American purse is no good for Indian agriculture
Grist for the US mills
The Indian media has a penchant for the sensational. Caught up in the scandals over former minister K Natwar Singh's Iraq liaisons and the surrender of Abu Salem, it paid short shrift to a landmark memorandum of understanding (mou) that was signed between India and the us on November 12, 2005. The treaty will open up the country's most important public sector agricultural research establishments to private players from the us. It is a follow-up of what transpired between prime minister, Manmohan Singh and the us president George Bush, when the former visited the us in July 2005. The Indian Council of Agricultural Research -- with a network of 47 national institutes, including four deemed universities -- the New Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute, the National Dairy Research Institute in Karnal, Haryana, the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Izatnagar, the Central Institute of Fisheries Education in Mumbai, 29 National Research Centers, 11 Project Directorates and 4 National Bureaus will now be open to us American private sector companies to "help identify research areas, that have the potential for rapid commercialisation."
But will "rapid commercialisation" benefit the Indian farmer? It can, if there are appropriate policies and safeguards to protect poor farmers from trade-related shocks and other vagaries of commercialisation. But the country does not afford its farmers much security against the whims of the market. Lest we forget, not too far back, the bt cotton fiasco drove farmers to suicide in Andhra Pradesh and Vidharbha: there was no insurance umbrella to cover these agriculturists from financial loss.
One thing is very clear. What the us wants is a captive market a for its farm goods. What better way then to achieve it than getting into the web of our own research and developmental activities? Indian farmers certainly deserve a much better deal. But, will it come out of the American purse?
K P Prabhakaran Nair is an agricultural scientist, known for the development of a soil management technique, "The Nutrient Buffer Power Concept". He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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