Critique's Zone

IMPACT: Can ‘Maharshi’ Show the Way Forward for Agriculture?

The agrarian distress and farmer crisis are a fact rooted in reality. Farmer agitations broke out in different parts of the country to make the plight of the community known. In the same time period, India was on course for record food grain production. In the years which saw a bountiful harvest, farmers were committing suicides by the thousands.

The situation presents quite a dichotomy. Why are they killing themselves?

The reasons are aplenty. The ravage of crops by the climate, no guarantee of a fixed income on the crop, a great difficulty in obtaining capital compounded by lack of technical know-how, poor logistics and ill thought out governmental policies over the years have broken the back of the agriculture sector in India.

But the basic issue which drives the farming community to death is a lack of secure income and a dearth of knowledge on the latest developments shaping the field of agriculture.

While it was making headlines during the election season; the box office counters were set ringing by a Telugu movie ‘Maharshi’ amidst the election season. The blockbuster starring superstar Mahesh Babu and the scintillating Pooja Hegde at its core is a simple story about friendship and familial relationship with the issue of agrarian distress at its fulcrum.

In the movie, Rishi (Mahesh Babu) is the CEO of a leading IT company spearheading the next memories with his friends and family. There, he discovers the sacrifice his best mate makes to get him out of a tough situation upon which he has built his success. Learning the truth, he sets out to find his friend.

In a bid to give back the life his friend missed out on; he makes a proposition to his friend to comeback with him to America. But his friend is on a quest to save his village from being demolished to pave way for a gas pipeline and trying to hold the corporate company from snatching the arable land belonging to the farmers.

Rishi then get his hands dirty helping his friend to succeed in his quest. In the process, he gets involved in the murky local politics. The movie depicting his struggle to find a solution to his friend’s problem shines a light on how to take a step forward in the direction in improving facilities and tackling issues plaguing the agriculture sector.

The movie while making a token reference to improving the logistics and supply chain which is the warehousing and cold storage, makes a more emotional pitch to the society. It makes a case for people belonging to different walks of life to connect and understand the life of a farmer and the economy around agriculture.

Reading literature, listening to broadcasts and podcasts and taking input from the film I believe the solution to alleviating both the lives of farmers and uplifting the agricultural sector is to invest money and resources into it.

The corporate companies and the FDI investments which have till date stayed away from investing in agriculture can now have a piece of the pie. Apart helping in building a chain of cold storage and warehouses, in an innovative, out-of-the-box move the corporate companies can take over the farming land for lease in lieu for providing the farmers capital input as a part of the CSR responsibility of the firm.

The graph makes a compelling case for more investment in agriculture by India

While it is important to secure the financial conditions of the farming community and improve their standards of living, it is important to involve the current and future generations in teaching them the nuances of farming to make them understand the importance of the farmer and farming in our lives.

It is often said experience is a great teacher. Encouraging kids to learn the basics of farming at an impressionable age by including it as an activity in school curriculum is great way to educate children on the topic. Taking them out on field trips to the fields and giving them a first-hand experience to realise the work put in to grow a crop is a unique way of teaching them responsibility about food.

If that was about children, now let us talk about the millennials.

Millennials today shy away from things that are not cool or sexy. To get them involved in agriculture, it needs to appeal to their uber chic and cool standards. Giving it a cool twitter and Instagram hashtag such as “#weekendagriculture” and promoting it as the new fad where it can be put up as a glitzy cover picture or story is the way to go. Apart from making it a socially acceptable by removing the stigma appealing to their conscience and their go-getter attitude is also a great way to draw them in.

Forging a relationship between the current generation with agriculture is a necessary measure to keep the importance of land, soil and water imprinted in their minds.

The common thread emerging out of the solutions is involvement of the community and contribute as a whole to uplift the farmer. Take care of the farmer, he will take care of the agriculture.

As the dialogue in the movie Maharshi goes, “Farmers don’t need our sympathy…they need our respect”, we need to this for ourselves to make ours and our future generations future secure. The way to do it is giving them the respect they deserve for feeding us.

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