Picture this: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during an election rally in the remote corner of Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh, speaks about his dream of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. A BJP-friendly NRI businessman sitting in the US with no background in farming or agriculture has a brain wave. He writes a letter with a detailed proposal to Niti Aayog on how to achieve it and suggests creating a task force.
From among the thousands of mails piling up at the Niti office, this particular letter gets the lucky draw. That’s the benefit of knowing the right people. The think tank’s top boss finds the idea brilliant and rolls up his sleeves to push the businessman's questionable vision: a future where farmers lease out farmland to corporate-style agribusiness companies and effectively work as their cogs. In effect, he proposed corporatisation of agriculture.
The idea travels all the way to the Prime Minister’s Office and the task force soon materialises.
The task force invites corporations to show them the ways to double farmers’ income. It’s strange that they approached a breed that considers greed is good but closed out crucial voices from the conversation: the farmers, the economists, and the farmer organisations.
Fast forward two years. Three controversial farm laws that the Modi government enacted make corporate entry into agriculture easier , and the country witnessed one of the longest-running farmers' protests in history. Thousands of farmers trooped out to the borders of Delhi in protest against the corporatisation of farming. The battle cry of these farmers led to the repeal of farm laws.
Part 1 of this two-part series reveals how a man with no agricultural expertise managed to capture Niti Aayog's attention and got himself, and the people he picked, to be part of the task force formed to imagine the future of a crucial sector that impacted at least 60% of Indians. The documents also expose the ham-handedness of the government in framing policies that were poised to change the core of Indian agriculture.
Read the report by The Collective’s Shreegireesh Jalihal that delves deep into the businessman’s letter that kickstarted it, his connection to the ruling party, the hush-hush origins of this task force, and the report that was never made public.