the readers will agree with the tasks envisioned above. And perhaps may also feel that we have to go a long way to achieve the goals set there in.

          Do you know when this was said? I was amazed too when I first read it during 1977 and saddened when I read now during 2010.

It is from report which was the first ever elaboration in January, 1946, of an all-India policy on agriculture known as “Statement of Agriculture and Food Policy in India”. And I have extracted it out of the Report of National Agricultural Commission (1977), Govt. of India.

          Not that nothing has been done. A lot has been done. Not enough to cater to the population which has grown about five fold since 1946. Also not enough to reach the real potential of India. India has been blessed with a very large arable area; in terms of ratio of arable land to geographical area, we are the highest in the world. Let us again recall: India which has 2.45 percent of world’s land resources has rough 4 percent of world’s fresh water resources. Of course, our population is about 16% of world population. Still we are very well endowed by nature.

          Some of the main reasons why we do not achieve agricultural prosperity are as under:

v Our centralized thinking forgets the diversity of India and arrives at ‘uniform’ policies (one – shoe – fit – all type ideas).

v In addition to the above defect, implementation is tardy. A few years of success of green revolution was never followed up with vigor.

v Linkages of research to fields, market and businesses are poor.

v Our ideas of equity does not look at India holistically and stymies reforms of the agricultural sector. We need to accept the fact that the number of persons in the agricultural sector (fields, to fisheries to poultry to animal husbandry to forestry) need to be reduced drastically to reach a level of about 20 percent of employed persons, (from the current 65 percent). Rest moved to other prosperous sectors like agroprocessing to manufacturing to services.

But in view of many missed opportunities over six decades, about 60% of Indians are now struggling with agricultural subsistence. Also there are many regional variations. Therefore the reforms should be such as to benefit all of them simultaneously and soon. We will identify a few important elements.

The crucial input to agriculture is water, so much so that Thirukkunal, the great Tamil classic, has Rain in its the second chapter after the first chapter of prayer to God.

It is not enough to talk about irrigation and water availability in overall terms of single national indicators. We need to disaggregate the information to understand some elements of the complexity.

          Let us now look at the situation of coverage irrigation in India. About two thirds of agricultural lands are not irrigated and depend upon the vagaries of monsoon. But even within them there are sharp differences see Table – 1

Table 1: Net irrigated area to Net sown area

Size Class

1970 – 71


1975 – 76


1980 – 81


1985 – 86


1990 – 91


ACGR (%)


Marginal (< 1 ha)














Small (1-2 ha)














Semi-Medium (2-4ha)














Medium (4-10 ha)














Large (> 10 ha)














All Size Class

























Source: State of the Indian Farmer, A Millennium Study, Volume 3, Water Resources, K.V.Raju, A.Narayanamoorthy, Govind Gopakumar, H.K.Amarnath  Ministry of Agriculture – Government of India (2004) New Delhi. This is from a set of 27 reports.

As far the growth rate, it is at a pitiable rate. Even for large size farms the rate is low. For others it is terribly slow. Overall figure for all sizes, the irrigated area is one third. Since even now the figure of one third being the irrigated area is quoted in many writings even by Govt of India, the growth beyond 1991 would have been much lower. Perhaps in the process of liberalization of industries, and opening up of India economy to enter into the challenges of globalization, attention to extend irrigation to rest of the two third of sown areas has taken the back seat.

As per the State of Indian Farmer Vol.3 quoted before, India has spent about Rs.92000 crores on irrigation (at 1996 – 97 constant prices) since independence. 292 major irrigation projects and 944 medium irrigation projects had been introduced since the first five year plan to eighth plan (1992 – 97). In addition there are other minor schemes as well. Net irrigated area as of 1996 – 97 in India was about 54 million hectares (Mha) well below the ultimate irrigation potential of 140 Mha. Even the created facilities are not used efficiently; there are many reasons. But we have a rich experience to fall back upon: What to do and What not!   

Also since there is no organized plan of aggregating land holdings, and no clear policies for organized corporate investments in agriculture, attention of the real potential stakeholders on Indian agriculture is low.

It is not due to lack of money. In the December 2010 Vol.37 No.12 issue of Kisan World, an article “Financial Inclusion – Urgent Need For Overall Prosperity” by Dr.N.Mahalingam clearly brings out how agricultural sector and water management companies can raise money for investment.

What is now required, is a set of clear headed policies and their implementation. The policy should be such as to take care of landless agricultural workers, marginal farmers, small, semi medium, medium and large farmers and allow for aggregation through cooperative and / or corporate routes as well as for successful migration of many persons from agriculture to other sectors of economy. Also there is a need to induct various upgrading technologies into Indian agriculture. Before enunciating such policies, it is necessary to interact with and educate people, politicians, government administrators at various levels, financiers, bankers, media persons, business persons and others and also allow for many local variations (always remember that India is diverse). Modern media can help to reach people faster and also to learn from them. It is important to carry on this information sharing, interaction and dialogue in various Indian languages as well, in a well orchestrated manner. All need to approach the issues with one single goal in mind: agricultural prosperity for India and its people, being the foundation (though its GDP share may be about 20 – 25% only) to lift other sectors of the Indian economy.

Already let us not forget that the GDP growth for the year 2010 – 11 is touching 9 percent because of this year’s agricultural growth. If proper policies are formulated and implementation is done with speed and steadfastness, agriculture can grow faster and lift India’s GDP growth rate to 12% or more for at least a decade more.

Not only India will be prosperous, its natural endowments will shine in prosperity.

How to proceed? We can discuss in the next issue.







For the Kisan World

Article – 1




Appeared in KISAN WORLD December:2010 Vol.37, No.12



Complying to the desire and to the gentle command of Arulchelvar N. Mahalingam, I am attempting a series of articles in the Kisan World. The articles will try to weave together many facets of the complexities of the world as it is evolving now. Naturally several aspects of globalization, Indians domestic realities, the opportunities given by as well as compulsions resulting from the new developments and innovations in science and technology will be addressed. Our focus is on the methods of deriving the benefits from the newly emerging world, world for providing prosperity, welfare and well being of all Indians. Land based primary sector of the economy will also receive important consideration not merely for the food and fodder but also because the current phase of evolution demands a close living with nature.


Evolution of earth from the sun and solar system, subsequent phases of evolution leading to the appearance of life on Earth, and further evolution leading to human beings,……. it is an amazing chain of continuing process. Human beings, about 10,000 years ago, invented agricultural processes and changed the way the earth feeds them. The transition from the pastoral society to agricultural society led to the major transformation of human knowledge and society. Great epics, intricate philosophies, discovery of abstract processes like mathematics and logic, exploration, mining and metallurgy, early health systems………. all these added strengths to human beings who multiplied their species many fold, explored the earth, and discovered nature’s laws.

These processes led to the industrial revolution, discovery of the processes of modern scientific methods and engineering systems (technology). These in turn led to the explosive growth of knowledge, elimination of many fatal diseases, ability of human being to have high speed mobility, …… a great “power over nature”, including, of course, destructive power over inanimate matter, and other organisms, species. This power and the feeling of the power, led to many wars between human beings, as well.

Human knowledge continues to grow. Wealth continues to grow starting with the global trade enabled by industrial revolution and later through the continuing knowledge revolution.

So much so the paradigm shift of LAND – LABOUR – CAPITAL – TECHNOLOGY (KNOWLEDGE) became the slogan during the last quarter of the twentieth century.


 In the euphoria of the growth of Information Technology (IT) Industry, many in India (including the powerful policy makers and the influential elites) advocated that India can skip the LAND – LABOUR – CAPITAL part which symbolize Agriculture (Primary sector) and Manufacturing (Secondary sector) and usher into the KNOWLEDGE world and master the world through the Services Sector (Tertiary Sector), capital becoming a part of it.

As a result financial and knowledge / skills investments for the Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors started getting lower priority since mid – 1990’s. Worse still was the fact that the entire attention of policy makers was on the IT sector. Therefore the growth of agricultural sector slowed down. In the overall contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), share of agriculture started declining. But the percentage of Indians dependent on agricultural income did not come down. Since manufacturing was also neglected, those who were getting impoverished in the agriculture sector could not move to that sector. Also growth of infrastructural projects like road making (which could have absorbed a number of landless agricultural labourers and marginal farmers) were not given priority till early 2000’s through golden quadrilateral and the Prime Minister’s rural road projects.

So bulk of the rural – to – urban migration was absorbed in the growth of cities around ICT (Information and Communication Technology) knowledge workers, - in the construction of apartments, domestic servants, retail shops, restaurants etc. Later the ICT employees with better incomes started the (market) demand for automobile sector. Thus manufacturing picked up again. Some policy attention went to that sector as well; however sufficient attention was/is not given to the creation of a large number of skilled workforce and enabling infrastructure for attracting greenfield investors in manufacturing sector (of various types of modern products). India is yet to make steps to make it a good destination for the global markets. It can then become a great source of income generation for many poor Indians. It is also important in the context of modernizing agricultural sector, which needs to shed many persons dependent on it at subsistence levels now.

Amidst all these developments, agricultural sector is yet to receive concrete policy support and more importantly the modern hard and soft infrastructure required to lift it to greater heights.

Let us illustrate these infrastructure aspects with examples from the IT sector.

 i.       A large number of private engineering colleges and other professional colleges which grew since 1970’s especially in the southern part of India gave a large skilled human resource base for the IT industry. Many private actors also emerged to further fine tune this human resource to the global standards. Now it is a continuing process. These are examples of   soft infrastructure.

 ii.       Communication satellites and fibre optics cable networks all over the country were laid with huge government investments to begin with. They are the part of hard infrastructure

 iii.       Various policy measures such as zero or stable tax structures, simplification of procedures for private actors, etc were done for ICT sector enabling the explosive release of entrepreneurial activities by Indian companies and later foreign actors as well. These are policy support measures.

We have given only a few examples.

Can we think of such orchestrated and synergized support systems being given to the agricultural sector?


It was done for the Green Revolution at least in some parts of the country.

i.       Many dams and large irrigation systems (hard infrastructure)

ii.       Introduction of new high yielding seeds, supply of right fertilizers etc (hard infrastructure).

iii.       Training and extension services for the farmers and agricultural workers through the institutes of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agricultural Universities (soft infrastructure).

iv.       Various policy measures for easy purchase of the produced grains from the farmers through Food Corporation of India (FCI) and support prices (policy support).

Once the country was out of the crisis of food imports, actions for extending the basic processes of the green revolution to other parts of India took a back seat.

Some initiatives in the milk sector like Amul etc. gave some relief systems for the farmers to earn additional incomes.

But the totality of farm sector (grains, fruits and vegetables, cash crops, animal husbandry, poultry, fisheries etc) did not get as much attention since by the time the country’s focus shifted towards building huge industries.

No doubt many Indian entrepreneurs despite the difficulties of the license – permit – quota raj made some bold ventures in many agro – based industries: sugar, textiles, leverages etc thus giving some good demand pull to the agricultural sector.

However since the orchestrated and synergized support systems were (are) not in place India is not able to make giant strides in agriculture.


India’s potential in agriculture is very high. India has a rare distinction of having about 26% of its geographical area as arable. Despite the lower geographical size in terms of absolute amount of arable land India is number 2 next only to USA.

Though India’s land mass is only about 2.45% of the land mass of the earth about 4% of useable fresh water resources are available for India. Of course, we have about 16% of the world population; that is no doubt a challenge but also opportunity.

About 60% employed Indians are in agriculture sharing the very poor and uncertain income from the agriculture. About two – thirds of our agricultural lands are not irrigated; the fact alone leads to the miseries in the agricultural sector.

But without any new R & D, it is possible to reach excellent irrigation (not in the current wasteful mode) to all Indian farms. Remember that most parts of India are far better in “available” water resources than Israel which is a leader in agricultural based incomes for its people. 

India’s human resources (even with the current average and below average performance of our educational systems and agricultural institutions,) is reasonably adequate to begin a process of transformation of Indian agriculture. If oriented, enabled and empowered well, they can skill many more people. Still our goal should not be to retain all the 60% of the population to agriculture. That has to be reduced by three times and the surplus trained and enabled for other sectors of the economy. Similarly in a number of places there has to be efforts to aggregate the land holdings. This is to be done in a rational and humane manner.

We will explore several facets of these issues in the forth coming articles. In the process we will notice that the sharp divisions of Agriculture, Manufacturing and Services will to blur. The paradigm of Land – Labour – Capital – Knowledge will not become a process of one shifting out the other. It will be a continuum of existence, with the modern human beings living as a wise part of Nature, being close to it, enjoying its bounties and also enabling all natural forms to sustain and to flourish; not merely for the benefit of human beings but also far a balanced life of all living beings and non – living elements

This is the mission for the 21st century.






Vande Maataram (Three times) Whenever I see our flag flying high in the flagpost, I am reminded of the poetic lines of the great National Poet “Subramanya Bharati” who foresaw Indian Independence, emergence of modern India, new Indian women etc more than hundred years ago and celebrated it in his great poem-songs:

“Thaayin Manikkodi Paareer, - Athai

Thaazhnthu Paninthu Puhazhnthida Vaareer”

“Hey All! See high above the great flag of the Mother”

“Come on let us bow to it humbly and sing in praise”

Dr. Kushal, a dynamic and forward looking leader of the DAV system, Smt. Bhattacharya, Principal DAV School, New Panvel, Smt. Sen Gupta Principal KVS, Nagpur, Teachers, Staff, Parents, Other Eminent persons, Media persons, dear Students, I intend to talk to you, rather interactively on a topic



During the twentieth century, about a century ago, life in general all over the world had started moving very fast. This is partly due to the growth of science and technology (S&T), its impact on industry and business, as well as wars, communications, transport, agriculture and health sector. It appeared as if the humanity was cutting loose from the millions of years of slow and steady evolution.

Many countries got liberated during the middle of 20th century from the foreign colonial rule. The colonial masters possessed the new found S&T knowledge, industry, warfare etc for more than two centuries before that and they could dominate the world. They are still the developed countries having large influence in the world.

Huge countries like India and China were among those who got their independence during mid-20th century.

India is a free country for the past 64 years. “We the people of India” was the proud slogan; we used to describe how we organize our governance, life, society, economy etc. Nehru’s famous speech” Our tryst with destiny….”resonated in the hearts of all Indians and they had great hopes for India. Since then, there are lots of achievements and many more missed opportunities.

Looking back the 64 years, it had two broad phases: 1947-1991, 44 years of centralized rule from Delhi on most aspects of economy, S&T, financial systems etc. Lots of socialist slogans were used, including emotional ones like “Garibi Hatao”. But Indian economy acquired a derogative name of having a “Hindu rate of growth” slow 2 to 4% growth. There was scarcity all over. But we had used high moral sounding standards, total control of innovation & enterprise through license-permit-quota-inspector raj-all these leading a widely spread corruption and black money. Though poverty removal was very slow, the slow economic growth created rich and powerful classes: in politics, in business; in villages; and in the underworld.

Still we have to also see positive parts: this governance system created several modern systems in India in higher education; in some fields of S&T; continued the strengthening of the British trained modern defence forces which respect rule by the civilians; fairly good administrative and judicial infrastructure; a reasonable health care system; independent free press; - yet all struggling to reach their best potential.

But the terribly slow growth rate frustrated the aspiring middle classes which have grown in size especially due to growth in higher education. Then with a major economic crisis, the country broke open many of its unnecessary economic fetters during 1991; it is now twenty years since then. But it was not a full economic and social freedom. Vestiges of earlier laws (thousands in number) and autarkic procedures (many hundred of thousands in number) still mark the governance and judicial systems.

Therefore even as the nation is trying to run faster in the economic and social front, coming close to a steady 7 to 8% growth rate, there are many injurious falls, bleeding and worrying confusions.

Some call for more and more controls by the Central Govt and Supreme Court. We look for an apex ultimate inspector and a cleaner of public life through a Lokpal. We feel that media trials of the guilty will clean up the system. We feel one single uniform curriculum, admission, and entry examinations will solve the problems of education.


You young children are in the midst of this chaos. You were born after the liberalization of the economy started picking up the speed, when the slow economic growth rate was the thing of past. In our book Indian 2020 the national exercise, which was done during 1994-95, there were persons who opposed assumption of 6-7% growth of GDP, being very unrealistic. But it is a thing of past. You can soon see 10% growth of GDP.

Most of your teachers would have been born around 1980’s. They would have been entering teenage or just getting out of their tens during 1991. They have seen some glimpses of the scarcity of the past.(Forget our generation born around 1947 we grew up in scarcity, rationing, long waiting lists for years for a phone or scooter, very limited choices even for clothes and shoes, not TV etc). The teachers have seen the growth and would have more of hope that things can really change in India.

But even the teachers now would have been overtaken by the GLOOM-of corruption, of power politics, of terrible uncertainties even for admitting their children to schools, colleges, sky rocketing cut off marks etc.

At the same time all of you, - teachers and students-enjoy many material goods too; you have so many choices. Of course, you have stress of competition and uncertainties. You ALSO FEEL THE SUFFERING BY COMPARISION WITH OTHERS who have better clothes, better shoes, cell phones, better two wheeler, cars or houses etc.

Yes, you are at a situation of GREAT CHURNING OF INDIAN SOCIETY. On one side, there appear to be a whole lot of new opportunities for growth, better lives, greater freedom of choices etc. on the other side, you see many UNCERTAINTIES, constantly changing “rules of the game” favoring the rich and powerful, increasing price rises knocking down some of your dreams, and also media feeding you with mostly bad news; the one or two hypes of national ICONS, they project for sometime FALL DOWN badly! Also poverty figures seem to be increasing!! I don’t want to add to your miserable feeling by quoting you statistics as to now India performs in global comparison, in trade, S&T, industry; innovation, business friendliness or agricultural production.

Do you have a HOPE in future of India? (Ask the audience)

Do you have a HOPE for YOUR OWN GOOD FUTURE? (Ask the audience)


“Don’t worry, India will become a developed country by 2020. All your worries will disappear!”

Will you believe me, if I just assert in loud voice?! (Ask the audience!)

We have only NINE MORE years to go. What is said in the 25 reports of TIFAC or the book is not wrong. The conclusions were derived from more than 5000 experts. The book has described WHAT CAN INDIA DO RELAISTICALLY. But is required several highly disciplined hard work to develop internal strengths-as was done by Japan, Korea, Israel, Singapore, Taiwan or China for two decades or more. A lot has been achieved over the past twenty years since liberalization-that is the reason you teachers, students and parents are here in a much better situation than during the 1980’s. But lots of the actions were one-off type, shallow, or quick fixes.

To develop strengths in technology, business, economy, society, knowledge sectors, security sectors etc, a lot of actions HAVING DEPTHS are required. Big trees have long roots-going very deep! Remember this simple law of life.

Do we still have hope of India playing its legitimate role in the world; in economy, trade, S&T, arts, music, literature, culture, politics, sports, media, agriculture, ecological stabilization, innovation, enterprise military etc?...

Come on…… reply….

My answer is YES, provided that the younger generation including those in the teachers’ generation, are ready to break many mindsets which have seeped into the system. We all know these old clichés don’t work, but still keep “mouthing” them, thus making the whole nation hypocritical.


1.   Political career is for service to people and sacrifice of one’s own life

     Â·This is hypocrisy now. May have had truth at the time of independence.

Right approach is to say:

   Â·Political career is like any other career. Those who like it may take it up. The national system should be such as to enable such persons also to live a good life by ethical, legal means.

2.   Wealth generation is not good. Profit making is a sin! Give away all that to the poor as a social service.

·This is hypocrisy

Right approach is:

       Â·Generating wealth by legal means is good for the country, for creating employment in the country, to contribute to public good of the society through paid         taxes.

       Therefore those who are desirous of more wealth may enter into such careers, including becoming entrepreneur.

       While philanthropy is good, out of wealth earned by individuals, no society can live on philanthropy alone. Society has to learn to create reasonable income             earning opportunities for all and also give opportunities to people to enhance their skills to earn more.

       YES, all of you, especially the young persons, do not repeat the same mistakes of the past. Learn form some good experience. But do not load yourselves with       unachievable apparently nice sounding phrases of the past.

3.   Don’t get into the ICON praising mode: each one of you has great strengths in your own way. Bring them out. Learn to respect yourselves. There need to be no leader no follower. It should be a TEAM of different individuals with different types of capabilities. The common goal should be to finish the tasks at hand efficiently, in time. That should be the BINDING FORCE, DISCIPLINING force. I had used a word “Indian-time-rate-interaction “just like Hindu growth rate, in my paper on Administrative Reforms. As a country we are very slow in decision making, even if all agree. It takes 7 years to take up a good idea. This has to change. It is a FAST world. Windows of opportunities are for 2-3 years. You MISS IT, IT IS GONE. So TIME is important.


1.   Centralization kills initiative India is a huge country. Even now, it is a huge economy; if it grows fast, it will be VERY HUGE. So work for decentralization, delegation trust between persons should be major role of governance. Of course, all these within the framework of well defined work packages (which are discussed in TEAMS and later, after decision, adhered to as a discipline. No CHEATING I WORK PLEASE!

2.   All India uniformity is a myth. In the past 64 years, this concept has caused major havoc with our society, economy, education, politics, law etc.

INDIA’s greatest strengths lie in its DIVERSITY. Make laws, administration, education etc to capture the strengths of DIVERSITY. India will grow stronger. Local empowerment strengthens the real India concept.

3.   Globalization per se is not bad. We should learn how to capture its opportunities for our own advantages as some countries have done. Remember what I said about TIME AND SPEED of decision making and action a little before. This demands SPEED IN ACTIONS, AGILITY, QUICKER DECISION MAKING, LARGE AMOUNT OF DELEGATION WHILE COORDINATING HUGE PROJECTS etc.

We should learn how to blend GLOBALIZATION with LOCAL NEEDS. This is called GLOCALIZATION.

There cannot be one GLOCALIZATION MODEL for India, because it is diverse. So adopt flexible approach. It is a beautiful form of INTERDEPENDENCE: on the world, on local areas, etc, but with a strong INDIA emerging out of it.

4.   Education should be uniform for all-is the big hoax we delivered on the society-in the processes controlled EDUCATION, Rationed the available opportunities. Also we tried to fix many square plugs into circular holes.

Let us realize each one of us have different capabilities-often multiple-but not the same.

Let students, elders etc learn different curricular contents in language, maths, science, art, handwork, skills etc.


Let us give opportunity to at least 50% of our people to study 3 to 4 years beyond 10+2 and even more. (HIGHER EDUCATION). They need not study continuously; they can work and do or do after some discontinuity, by distance methods etc.

But all should learn more & more of-what they want; what can help them in their lives. So the educational system should be MODULAR with various options.

Other 50% of persons who do not go for higher education also should have opportunities for various economic & social skills and also go for higher education later in their lives.

5.   Do not divide science and Humanities. Let there be a mix.

6.   Do not discard Indian languages, thinking that they are useless for modern social and economic life. WRONG. If you are only doing “Copy Cat” OR “low value work given by foreign countries”, you are partially correct. But any creative work in law or science or engineering or politics or medicine or security etc require innovative thinking-originality. Originality can come only through IMAGINATION. Remember what Einstein said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imagination comes mainly through the Culture: the myths, mythologies, folklore, tribal cultures etc of the society. Language embeds them.

Therefore, if you want to be innovative in a world scale, if you want to be world class, in addition to English, master one Indian Language. Not just to be literate-but to be capable of enjoying its literature-past and present.

7.   Respect Science and technology. Its logical, rational and experimental methods. Do not reduce it to a MAGIC. No technology or medicine can be 100% faultless.

8.   Internet search is not end of all of knowledge. Not the SMS, YES, NO, I DON’T KNOW surveys. It is much deeper. Critical and creative thinking is required.

9.   Internal security against terrorism, extremism and vandalism are critical. As also external SECURITY. India cannot afford to be a SOFT STATE, as it is now – a target of so much violence. We have to be tough; have TOUGH laws.

10.  Above all think about your fellow Indians-about 700 million underprivileged. Don’t give them doles but help them to be independent earner, as it said is Bible. Teach them ‘FISHING, Don’t give ‘FISHES and forget them later! Also what Prophet Mohammed has said, Tell them “Be learned or, Be a learner or, Be a listener or else, Be of help to the above”. Solutions are not UNIFORM. Remember Gandhiji: “Vaishnava janato tene kahiye jey peed parayee jaane re!” Empathize with others; customize the solutions.

I can say more-You can add more by FRONTALLY capturing what is told to you and by critically analyzing them. This does not mean disrespect to the elders or peers. It is a search for TRUTH, which is how this great Indian civilization was built up.


In addition to several elements I had mentioned earlier, all of you-teachers and children assembled here and who are elsewhere in India, are specially going to face a great real challenge which was not seriously met during the fast 64 years.(Sins of the past have accumulated and may visit on you).

I had at the beginning of this talk, mentioned about the slow evolutionary process of human beings getting speeded up during 20th century. But now all of humanity, which is now, about five times the population of 1950’s, is all aspiring to draw from Nature.

Is it sustainable? Well one can fight with developed countries to reduce their consumption of energy, resources and food.

Even in our country the 100 million rich and 400 million middle class persons will resist sacrificing their consumption for the sake of 700 million underprivileged.

But even so NATURE is not going to wait. Resources are depleting; be it coal or water or uranium. Even while maintaining the geopolitical fights with the developed countries in different forums. India and Indians will benefit very much, if we find alternate standards of living which will reduce wastage, reduce over chemicalisation, reduce energy consumption. It may mean different standards of products, habitats etc; of different standards of living, not the one quality blared out in television.

YES, this is a great challenge conceptually. There may not be equality in purely numbers’ game of how many units of electricity, steel, etc consumed. But still a good life with a different perspective. India is still surviving and growing in a competitive world, because our people willy-nilly have adopted different standards out of necessity (because they can’t afford). It requires a lot real thinking and use of S&T not the “copy cat” of west or developed world, but real original thinking. You can do it.

Can we give a scientific, rational and emotionally balanced view of these? Not to push a class of people in slums but an integrated society with different types of CONSUMPTION.

This is challenge, you will understand after a few years from now.


You have a great life before you, if you are ready to throw away the earlier mind sets, discover new ones with a good dose of pragmatism.

You can take India and Indian people into a new direction. That will give fuller Independence to you and to all of them- and to India. Then India will be respected and perhaps loved by all the people of the world. It can be one of the great places in the world to live.


Let me read an extract from my book “A-Z for Success: A comparison for Youth” p.161

Quote: Ignite

There is an ignition key for the car. A space launch is ignited for lift off... Unfortunately a bomb is ignited to explode!

You should ignite your mind for better causes, better goals ...not for destruction, hatred.

Instead of ‘igniting’ your passion, your energy against somebody or against something, ‘ignite’ it for something positive including success defined in a positive manner. Yes, you have to ignite your mind, to release the energy. All of us carry with us lots of energy inside us. It remains inert, and unmoving like an unignited car or rocket or launch vehicle. Once ignited it lifts off or speeds up.

Don’t wait for others to ignite you. You may hear best people or read about them or their writings or see them.

But let me tell you, self-ignition is the best ignition Unquote.


Jai Hind

15th August 2011



Many phases, Changing Paradigms. 



(A Talk to be delivered at the Institute of Chemical Technology (ICT), Mumbai as Prof.B.D.Tilak Visiting Fellowship Lecture)



It is much more common and fashionable now to use the word ‘knowledge’ so much so that many persons hyping on innovation totally leave out the word ‘technology’. But truth of the matter is that modern economy, military, security, innovation, healthcare, entertainment, many social functions including culture, etc heavily rely on use of modern technologies. Even while some persons may accuse technologies of spoiling the environment, many real solutions to ecological sustainability, protection of biodiversity, natural disaster management and mitigation, addressing issues of arresting climate changes etc need more and more smarter use of right technologies. Some of these technologies may result from a revisit of the traditional technological heritage of human beings and adapting them in the modern forms. 

For more details please click LINK :