Saturday, February 16, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Save small farmers from market forces

In the editorial “Middlemen to the fore” (Feb 7) you have hit the nail on the head when you say: “The cropping pattern has to change in favour of cash crops but the monopoly of the middlemen is a great deterrent. This can be set right only if the arhtiyas’ power and monopoly are reduced. The latest policy of the Centre will increase this power and strengthen it and make the FCI a weak organisation. The Centre has no clue to get out of the mess it has landed itself in and it is relying on make-shift policies”.

The agriculture sector is in crisis and the growing indifference of the powers that be in the name of market orientation in the absence of a strict market regulatory framework is bound to aggravate the problems with concomitant adverse effects on the farm economy. No doubt the market regulation regime has failed mainly because of the fact that the present market regulatory bodies have become dens of corruption. But throwing the small agricultural producers at the mercy of market forces would lead to pauperisation of the farming community and the farm labour as well.

The stark reality in the marketing of cash crops like guava, papaya etc indicates that the market structure is inefficient and non-integrated in the country. For instance, the retail market rates for these commodities are Rs 4-5 per kg in Hyderabad and Rs 15-20 in Shimla. To boot, the quality of agro-products available in Hyderabad is much better than those in Shimla and it is all based on my recent personal experience and investigation. It indicates lack of market infrastructure development and encouragement of competition at the wholesalers’ and retailers’ levels.


There is a need to encourage producers’ cooperative marketing societies and consumers’ co-operative societies and link them up. Agricultural Market research and promotion of such cooperatives should be given boost through the Agricultural Marketing Development Venture Fund by the Central and state governments. The model of Apni Mandis can be successful only if the arhtiyas’ monopoly power is broken through political will and scotching corruption in the marketing regulatory bodies. Last but not the least, quality production will get a fillip only if production and marketing are integrated through direct sales and through producers’ co-operatives, and consumer co-operatives besides contract farming Market forces alone will not deliver the goods, in the interest of producers and consumers.


Tohra’s power

Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra, MP, after being the President of the SGPC for nearly 25 years, used gurudwara funds to establish various trusts of which he is an omnipotent trustee for life. He has been getting funds from banks and other financial institutions for deposits of SGPC money and from many babas for allotting kar seva to them. He was virtually the dictator of the SGPC and not even a langri was employed without his consent. He had also funds of gurdwaras for distribution at his will.

Not many know that the SGPC controls hundreds of acres of land attached to historical gurudwaras. The allotment of annual theka at nominal rates as compared to very high market rates to certain favourites is another method of using it for personal financial and political gains.

He has been controlling and distributing crores of rupees for nearly 25 years and yet the two letter writers (Feb 4) declare that he “has not acquired even a single inch of land, commercial or residential property since his coming into politics.”

When he was ousted from the presidentship of the SGPC it was expected and also publicly declared that a commission would be set up to bring out facts about corruption by Jathedar Tohra but the successors themselves adopted similar methods for personal gain.

He has been of course more liberal in the distribution of funds than other Akali leaders. He was also instrumental in giving or getting jobs to many because he has no Sukhbir of his own.

MANJIT SHERGILL, Ghal Kalan (Moga)

Loot at fete

On a friend’s invitation, I had a chance to visit a public school’s fete on Sunday (Feb 10) at Pathankot. It was mere loot in the name of a fete. On the entrance coupons were being sold in a booklet form for Rs 50 each. Each booklet has coupons with various denominations. On a closer look, I was surprised to see the total of various denominations was Rs 49 only. On enquiry I was told that it is not a mistake but deliberately done (to cheat?).

All the stalls had costly items. We had three ice-cream cones for Rs 45 and the remaining Rs 4 could not be redeemed. There was nothing for Rs 4 except water being sold for Rs 2 a glass that we didn’t want.

It is also seen that students are often forced to sell tickets for lucky draws and ultimately parents have to shell out the money for the entire batch a student is supposed to sell. Is it what we send our children to learn for?


Abetment to suicide?

The Punjab Finance Minister, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, was heard the other day on a TV channel where he said that whenever a suicide took place due to the non-refunding of loans by a farmer, the family was given an amount up to Rs 2.50 lakh after his death. Viewers laughed at the reply. Was it an incentive to commit suicide or clear the debt?

Lt Col KULDIP SINGH DOSANJH (retd), Jalandhar

Campaigning ends

Hats off to Mr Sandip Joshi for his very remarkable cartoon “Campaigning ends” (Feb 12). It provokes spontaneous laughter — which is a great source of relaxation in these tense days.

HARJIT FANI, Kapurthala

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