GS PAPER II EDITORIAL
Rejuvenating agricultural marketing through cooperatives
Rejuvenating Agriculture marketing in India
- Agricultural and allied activities continue to be the backbone of the Indian economy supporting the livelihood of 60 per cent of the population and contributing 1/6th of GDP.
- It used to account for more than half of GDP in 1951.
- Half of the arable area continues to depend on the monsoon for irrigation. The proportion of gross irrigated area to total cropped area could increase from 31 per cent in 1984-85 to only 45 per cent, as per the agriculture census of 2010-11.
- The total operated area under agriculture decreased from 16 crore hectares in 2010-11 to 15.8 crore hectares in 2015-16.
- With succession not based on primogeniture, population explosion has resulted in fragmentation of landholdings. Total operational holdings increased from 13.8 crore in 2010-11 to 14.6 crore in 2015-16.
- The average size of an operational holding declined to 1.08 hectares in 2015-16 from 1.15 hectares in 2010-11.
- Small and marginal farmers suffer from the absence of economies of scale, access to information, and their inability to participate in the price discovery mechanism.
- Their participation is restricted by poor vertical and horizontal linkages, limited access to the market, and poor information flow along the value chain.
- The challenge now is to optimize benefits through effective and efficient means of aggregation models.
- Farmer aggregation assumes significance due to the shift of Indian agriculture towards high-value commodities as a result of the growing importance of the agri-food market caused by liberalization, globalization, improved purchasing power, demand for safe and small farmers with agricultural markets quality food, and expansion of niche markets.
- Integrating is a big challenge. Many forms of farmer producer organizations have been experimented with like cooperatives, self-help groups, Farmer Producer Companies, and commodity interest groups to aggregate farmers to help them benefit from economies of scale and to link them to the markets.
- Contract farming and direct marketing are other institutional interventions that can be undertaken by organised groups of farmers.
- A Farmer Producer Company (FPC) seems to be the most useful for the aggregation of small farmers.
- The FPCs offer more benefits compared to other formats of aggregation. Its members are able to leverage their collective strength and bargaining power to access financial and non-financial inputs and services and appropriate technologies leading to a reduction in transaction costs.
- They can tap high-value markets and enter into partnerships with private entities on equitable terms.
- The performance of cooperatives has been generally poor with the exception of cooperative sugar factories and dairy cooperatives in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
- Amalsad cooperative Society for sapota and farming cooperative Gambhira in Gujarat, MAHAGRAPES in Maharashtra, HOPCOMS and CAMPCO in Karnataka, Mulkanoor womens’ cooperative groups in combined Andhra Pradesh, etc., have performed well.
- These successful models could not be emulated elsewhere in the country. In Budget 2019-20, the government announced new central sector schemes to facilitate the formation and promotion of 10,000 new Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) and handholding of each FPO for five years from its aggregation and formation.
- Rainfall deficit, unseasonal rains, floods are natural and continuing risks. Agricultural production has increased but productivity is generally lower than international benchmarks.
- Water-use efficiency is particularly low. Some progressive farmers are de-risking themselves by diversifying their produce.
- However, many relatively well-off farmers continue with water-guzzling crops like rice and sugarcane in water-deficient regions.
- Rejuvenation of agricultural sector needs appropriate diversification and value-addition and loosening of outdated controls on agricultural markets. I
- It is hoped that protests against the farm laws -misguided or mischievous or partly both – abate soon and a sensible farmer leadership works on connecting farmers with FPOs.
- Farmers’ apprehensions about the entry of big corporates can be addressed if they become members of the FPOs.
GS PAPER II
Empowering nature with biocentric jurisprudence
Why in News
- The Great Indian Bustard, a gravely endangered species, with hardly about 200 alive in India today, came under the protective wings of the Supreme Court of India in a recent judgment.
- In M.K. Ranjitsinh & Others vs Union of India & Others, the Court said that in all cases where the overhead lines in power projects exist, the governments of Rajasthan and Gujarat shall take steps forthwith to install bird diverters pending consideration of the conversion of overhead cables into underground power lines.
- The overhead power lines have become a threat to the life of these species as these birds frequently tend to collide with these power lines and get killed.
- GIB are the heavy birds are unable to manoeuvring across power lines within close distances. Thus, they are vulnerable to collision with power lines.
- In protecting the birds, the Court has affirmed and emphasised the biocentric values of eco-preservation. The philosophy of biocentrism holds that the natural environment has its own set of rights which is independent of its ability to be exploited by or to be useful to humans.
- Biocentrism often comes into conflict with its contrarian philosophy, namely anthropocentrism.
- Anthropocentrism argues that of all the species on earth humans are the most significant and that all other resources on earth may be justifiably exploited for the benefit of human beings.
- Expressions of such line of thought date back many centuries and find mention in Politics, a well-known work of Aristotle, as also the moral philosophy of Immanuel Kant amongst many others.
The ‘Snail darter’ case
- A noteworthy instance of the application of anthropocentrism in the legal world is in that of the “Snail darter” case in the United States.
- In 1973, a University of Tennessee biologist David Etnier, discovered a species of fish called the “Snail darter” in the Little Tennessee river.
- The snail darter was an endangered species and that its existence would be gravely threatened by the continuation of development works relating to the Tellico Reservoir project.
- Following this revelation, a lawsuit came to be filed challenging the continuation of the Tellico Reservoir project.
- The Supreme Court of the United States of America in Tennessee Valley Authority vs Hill, held that since the “Snail darter” was a specifically protected species under the National Environmental Policy Act, the executive could not proceed with the reservoir project.
- However, after the Supreme Court delivered its verdict, Congress enacted a law excluding retrospectively the snail darter from statutory protection. The project progressed and the fish suffered.
Species in danger
- Indiscriminate monoculture farming in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra is leading to the extinction of orangutans. Rhinos are hunted for the socalled medicinal value of their horns and are slowly becoming extinct.
- From the time humans populated Madagascar about 2,000 years ago, about 15 to 20 species of Lemurs, which are primates, have become extinct.
- The compilation prepared by the International Union for Conservation of Nature lists about 37,400 species that are gravely endangered; and the list is ever growing.
Some green shoots
- Some aspects of constitutional law on eco-conservations are significant. The Constitution of India declares that it is applicable to the territory of India.
- While making such a declaration, it very obviously refers to humans within that territory and its predominant aim was to give them rights, impose obligations and to regulate human affairs.
- The Constitution is significantly silent on any explicitly stated, binding legal obligations we owe to our fellow species and to the environment that sustains us.
- It is to the credit of the judiciary that out of these still and placid waters, it has fished out enduring principles of sustainable development and read them, inter alia, into the precepts of Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Pieces of legislations are slowly evolving that fall in the category of the “Right of Nature laws”.
- These seek to travel away from an anthropocentric basis of law to a biocentric one. In September 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognise “Rights of Nature” in its Constitution.
- Bolivia has also joined the movement by establishing Rights of Nature laws too. In November 2010, the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania became the first major municipality in the United States to recognise the Rights of Nature.
- As a first step, these laws empower people in a community to “step into the shoes” of a mountain, stream or forest ecosystem and advocate for the right of those local communities”.
- These laws, like the Constitution of the countries that they are part of, are still works in progress. In times like this the Supreme Court’s judgment in M.K. Ranjithsinh upholding the biocentric principles of coexistence is a shot in the arm for nature conservation.
- One does hope that the respective governments implement the judgment of the Court and that the fate of the Great Indian Bustard does not go the way of the Snail Darter.