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Re: Farm Policy

On Mon, 1 Jun 1998, Ari Sitaramayya wrote:

> Unfortunately, so far all I have seen
> is frustration and no real solutions. 

I am not frustrated with the lack of solutions. I am frustrated (not
really! I just pretend to be!) by people who do not wish to think of

> For those of you who asked me questions about relief efforts, the govt of
> AP promised 200,000 rupees each for families of suicide cases. There have
> been reports that some farmers have actually committed suicide with the
> hope that their families will get this money. There were also reports that
> the families were actually getting much less (10,000-50,000) than publicly
> announced. 

Of course! If you had asked anyone on the streets, they would have
predicted this (sucking out money from a dead man) without fail. We all
know that this is inevitable. 

I am reminded of the gratuity case of my father-in-law, Mr. P.C.  Goswami,
who was a Ph.D. in Chemistry from USA, and who came back to India to serve
his own people, then became, at a very young age, the Principal of Cotton
College, the biggest and most prestigious college in the entire North
East. He died for natural reasons, in 1971. In the beautiful system that
we have devised, his poor widow failed, repeatedly, to get the gratuity
that she was entitled to. People delayed the case, then lost the file...

Decades passed. Her daughter became as IAS officer. She became a senior
officer in government. Then, finally, she was able get the gratuity
released, an amount that actually became worthless in the meanwhile
because of inflation. 

Bless Mother India! 

I have no goodwill for goverment functionaries. No one has any good will
for them. I do not expect anything from them. I have been Secretary of the
same department in the same State which denied my father-in-law his
gratuity and I know that his was only one such case. Hundreds of people
loiter in the corridors of government offices each day, seeking their
dues, and finding it practically impossible to get them. 

I know that the only reason why I personally have not had to bribe anyone
so far in my life is because of my "badge" of IAS. My brother-in-law, a
State Bank officer, on his return from a tenure in Oman, had to shell out
chunks of his savings to "customs agents" in Calcutta Port to get his
luggage into India, and when it arrived home in Guwahati, many goods had
simply been stolen from the boxes. Everyone is affected by corruption. All
of us.

When you said once, that a Police station did not register a case of rape
without being paid, do you think I am unaware, or sleeping, or heartless? 
I Sir, have equally a heart, as you have. In addition, though, I have
thought deeply about how this problem can be solved. I have worked like
mad within the system, and seen why it does not work. I have studied it,
and know why it cannot work. And I am still thinking. And there are many,
many others, who have thought for years, and have come to similar
conclusions. We need to come together and further crystallize these

I hope now to have your attention, dear Sitaramayya. We are in the same
boat. We are looking for solutions. Not to describe the problem that is
India. The problems that are in India touch us at all levels,
psychological, physical, spiritual. We are all aware of these things. We
know what to expect when a dead man is paid Rs. 2 lakhs by this monster
called government. 

I believe this is inevitable. The laws of economics are inevitable, as are
the laws of physics. Distort incentives, distort prices, and distort
production, and you will get precisely this. Don't forget the case of
Suhrid Ganguly, the engineer. He was not perhaps lucky enough to migrate
to USA. You, perhaps, dear Sitaramayy, sit in the USA, and find it easy to
preach large government when you personally live in a society where the
government has virtually no contact with your personal life except for
very rare occasions.

You act as if you do not know, dear Sir, what a government can become, if
left unchecked. A government is equally a monopoly. And no monopolies are
sacred to us. 

> To those who are writing the manifesto, I would suggest that agriculture
> departments in state universities should be responsible for addressing the
> real problems of farmers in their areas. 

Please do not let us hand over "responsibility" so lightly. I have been
trained for two weeks each in Haryana Agricultural University and Assam
Agriculture University. I have debated issues at length with a lecturer
from HAU who was doing a Ph.D. in Australia (he has been frantically dying
to get out of India since he is sick and tired of working in this
"prestigious" university. He told me about the politics in the use of
electron microscope at HAU, and how that machine lay dead for years, as a
result of this politics, and how he could not get to use a Personal
Computer (!) since there was this great security surrounding that
machine.) I have met dozens of these Professors when they came to my
district to do agricultural extension. I have personally seen their
extension work (both good and bad) in hundreds of villages. My guide for
Ph.D. (I had first registered for Ph.D. in Guwahati University) was a
senior professor who had served in the Assam Agr. Univ. and who was
trained in the London School of Economics. 

Knowing these things, please let us not simply think that because a
university exists, it will solve our problems. Yes, a univ. has a big role
to play, and must do so. But we have to build a complete set of
institutions that will take advantage of that learning, and also begin to
pay our professors more reasonably, and fund machines, and equipment, and
books, so they do not spend their entire life politiking instead of doing
research. A poor country has problems too deeply inter-twined to be solved
simply by one end of the twine.

Please think deeply about these inter-linkages, and think how the people
will actually behave in a given situation. Then we will begin to
understand why most of the universities in India are hotbeds of politics
and not of research.