Why Ministers don’t talk as much before?

The Prime Minister might have imagined that 2 years in office is a time for celebrations. But suddenly he is caught in a multiple crisis situation. After 2 years in office is faced with perhaps the biggest crisis of his career, first, the OBC quota, next, the office of profit Bill. Will he survive the double crisis?

Or, these will the end of the road for him? The entire nation watches with much anticipation and anxiety. Manmohan Singh as an upright man is proving a pathetic figure. First he carried in his pocket a proof of residence in Assam that gave him his legitimacy as a Rajya Sabha member, now he is facing the problem is justifying his actions to prove his loyalty to Sonia Gandhi by trying to save her the embarrassment of holding office of profit and thereby he faces now the Bill getting the scrutiny of the Supreme Court even if he gets it passed in its present form.

Also, along with the OBC quota business, the recent fuel price hike is getting in his way of continuing in office with Congress chief herself pretending to distance her from this episode. In politics, you get tripped suddenly and who knows how much sympathy the PM already lost and if rumors are to be believed that Pranab Mukerjee might be lucky if Arjun Singh’s trigger proves the undoing for the poor PM.

As for the economy, the PM can’t claim anymore any exclusive credit, if at all, for the progress made so far. Why? The so-called 8 and odd per cent growth didn’t save the country from importing food, after a long 7 year glory of food self-sufficiency and even the best years of wheat and rice exports. Now, the government has resorted to wheat import and the greater shame, if we can say so, is the fact that even the wheat tenders are not forthcoming, as expected. There is a tight wheat supply position at the international wheat market and it is anybody’s guess, certainly the PM or does the Agri Minister have no clue as to what is the exact position on the wheat import front. They, the duo, seem to be groping in the dark and unfortunately, not many o0f the PM’s once voluble Ministers are also talking out!

The usually talkative Finance Minister has become more sober and more cautious, the stock market crisis must have panicked him about his handling the finance portfolio and the OBC crisis had simply stumped every one, including Sonia Gandhi, and the mood in Delhi is one of waiting anxiously for some development to come to the rescue of the panic one notices about this government.

The Moily Committee is unlikely to solve the explosive issue once for all for the quota politics has many dimensions. The Congress party cant have it all the gains and often the caste politics that is mixed up with the OBC quota is largely a gain for the Opposition parties, more so the Opposition politicians like Lalu and Mulayam Yadavs and the Southern caste politicians like the DMK/DK/MDMK /PMK leaders are going to be the gainers and the Congress party would lose more clout in the days to come.

None can save the Congress party, not the current crop of upstart leaders, we needn’t name them! So, the country’s more strategic gains, IT, services and manufacturing sector growth that only had pushed the growth rate to 9.3 per cent. Now, the latest news about agriculture growing at 3.9 per cent shouldn’t fool the unsuspected for the new growth noticed is more owing to the performance in sectors like horticulture, spice and jute, as the FM had noted, not the more basic sectors like wheat and rice. It is the food grains sector that is fundamental for the India’s food security and it is the two major crops that need more attention in the days to come.

So, it is a bit disappointing when we have the same old voices and faces, Manmohan Singh, M.S.Swaminathan and others talking, day in and day out, the same old theme, the same old tired solutions to what seems to be an   extremely complex issue.

First, we need to have a fresh look some fresh minds, fresh minds, not clogged by the same old mindset. Certainly, Indian agriculture needs a robust all-round wider consultation with the farmers’ representatives. This outlook is being projected by this magazine for long. What are an average farmer’s current perspectives? Unless you make farming a reasonably profitable occupation not many will stick to farming as a future prospect. As it is, it is the small and medium farmers who are stuck in this unviable option. What does it mean when even the fairly well-off farming states like Punjab opt for contract farming projects? It means that the old tradition individual farming is becoming unviable, right? So, we have to ensure that a reasonable progressive minimum price support policy is the first basic requirement.

This price support is possible these days only when you also have a fairly reasonable price stabilization fund also in place. So, every state must have the top priority to create the agriculture price stabilization fund, almost replacing the now highly objectionable and very pernicious political populism (or political adventurism of the type practiced by the DMK in Tamil Nadu) of the present times. Agriculture subsidy is a great priority and let us be clear about it.

Second, the current UPA approach is totally unacceptable, as the government is talking or trying to look smart, with such high sounding jargon like economic reforms, without you moving an inch! A high power group with the West Bengal Chief Minister Mr.Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, as one of the key architects of the agriculture reform is a must. The times have changed and there are so many demands put on the natural resources like land and water, the big industries need vast acres of agricultural land, see what happened in Karnataka with the Bangalore-Mysore National Highway project leading to the Supreme Court imposing a heavy fine for frivolous litigations, and so we need a new and more radical agricultural policy that would specify, among other things, clear compensation for lands acquired for new generation industries and infrastructure projects and also for new townships and much more important the new awareness about rehabilitating the vast mass of people who would be replaced by the fast growth of infrastructure projects.

So, the second category of agri reform issues concern with the new demands put on land and water uses, new industries and new townships and new infrastructure. Third, these developments would mean less land for farming and less water for farming also. This also means more emphasis on new seeds that would increase the productivity of farming. Less resources and more production! Yes, we have to change our policies so that wealth creation, more infrastructures for the more sections of the people are made possible.

There is, fourthly, the hard reality of land reforms. This one phrase hides so many conflicting interests. Either you distribute the lands to the landless or you make it possible for consolidate the fragmenting small pieces of unviable land holdings.

The Communists and one section talk as if the further distribution of landownership from the hands of the rich to the poor. Yes, this is a noble idea and yet the ground level realities are different. Today, in an average Indian village there is more land available for sale in the open market at the on-going market rate than there are willing buyers! So, why pass a law and spend your valuable time to forcibly distribute the land? In Tamil Nadu again we see the cynical politicians promising “free land”, that is free wasteland, as if the wastelands are lying free from encroachments or freely available in the open market!

Such wastelands, if any, need to be converted through scientific methods, through some viable new business models to be developed into productive assets and this means only vast new investments. So, you can’t play politics with land reforms in the old Communist style or in the new cynical populist style.

Fifth, as it is ,already farmers suicides are going on unabated and yet the UPA and its otherwise energetic Shard Pawar is finding his grip loosening on the subject of agricultural transformation and that is why we see he is pleading helpless, be it saving the farmers from further suicides, it is odd the agri minister justifies the suicides on some statistical jugglery, and the Finance Minister knowing well is also not coming out with the progress in the agri credit disbursal from the banks, he knows well the co-op sector credit is in total crisis and he doesn’t speak out on what he has in mind for a change. Also, the agri credit can’t wait for a market solution; the government has to step in and save the farmers.

The UPA, being what it is, it is an alliance of convenience, see the pathetic sight of the rather urban-based Communist leadership, talking bravely on what the UPA can and can’t do. The Left talks against price hike, be it the PDS rice and wheat or the petroleum products. They, the most educated they are, know well the price hike of either is inevitable. Yet, Brinda Karat talks loud about the weakening of the PDS system. Doesn’t she know well how reckless politicians play politics with the PDS system, in TN and Kerala?

One day or other we have to replace or weaken the corrupt bureaucracy and the corrupt politicians and allow market forces regulate the supply and demand for basic needs, be it rationed rice or rationed kerosene and what is great about allowing bogus ration cards, smuggling of ration rice for open market sale and cornering huge quantities of unaccounted money, running into hundreds of crores. What, finally, we want today for saving Indian agriculture from the grip of foreign monopoly companies or governments is to energize the farming sector.

Allow farming as a business, save the family farming sector to prosper, trust the farmers to buy lands and invest in new farming enterprises, most of them are SMEs, and if there is one slogan that would do much good for the Indian farming sector it is still” the Small is Beautiful”.

So, let us recognize the need to commercialize our agriculture on the family owned farming business model, give all support, give enough subsidies to produce more productive crops, rice and wheat, introduce more GM seeds(under strict control by the government agencies concerned),encourage our farm scientists to go for commercialized, commercializing potential agri research projects, allow more independent Public-Private Partnership, reduce the hold of vested interests, be it domineering by  some scientists over the entire agri scientific establishments, let there be new faces, new ideas and new business strategies, not the least being the use  and deployment of IT tools to enhance agri productivity.

In sum, what we need is new wind to blow through the agri university portals and new hands-on approaches to enhance agri productivity and a new high in our agri productivity efforts.

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