Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Rajasthan Second State-level Workshop
Jaipur, Rajasthan, October 11, 2006
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS CART), an active partner under the GRANITE project for Rajasthan, organised a day-long State-level Workshop at Jaipur, Rajasthan, on October 11, 2006. The workshop was attended by over 100 participants from varied backgrounds i.e. state government departments, media, non-government organisations (NGOs), academia, research institutions, farmers, weavers, artisans, etc.
The objective of the state-level workshop was to ensure wider outreach, networking and greater orientation on issues related to agriculture, textile, handicrafts and handlooms in the purview of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and globalisation, so that the right information and knowledge about these issues could reach in the right perspective to the public at large, and thus, can have larger implications on their lives.
Inaugurating the workshop, R K Sharma, CUTS International, Jaipur outlined the brief objectives of the GRANITE project elaborating the significance of the project so far, and stressed that it has developed into a Programme in the last two years. He mentioned that the basic essence of the GRANITE initiative is to assist the poor with an emphasis on the indirect beneficiaries i.e. the women. Capacity building, he said, through the project is not just towards enhancing understanding of WTO-related issues, but also countering the emerging complexities borne out of the uncertainties. He stressed the need to consolidate the research carried out in different states, to get the wider picture of the handloom and textiles sector as well as the agriculture in India.
Rohit Brandon, Chairman and Managing Director, Rural Non-Farm Development Agency (RUDA)
Rohit Brandon as the chief guest presented the real-times picture of the current state of affairs regarding the rural development in India. He laid specific reference to agriculture and textiles, inclusive of handlooms and handicrafts. He said that in this rapidly changing world, characterised by increasing competitiveness, it is important to start reform process, without any delay or waiting for any policy reforms. He stressed the need for development process through a cluster-based programme. He appreciated greatly the draft policy of the National Commission on Farmers (NCF) under the chairmanship of M S Swaminathan and called it the best policy, as it looks into newer issues compared to the hitherto initiated policies on agriculture.
He further said that the NCF draft policy is the first of its kind in the history of Indian agriculture, as it takes into account very systematically the concerns of the farmers, including the welfare of the farmers is seen to be the cornerstone through food and livelihood security. Brandon also stressed the significance of marketing because it is very crucial to have a smooth functioning market networking system. This would ensure not just marketing, but ‘better marketing’. He stressed the need for Business to Business (B2B) approach for development and also threw light on e-marketing. He concluded on an optimistic note that agriculture can become very lucrative for farmers if the marketing strategies are systematically designed to develop a business centre like marketing system.
Technical Session I: Agriculture.
Krishna Kumar, Deputy Director, Policy Analysis & Advocacy Unit, Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants Society (CECOEDECON)
He opened the first technical session with a paper on Promotion of Agriculture Sector in Rajasthan State: Policies and Action. His paper focused on how the agricultural policies so far have been implemented. Criticising the National Agricultural Policy (NAP), he presented a clear case of why it has not been successful. The drawbacks of the policy can be categorised as the following:
- For making certain platitudinous statements, it did not specify, in quantitative terms, the targets so that the objective could be achieved;
- The NAP talked of growth equity i.e. widespread coverage across all regions, but failed to identify the states which lagged behind in the utilisation of their agricultural potential;
- While encouraging private investments in the agriculture sector, the policy did not pay adequate attention to the fact that the Indian agricultural sector is predominantly comprised of the small farmers who cannot afford private investments, and the NAP failed to make any serious commitment with regard to the public investments in the agricultural sector; and
- At the risk of remaining at the level of genuine intentions, the government after making comprehensive recommendations in all areas of agricultural development did not outline any machinery for implementation.
He questioned the efficiency and purpose of such policies which are not implemented with sincerity and do not help place the farmers on priority. He made a brief reference to the draft policy of the NCF and mentioned that this policy was construed on the basis of an observation that National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) made in its survey, where it announced that 40 percent of the farmers were willing to leave the farming sector and move to an alternative sector for employment and livelihood security. He mentioned that the agricultural policies, in general, and state agricultural policies, in particular, should look into the aspect of agro-climatic zones of each state separately while drafting an agricultural policy, thus discarding the idea of a blanket policy statement for all states alike. Commenting on Rajasthan, he said that the state needs to revive and revamp its policies with regard to oilseeds production. He concluded on an encouraging note that more such state-level consultation meetings should be held to discuss and share knowledge, so that development and progress is made possible.
Dr N C Pahariya, Fellow, CUTS CITEE
Dr Pahariya presented a case study on the Oilseeds Scenario in Rajasthan and informed that India’s vegetable oil production is the fourth largest in the world. Oilseed sector has a share of 13 percent of country’s gross cropped area, three percent of gross national product (GNP) and 10 percent of the value of agriculture product. With regard to Rajasthan, he said that out of 21 districts in India predominant in the area and production of rapeseed-mustard, 12 were from Rajasthan. Ganganagar district holds number one position in rapeseed-mustard while Alwar, Bharatpur, Sawai Madhopur and Baran districts have impressive positions. However, despite these impressive statistics, the case study shows that most of the farmers are illiterate, only 34 percent of the respondents had schooling up to primary level, 30 percent up to school level and six percent were college attendant. Households are predominantly occupied in agriculture. Only 27 percent of the farm family earned annually up to Rs 50,000 from agriculture and 1/3 of farmers’ earning vary annually between Rs 50,000-to Rs 1,00,000. Earning of the marginal farmers is low, with 60 percent of them are below poverty line. This has led to some challenges that are faced by the farm sector, including low yield rates and high cost per unit area. Mismatch between low raw material production and high processing capacity is a matter of concern. Fragmentation of capacities, poor scale economies, large idle capacity, and high cost of raw material renders product oils and meals uncompetitive are other bottlenecks, which also include supply side bottlenecks like government policies, tariff and local tax structure etc. To remedy this situation, he recommended that improvement of yield and increase in the oil production and protein content of the seeds should be taken as priority. Policy reforms both at the central and state level is needed to promote the production of the oilseeds in the country.
This was followed by a round of open discussions, whereby the participants comprising of farmer and farmer organisations, enthusiastically raised concerns about who really benefits from the subsidies that the government provides. It was suggested that there should be more investments in agriculture, rather than subsidies. Amongst other concerns raised in this session were: what is the alternative employment the other sectors are offering to the people whose livelihood has been dependent on agriculture so far? The architects of NCF should be sensitive enough towards the farmers’ concerns and take into account the ground realities. The open discussions proved useful to brainstorm and bring fore the burning issues pertaining to agriculture in a very holistic manner.
Technical Session II: Textiles, Handloom and Handicraft
L C Jain, In-charge WTO Cell, Rajasthan
He made a very lucid presentation on the Promotion of Textile Sector in Rajasthan. Providing a very real-time picture of the functioning of the WTO in the context of Globalsation, he differentiated its implications for the developing countries as well as developed countries. Despite the opening up of the quota system in the textile sector, India has not been able to take full advantage of it, because it lacks the capacity to cope with the global demands. This point reflected the infrastructural and institutional incapacities, which hindered production. He laid emphasis on the recent ‘Textile Upgradation Fund Scheme’ (TUFS) which could help remedy the issues affecting the textile sector. With this arrangement in place, it is expected that Indian textile exports would garner about US$40bn annually.
V P Goyal, Centre In-charge, Education Changes the World (AIDE et Action)
He spoke at length about the Handloom and Handicraft Scenario in Rajasthan stressing that the handloom and handicrafts sector is especially important because of the low capital investment, high ratio of value addition and high potential for export and foreign exchange earning for the country. He reiterated the lack of infrastructural support and other internal constraints, which hamper the production, and thereby makes it difficult to cope with the global demands. He stressed that in this sector it is important to have proper wage appropriation. He further mentioned that as a part of promoting the handloom and handicraft sector, the AIDE et Action has introduced a certificate course which would admit interested candidates who are between the ages of 18-28 years. The course would directly benefit them tremendously, as it would help them find employment in any export house.
This was again followed by a session of discussions amongst the speakers and the other participants. The issues raised were: in the current scenario of globalisation, economic liberalisation and WTO regime, the question is whose interest needs protection. However, we are least concerned with the policy and their formulation, our prime concern is only the availability of agricultural inputs at competitive prices. These concerns of the farmers were taken to be good pointers to what the current policies of the agricultural sectors imply to the farmers. Suggestions were made by the farmer representatives on how they would like better extension system for better marketing and pricing of their produce. The question of livelihood and food security surfaced as the most pressing issue confronting the farmers today.
Madan Giri Goswami, CUTS CHD, Chittorgarh
He presented the vote of thanks and briefed the usefulness and fruitfulness of the consultation for the participants.