Monday, February 26, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Raise import duties: Sonia
Blasts Centre for being anti-farmer
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 25
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today said the Centre should raise import duties on agricultural products in the forthcoming Budget so that farmers of the country get remunerative prices for their crops.

Addressing a big kisan rally here today, Mrs Gandhi said import duties on agricultural goods were not adequate and this was directly hitting the farmers. She said while the farmers were in distress the government was freely importing items like sugar, wheat, edible oils, milk and milk products and tea. Referring to the WTO, Mrs Gandhi said the deficiencies were not in the agreement but in its implementation.

Blaming the BJP-led NDA government for the problems of the farmers, Mrs Gandhi said the government had deceived them at every stage and failed to fulfil its pre-poll promises.

She said while the debt of farmers was increasing subsidy received by them was decreasing. “Cost of agricultural inputs is going up but farmers are not being paid the right price,” Mrs Gandhi said.

Faulting the government’s procurement policies, Mrs Gandhi said foodgrains procured at cheap rates were being sold at high prices. She said the government had failed to make adequate arrangements for storage of foodgrains.

Mrs Gandhi said while sugarcane was not being purchased by the mills the condition of tea, coffee, coconut and cotton growers was no better. “Farmers were finding it difficult to make their ends meet and some had been driven to suicide,” she alleged.

Having a dig at the NDA constituents, she said they had an old habit of blaming the Congress for all ills. “They do not have manners to run a government,” Mrs Gandhi said.

Asserting the economy of the country rests on farmers, Mrs Gandhi said the Congress policies had enabled the country to raise its farm production by 400 times in the past 50 years. Recalling the contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi towards making India food surplus, Mrs Gandhi said the party would vigorously highlight the problems of farmers. She said the party would vigorously highlight the problems of farmers. She said the party had moved an adjournment motion in the last session of Parliament.

Favouring the use of information technology for the benefit of farmers, she said they should be provided with records pertaining to their lands, passbooks and other information relating to agriculture.

Sharpening her attack on the NDA, the Congress president said while the government was not setting up any new industry, it was disinvesting in industries earning profits. “Established industries are being sold to private parties at cheap prices leading to unemployment, she said while accusing the government of being corrupt and inept.

Today’s rally was a culmination of nationwide rallies held by the Congress on the problems faced by farmers. Senior Congress leaders including Mr Madhavrao Scindia, Mr Balram Jhakar, Mr Bhajan Lal, Capt Amarinder Singh, Mr J.B. Patnaik and Ms Mohsina Kidwai accused the NDA government of wrong farm policies.

Congress Chief Ministers, including Mr Digvijay Singh, Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh and Mr Ashok Gehlot also spoke. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, who was accompanied by DPCC chief Mr Subash Chopra, announced the setting up of a kisan vikas board in the capital to redress the problems of farmers. Farmers had come to the rally in large numbers from the neighbouring states.Back

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