FROM PLATE TO PLOUGH :- AGRI FUTURES LIKE CHINA
- In November, prices of most major kharif crops crashed below their respective minimum support prices (MSPs), triggering farm distress.
- Planting decisions of our farmers are based on last year’s prices, rather than the prices expected at the time of harvest.
- Agri-futures have been destroyed by excessive controls and regulation.
It is time to think afresh and resurrect agri-futures in India.
Indian Context :-
- In 2003, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government’s decisions to allow futures markets in India — after a long gap — was hailed as a big and bold step towards better price discovery for farmers & to help farmers take informed planting decisions.
- Initial years have shown some growth and continued till 2012 despite a major decline in 2008 because of major food price crisis.
- But Since 2012, there has been heavy government intervention in agri-futures with higher margin requirements as well as absolute suspensions, resulting in their near collapse.
Chinese Context :-
- The agri-futures market was introduced in the early 1990s in China. It struggled for a decade, but thereafter Chinese agri-futures had such a robust growth that by 2016.
- It was at the top of global chart, crossing the 1,000 million mark, dwarfing India’s 20 million contracts in the process.
What lessons can India learn from China in order to promote its agri-futures and help its farmers in better price discovery?
China Steps to promote Agri-futures :-
- Inviting experts from the Chicago Board of Trade in the US
- Rationalising commodities and exchanges by closing down trade in many items
- Focused on a few farm products, especially the less sensitive ones.
What needs to be done to develop agri-futures in India ?
First Lesson from China :-
- Stay away from sensitive commodities (for example, common rice, wheat, most pulses, and even sugar), till futures gain momentum and some depth.
- It would be sensible to focus on less sensitive commodities like oilseed complex (oilseeds, meals, and oils), feed (maize), cotton, basmati rice and spices. Once markets are developed and the regulator has a higher degree of comfort, the country can diversify to other commodities in the agri-futures portfolio.
- Significance of the regulator’s role: Giving a clear direction in terms of the choice of commodities, and then staying the course by adopting a stable policy with minimal interventions.
Second Lesson From China :-
- Government to be assured that speculators are not rigging markets, the regulator should allow only delivery-based contracts, at least till markets deepen.
Third Lesson From China :-,
- The Government of India should encourage State Trading Enterprises (STEs) to trade on the agri-futures platform. This will boost the government’s confidence in agri-futures as it will have ample information from its STEs.
- India’s STEs like the MMTC, STC, PEC or even the FCI can participate on the agri-futures platform in a similar manner, helping it to deepen.
What important is apart from lessons:- It has to be recognised that developing agri-futures is as much the responsibility of the regulator as that of commodity exchanges, and both need to work in harmony for the benefit of various stakeholders, especially farmers who need useful information about future prices for their products while they are planting those crops.
Conclusion :- Now it is important to see that can the Narendra Modi government take bold decisions to revive the legacy of the Vajpayee government and scale new heights in agri-futures, say 200 million contracts by 2022? Remember, China crossed the billion mark in 2015.
STAND UP AGAINST TORTURE
Convention & India Stand on it :-
- The Convention Against Torture (CAT) came into force in 1987 and India signed it in 1997.
- Today, the CAT has 162 state parties. 83 are signatories.
- Where as India does not ratify CAT & is in the inglorious company of Angola, the Bahamas, Brunei, Gambia, Haiti, Palau, and Sudan.
- In 2008, at the universal periodical review by the Human Rights Council (HRC) of the UN, country after country recommended that India expedite ratification. India’s response was that ratification was “being processed”.
India Promises to Ratify CAT over and over again :-
- In 2011, desiring to be appointed on the Human Rights Council of the UN, India took the extraordinary step of voluntarily “pledging” to ratify the CAT. The pledge stated: “India has been a consistent supporter of the UN human rights system” and “remains committed to ratifying the CAT”. Once on the Council, India forgot its commitment.
- In the 2012 review, once again countries overwhelmingly recommended that India “promptly” ratify the CAT to which India responded “supported”, which indicates agreement. The review said: “India’s NHRC had reported a significant number of torture cases involving police and security organisations.” The concluding recommendation of the Working Group was that India ought to expeditiously ratify the CAT and enact a Prevention Against Torture Act.
- Again this year, at the universal periodical review, India reiterated “its commitment to ratify the CAT”.
India has been making promises but doesn’t seem intent on keeping them, much to the dismay of the countries attending the review proceedings.
Cases against torture :- ( Perfect Examples )
- In Raghbir Singh v. State of Haryana (1980), the Supreme Court said it was “deeply disturbed by the diabolical recurrence of police torture.” “Police lock-ups,” it said, “are becoming more awesome cells.”
- In Shakila Abdul Gafar Khan v. Vasant Raghunath Dhoble (2003), the Supreme Court said that “torture is assuming alarming proportions… on account of the devilish devices adopted. The concern which was shown in Raghubir’s case has fallen on deaf ears”.
- In Munshi Singh Gautam v. State of M.P. (2004), the Supreme Court said: “Civilisation itself would risk the consequence of heading towards total decay resulting in anarchy and authoritarianism reminiscent of barbarism.”
Promises only Not deliver :-
The Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010 was an excellent attempt by Parliament to draft new legislation. Unlike Indian law, which focuses on murder and broken bones (grievous hurt), torture was expanded to include food deprivation, forcible feeding, sleep deprivation, sound bombardment, electric shocks, cigarette burning, and other forms. The Indian police force uses these techniques. In the same year, a Select Committee of Parliament endorsed the Bill and made some positive recommendations for rehabilitation, compensation and witness protection. The Select Committee noted that an overwhelming number of States and Union Territories were in favour of the Bill. The Bill was allowed to lapse.
- A petition was then filed in the Supreme Court in 2016, seeking a direction to the Union government to ratify the CAT. Despite its numerous promises to the UN bodies, the government opposed the petition saying that the Law Commission of India was considering the issue.
Need of an hour is that a strong law that criminalises torture, imposes stringent punishment for it and contains liberal provisions for those suffering torture to complain against their perpetrators, prosecute them and be compensated and rehabilitated should be passed at the earliest.