Will it extricate farmers from debt-traps?

Will it extricate farmers from debt-traps?
Highlights

Will the seed act slated to be introduced in Telanagana Assembly during the forthcoming winter session proved to be effective instrument in curbing the unhindered sale of spurious and sub-standard seeds.

Telangana seed act

Will the seed act slated to be introduced in Telanagana Assembly during the forthcoming winter session proved to be effective instrument in curbing the unhindered sale of spurious and sub-standard seeds. Would it extricate the farmers from the strangle-hold of devious dealers, traders and money-lenders? Enquiries by The Hans India on how the farmers get entrapped in the vortex of debt traps – which has at times proved to be death traps- have revealed a box of worms and not just in terms of pesticides.

Spurious seeds have proved to be the nemesis for the crops. Informed sources told The Hans India that with spurious seeds have proved to be a nemesis for the farmers. According to an Agronomist with Prof.Jayashankar Telanaga State Agricultural University, traders ensnare into farmers into buying substandard seeds and pesticides by offering these products at cheaper prices and on credit basis. Since most of the farmers are illiterate they are unable to discern the difference between quality and sub-standard seeds.

Moreover, apart from the low cost, they are tempted by ‘buy now and pay later’ enticement. This is just the beginning of the ordeal for the farmers. The seeds that they procure from the farmers fail to give below par yield which inevitably results in the farmer incurring huge losses and ending up neck –deep in debts. The farmer’s incapacity in paying pending amounts further puts him at the mercy of the trader who had sold him the products on credit and the vicious cycle continues.

But, this is only a prelude to the tragic ramifications resulting from malpractices in the supply chain aided by policy deficiencies. For instance, inexplicably there is an absolute lack of effective monitoring mechanism to check the quality of the seeds and pesticides being marketed and supplied to the farmers. And, if there are any checks and balances in place, then they are conspicuous by their absence.

According to informed sources, there are many bio-products claiming – through aggressive marketing - to be a combination of nutrients, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides etc., flooding the agriculture sector. The process for getting permissions and licenses from the government for manufacturing and marketing these products are quite easy, i.e., there is no mechanism involved to check the authenticity of the claims about their efficacy.

Another rather strange fact is that only paddy, pulses and oilseeds are supplied by the government, while others like chilies, vegetables and BT cotton are manufactured and supplied by private companies. Likewise, except fertilizers; insecticides, pesticides and fungicides are under the control of the private companies which leaves the arena wide open for invasion of markets by low quality and spurious and products. In Telangana’s case the realization dawned only when in the aftermath of the losses incurred due to poor yield by the chili farmers, when, in fact, this malpractice has been occurring over many years.

Agriculture experts point out that the spurious seeds and pesticides can reduce the yield by 50% to 60%. On an average with good seeds and pesticides, the chilli output is around 20 to 25 quintals per acre, while in case where spurious seeds are used the output is reduced to half or just a little more than half. Was this not an indicator for the government and the concerned departments to delve into the depth of the problem?There have been a plethora of seed acts enacted by the centre over the years, but big question here is why despite such laws, such tragedies stalk the farmers.

By Satyapal Menon

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