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Decoding the Indian Agrarian Crisis and Fake Farmers Facade

Gaurav Tyagi believes half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.

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farmers
An increasing number of farmers in India are committing suicide due to debt pressure. To tackle the issue, the government has come up with farm loan waivers. (VOA)
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– By Gaurav Tyagi


New Delhi, September 18, 2017 : 
Indian and International media is full of articles regarding large number of farmers in India committing suicide due to debt pressure.

Instead of going to the root of the problem and analyzing the reasons for this phenomenon, Indian politicians have come up with an absurd idea of farm loan waivers.

Majority of Indian farmers under debt trap own very little land. Farming on such small piece of land is not economically feasible. This sector is highly unorganized. Most of the time, no planning is involved in cultivation, irrigation and harvesting.

Middlemen exploit farmers by buying their produce at a very low price and then selling it at a premium to the end consumers.

The irony is that a large number of Indian politicians claim huge incomes from agriculture while farmers starve.

In the province of Madhya Pradesh 24 farmers committed suicide this year over crop loss and failure to repay loans but 18 of the 20 cabinet ministers of the state have shown ‘agriculture’ as their main source of huge incomes.

How come politicians are earning in Billions through farming while the real farmers are struggling to make both ends meet?

Let’s examine the issue in-depth.

The income earned from agricultural land is exempt from income tax under section 10 (1) of the Income Tax Act 1961. Politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen in India launder their money misusing the above income tax clause.

Normally, one cannot own agricultural land in India unless their forefathers have been agriculturists. Rich and influential people in the country obtain agriculturist certificates by ‘greasing the palms’ of the local land officials.

Farmers are not required to maintain detailed records in India. This provides an excellent loophole to pass off unaccounted and undeclared cash as agricultural income. It is done by showing fake sales cash receipts of agricultural produce, which like other certificates can be purchased in India through bribes.

Approximately 800,000 tax declarants in India state exorbitant amounts as agricultural incomes while filing their annual income tax returns.

This income, a whopping INR. 874 Lakh Crores was eight times more than the cumulative GDP of India for the financial years 2011 and 2012.

The average annual income declared by these assesses comes out to be anywhere between Rs. 30-80 Crores, on which they don’t pay any taxes.

It’s obvious that the aforesaid is not agricultural earning instead it’s declared as agricultural income by these assesses just to avoid paying taxes.

According to National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Delhi, with hardly any farming land has more farmers indulging in agriculture than Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and West Bengal provinces.

Delhi’s so called ‘farmers’ received Rs. 22,077 Crores in agricultural loans during 2009. In reality, these ‘self proclaimed farmers’ are the owners of big farm houses on the outskirts of the capital.

The authorities are well aware of this malpractice. The Tax Administration Reform Committee in its report in November 2014 said, “Agricultural income of non-agriculturists is being increasingly used as a conduit to avoid tax and for laundering funds, resulting in leakage to the tune of Crores in revenue annually”

The Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley on 26th April said that the government of India does not plan to tax the farm income.

farmers
Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley, wikimedia

It reveals that Indian politicians cutting across party lines indulge in this malpractice, 27% of the winning Lok Sabha M.P’s in 2014 elections have declared wealth of over Rs. 1 Crore, majority of which has been mentioned as agricultural income.

Indian opposition politicians blackmail the political party in power by indulging in spurious farmer agitations.

If there is a bumper crop then the opposition parties start shouting that prices have crashed due to over-supply in the market. When farming cultivation fails due to the vagaries of nature, then they start throwing statistics about farmers suicide.

A group of ‘self proclaimed’ farmers from Tamil Nadu province camped at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, the Indian capital city during March this year and indulged in cheap theatrics to draw attention to their protests.

The leader of this group, P. Ayyakannu is demanding that all farmers should be given loan waivers from banks and quoted highly inflated figures of farmers suicides in Tamil Nadu.

The Tamil Nadu government on 28th April, 2017 conveyed to the Supreme Court of India that no famers committed suicide in the state and clarified that a few, who took this extreme measure did it due to personal reasons.

Many farmers died due to old age and other medical issues. Ayyakannu clubbed all of them together to gather national as well as international attention.

ALSO READ Farmers welfare: What Indian agricultural sector needs to learn from Denmark?

Ayyakannu called off this whole play in Delhi on 23rd April after 40 days, when the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu came to meet these protestors.
He said that their group is giving a one month’s time-frame to the government in order to fulfill their demands otherwise, they would resume their protests in the national capital from May 25 on a bigger scale.

This impostor farmer leader Ayyakannu again came back to Delhi again on 16th July with his gang of ruffians to continue their drama.

Ayakannu as per media reports is not even a farmer, but a lawyer, who makes huge amounts of money through out of court settlements and personally owns hundreds of acres of land.

He and his bunch of hooligans all look quite healthy and well-fed. They don’t appear like destitute farmers as claimed by them.

Fake farmers like the aforementioned Ayyakannu are just the front faces of this façade in the name of farmers.

The remote controls of such characters remain in the hands of politicians, who use them for their narrow, selfish, corrupt agendas depending on the political situation at the state and national level.

The governments of Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan & U.P. provinces have waived off agricultural loans worth Billions. This has set up a very bad precedent for the rest of the country.

ALSO READ Exclusive: Angry Farmers and Distressed Leaders

There are no ‘free lunches’ in this world. These half baked measures like loan waivers just make people lazy parasites.

The following steps would go a long way in helping the real distressed farmers;

  • Scientific soil and climate testing should be done across all farming regions in India. Farmers can then be educated about which crops to grow profitably, in how many cycles; depending on the soil conditions and climate of the region.
  • Implement agricultural reforms like farming co-operatives, where farmers having small agricultural land holdings can be encouraged to come together and pool their land plus resources together.
  • Crop storage infrastructure should be built and maintained in every village so, that farmer can store their surplus produce rather than sell it desperately at a low price.
  • Crop insurance must be compulsorily introduced all over the country wherein, farmers by paying a nominal amount need not bother about their crops getting destroyed through excessive rain or drought.
  • Organic farming needs to be encouraged instead of over-reliance on chemical fertilizers. The food waste produced by an entire village can be easily turned into biodegradable compost, through innovative schemes like Vermicomposting.
  • Vermicast can replace fertilizers in the agriculture fields. This would save money for the farmer and provide high quality chemical free crops.
  • The APMC’s (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees) have created a coterie of middlemen, who along with the complicity of these committees, form a virtual barrier between the farmer and the consumer, paying the former a pittance for his produce and charging the latter exorbitant amounts for fruits and vegetables.
    Vegetables are purchased at Rs. 2 or 3 a kg from farmers and then sold at 30 to 40 rupees per kg to urban consumers.
    This setup has been going on for decades in every town and city of India. Millions of urban Indians pay artificially higher prices and majority of farmers are underpaid due to this flawed system.
    The profits are made by middlemen, who do not pay taxes on these huge earnings. It is a common practice for them to store money in cash and not in banks.

These APMC’s must therefore be abolished immediately. Farmers should get direct access to the end consumer through the elimination of middlemen. This would ensure a better monetary return for farmers.

  • Private moneylenders in and around the villages charge a very high rate of interest from farmers. This unscrupulous sector should be bought under government regulation by bringing down the rate of interest to a rational level.
  • Government schools in villages are in shambles. They need to be upgraded so, that quality education at an affordable price is available to every child in the village.
    This would uplift farmers children through educational empowerment. It will enable them to make a transition to non-agricultural professions in future and enhance their family earnings considerably.

The aforementioned steps would cost the government far less than what it is losing in the absurd loan waiver schemes, which anyways don’t help the poor marginal farmer at all.
As regard dealing with the fake farmers of India.

The solution entails; no farm loan waivers and bringing the agricultural income above a certain threshold under the tax bracket.

The aforesaid measures would prevent the fake farmers façade spreading rapidly all over the country, while resolving the agrarian crisis of India by assisting needy farmers of the country.

The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China. 


 

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AI’s divestment process takes-off, govt to off-load 76% stake

Currently, the combined entity of AI and AIXL has an extensive network connecting around 43 international destinations and around 54 domestic destinations

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The divestment process of the flag carrier Air India (AI) took-off, after the government invited “Expression of Interest” to off-load 76 per cent stake and management control of the airline.

The Preliminary Information Memorandum (PIM) inviting “EoI” for the strategic divestment of AI, along with the airline’s shares in AIXL (Air India Express) and AISATS (Air India SATS Airport Services) from private entities including the airline’s employees was issued on Wednesday. The central government owns 100 per cent equity of Air India. In turn, the airline holds full stake in Air India Express, while it holds 50 per cent stake in the joint venture AISATS.

The ill-fated flight IC-814 was destined to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi
Air India is going through major losses.

Accordingly, it has been planned to divest 76 per cent government stake in AI, 100 per cent in AIXL and 50 per cent in AISATS. “The Government of India has given ‘in-principle’ approval for the strategic disinvestment of AI by way of the transfer of management control and sale of 76 per cent equity share capital of AI held by GOI, which will include AI’s shareholding interest in the AIXL and AISATS,” said the PIM document.

The document detailed that apart from AIXL and AISAT, other subsidiaries of AI Group like AIESL (Air India Engineering Services Ltd), AIATSL (Air India Air Transport Services Ltd), HCI (Hotel Corporation of India) and AASL (Airline Allied Services Ltd), “will not be part of the proposed transaction”.

According to the memorandum, private entities should have a net worth of Rs 5,000 crore to be eligible to send in their EoIs for the proposed transaction. The entity is also required to have reported a positive profit after tax in at least three of the five preceding financial years.

“However, if the member of the consortium is a scheduled airline operator in India, the condition to meet minimum share of net worth/ACI requirement shall not apply to such member provided equity shareholding of such member is restricted to maximum of 51% of paid up equity share capital of the consortium,” the document said. “In case of a foreign airline, the requirement to meet minimum share of the Net Worth/ACI requirement shall remain applicable.”

Also Read: India becomes 3rd Largest Aviation Market in Domestic Passenger Traffic

On the debt restructuring, the PIM disclosed that the “existing debt and liabilities of AI and AIXL as on 31st March, 2017 are being reallocated and it is expected that debt and liabilities, including net current liabilities of Rs 88,160 million, aggregating to Rs 333,920 million will remain with AI and AIXL”.

“The balance debt shall be allocated to Air India Asset Holding Ltd which is 100 per cent owned by the GOI subject to receipt of requisite approvals from lenders and regulators, as applicable.”

Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) Secretary Neeraj Kumar Gupta said that non-core assets like buildings and others will be transferred to the SPV.

“Only the core assets which are essential for operation, they are being transferred with Air India. All non-core assets are being hived off to the SPV. It will be separately monetized,” he said.

Besides, the PIM had revealed that “Confirmed selected bidder” will be required to be invested in the airline for at least three years and keep the “substantial ownership and effective control” of both Air India and Air India Express vested with Indian nationals.

“It is the intention of GOI to divest its residual shareholding through the process of dispersed disinvestment (i.e. would not be sold as a block) on such terms as may be prescribed in the RFP,” the document read.

“Further, the confirmed selected bidder may be required to list AI on such terms as may be prescribed in the RFP. GOI may support such listing through proportionate offering in the listing process…”

The selected bidder will be allowed to use the “Air India” brand for AI business operations for a minimum specified number of years…” The last date of EoI submission has been set for May 14, 2018. Last month, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha had said that the government plans to divest its stake in the national passenger carrier by this year-end.

In his Budget speech for 2018-19, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said: “The government has also initiated the process of strategic disinvestment in 24 Central Public Sector Enterprises. This includes strategic privatization of Air India.”

The airline is under a massive debt burden of over Rs 50,000 crore. Currently, the combined entity of AI and AIXL has an extensive network connecting around 43 international destinations and around 54 domestic destinations. The entity operated a fleet of 138 aircraft as of December 31, 2017 comprises 69 Airbus and 69 Boeing plans. IANS