As COVID-19 continues to spread, it is also hurting India’s agriculture sector badly owing to the Coronavirus-triggered nationwide lockdown. As a result, farmers are experiencing the economic fallout of the crisis acutely.
In an exclusive interview Mohini Mohan Mishra spoke to Agrigate Global on a wide range of issues, from his concern over migrant workers to the factors to be considered in formulating an effective revival strategy.
Mohini Mohan Mishra is currently the national secretary of the RSS affiliated Bhartiya Kisan Sangh (BKS). Notably, among farmers’ groups, BKS has a substantial ground-level presence.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. Your opinion on the current state of Indian agriculture in the context of COVID-19 crisis.
Indian agriculture, according to me, is the only hero to help the people out from the crisis developed due to COVID-19. Be it ensuring food security or reviving the sagging economy, be it creating employment or helping thousands and lakhs of people getting food at minimal or no price, be it maintaining community harmony or adhering to the government guidelines, the agriculture sector has proved its mettle during this crisis.
Q. Farmers’ income is under severe distress due to factors like falling global commodity prices, reduced demand for farm produce, shortage of labour etc. How do you see this pan out?
Yes, farmers’ income is under distress, but not severe because, they always s stand selflessly with the national cause. Our farmers understand their duty to feed the entire population even though they don’t get the fair prices sometimes.
Moreover, demand has not reduced, rather due to lockdown, there is a difficulty in supply. Demand will increase as most of the people will prepare their own food instead of buying industrial food in future.
On the labour side, high chances are that more people will enter the agriculture and its allied sectors. Many of the migrated labourers are returning home and it will continue, and they may even decide to stay back in their villages. With the help of government or other financial institutions, the labourers could start a new journey in the field of agriculture or other rural economic activities.
Q. The government has taken several measures to improve the situation. How various schemes like subsidies, Direct Benefit Transfer, and insurance are helping farmers in these uncertain times?
The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sanman Nidhi disbursement through DBT has played a major role in helping the farmers. Ration for the entire lockdown period, allowing agricultural transport vehicles, machinery and permitting agricultural work while maintaining social distancing etc. helped the farmers to maintain nearly normal or more than normal life in villages.
Q. How do you think the migrant workers’ crisis is going to affect the rural economy? Your comment.
Almost all workers in this modern economy are migrant workers, even in the agriculture field. Some are highly paid and some are being paid less. In India, many low-paid migrant workers may not move to the metropolitan cities in future due to fear psychosis that the deadly infection may strike back again. Industries and urban bodies should try their best to convince them back to work with the assurance of better facilities. For some period, there is likely to be some confusion in their decision. Even some NRIs may also think in this direction to start their own work here closer to their own people.
Q. The monsoon is predicted to be normal for this year. However, there are many factors which are going to impact the road to normalization. How do you see these factors playing out?
If the supply and distribution of seeds and other inputs are put in their place and availability of finance and assurance of procurement at good prices, then agricultural production will be on track without any worries. More people having their own financial resources may enter the agricultural field.
Q. What, according to you, are the areas that policymakers need to address while formulating the revival strategy?
Policymakers need to focus on rural agro-based MSMEs, including simplification in the licensing of primary processing industries and GI-based tagging as per the agro-climatic zones. In addition, the government should also take these zones into consideration while taking any decision about production, storing, processing, distribution, and branding of the produce.
Q. Finally, how is the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh helping farmers to face the crisis?
We are dealing with them effectively, urging the peasants not to be panic. We’re confident to bring this grim situation under our control. We can lead our country to new heights to revive and re-vitalise.