Conscious Incrementalism – 4
By Sanjeev Chopra
Given the success of the Amul model across the country – from Verka in Punjab to Nandini in Karnataka – and the large number of complaints about procurement of cereals and pulses, again on a pan India basis, the LBSNAA and the NDDB have taken up an ambitious study to understand the institutional structure, procurement process and the technologies involved in procurement of milk, cereals and pulses. The purpose of this study is to understand whether the ‘ownership, control and feel of belonging’ to an organisation, complexity in the procurement procedure itself as well as the technology application makes a difference, and if so, to what extent.
Of the three sample organisations, FCI, Nafed and Amul, the latter two are in the cooperative fold. While AMUL is the brand name of the products of the Gujarat State Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation, the apex organisation in the dairy sector is the National Cooperative Dairy Federation of India (NCDFI), but this is also based out of Anand. Nafed is also an apex cooperative, but it comes into action only when the government gives it the mandate to procure cereals and pulses. Its state federations and primary societies therefore get into action only when the occasion demands, and sometimes when the procurement has to be organised post haste in emergency situations – as for apples in Srinagar- or the import of onions when prices cross a certain threshold – the operations are undertaken directly by the head office. Thus, there is efficiency, but no involvement. Unlike the case of a milk producer who knows that she will always be in a transaction with the cooperative, the interventions of Nafed are episodic – and this is known by the producer as well. Therefore, the producer is also not looking at a long-term engagement. Likewise, in the case of cereal procurement by FCI, the farmer does not transact directly with it. His interaction is with the Arthiya (the intermediary), who collects and consolidates the produce – and the FCI accepts the same on the basis of FAQ – or Fair Average Quality – which basically means that unless there is too much moisture and/or admixture, the commodity in question will be procured. In fact, the Farm Laws are addressing this issue by the removal of intermediaries and giving a direct transaction option to the farmer. It is therefore surprising why farmers are opposed to this particular clause – because this is about the freedom to sell, and ensuring a direct connect between the farmer and the procurement agency. Be that as it may, the point being made is that there is no sense of belonging – and when there is no sense of belonging, there is no feeling of ownership. The milk producers regard their milk cooperative as their own – and this feeling is reciprocal. On the contrary, no farmer thinks it owns FCI or Markfed or a State civil supplies corporation.
We now come to the complexity of procedure. The milk society has all the relevant details of the farmer – and therefore she only has to pour in the milk. For procurement of cereals and pulses, the farmer has to get the details of the land record, the KCC and/or the Aadhar card. Now all this information is already available with the local bank, as well as the agriculture office. If this was to be shared with the procurement agency, a rough idea of an individual farmer’s production can be made to an accuracy level of about five percent. Can we not therefore make it easier for the procurement agency to actually send an SMS/WhatsApp message to the farmer indicating the date and approximate time? As long as procurement is still being made on the basis of FAQ, the advisory can be issued to the bank the moment the procurement has been made and a copy can be given to the farmer on the spot. Imagine the thrill and the smile of getting a confirmation of payment at the time of procurement itself.
Every process can lead to a smile if we plan it well!
(Sanjeev Chopra is a historian, public policy analyst and the Festival Director of Valley of Words, an International Literature and Arts festival based out
of Dehradun. He was a member of the IAS, and
superannuated as the Director of the LBS
National Academy of Administration).