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Updated: December 18, 2009 22:06 IST

Revival of Indian agriculture needs media intervention

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S. Viswanathan, Readers' Editor.
The Hindu
S. Viswanathan, Readers' Editor.

Professor M.S. Swaminathan's outspoken advocacy of the need for a second Green Revolution to put Indian agriculture back on track with spirited support from the media, which was dealt with in this column last week, has struck a chord with a cross section of readers — scientists, journalists, academics, and also laypersons. Some of them have come up with suggestions on how to take up the cause of agriculture and the millions of people subsisting on it, and on the major role the media can play.

K.A. George of Thiruvananthapuram proposes in his e-mail that the government should initiate a national agricultural mission under the leadership of “lead farmers” in all the 600-odd districts of India with a view to improving farm productivity. The lead farmers, he explains, should be selected on the basis of their track record in agricultural innovation and experimentation. He hopes their expertise and experience will help improve the performance of under-achievers and under-performers.

He wants the media to expose “the heinous motives and actions of our politicians” who tend to treat farmers as mere vote banks and often stop with offering them “sops and incentives” that do little to better the lot of the farmers in a sustainable way. Pisipati Sriram of Hyderabad observes that farmers in States that are known as “rice bowls” had been reduced to paupers because of “the wrong policies” pursued by successive governments.

“Somewhere down the line,” he says, “even the media have ignored the nation's food giver and his problems.” In his perception, the “inadequate and peripheral” references in the media to issues concerning agriculture and Dalits who constitute the majority of farm workers are the result of “a shift in the perceptions of the coverage by news houses, with news becoming more city-centric or urban-centric and also lifestyle-centric.”

Mr. Sriram also criticises the media for “unfortunately” losing sight of the impact of population growth, a key parameter in development issues.

Agricultural scientist V. Rajagopal of Tirupati attributes “the present tendency among the media to ignore with insensitivity and contempt” issues relating to food, agriculture and hunger, to the attitudinal change in media establishments, often driven by “profit motive”. However, he has a word of praise for The Hindu for its wide coverage of the issue of suicide by farmers in large numbers in 2007, and also for the continued publication of its “well-produced” annual “Survey of Indian Agriculture.” He suggests more coverage for agriculture on a regular basis.

M. Ragothaman of Chennai makes the significant point in his e-mail message that on account of drought and inter-State river disputes the talented among the farmers have been forced to sell their cultivable lands to the land sharks “with the active connivance of the powers that be.” This had led to a drastic fall in the extent of land under cultivation and also the migration of marginalised farm workers to cities.“The Green Revolution is a paradigmatic example of good science followed by good public policy resulting in huge benefits for large numbers of people,” observes M.A. Kabeer of Dharapuram in his response. Noting that agriculture has been on the decline in recent years, growing at a far lower pace than the overall economy, he recalls how the government was forced to go for import of food grains for the first time in 2006, giving rise to serious concerns about food security.

“Now a burgeoning population, a growing middle class with more purchasing power, and erratic weather are among the factors that create food scarcity, pushing up prices and requiring a new agricultural leap forward.”

What Churchill said of Stalin

From Thiruvananthapuram, C.V. Gopalakrishnan, a veteran journalist who retired from The Hindu several years ago after a long and highly productive career, has e-mailed his recollections on an article, “Stalin: a remarkable comeback” (Op-Ed page, The Hindu, November 12, 2009) by Vladimir Radyuhin. The article was about the “remarkable comeback” of Joseph Stalin, who died in 1953 as Prime Minister of Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU).

It said that Stalin, who was projected as a tyrant soon after his death, came a distant 10th in the list of Russia's greatest historical figures in 1989. After 20 years, Stalin has now been voted as the third best Russian leader of all time. It was in 1956, just three years after his death, that CPSU general secretary Nikita Khrushchev, in a speech at the historic 20th party congress in 1956, denounced the “personality cult” and massive reprisals during the Stalin regime. Stalin's embalmed body was removed from the Kremlin mausoleum where it lay beside V.I. Lenin's, and Stalingrad stripped of its name despite its World War II heroic fame.

“The rise in the late leader's position in public esteem is a bewildering turnaround,” Vladimir Radyuhin said. He described it as a birthday present to Stalin. Mr. Gopalakrishnan says the article reminded him of how all the books and articles that projected him as a tyrant immediately after his death in 1953 did little justice to his complex personality and character. He adds: “Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister during the Second World War (1939-1945), despite his prejudices, had given a revealing projection of Stalin with whom he had developed very cordial relations.

In The Aftermath, which he wrote during the interwar years, while recalling that Stalin had earlier been a theologian, he had pointed out that the Soviet dictator's regime of cruelty should be seen in the context of the record of the Russian Orthodox Church. Churchill's account of the killings by the Communist regime in the Soviet Union did not differ much from that of the killings by the Church earlier.”

Mr. Gopalakrishnan's point is that these killings by the Church in medieval Europe must be seen as having set a precedent for the killing of the anti-proletarian bourgeoisie in the Soviet Union.

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