Kaushalendra Kumar, a farmer from Bihar, earns crores of rupees every year by selling vegetables, but this is not the most striking aspect of his life. What is even more striking is that he is a topper of India’s top management college, IIM-Ahmedabad, and he decided to sell vegetables even after graduating from such a prestigious college.
Born to government school teachers in the Nalanda district of Bihar, he studied in Navodaya school from 6th to 10th and moved to Patna to complete his higher secondary schooling. He appeared for IIT, but when failed to secure admission in the prestigious college, Kaushalendra decided to study at Indian Council of Agricultural Research, Junagadh, from where he completed graduation in agriculture. After graduation, he got a job in the agriculture sector with Israeli firms, and later he secured admission at IIM-Ahmedabad, where he topped the college but did not take a job with any MNC.
After obtaining a diploma in management from the top college of the country, he decided to enter the agriculture business and started Kaushalya foundation in 2008. He tried to connect the horticulture farmers, who used to sell their products to traders, directly to the market. The farmers sell their produce to traders at cheap rates who then sell the same crop in the market at very high rates. This harms the farmer as well as a consumer while the ‘middleman’ benefits in the whole process. Sometimes even middlemen lose due to lack of adequate infrastructure and storage facilities and therefore, to make farmers rich, it is essential to create agricultural infrastructure.
The Nitish Kumar led government has already repealed APMC act in 2006 and therefore it was allowed to sell the produce directly to the market. Kaushalendra started bringing the farmers together to sell their produce directly to the market, and today more than 35,000 farmers across six districts are part of his foundation.
“Several initiatives across the country are helping farmers through, say, solar energy provision or getting the farmers’ markets online. And I noticed that these are isolated programmes, though wonderful by themselves, do not make a farmer completely independent. I decided to integrate several initiatives instead of starting something unique myself,” he said.
“Our agenda was to help farmers optimise their income through fair means while offering the end-customer with the choicest of fresh vegetables and fruits,” he adds.
Today, the earning of Kaushalendra is in crores while that of farmers is in lakhs without any new innovation. All they have done is to capitalize on government schemes and cut the middlemen to directly reach the end-consumer. “We have also formed Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs) wherein farmers form a group before selling their harvest. We have also formed five Mandis across Bihar which are owned by local communities. Farmers can sell their produce directly in these Mandis, cutting the need for middle-men,” says Kaushlendra.
A few weeks ago, the Modi government introduced three farmer bills to cut the bureaucrats and middlemen from the agricultural sector and link farmers directly to the market. What the Modi government is trying to do is to provide an opportunity for thousands of Kaushlendra across the country who could liberate the farmers and themselves from poverty.
The three bills would free-up the farmers to sell the produce directly in the market, minimize the government power to regulate the stocks of essential commodities which includes various agricultural products, and formalize contract farming. These bills would cut the ‘middlemen’ and improve farmer’s income, but, the opposition including Congress which promised to introduce the same reforms, are now opposing these bill and misinforming them for their petty politics.