Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What perpetuates the idea of ISIS. Reviewing the dialogue between Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

Over the previous four parts of this series on Islam and Islamism, we have charted a course over the writings over the problems of increasing radicalisation among the Muslims. We had reviewed the works of five authors - Tarek Fatah (Chasing a Mirage - The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State), Maualna Wahiduddin Khan, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and  Wafa Sultan, and looked at "The Radical" by Maajid Nawaz, a reformed Jihadi. 
Just as I was planning to write the concluding part by reviewing the fine dialogue between Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz now published as a book - "Islam and the Future of Tolerance", some interesting events have taken place in India. Prof Irfan Habib has compared the thought process of RSS with ISIS, the left-libbers have let loose a volley of intolerant rants and actions like "Award Wapasi" against a mythical intolerance of the Right, and the irrepressible Tufail Ahmed has taken on the Islamists by stating that "Muslims have no right to shout intolerance unless they condemn burqa, triple talaq, Barelvi fundamentalism and Deobandi Jihadism". So just the right time for this piece to be penned.
Tarek Fatah's take is that Sharia is an accretion to Islam, and Qur'an by itself does not preach a hate doctrine. Get rid of the influence of the clerics and you would have a much more benign and benevolent religion. Maulana Wahiduddin on the other hand feels that Da'wa and Jihad are peaceful calls, and essentially non-violent, but he is not very convincing as the two concepts remain a tool for proselytisation for him.
Ayan Hirsi Ali, on the other hand, says that the problem is in Islam itself. She lists out five problems - Life of Mohammed himself, Belief in afterlife and the resultant death cult, Sharia as the obscurantist code of Islamic life, Social control and its enforcement by all and sundry, and Jihad as the call for terror.
Wafa Sultan is even more forthright. She regards Islam as only a religious cloak for a hateful, pre-medieval war like misogynistic Arab culture, and sees no room for democratic and scientific values which have become the norm so far.
Set against this backdrop, the Sam Harris-Maajid Nawaz dialogue is an excellent microcosm of all the thoughts that have been discussed in the five books previously reviewed (including "Radical" of Maajid Nawaz himself).
Sam Harris is quite forthright in questioning the fundamentals of Islam. He recalls how he had confronted Maajid on an earlier occasion. He had broadly said that Maajid was trying to portray Islam as a religion of peace whereas it wasn't one. That Islam was being practised by the Jihadist in the way that a most honest reading of the faith's actual doctrine. So the dialogue begins by Maajid clarifying what he thinks of Islam. He states clearly that it is wrong to regard Islam as a religion of peace or war, but rather regard it as just a religion. His entire narrative is based on this line.
Maajid goes on to say that no scriptures speak for themselves. They have to be interpreted. How they are interpreted defines the three broad categories present among the adherents of Islam - moderates, Islamists and Jihadists. He included himself among the moderates. Those who would impose their view of Islam on others are Islamists, and those who are ready to impose their interpretation of Islam on others through violence are the Jihadists.
At another plane, Maajid divides Muslims into three categories. Conservatives, Liberals and Islamists. Conservatives sub-divide into fundamentalists and reformists. Liberals are those who hold that no idea is above scrutiny and no people are beneath dignity. Islamists sub-divide into revolutionary and Jihadists.
Harris questions Maajid  over the attitudes of Muslims in western countries as brought out in various polls. He finds it extremely troubling that 78% of British Muslims wanted the cartoonists who drew Prophet's cartoons punished, and a significant number from among them actually wanted them killed, extremely troubling. Maajid agrees with him.
What Maajid laments is the attitude of western liberals. They would rather trust an Islamist on the interpretation of Islam than a liberal like Maajid. On the other hand, the western conservatives vilify them. Attitude of the western liberals is what Maajid calls the Voldemort effect, drawing an analogy from the Harry Potter series.
It may be drawn in the following manner:

So the dialogue is a constructive attempt to understand the problems plaguing Islam. Maajid Nawaz as an ex-Jihadist is in the best position to explain it and he does so with aplomb.
Drawing from Maajid's exposition, ISIS is a Jihadist organisation, which seeks to impose its worldview on others through physical violence. How on earth an eminent historian like Irfan Habib draw a parallel between RSS, whose tenets never advocate violence to impose its world view, and ISIS which is on the exact opposite end. It actually reveals a fundamentalist mindset in Irfan Habib, which we have discussed earlier in the context of Aurangzeb. Fundamentalism as described by Maajid Nawaz.
A book worth reading.
We conclude this series with this piece.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Is Islam a Religion of Peace, or can it be?

Two events concerning Saudi Arabia were highlighted during the past week or so. One was the infamous rape of Nepali maid servants by a Saudi diplomat and the other was a video of servant beating that went viral. Add to that was a previous event concerning a fatwa against AR Rehman, by a Barelvi outfit by the name of Reza Academy. All these events brought into focus the role of Sharia among the Muslims worldwide, and in India. It was argued that neither the Saudi diplomat nor the employer beating his servant were guilty per Sharia, and that AR Rahman had committed apostasy, both of which stand in stark contrast to the law as we understand it in the civilised world. As I was giving finishing touches to this article comes the evidence of callous Saudi neglect in the conduct of Hajj which has led to nearly a thousand deaths in a stampede, but has led to no accountability. We are not even considering the militant groups as their brutality is already well documented.
I have already written 3 articles in this series, two of which took into their sweep the role of Aurangzeb in promoting Islamic religious bigotry in India. We also discussed Wafa Sultan briefly. The other thinkers we have chosen for this series are Tarek Fatah, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (Islam and Peace), Ayaan Hirsi Ali (The Heretic), and a new name - Maajid Nawaz, who wrote the very impressive "Radical"  and his experience of turning away from militant Islam to an effort to promote a peaceful version of Islam in the world through
We were discussing Wafa Sultan in the previous issue of this discussion. I recently saw her debating Anjem Chaudhary and Omar Bakri, who are the bulwark of Jihadi philosophy in the West. Anjem Chaudhary is particularly unabashed as he is more communicative with a greater command over English. So he said something particularly appalling - "Our stand is simple. Non-Muslims are guilty of not having accepted Islam, so killing non-Muslims is legitimate according to Sharia". Omar Bakri is equally forthright when he says that "If we come to your land and invite you to join Islam and you don't do it, then we are at war with you till you submit". 
Wafa Sultan spares no punches in her book "The God Who Hates". As an ex-Muslim who left Islam because of what she thought was a stifling and oppressive religion gives her unique credibility. She blames it on the teachings contained in the Sharia trilogy (the Qur'an, Sira and Hadis), and the emphasis on Arab culture and Arabic language. According to her, most of what is contained in Sharia only legitimises an oppressive, racist Arab culture in the language of the Prophet. All the obnoxious customs of a tribal Bedoo culture have been sanctified in the Sharia. All except the Arab male has been given a secondary status, and the nature of the narrative has been given a divine origin, and made immutable. This has created fundamental problems. Wafa as well as Ayaan think that the empire of Umayyads and Abbasids made their closet cleric write up much of the text of Sharia and closed all the doors to discussion in the 9th and 10th century. Tarek Fatah has given the complete historical perspective to this hardening of stance in his book "Chasing a Mirage: Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State".
The thrust of the argument of the two ladies is on certain aspects of Islam which make Jihad the best form of service to Islam and make any disagreement or dissent punishable as blasphemy, and also make getting out of the religion being dubbed as apostasy and punishable by death. Wafa Sultan calls Islam as "The Sealed Flask", which doesn't let a captive escape. Ayaan further calls the divine nature of the Qur'an and personal life of the Prophet a problem. She asserts that since Islam makes the Prophet as the ideal being, his later years in Medina spent more a military commander and a political preacher make it problematic for many groups - Jews, Christians, other unbelievers, women, dissenters, free speech protagonists, anti-obscurantism activists. They are all at grave risk. Not an ordinary risk, but risk of life itself. When a religion punishes internal and external questioning as blasphemy and ordains all believers to carry out the punishment, it is not a small problem, but a threat to global peace.
There is also the group which tries to project Islam as a religion of peace. Maulan Wahiduddin Mohammed in the period upto 2000, and Maajid Nawaz in more recent times have tried to argue that Islam is a religion of peace. They have pointed out to the tradition of Sufism, and the fact that 90% of Muslims are peaceful. Maulana Wahiduddin has written his own interpretation of the Qur'an and tried to explain the more offensive verses of the Qur'an with his own annotations. Maulana Wahiduddin has a practical aspect to advocating peace in Islam, and it's the practical view of a proselytiser. According to him, Islam has grown only during peace, and not during war. He laments that the partition of India virtually brought the proselytisation activity in India to a halt. Thus even his formula of peace is dictated by the concepts of Da'wa and Jihad, and the fact that these two can flourish better in a peaceful atmosphere. The good aspect with both the Maulana and Maajid is that they try and emphasize the more beneficent aspect of Islam and advocate violence to be eschewed.
The problem arises with the reading of the Islamic scriptures themselves. The violent sects like ISIS, Taliban, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram read the Qur'an and Sharia in its literal Arab version. This version is full of violence and hatred towards minority groups and women. It's impossible for a youngster reading the Qur'an for the first time with the requisite belief system, to reconcile it with any of the peaceful intentions Maajid and Maulana advocate. It may be educative to watch a debate featuring Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz on the subject "Is Islam is a religion of peace". The debate started with 41% saying yes to the motion, 25% against and 34% undecided. At the end, the score was 36-55-9. So the problem is that it is easy to argue that Islam is a religion of peace till you start reading the Sharia trilogy. This is where Wafa and Ayaan argue that problem is not with the Muslims, but with Islam per se.
This is the dilemma the world faces, as also  the moderate Muslims, who would still be about 90%. However, 10% of 1.5 billion is still 150 million humans. That's a very very large absolute number which believe either actively or passively in violent Jihad. When indoctrinated with the kind of literalist exposition of the Qur'an which radical Islamists like Omar Bakri do in the above linked debate, it becomes almost impossible for youth not to be swayed. That's the reason I advocate a head on confrontation with the narrative espoused by the Islamists or the Radicals
In the next and concluding part of the series, I will attempt to highlight the specific difficulties the world faces with this narrative. I will also bring into focus the views of some Western and Indian intellectuals. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015


(Please click on each link and go through the contents before proceeding further to get the full import of this article)
I was in the middle of writing a series on the Intellectual churn within Islam, reviewing four books which I had the occasion to read over the past few weeks. It was in the middle of this that the NDMC decided to rename Aurangzeb Road in N Delhi as Abdul Kalam Road. I thought it was something that would be welcomed whole-heartedly by all Indians. However, I found Gopal Krishna Gandhi making a quibbling distinction between Aurangzeb and Aurangzebiyat. I wrote a piece on this momentous decision, challenging the GK Gandhi argument. I was, however, surprised to find a chorus of support for Aurangzeb. Some of it was ignorant but a lot more was motivated, with phoney arguments, as if Aurangzeb was actually secular but was only carrying out his mission of an Emperor. One of the better defence was made by Shoaib Daniyal. He gives five reasons in his defence of Aurangzeb just being the child of his times, and not the evil ruler he is made out to be. 
The first argument by Shoaib is that Aurangzeb actually was so beneficent that he built more temples than he destroyed. The bulwark of this argument of his rests on Richard Eaton. Ranged against Eaton, however, is a mountain of evidence. I wonder if Eaton ever went to the Bikaner archives where a host of evidence is available on his being exactly the kind of zealot that makes him a hated figure for most Indians. Eaton says that he destroyed only those temples which lay in territories opposed to him. This is complete hogwash. I had cited in my last blog a letter by his own son Md. Akbar who explicitly mentioned Aurangzeb's anti-Hindu bias. I reproduce it here along with its Hindi translation.

 I also find that Shoaib has quoted Jadunath Sarkar with approbation in support of his Jizya argument. However, what Jadunath Sarkar had to say about Aurangzeb's zeal for temple destruction and as you can see in this link that his general attitude towards Hindus as an Islamic warrior is totally different. In fact, it is as excoriating an indictment of Aurangzeb as anyone could possibly make. I would not put a Richard Eaton ahead of him, specifically because those schooled in religions of the Book have great problems comprehending the attitudes prevalent in the sub-continent. Shoaib has also ignored the most authentic book compiled by Sita Ram Goel which chronicles the destruction of Hindu temples by Islamic rulers in fair detail.
Shoaib's other four arguments are dealt with even more easily. All one needs to do is to click and visit this exhibition mounted by FACT-India. Of the 45 exhibits on display, each one demolishes the arguments advanced by Shoaib. Each exhibit is like a speaking document. What is at display is that here was an Islamic jihadi warrior bent on establishing an Islamic theocracy in India, giving the majority population the status of zimmi, by indulging in signal destruction of their religious and teaching institutions. The argument about jizya and zakat is equally spurious as evidenced by clicking this comparison. Add to all this his brutalities towards Guru Tegh Bahadur, Shambhaji, Devi Chand and the like and it becomes clear that the inspiration for Aurangzeb was not the exigency of statecraft, but a completely wanton, bigoted urge to spread Islam by sword. 
I now move to rejoin the series I was writing on the intellectual churn within Islam. Though I was intending to take up the peace argument first, I have to revise my order of reviewing the books. I take up Wafa Sultan's book "The God Who Hates" because her arguments seek to bare the mentality with which rulers like Aurangzeb are imbued. While reading her book a second time, I also chanced upon this video in which she debates the issue of Islam with one of the bigger hate merchants in the Arab World, Omar Al-Bakri. You can't miss this video.
While the detailed review would be done in the next part of the series. I would like to summarise what she seeks to contend. You must read her views in the context that she is an Arab who has given up Islam and who now lives in the USA. She has experienced the working of her former religion at its worst because it is in the Arab world that the most intolerant version of Islam is at work. She also contends that Muslims in other parts of the world are still largely peaceful because they do not understand the Arabic language and The Qur'an is not allowed to be translated in any other language. As an Arab, it puts her in a unique position to understand the violence contained within Islamic scriptures.
She holds the extreme view that all Islamic scriptures including The Qur'an preach violence against non-believers and women. The concept of justice is different for zimmies as they do not believe in Allah and cannot therefore claim the status that a Muslim enjoys. This is exactly what Omar Al-Bakri is saying in the above video and the view according to the Wahhabi and now increasingly Deobandi version of Islam. 
So the Aurangzeb Doctrine is actually the doctrine that the strict Arab legacy teaches its followers. One hardly needs to emphasise that it cannot work in India or anywhere else in the World. It doesn't work in most places where Muslims are in majority except some notable exceptions like ISIS, and some Arab countries in the MENA area. Let Shoaib Daniyal reflect on what Wafa Sultan and Jadunath Sarkar have to say even as I examine Wafa Sultan's book in greater detail in juxtaposition to the peace doctrine of Maulana Wahiduddin Ahmed in the next part of the series.

Credits: @drkiranvs for the jizya and zakat comparison, @aham1857 for the link to Jadunath Sarkar

Sunday, August 30, 2015



While reading Gopal Krishna Gandhi's argument against Aurangzeb  being brought to life by this act of renaming Aurangzeb Road after APJ Abdul Kalam (you may read the article at this link:, he has fallen into the familiar bogey of the Indian brand of secularism. What he is saying in effect is that while he completely agrees that Aurangzeb was evil, it is not advisable to discuss him in the open, as the debate would polarise the discourse. Besides, he contends that Aurangzeb's actions or Aurangzebiyat should be disconnected from him. This is rather disingenuous.
So the murderer of his father, brothers, nephew, and sister; the oppressor of the Hindus for their faith, the man who would not honour his words upon Qur'an (Reference: Zaffarnama of Guru Gobind Singh), and who would apply Sharia law in a Hindu majority country, the man who ordered the Sufi saint Sarmad and Guru Tegh Bahdur beheaded, who destroyed the temples of Kashi, Mathura and Somnath to build mosques on the sites; should not be discussed as it brings his ghost alive much to the discomfiture of many who either want to avoid Aurangzeb's Talibani narrative or secretly wish it to take root again. People need to know that Guru Tegh Bahadur was executed after being found guilty of blasphemy under Islamic Law. How was he different from the Taliban or Al Qaeda, if not ISIS?
Much though I admire the erudition of Gopal Krishna Gandhi (He was in the Mussoorie Academy last year to deliver a lecture to the common group of Phase V and Foundation Course IAS and Civil Services officers), I find this timidity to tackle an extremist narrative head-on a typical weakness of liberal democratic countries. It can be seen in Obama's assertion when he says that what ISIS is doing is not Islam, whereas every follower of ISIS believes that they are doing exactly what is contained in the Islamic scriptures. Even Europe was living in this world of make-believe till Charlie Hebdo happened and they woke up with a rude shock. India too has to counter the hate narrative contained within post-Quranic Islam with a counter narrative - not only of the syncretic values epitomised by APJ Abdul Kalam and Sarmad but also to emphasize the Indian spiritual thought which considers unquestioning belief the lowest form of spiritual calling, and even that Bhakti Yoga process or path is a completely non-violent one. This blending of Bhakti Marg and Sufism is what Dara Shikoh (some Persian lovers would prefer it as Dara Shukoh but Dara Shikoh is what India at large knows him as) was attempting when Aurangzeb's extremist Islam won - not in the heart of Indians or the battlefield of ideas but on the battlefield of war of succession.
For the first time, I am making public a letter written by Muhammad Akbar, the second son of Aurangzeb to Sawai Ram Singh of Jaipur. This is part of the documents and firmans kept preserved in the State Archives of Bikaner and form part of the extraordinary research of Dr. Mahendra Khadgawat, Director of that Institute. The original letter written in the style of a firman is followed by its Hindi translation. Even his own son avers in this letter that Aurangzeb is biased against Hindus and his father's actions portray his prejudice.

It is clear as crystal to any impartial observer that the only thing common between APJ Abdul Kalam and Aurangzeb was their love for playing Veena. Even these cultural activities were banned by Aurangzeb as he became more and more radicalised and gave up the more tolerant style of his predecessors. He decided to bring in the extreme Arabic version of Islam into a country in which Muslims were in a considerable minority. Forced conversions, imposition of a religious tax on kaafirs (infidels or non-believers), destruction of holy sites, extreme forms of torture of adversaries all led to a collapse of authority and rebellions broke out everywhere. He first tried to annex Rajput kingdoms, but that resulted in loss of authority in North India. Then Marathas and his own son, Akbar rose up in revolt and he had to spend last 26 years of his 49 year rule in the Deccan playing a game of roulette with the Marathas and Bahmani sultans. His foolhardy ventures ultimately paved the way for the end of Muslim rule and Sharia Law in India forever. Even Pakistan hasn't been able to bring full fledged Sharia Law of the Aurangzeb era.
So both the apologists for Aurangzeb, and those unwilling to confront his ghost have to just take a gulp and adjust to the new realities. The Aurangzeb narrative must be discussed, confronted and defeated. No use evading it on the grounds of a hollow secular argument. There was  nothing secular in what Aurangzeb did nor is there anything secular in the ideology that he sought to impose on India. Kalam, on the other hand, is the very embodiment of India's secular ethos in the Dara Shikoh mould.
Aurangzeb, therefore, is a ghost which India has to openly exorcise.  As the progenitor of Aurangzebiyat, he cannot escape scrutiny on the basis of some phoney differentiation. Aurangzeb and Aurangzebiyat are one. Three fourths has been done by renaming Aurangzeb Road as APJ Abdul Kalam Road, let the remaining one fourth be done by renaming Aurangzeb Lane as Dara Shikoh lane.

Saturday, August 22, 2015



The charade of Indian MSM discussing the India-Pakistan engagement in a typically shrill and surcharged manner is nothing new, but the discourse plummeted to such abysmal depths of naïvétè and stupidity that one really wondered whether whether IQ of our premier journalists has just evaporated or is driven so much by personal agendas that all sense of perspective has been lost.
Contrast this with reporting in the Pakistan media. They seem to have got a far better measure of Indian diplomacy than the Indians. All their major newspapers highlighted the success of India's diplomacy after the PM Modi visited UAE and brought off a diplomatic coup with remarkable dexterity. A Pakistani news service carried the headline "Modi steps into the wedge between Pakistan and UAE". All the Pak newspapers carried balanced account of PM Modi's new diplomacy of connecting India from Far East to UAE and even Iran and Israel. They highlighted his statement made with steely flourish that India would move on with, without or despite those who don't care to join in. Nobody could miss the reference. Pakistan media got that and so did Pakistan establishment.
Given this background, I find it extremely naïve on part of our big names of journalism to entirely miss the point that talks between India and Pakistan would actually have been a big reward to Pakistan and India loses nothing if the talks are called off. US, Afghanistan, Iran, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Central Asia are all tilting against Pakistan and therefore, India has no reason to reward Pakistan with talks at this point. Ufa was a brilliant gambit by the PM. It could be turned into a success only by someone who had an accurate understanding of how things would pan out after the Ufa declaration. It happened exactly as scripted. Credit for this would go to Jaishankar, not Doval. It's a brilliant and emphatic diplomatic victory. Jaishankar understood exactly what the reaction would be from the Pak Army. He understood that Pak Army has all the levers but their understanding of diplomacy is of the sledgehammer variety, not the silken variety. So what would the Pak Army do - exactly what it did. It was such a no-brainer that when we see our experts and journalists shouting themselves hoarse and lamenting the collapse of talks, they fail to realise that India has pushed Pakistan into exactly the place it wanted to. Ask Christine Fair who has been saying right since the day Ufa declaration was made that talks reward Pakistan and enable them to perpetuate the cycle of terror-talk-terror. No clearer articulation of India's position has been made in decades the way it was done by the EAM Swaraj today, who brought home the distinction between talks and dialogue. 
So to summarise. India's push with UAE, USA's refusal to certify Pakistan's sincerity in disrupting terror networks in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Vice President's threat to attack militant shelters across the Durand Line are all part of a pattern. Expect Pakistan to come unstuck very soon. Of course, there will be the usual Pakistan response on the LOC and through activation of their good terrorist networks. Nothing new there.

Get a life, Indian MSM. Rejoice at a great victory of Indian diplomacy

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Farm Distress and How It Can Be Tackled


The death of a quasi-farmer in a rally - ostensibly to challenge the Land Acquisition Bill, has brought to the fore the issue of farm distress in a rather ironical manner. The party holding the rally has little to do with farmers, being an urban party rooted in Delhi where every farmer doubles up as a land dealer and doesn't have even a nodding acquaintance with poverty. The man who died was just a quasi-farmer in the sense that he derived his main income from peddling saffas, (see and rendering a service in tying them on festive and celebratory occasions. Not just that, there was no imminent threat of any land acquisition in Baswa Tehsil of Dausa district where the only land that may be required in the next 20 years could be for doubling of the Delhi-Jaipur railway line, or the Alwar-Sikandara Highway which joins the main Agra--Jaipur Highway. Both these possibilities are far removed from the village of Nangal-Jhamarwada to which the deceased Gajendra Singh Kalyanvat belonged.
The issue is that of farm distress. Land was always a national resource, and rightly so. Even today, most states call the farmers' land a tenancy. This tenancy has become a holy cow over the years for two reasons- one, the proliferation of a rent-seeking middleman class in areas where a land market exists, or an acquisition is afoot; and second because it suits the local politician to appropriate both goodwill and the land in the name of saving the farmer. Except Gujarat and to some extent, Andhra Pradesh and parts of Maharashtra, little thought has gone into making the land remunerative. We know now that the population solely dependent on agriculture is down to 22%, and contribution of Agriculture to GDP is down to 13%, yet the figure of 60% poor farmers is bandied about like an incantation. After the 1950s land reforms and 1960s Green Revolution, nothing has happened to remove the asymmetry between agriculture and national economy. Sharad Pawar had the right ideas in agriculture sector but was not able to deliver for reasons that can only be speculated. He did bring about great changes in Western Maharashtra and parts of Marathwada by encouraging diversification into horticulture based on micro-irrigation, and was instrumental in initiating the National Horticulture Mission, but the software part required to make it a  national movement remained absent. 
It is widely recognised that 3 kind of agricultural reforms are absolutely vital to make agriculture a viable option for a majority of people engaged in agriculture:
  1. Integrated Farming: Crop Husbandry by itself is not a viable option in rainfed areas. It has to be supplemented by horticulture and animal husbandry and augmented by micro-irrigation. Even in irrigated areas, rise in income depends upon these innovations. The Gujarat Green Revolution Corporation is an example of how micro irrigation can spread in a State in an exponential manner.I was heading Horticulture in Rajasthan for 30 months. The protective cultivation module developed by us to supplement the crop husbandry in Bassi area of Dausa district is bringing an additional annual income of 20-30 lakhs to farmers on land which used to yield barely 25-30000. Introduction of tissue-cultured date palm in the desert areas is bringing significant additional incomes. If anyone wants to see a model of integrated farming in the world, he needs to go only as far as Kutch where progressive farmers are earning as much as 40-50 lakhs per hectare annually. I tried to adapt that module in Western Rajasthan. Why can;t more states take that route
  2. Modern Seeds, credit and insurance reform: Populism has thwarted any movement on these aspects. After the success of BT cotton, India should have imparted momentum to modern seed industry, but the entire scientific discussion got hijacked by environmental fundamentalists. Credit institutions have been killed by frequent loan waivers, so farmer has to depend on usurious loans. Regressive ideas have prevented a full roll-out of crop insurance policies. All these aspects have to be tackled. With PM Modi at the helm and path-breaking work by him in Gujarat, I have hopes but have doubts if the more regressive elements would allow him to tackle this headlong. Allowing BT Brinjal trials is a welcome move.
  3. Market reform in produce and land: With all their pro-farmer pretensions, how the parties can oppose FDI in retail boggles the mind completely. All progressive farmer organisations support it. Sharad Joshi of Shetakari Sanghatana was its foremost proponent. The argument about small businesses getting ruined is a completely disingenuous one. When the same amount of production brings 40% extra produce from the farm to the fork, everyone wins. "It's the middleman, stupid", seems to be the only explanation. Coming to land, 60 years of antiquated policies have distorted the land market completely. Those who want to cultivate don't have land. Those who have land mostly seek rent by becoming absentee land-lords and big entities have no hope of getting into farming business at all. The Gujarat land policy is a universally admired one. What is preventing the present govt. from extending it pan-India is not known. The amended Land Acquisition Bill is a step in the right direction notwithstanding all the noise, but stops short of actively encouraging land pooling and consolidation for infrastructure projects. This has been the norm in Gujarat. Are you aware that the 3rd Ahmedabad Ring Road has been built without acquiring a single acre of land and purely through land pooling and consolidation. That methodology may require a separate blog. Long term leasing is not permitted when the ground reality is that 70% land is being tilled by share-croppers or contractors. Licensing is not even contemplated. Antediluvian Land Revenue and Tenancy Acts dot the landscape. Selling of agriculture land faces severe restrictions, producing absurd asymmetries. Land conversion is a huge scandal across the country. Once again I have to advert to Gujarat, where these issues were successfully addressed. Unless we modernise our agriculture market and land policies, farm distress will occur and recur with nauseating regularity.