Saturday, August 13, 2016

നെല്ലുല്പാദന മേഖലയ്ക്ക് പ്രാധാന്യം നല്കുന്നതിന്റെ ഭാഗമായി 2016 ഓണം മുതല് 2017 ഓണം വരെയുളള കാലയളവ് കേരളത്തില് നെല് വര്ഷമായി ആചരിക്കുവാന് തീരുമാനിച്ച് ഉത്തരവ് പുറപ്പെടുവിച്ചു. 2017 ഓണക്കാലത്ത് കേരളത്തിലെ ജനങ്ങള്ക്ക്, സംസ്ഥാനത്ത് തന്നെ ഉത്പാദിപ്പിച്ച് അരി നല്കുക എന്ന ലക്ഷ്യത്തോടെ, ഓരോ ജില്ലയിലും നെല്കൃഷി മേഖലയില് 100 പ്രവര്ത്തനങ്ങള് വീതം തുടങ്ങുവാന് സര്ക്കാര് ഉദ്ദേശിക്കുന്നു.”so goes a report from Kerala. That is, as part of its efforts to give importance to the State’s paddy production sector, the Kerala Government has passed an order to celebrate the period from the Onam of this year to the Onam of 2017 as Nellvarsham (year of the paddy).  The Government has plans afoot to have 100 different programmes in the fourteen districts of the State.

The State’s paddy lands are decreasing at an alarming rate. Despite laws prohibiting use of land designated as paddy fields in records for other uses including other farm products (!) and prosecution, punitive measures etc. Currently only 20% of the State’s requirement of rice is produced locally. Not just rice, fruits, vegetables, flowers, eggs, chicken, and even beef is coming from outside the State borders, mainly from Tamilnadu! So unless the government’s intention to supply rice produced in Kerala during the next Onam season is semantically interpreted to mean “some rice to some people,”(isn’t it the case right now?) I would call this project, in the revered Nehruvian style, a “fantastic nonsense!”

The LDF Government is up to the old tricks. "Nel-Varsham" is going to be yet another flop-show as it's promoters refuse to recognise the reason why farmers have abandoned cultivating paddy.The sight of paddy-fields lying fallow allong the length and breadth of Kerala is the result of diseconomy in the farm operations- the economic disadvantages such as an increase in cost, and subsequent poor financial yield amounting often loss. It will be foolish to expect reduction in farm wages. So the only future lies in corporate-style farming in larger land-holds to begin with by which the input costs can be calibrated, minimised and output increased using modern scientific farm implements and techniques. Is this possible in the prevailing political clmate in Kerala? The answer is an emphatic NO! Contract farming and Corporate farming are looked askance at, by the powers that be and their minians at large.

Kerala Government, I am told owes the paddy farmers in Kerala around Rs.175Cr on account of paddy collected from them partially as levy, and partially offering “support price.”The sad fact to be noted is that unless the farmers get the price of the paddy procured from they cannot start work on the next season’s paddy crop. My friend A A Menon, who lived in the US for 26 years returned to Chittur, a part of the “rice bowl” of the State, and volunteered to take care of the paddy fields after the demise of an uncle who used to manage the farming. Every time I called him to know how he fared I had to hear harrowing stories of the recalcitrant attitude of the farm labour, water shortage, increase in the cost of various inputs including farm wages. He was losing a couple of lakhs of rupees cultivating some 5 hectares of land belonging to his sisters. So he didn’t tell them! I remembered the joke about an old-time farmer who had won a lottery. To the journalist who asked him what he would do with all that money, he said: “I will do farming as long as it lasts!”My friend remains a bachelor, but he needs to live, and the savings have to last. So he quit farming. That is the case of my two brothers who are farmers.  Both stopped paddy farming and told me the reason: “If we continue, we’ll eventually starve!”Both let the few farm lands fallow and cultivate vegetables, Tapioca, and Plantain in the remaining land. Using the paddy-fields for owing anything else would invite prosecution, I am told!

Nell-varsham is on the way to becoming another empty slogan, a fad, a farce, fib, hype and theatre of the absurd!

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