Friday, July 23, 2010

IARI proposes 900 pc fee hike, amidst the students protest

Students of the Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi seem to be in utter shock. The institute, which has not seen a fee hike since 1998, now proposes to change the fee structure for research and postgraduate students by 900 per cent (almost 12 times) hike which is no where comparable to the fees of even the other premier technical institutions, like IITs, NITs etc. Over that students staged a silent protest at the Pusa campus for the second day on Thursday to voice their opposition to the revision in the fee structure for MSc and PhD courses. IARI is one of the premier research institute among the four deemed universities of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the fee revision has been done only for the deemed institutes.
The fees which were about Rs.6,200 per annum, inclusive of hostel, electricity and tuition fees, have steeply gone up to Rs.72,000. While Rs.40, 000 is tuition fees, students will have to annually shell out Rs.16, 000 for hostel accommodation and Rs.6,000 for electricity. The revised fee structure was reportedly recommended at a meeting of the Co-ordination Committee for ICAR Deemed Universities on March 9. With this hike IARI will become the costliest Institute to study the farm sciences after PAU, Ludhiana and TNAU, Coimbatore. IARI provides fellowships of Rs 10,500 for Doctorate / PhD Scholars and Rs 8,640 for the MSc Students, inclusive of all the living and research expenses. The fee hike will be implemented from the new academic session beginning August 8.
Though the administration claims the hike is still under consideration, the students’ body representatives, who organised a silent protest and boycotted classes on Thursday, claim the new fee structure has been approved and implemented. Protesting in front of the director’s office, the postgraduate and research students said their annual fees has been increased from Rs 7,200 to over Rs 62,000. “The director communicated the decision of the new fee structure to us. We even saw the official communication which stated the fee for postgraduate students as Rs 62,000 and research students as Rs 72,000 per annum,” President of Post Graduate School Students Union (PGSSU), IARI, Mr. Sandeep Kumar said.
The students claimed while the fee structure at other Deemed University, Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), National Dairy Research Institute (NDRI) and Central Institute of Fishery Education (CIFE) has also been revised, their hikes are far more reasonable.
A letter written to Union Minister of Agriculture by the All India Federation of Agricultural Associations states: “The quantum of fees proposed to be charged is almost double the fees charged by the IITs. It appears that the enhancement of fees has been done taking into consideration the fees being charged by the private engineering and management institutions.” The letter goes on to say that job opportunities and salaries for engineering and management students are far more and that no other institutions and universities offering courses in agricultural sciences had raised their fees. Many students who are from poor and rural backgrounds too would be impacted. The increase might grant leverage to “other institutions and universities throughout the country to increase the fees”.
The students have threatened to intensify protests if the hike is not “rationalised”. “We registered our protest in a silent manner. Tomorrow, we will meet the director-general and Agriculture ministry officials,” said Kumar.
PG School Dean and Joint Director, Education, H S Gaur countered that the revised fee structure has been sent back to the government for reconsideration. “The fee at IARI has not been hiked since 1998, though fellowships and other student benefits were revised. The decision to revise the fee has been taken by a council headed by the Union Agriculture Secretary. We have no say in the matter, but we will initiate talks with the officials concerned as well as with the students,” said Gaur.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Monsoon Theatrics

The scene hasn’t been any different from earlier days when one used to describe Indian agriculture as a “gamble with Monsoon”. Even after more than the six decades of independence, we have not made any remarkable achievements in terms of increasing the cultivated area under irrigation.

And the statistics and hypes presented by the Govt. and the concerned ministries seems far from the harsh reality as still more than 60% cultivated area depends on the direct mercy of “Monsoon”, which often used to betray the faith of the farmers and sometimes give a hard angle to their lives.

Monsoon is a highly variable phenomenon, in terms of temporal and spatial difficulties. It is affected by the flow of ocean currents like, El nino and La nina and mostly drifts away alongwith. Meteorological department is also not able to forecast anything substantial about its movement and keeps on guessing its revival, even at the end of July, when almost more than one month period of monsoon has elapsed. Ministry and government runs by the statistics given by Met Dept and projects (im)possible outcomes for the farm production. This season too ministry is in much relaxed mood and is more concentrated towards the storage side, after much hue & cry.

We Indians are die hard optimists and have tonnes of perseverance to keep on waiting for the monsoon to set for taking up the agricultural operations. Not only this applies to farm operations, but it extends even to social obligations and familiar rituals.

Virtually all the expectations of a bountiful agricultural production hinges on the edge of good, sufficient, well distributed rains. Every year govt. promises economic growth and boom only on account of a successful Monsoon and if the rain fails then all the hell will break loose in this sector, everyone from PM, Finance Minister, RBI to Planning Commission will blame the poor performer, farm sector. But do they ponder, what plagues the scene? Do they see the bigger picture that till now we were not able to extend irrigation facilities beyond the green revolution belts? South India and the Western parts are the worst hit and the Eastern counterparts least uses the subsurface sources and are highly dependent on the groundwater resources, which is depleting at unprecedented level.

Till date rainfall had been deficient in parts of Uttar Pradesh, many places in Bihar and Jharkhand and some eastern region, but the Meteorological Department is still optimistic about the total rainfall. Government is confident of its projected farm output even in the case of weak or almost failed monsoon showers in contrast to forecast of good rains by Met Dept which claims that the late rains will not significantly hurt the total output. On the other hand, Flood raged fury in the many parts of the green revolution belts of Punjab and Haryan, not due to rains but by the breach in the Sutluj-Yamuna canal. Many districts have been affected and considerable fear persists that it may lower the rice output and hurt the govt’s projected figures.

During these long years, not a major irrigation project has started, except the Sardar Sarovar. Irrigation projects can be extended wherever possible with due consideration of social, environmental, economic issues and with local people’s involvement. A technological exchange programme with several agriculturally advanced countries in tackling irrigation problems can go a long way especially in the event of Climate change and global warming.

Approaches like, Micro-irrigation, rainfed area based appropriate technologies and schemes should be focused on the neglected dry tracts, which is not less than two third of the total arable holdings. Farmers should be trained and exposed to the rain-fed technologies and promotion and demonstration of contingencies measures and agriculture insurance provisions for the prone regions will surely make the scene better. Breeding seeds for better abiotic resistance, particularly the water deficient and inundated conditions has to be promoted in the network of research institutions and Universities, which can be helpful towards sustaining the production in the years to come in the view of climate change and monsoon drift. Frontier technologies like biotechnology, nanotechnology, water management and all other possible interventions can be utilized to fight the situation of insecurity so that the dependence on the vagaries of the Monsoon can be reduced to the extent possible.

On the policy side, it is astonishing that National Rainfed Area Authority budget is less than the budget allotted for the Bundelkhand area dryland authority, which is proposed in the last budget. So political gimmicks and lip service is not going to serve the cause of the masses anymore, and a bold initiative is urgently awaited for ushering the second green revolution, which can only be ensured in these neglected dry tracts.

Pawar play !

Sharad Pawar’s request to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reduce his workload as he wants to devote time to party work and other duties is well timed, and should be welcomed. As still the country if under the intense heat of almost never ending food inflation and above that instances of food mismanagement by the FCI authorities coming to light exposes how much responsibilities he bears single handedly. Mr. Pawar holds additional charge of the food and consumer affairs and the public distribution departments. Mr Pawar, recently assumed charge as President of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Pawar, a former BCCI president and recently been elected as the president of International cricket body, has been criticized for giving more time to cricket than his ministry, which has resulted in mismanagement on the food front and spiraling prices. Food inflation is perhaps the most serious challenge facing the UPA government in its second term, and Sharad Pawar hasn’t really risen to meet the challenge. Now that he has been burdened with the additional responsibility of ICC, it is obvious that Pawar will have even less time to attend to managing food shortages and tackle the menace of inflation.

It may not even entirely be his fault as an individual minister it is a difficult task managing multiple and often conflicting objectives of all the ministries he presides over agriculture, food, civil supplies and consumer affairs. It does seem unreasonable to expect a single minister to deliver reform on agricultural production and food distribution while keeping consumer interests in mind, all at the same time.

It was without doubt a mistake to hand all of these departments to one minister. Now is the time to rectify that costly mistake and separate at least food and civil supplies from the ministry of agriculture. But while that may end certain obvious conflicts of interest—one important conflict is that the agriculture ministry wants maximum return for farmers while the food ministry wants to procure at cheapest price to distribute to consumer, it will not solve the problems of the agriculture and food economy.

It is long overdue to bifurcate or, trifurcate the mammoth ministry of Agriculture, Food and Consumer affairs and Public Distribution. Many of the earlier reports recommended for the same for its efficient functioning and better redressal of the causes of the beneficiaries.

When Rural Development Ministry can have 3-4 Minister of States, they why not thought be spared of first bifurcating the Ministry itself, then further trifurcate the departmental responsibilities to individual MoS, on the lines of Ministry of RD. This will surely improve the efficiency, reduce the existing babudom and reduce the timelag in the projects/schemes and its further implementation.

Earlier also as per Mr Pawar, he has asked for three ministers but has been given only one. The request to be relieved of some of his considerable ministerial duties may be a crucial window of opportunity for the government to push-start a reform agenda in agriculture and food sector, which is long overdue. Any lackadaisical attitude of government and PM can prove to harm the food production and food security system of the nation. So the incumbent government might take the Food and Civil Supplies Ministry away from Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

Alongside the government will have to press Pawar to undertake massive long overdue farm reforms, either it is seed bill, pesticide bill, land reforms, ICAR revamp, sugar and fertilizer sector liberalization etc. In the ministry of food, there is a need for the government to reform the moribund FCI, which presides over much leakage and waste. There is also a need to rethink the ineffective public distribution system. A division of responsibilities and change of personnel may put some wind behind these reform measures but the government will still have to show plenty of political will to get the reform through.

So from the Congress leadership it is expected to kickstart discussions on a Cabinet reshuffle soon and Mr Pawar is supposed to retain the agriculture ministry, will have to be compensated with an additional department. Over this the Congress leadership is yet to hold formal talks with alliance partners on the reshuffle plan and some other players like, RLD’s Ajit Singh are keen to join UPA. In the event of Congress deciding on accommodating Mr Ajit Singh, it will have to find a weighty portfolio for the new entrant.

Lastly, it is to the government to feel the due responsibilities and take appropriate decisions so that no work gets affected, and what is best in the interest of the large section of the farming community.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Politicians drama put People and Nation at loss

Idiotic politicians are nothing to offer and never bother about the Unstoppable price rise, which a common Indian is facing since last 2 yrs. Are they sleeping since last 2 years? Declaring a strike over the issue, they have done nothing good but a huge loss of a full working day that too Monday for a major section depending on daily earnings and it’s a complete hands to mouth for them. But is the govt given any thought to the private sector employees, business people and workers engaged in un-organized sector for their livelihood and always at receiving end for the sins that they have elected you to be nuisance to the society. This population constitutes a bulk and almost many of the times of the sarkari babus and so called govt employees. Unlike this corrupt league which amasses huge money coffins all the time and also ask for salary revisions, almost every year or two with the formation of newer pay commission. For this matter too the shameless Netas stands very much united without a single veto, irrespective of their party, region, ideology etc. So even after all these Why such a NAUTANKI on the streets with a much inconclusive battle???

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lets say bye bye to PAWAR !

Congrats Mr Pawar on taking over the reign of ICC and NOW it is We, the common Indian people, humbly request you to pls relinquish the seat of Minister of Agriculture, Food supply & Consumer Affairs- GOI to give more towards your area of concern i.e. cricket and leave the Indian agriculture and food situation to its despair. Even after your 7 years of stint at the development ministry your contribution is minuscule and you always tried to milk the ministry for your own personal gains. "ICAR" has become the DEN of corrupt and inefficient people and "Krishi Bhawan" keeps on only the promises from the Sugar SAP to the issue of food inflation and the ensuing droughts and floods. Who does not know that you are paid handsomely by the Monsanto and many other Corporations for favour. But don't let the water go through the heads, otherwise you have to face the ire of the people on the every street, as witnessed in case of Bt conundrum, the only need is some JAIRAM.