Prime Minister Narendra Modi said all the right things on Wednesday, when he spoke of the need for a second green revolution driven by technology—lab-to-farm, he called it. By giving farmers soil-testing certificates, he also highlighted the need to curtail excessive and distorted use of fertilisers—usually heavily subsidised as well—which, in the long-run only hurts farmers as it ruins soil quality. Given how he has earlier spoken of the need to get more food processing/storage in place, it is clear the prime minister is going to be very focussed on improving conditions in agriculture, which is where a sizeable proportion of Indians are employed.
Indeed, the association he made with the tricolour at a book release function last Sunday made much the same point—green for green revolution, white for white (milk) revolution, and the navy blue of the Ashoka Chakra, he said, symbolised the need to get India’s fishery revolution going. Saffron, for those wondering how he left that out, is a different kettle of fish. His talking of a saffron revolution, Modi said, tongue firmly in cheek, would get the antennae of lots of people up, but saffron was really the colour of energy, where a revolution was also required!
The problem with Modi’s agricultural revolution, and he also realised this, was that it has to be delivered in the states, not at the Centre where he is power. That is why the man who has touted the Gujarat model all these years said that the focal point of the Gujarat model was really just emulating the best practices in various states.
So, if Modi is to try and catalyse a second green revolution, he cannot do it by fiat. He needs to do this through market-based incentives, he has to do this with the use of imaginative policies. And, yes, this is where his talk of cooperative federalism comes in.
As is most cases, there is no better place to start than at home. Some of the states run by either his party, the BJP, or its allies are the worst culprits when it comes to holding back agricultural progress, so the test will be to see if he can rein them in. And if he can channelise the savings from these states to those like Bihar and West Bengal, that would be true federalism.
Let’s begin with the Food Corporation of