Open Letter To Prime Minister Of India

Putting Farmers First: A Report of “Myth”

S. Jeevananda Reddy

17th January, 2021

C.C.      Respected President of India
Dr. Manmohan Singh, Former Prime Minister of India
Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Congress President

Respected Narendra Modi Garu,

“With All Respect”

Sir, I have read the book entitled “Putting Farmers First” of 106 pages. It appears the entire foundation to this book is the text presented in page 10 under “Gujarat’s Agrarian Miracle Catapults Modi to National Stage”. All those items present “MYTH”. Why I said “myth” can be seen from the below presented discussion on few major issues presented in Page 10 of the book. I discussed some of these issues in my books starting from 2000 [see below presented books - 1 to 4], prepared after my return to India from assignments with UN Organizations [FAO & WMO].

#1.      Doubling of farmers income by 2022
Observation: This is not possible even by 2050 or by 2100
1.1 The Green Revolution Technology [GRT] was introduced around 1960.  Animal Husbandry played vital role in farmers’ economic security and household food & nutrient security in rural India under traditional agriculture with no government subsidies. This system was disturbed with the poor quality fodder under mono-crop system under GRT with high subsidies – curtesy of Dr. M. S. Swaminathan. The yields reached a plateau by around 1983-84 but introduced severe air & water pollution, polluted food & health hazards.

1.2 Earth’s climate is dynamic and it is always changing through the natural cycles. What we are experiencing now is part of this system only. It is beyond human control. We need to adapt to them. As part of the natural cycles in rainfall, droughts and floods are common to India. The water availability in rivers follows this cycle. These play crucial role on agriculture productivity. Unfortunately Indian government is more interested in pseudo global warming even though we grow crops in the three seasons by selecting seeds that are tolerant to that season and soil types – as the temperature regimes are different under different soil types: example: Anantapur, Kadapa & Kurnool.

1.3 India’s total geographical area is 329 million hectares (Mha) of which 195 Mha is gross cropped area and 141 Mha is net cropped area. That means, only 54 Mha more than once crops are cultivated in a crop year on the same piece of land. In the net cropped area the net irrigated area is only 65.3 Mha and the rest of the cropped area is at the mercy of “Rain God”. Average size in ha of operational holdings varied from 2.28 in 1970-71 to 1.55 in 1990-91 to 1.08 in 2015-16. That shows a steady decline in the average operational holding size with increasing population.  

1.4 In India 41.4% of workforce is in Agri sector in 2020. Any change in Agri sector severely affects workforce in this sector.

#2.      They promised subsidized fertilizers but it used to get routed to black markets rather than reaching farmers

Observations: The facts are different
2.1 Two IIM Professors from Ahmadabad in Gujarat brought out a report “Fertilizer Subsidy in India: Who are the beneficiaries?” in 2009; and the same was submitted to Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh [W.P. No. 2009-07-01]. They argued that the subsidies must be given to industry only.

2.2 I sent my response [2010] on this with a copy to PM. I proposed that the subsidies must be given to farmers directly. This was part of my submissions to “Approach Paper to the 12th 5-year Plan” – to the Director, Plan Coordination Division of Planning Commission with copies to Hon’ble Prime Minister & UPA Chairperson. I said that “Nearly 25 to 30% of fertilizers supposed to be distributed to farmers’ changes hands illegally through official-political-industry channels, etc., etc.” I also presented this in my talk on All-India Radio [from Delhi]. Later the Union Finance Minister in his budget presentation on February 28, 2011 proposed that “A task force has been set up to work out the modalities for the proposed system of direct transfer of subsidy for kerosene, LPG and fertilizers.” After this, political groups submitted to PM asking him to give cash transfer directly to retailors. On this I sent a mail to PM saying that fertilizer subsidy must be given to farmers only and not to either industry or retailors. On this received a letter from the Ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, Department of fertilizers dated 28-12-2011 with reference to my mail to PM dated 23-05-2011 confirmed direct subsidy transfer to beneficiaries only and not to retailors or industry.

2.3 I saw a report in “The Hindu” dated 8th February 2017 with heading “PM Saved Rs. 49,500 crore going to middlemen.”  I watched PM address to parliament on 7th February 2017. However, this scheme has not extended to entire country so far. Why??? Unfortunately to date farmers are not getting their quota and sometimes sold adulterated.

2.4 From the IIM professors report it is clear that there was a large gap between production and consumption during 2003-04 to 2007-08. The report also present a steep rise in fertilizer subsidy component after 2007-08 while the fertilizer as percent of total subsidies fall steeply during 2000 to 2003 as imports were bottom low though prices were low; and there onwards started steep increase.

#3.      Several factors has contributed to its success; from technological success of Bt-cotton to check dams recharging groundwater, to Narmada

Observations: False claim
3.1 Bt-cotton: Gujarat is notorious in growing seeds illegally brought in to India. Such seeds of groundnut were cultivated but developed severe dangerous virus. After getting the information, government officials burnt the entire crop. This seed reached Anantapur, a groundnut zone, in AP was also burnt. Here the profit is the motive with no respect for environment or human beings or food security. In the case of Bt-cotton the seed entered India illegally and produced seeds illegally, cultivated illegally. We filed a PIL in AP High Court in 2002/03. In the middle of the case our Advocate shifted his loyalty to seed companies. This seed has poor stability.

3.2 Genetically modified seed technology works under GRT inputs but it also suffered similar to GRT by reaching plateau in production within 7 years. The seeds were modified three times in around 7 years unlike traditional seeds. With this now brought in BT-II & Bt-III, internationally prohibited seed including UN illegally and cultivated in India illegally.
3.3 In fact Indian private seed companies developed excellent varieties but under the Monsanto monopolizing cotton seed, all those were converted in to GM seeds and minting money by raising the cost of seeds. GM technology has no capacity in increasing the yield over the non-GM parents. Though they say it protects from pests/diseases but unfortunately they introduced new pests/diseases [like pink bollworms] that are affecting even neighbouring farmers crop lands. The yields of non-GM are better than GM – however, GM seed cartels banned the non-GM seeds sale in the market. Adulterated seeds have been flourishing. The farmer’s suicides increased in the five states where it is grown.

3.4 GM food crops seed entered in to Indian agriculture illegally and now your government made it legal. Internationally several countries banned GM food entry in to their countries. As a result India loses the opportunity to export food as it comes under contaminated with GM. So, our exports loss is gain to GM food imports. – The reality is India has emerged as a major agricultural exporter, with exports climbing from just over $5 billion in 2003 to a record of more than $39.3 billion in 2013. Thus became world’s 7th largest exporter of agri products with rice $7.1 billion.

3.5 That means with lopsided policies seed industry is expected to go in to the hands of multinational seed giants and exports and food processing will be affected severely and thus employment to youth and other small scale business houses, etc. also will be affected.
3.6 India becomes dumping ground for GM food as no controls like GM Food Label – internationally fighting on this -- and people can be used as Guinea Pigs.

3.7 Note: excellent AP seed Corporation that used to supply seeds even to other states was killed by BJP-TDP regime prior to 2004 and encouraged private seed companies. Also extension services were weakened. AP state Agri minister was side-lined for getting a report on Bt-Cotton; and Central Health Minister made observations against GM food in Hyderabad and by the time he reached Delhi, he lost his job.

3.8 Check-damps-Narmada dam: A national TV channel telecasted discussion on watersheds versus Narmada Dam. Minister from Gujarat challenged NBA representative to show where the watershed technology was successful in Gujarat. Narmada Dam was not Gujarat or BJP Dam!!! In my first referred book I presented data on watersheds/check-dams in AP. In the case of Yerracherivu watershed near Anantapur, the groundnut yields varied between 3.23 q/ha during 1989-90 and 18.40 q/ha during 1986-87 with base yields of 8.90 q/ha during 1983-84. The life of the Check-dams was short -- around three years. However, the watersheds programme helped politicians mint money and the watersheds disappeared in no time.

#4.      According to Global Hunger Index 2019, India stand at 102 out of 117 countries falls below Nepal, Bangladesh & Pakistan. Since 2014 India’s performance under global hunger Index is dismal even with excess production. In India, only 9.6% of all children between 6 to 23 months of age are given a minimum acceptable diet. The child stunting rate is 37.9% in India. To counter this though in 2013 government brought out Food Security & Nutrient Bill, the progress in implementation is tardy as the governments are more interested in populistic schemes that fetch them votes. The rank of India was 55 (85) out of 76 (117) in 2014 and it has gone up to 102 of 117 countries in 2019. Adulterated food including milk products has been rampant. About 40% of food is going as waste. Governments made no attempt to control them but talk on agri reforms. The book in its 106 pages presented several such issues but so far BJP governments at the centre prior to 2004 or after 2014 made any attempt except spending lakhs of crores???

#5.       In Conclusion, Agri Bills of 2020 were built on “FAULT” to build castles for business houses at the cost of poor farmers. The government argues that the old existing agriculture policies will stay. If that is the case, then why the government is insisting on the implementation of the three Agri Bills of 2020? Why the Agri pump sets need to fix meters? With your new Agri policies MSP will become a scapegoat. Middlemen will reap riches. Food exports will be hampered. Seed industry will be put in to the hands of multinational seed giants. Severely affect employment in agriculture sector.  Agri subsidies & PDS [with question on procurement] disappear!!! Two simple questions:

#6. You said many things in 106 pages but: Has your government taken any action on black-marketing of PDS rice that is affecting farmers getting MSP? Has your government taken any action on 2019-20 floods/rains? What you said in pages 4 to 6 are Hypothetical postulations only but Indian agriculture is in the hands of MNCs. Do you know, Sir, I am getting drinking water once in four days for an hour. Do you know, Sir, even after bring to the notice of FM, small correction in 2008-09 tax returns [in pan number instead of 10, Challan referred 01], nobody taking action but goes on deducting my refund!!! This is reality in India now!!! 

  1. Reddy, S.J. (2000): Andhra Pradesh Agriculture: Scenario of the last four decades, Hyderabad, India,
  2. Reddy, S.J., (2019a): Agroclimatic/Agrometeorological Techniques: As applicable to Dry-land Agriculture in Developing Countries [2nd Edition]. Brillion Publishing, New Delhi, 372p (1993).
  3. Reddy, S.J., (2019b): Workable Green Revolution: Agriculture in the perspective of Climate Change. Brillion Publishing, New Delhi, 221p (2011).
  4. Reddy, S.J., (2019c): Water Resources Availability over India. Brillion Publishing, New Delhi, 224p.

 Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy, Former Chief Technical Advisor – WMO/UN & Expert – FAO/UN

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Jan 20, 2021

Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

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