Policy-framing needs to be prioritised in a manner that growth in one sector does not leave the needs of other sectors unmet
Farmers marched in a gush from Nashik to Mumbai to seek relief from the distress that routinely befalls them. Agrarian distress is a result instigated primarily by the vagaries of weather and compounded by the economics around it. While developments to aid better forecast and weather modification is a very valid concern, frequently occurring agrarian crises of different kinds indicate a grim state of affairs with regard to governance. It cannot be emphasised enough that unimpeded functioning of the agriculture sector is imperative to the overall health of the economy – a robust agriculture sector will ensure a sound economy.
A system of well-functioning and adequately enabled farming activities keeps a lot of other activities going in balance. Reforms in this area are necessary to not only sustain agriculture but to also facilitate better other indicators of a sound economy which are not directly connected with agriculture. Given that most Indians live in rural areas, and rural areas are characterised by agriculture, rural development and agricultural reforms are necessary for a major and much-needed boost to the economy. Not only does agriculture generate a variety of employment from the field to the market, it enables other associated activities to thrive and adds to the dimensions of the economy. Besides, it is the very source of food security. Hence, investment in agriculture is a primary investment for a sustainable economy.
The World Development Report of 2008 surveyed several developing countries for over 25 years and found that the growth in agriculture by 1 per cent reduces poverty by two to three times more than a similar growth in non-agricultural sectors. In China's case, it was 3.5 times more effective and for Latin American countries, it was 2.7 times more effective. This assessment confirms that agriculture is essentially the driver of economic development and prosperity. It also keeps in motion the micro-economies that secondarily engender from agrarian practices. With the slow pace typical of rural set-up and dwelling, there is ample scope for enhancing the social sector: education and healthcare being the other most crucial areas for sustainability.
Development is not a process to take place in isolation. And functional development in any field ought to extend itself to other areas. The interwoven make-up of development enables sustainability, which means that sustainability is essentially the outcome of balanced and holistic development. In order to achieve this target, policy-framing needs to be prioritised in a manner that growth in one sector does not leave the needs of other sectors unmet. When farmers are harassed and violated because of their financial incapacity to sustain themselves, and when their humble and peaceful protests cause the government to yield to their demand, it reveals the fact that relief is ultimately possible but only diverted. This also speaks of the fact that agricultural reforms remain subject to electoral priorities. A genuine drawback in monetarily addressing such crises out of turn is the anomaly that is likely to be caused in the larger monetary framework.
As much as agriculture deserves to be a priority for economic growth, education is a formidable pillar of social sector that will retrieve the agriculture sector out of poverty and cause it to thrive. In the scenario of a possible positivity, an optimally functioning agriculture sector can potentially flip the economy: from agriculture being a frequently-occurring link in the chain of economic growth, it can be a very centre of economic growth and development. There is tremendous scope for innovation emanating just from the agriculture sector. Encouraging development of indigenous techniques of sustenance and growth will go a long way in taking agriculture to a greater height of economic excellence. Hence, an uncompromising pursuit of facilitating and spreading education, together with modernising agriculture and developing rural infrastructure is but imperative to make agriculture raise a self-sufficient economy.
(The author is Senior Copy Editor with Millennium Post. The views are strictly personal)