Served notice for election-eve promises! We request Sharad Pawar for some more promises!

Sharad Pawar, the Union Agri Minister, is supposed to be a very competent politician. And yet he is held responsible by the Election Commission for violation of election code! The reason? He promised several helps to farmers after the assembly elections!

What the effect of EC’s notice on the course of the Bihar elections? Perhaps the violation of Election code is becoming a norm now and the Election Commission notice and follow-up actions often don’t change the outcome of elections. Bihar politics sums up the very complexity of party politics and how the politicians are in a desperate situation. Agriculture development is the least subject on any one’s mind!

You cant blame Sharad Pawar as you cant blame the Prime Minister and his FM and Dy Planning Commission chairman, if they simply talk and talk and promise and make more promises. So what if the Agri Minister makes some more promises, with the only different he had these promises not in Vidharba where there is a farmers suicide every 36 hours!

But among the top politicians in office today we count Sharad Pawar as different. He had at least the mass base among the top three, PM, FM, and the Deputy Planning Commission chief. The PSU banks merrily carry the photos of the FM along with the PSU chiefs for their advertisement purposes!

The other clever man in the top three list is Mr.Ahluwalia. He says in his wisdom that rain-fed agriculture is the cause and so irrigation projects would accelerate farm growth. Much more strange is his view Indian would seek help from American farm research labs to evolve many strategies to accelerate agri exports, more so horticulture exports. For a change we say some new policy changes that are required to put Indian agriculture on a sound growth strategy.
One, improve the private initiatives in contract farming projects. From the present big corporates’ models of contract farming (by Pepsi, Thapars, Godrej, Tatas, Mahendra) to individuals or states sponsored new contract farming development models. The corporate “contract farming” models proved that agri productivity can be raised several times the current low productivity syndrome. So, too there are new opportunities for new crops, new medicinal crops, new processing industries in the agribusiness category.

The future for loss-preventing, decent price-fixed farming activities should only be encouraged with new financial packages. Two, there are now any number of private initiatives in micro-finance ventures. Mohamud Yunus, the fonder of the Grameen Bank says the World Bank allocates hardly 1% of its portfolios to micro-finance. The Grameen Bank lends 0.5 billion dollars a year to micro borrowers, averaging 120 dollars per borrowers. At present it serves 5 billion clients. 96% are women! Most are not literate. It lent money to 50,000 beggars to start tiny selling businesses! Yunus is full of new and innovative ideas and one wonders why Yunus brain is not tapped by the Indian government.

Often we wonder whether this government is really serious in tackling poverty and more so the insecurity that haunts the entire farm sector in India. There is no initiative at all in any of the major policy promises, be it an exclusive agri bank separately apart from the moribund Nabard, or more agri insurance companies in the private sector. We don’t touch the co-operative here for lack of space for other new and innovative action areas!

Three, Sharad Pawar should know well. His own state has the sad spectacle of Vidarba region. Four, smaller states are one more package for improving the lives of marginal farmers and landless labour. Telengana and Vidarba are good cases for separate statehoods. Fifth and finally, the PM and his advisers must be knowing that simple caretaker type governance is okay but not enough to make an impact on the life of the poor. There are any number of civil society groups and NGOs (like the recent report of the Karnataka Social Watch) to tell us that even many of our policy announcements and promises are not taken up for serious implementation. One NGO had questioned the notion of “rapidly developing” India!

Yes, policies become policy promises! Or “pending assurances”! Yes, agriculture needs much more than promises. Agri sector needs much more concrete new strategic area-focused development packages.

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