Thursday, October 26, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Frustration among kisans

IN his perceptive piece, “Growing frustration of kisans — agriculture needs fresh strategy” (Oct. 11), Mr Hari Jaisingh has aptly stated that the politico-bureaucratic establishment indulges in shadow-boxing without addressing itself to substantial issues facing the farmers.

Farmers have been forced to resort to distress sale of paddy. The regulatory initiatives by Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal are basically a belated attempt.

The government apparatus is still not reconciled to the process of farmer-oriented programmes, and has not come out of the command and control of the bureaucratic, exploiting mindset.

So, what we are witnessing is an unwilling government machinery seeking to liberalise the economy and involve private participation of hoarders. The distress sale of paddy to private rice millers has reduced the farmer to a helpless beggar.



Fresh strategy needed: Mr Jaisingh has rightly highlighted the reasons behind the growing frustration among kisans. The slogan “Grow more food” given by the government in the fifties and the sixties has lost its significance and proved counterproductive, if seen in the light of the present happenings in the country.

When the farming community started growing more food, the problem of plenty became more pressing. The country does not have adequate storage facilities to store the surplus grains.

In a country of over one billion people, we need to have a permanent agriculture policy. A usual approach to any of the problems backfires. As the author rightly asserts: “This casual approach can be attributed to the absence of a sound policy perspective and the lack of seriousness to look at problems from the viewpoint of the sons of the soil.”

The small and marginal farmers, having small holdings, need to be protected against vagaries of weather when their crops suffer unbearable loss, like the recent one in West Bengal. We must not forget that agriculture is the backbone of the Indian economy.

To save the small and marginal farmers from calamitous loss, they ought to be provided with insurance cover. Also, other states should follow the example of Himachal Pradesh and provide “Kisan Passbooks” to their peasants and land-holders.


Cheated peasants: The peasants of Punjab and Haryana feel really cheated and frustrated. But I am not surprised at this callous attitude of the rulers towards peasantry. They have no time for peasants as they are busy dismantling the public sector undertakings (PSUs) and slashing subsidies on agriculture. They have left the farming community at the sheer mercy of cold and cruel market forces.

The deep apathy of FCI (Food Corporation of India) officials has forced them to take to the streets.

As far as the quality of the paddy arriving in mandis is concerned, FCI officials and traders are not really honest about it. It is quite strange that the moment the produce reaches the shops and the godowns of the traders, its price starts rising at once. As long as it continues lying in the fields and barns, it remains undervalued and underrated.

The paddy exporters’ lobby is said to be involved in a conspiracy to delay the procurement deliberately so that they could cash in on distress sale of paddy.


A historic verdict

This has reference to Mr Hari Jaisingh’s front page signed editorial “A historic verdict” (The Tribune, October 13).

I fully agree with the view expressed in the editorial that the special court of Ajit Bharihoke has rightly sentenced the former Prime Minister, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, and his Cabinet colleague, Mr Buta Singh, to three years rigorous imprisonment in the JMM MPs bribery case.

Mr Rao was the Prime Minister from June 21, 1991, to May 16, 1996, and Mr Buta Singh was a powerful minister for one year and he played a crucial role in saving the minority government of Mr Rao.

Mr Rao consciously chose to use bribery to buy the JMM MPs so that they would vote against the no-confidence motion against his government and save it from falling. The government was short of a few numbers which the JMM MPs filled in. Mr Rao has never imagined that he would be caught in his own trap some day. Finally, nemesis has caught up with him.

Of course, the judgement would serve democracy well in the country as politicians in future would think twice before resorting to bribery to remain in power.


Moral values: Mr Narasimha Rao was not only a prominent Congressman, but also the President of the Congress. Therefore, the Congress party as a whole has to accept it as a court’s verdict against itself. The Congress party has no moral right to distance itself from Mr Narasimha Rao.

There has been general degradation in the moral values after Independence. Congressmen and ex-Congressmen ruled the country all these years. Therefore, the Congress party has to accept the responsibility for this moral degeneration of society.

However, there is a silver lining in the whole affair. This verdict has exposed the truth.

After all, sending good representatives to Parliament and state Assemblies is an important part of the democratic system, and it is the sacred duty of all the citizens to be aware of their duty to choose the right people.


Disowning only Rao

In your editorial “Disowning only Rao” (Oct. 14) you have treated Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, former Prime Minister of India and former President of the Congress, in a befitting manner.

The court verdict on Mr Rao will not deviate the All-India Congress Committee from pursuing the law of the land even if it may come from the court at a tertiary level.

Mr Rao, it is hoped, will present himself and his case in a befitting manner before higher courts as a former Prime Minister and former chief of the All-India Congress Committee.

The AICC, whether it is headed by a Gandhi or a Rao, has its own role to play in the days to come.



Food Corporation of India’s role

The Centre, the Government of Punjab and the Food Corporation of India (FCI) are all on the horns of a dilemma on the question of procurement of the paddy crop. The FCI was earlier not willing to lift the paddy because it was far below the specified standard. The farmers’ lot cannot be just thrown aside either.

Agriculture is a state subject. As such, it is primarily the burden of the Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, to handle the tricky situation. Yet Krishi Bhawan cannot close its eyes to the problem.

If the FCI procures the defective crops, the consumer would cry; if it does not the poor farmers would die. Three frustrated farmers have already died (up to October 12) in rural Punjab.

Under a Central directive, the FCI had accepted large quantities of poor rice from Punjab in 1997 and is still saddled with those stocks although holding grains above a certain minimum is economically unviable. The issue is indeed complex.

The FCI was created to maintain buffer stocks in order to provide food security in times when traders run amuck on the prices of grains. It is also required to offer the farmer a reasonable price.

True, buying substandard paddy is no part of the FCI’s responsibility. However, the farmer usually has no control over harvest quality. It is time for policy makers and agricultural experts to take a fresh look at the entire problem.


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