Farmers Don’t See Much Hope In GRAM
The government of Rajasthan is putting in a lot of resources to make Gram a successful event so that the agriculture sector can attract investments. During the three-day event, which is expected to be attended by 40,000 farmers, the government will showcase Rajasthan’s economic scenario and opportunities for investment in agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry. Irrigation, solar pumps, custom hiring of farm machinery and instrument, mechanization in farm sector, and boosting agro-processing industry are some of the areas which will be highlighted to attract investments.
Chief minister Vasundhara Raje has already launched the website, logo and the brochure of ‘Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet 2016’ (GRAM) recently in Jaipur. It has partnered with FICCI to tap the international investors for the meet.
But the elaborate extravaganza whipped up for the event is likely go down the drains again. The best example is the Resurgent Rajasthan. During the Resurgent Rajasthan, the state government had signed MoUs worth Rs 3.21 lakh crore. As per the claims of the government, proposals worth Rs 11,000 crore has been materialised. Even though the conversion rate is miniscule, industry doesn’t believe in the figures. Much of the proposals are yet to see light of the day. Business Rankers tried to speak to a few of the companies to understand why the projects are not taking off. The reasons are numerous. But the main roadblock is the red tape.
Even though the policies are laid down, no proposal gets cleared within the time frame. Hand-holding the investors is the last thing one can expect. The single window clearance process just doesn’t work. Importantly, these investors cannot talk about the malaise openly as they are sure that they will be victimized.
Even Business Ranker tried to speak to the officials in these departments. But the officials don’t have time. There seems to be no appetite for understanding the ground reality. Babus are yet to shed the mindset of the licence-era. But many in the industry circles say that several proposals signed during Resurgent Rajasthan were announced by the companies much before the event. But as the government forced the respective departments, the already-announced-projects were also clubbed. A case in point is the investment proposal of Wonder Cement. The company had already announced the capacity expansion much before the Resurgent Rajasthan event happened. Media had covered Rs 1,500 crore investment plans more than six months before. The criticism the government faces is that just to increase the figure, these proposals were included as part of Resurgent Rajasthan. Actually, irrespective of MoUs, these projects were already in the pipeline. This is where the intention of the government is questioned.
Coming back to GRAM, the agriculture sector is in the crying need of government attention. Erratic and unseasonal rains have destroyed agriculture economy. Families have become migrant laborers. Some have left villages while others have taken the extreme step of selling out their land. The agricultural crisis has also resulted in human tragedies with farmers committing suicide.
The situation flies in the face of the opportunities that the agriculture sector in Rajasthan presents. Rajasthan is the largest producer of guar and spices like coriander, cumin, fenugreek, fennel, etc. The state is the largest producer of mustard, second largest producer of oil seeds and third largest producer of soya bean. It is also the largest producer of gram and second largest producer of moth bean.
But value addition hardly happens in the state. There are around four food parks in Rajasthan. But the infrastructure is woefully inadequate. The approach road, cold storage facilities, warehousing etc are simply below standards. The government has also turned a blind eye to the problem. To make these food parks buzzing modern facilities, a proactive approach of the government is required. But there is no roadmap for this.
A farmer who has been doing mushroom cultivation for a decade says that he has been facing multiple problems. “There is no availability of seeds and I cannot do mushroom cultivation on a larger scale. Farmers are going to other states to secure seeds even though there are centres in Rajasthan. But the centres always run short of seeds. Secondly, there has to be training programmes for such farmers who want to implement modern methods of cultivation to increase productivity. Technology is also an important area which should get priority of the government,” says the farmer.
Can the Global Rajasthan Agritech Meet 2016 provide a few answers to these questions? Going by the past experience, there is less scope for that. To achieve something the bureaucracy needs to shed its colonial hangover. The administration needs to behave like a corporation which includes accountability, transparency and efficiency. Unless this fundamental change happens, the GRAM will also go the Resurgent Rajasthan.