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DOWN TO EARTH - Introduction



                   I became a farmer, towards the end of 1977, by purchasing a piece of land admeasuring about 23 acres in the village Ambethan in taluka Khed of Pune district of Maharashtra. This dry land farm was used essentially for experiments in marshalling of ground water and examining the economics of various crops that could be produced in Maharashtra. The fact remains that farming became my only source of livelihood.

                    The ban on the export of onions, which was my main crop, brought down the wholesale prices where farmers could not afford even to take them out of the ground. Thus began the farmers’ movement reclaiming the freedom of access to markets and to technology. I was probably the only activist with background in Economics, Statistics and various languages including English and French, apart from acquaintance with half a dozen Indian languages.

                    The agitation forced on me imprisonment over two dozen times and hundreds of criminal prosecutions. It also imposed on me the responsibility to explain the economics of agriculture in India.

                    I have had occasion to write for various periodicals including the Deccan Herald, Business India, Times of India and various sundry newspapers including The Indian Express, The Economic Times, and The Organizer as also in various e- periodicals.

                    I owe it to the large community that has an interest in Indian agriculture to make available to them writing in a suitable form.

                    I am beginning by bringing out a compilation of my selected writings for The Hindu Business Line where I have been writing the column ‘Down to Earth’ regularly without fail since April 1998. These articles have particular importance as they relate to the relatively more recent issues in agricultural development. To make the selection more contemporary I have included in this selection only articles published since 2002.

                    I tried to hand over the job of compiling and editing the articles to some professionals. It did not work. Some suggested that each article should be preceded by a brief note explaining its circumstances. That would have been too tedious and repetitive. Finally, I decided to go for the via media by attaching reflectively notes at the beginning of each chapter. I hope some minor points, not covered in these prefatory notes, will be clear from the respective articles themselves.

                    I hope the scholars and others interested in Indian Agriculture would find this representation of the non-official, if not the anti-official, position on agricultural issues interesting.

 - Sharad Joshi
30th May 2009

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