Government to import wheat & sugar !

Election time is not the time to talk of basic economic truths or substantive policy issues. And when you have the party like BJP it is extremely difficult to go for objective discussions!
We have a Prime Minister who is admired widely, even abroad for what he had achieved. He had given political stability. India is a larger democracy, our geopolitical position makes India a critical entity, be it world peace or regional peace or global economic development or regional economic relations.
So, the quality of political leaders to look beyond the immediate, to look at the big picture and should know what constitutes our stability. Our political stability comes from economic stability, social security and food self sufficiency alone can give our people confidence in our politics. Here the PM and Dy.PM give us lots of contrasts and yet lots of worries too! The PM accused the Congress in stealing its (BJP’s) programmes, more so the economic programmes. The Dy.PM accuses the Congress for not giving the country any development. But both conveniently leave out agriculture! They know the ground level realities of the poor!

Statistics show that economic development under the six years of BJP dispensation is not one of consistent growth. There are serious deficiencies. Unemployment, poverty, agriculture stagnation, reports of widespread starvation, hunger, suicides by farmers, largest in AP and followed by Karnataka are all there. The Government has dismissed concerns over an impending shortage of foodgrains and sugar, necessitating large-scale imports in the coming months.

“The fears are totally unfounded. We have enough stocks of both grains and sugar to meet domestic requirements,” the Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution Mr.S.K.Tuteja says.
“The Government has been keeping a very close watch on the overall stocks position and it is in this light that we stopped making fresh allocations for exports from the central pool with effect from August 13, 2003,” he noted. The Secreatary added that “we do not want a situation wherein we would be exporting grain now and importing the same six months down the line.”
There is our agriculture. Our food surplus position is seriously threatened. Private estimates put the sugar crop loss still higher. So, given the market behaviour it would create a demand-supply mismatch and hence the necessity into import sugar.

The mainstream press only talks of the traders’ and sugar mills’ point of view. No one talks of sugarcane farmers plight. Sugarcane dues don’t get written about in editorials. Nor the reluctance of State governments coming to the rescue of farmers at a time like this. In TN, for instance, the share of agriculture in the GDP is just 16 per cent. There is an all-time record food production at 212.2 million tonnes. But overall exports of agri and processed foods grew 35% to Rs.13,825 crores! Still 69% of people are dependent on agriculture! Hence the pressure is too much and large number of farmers’ suicides, poverty even now. Agriculture itself lost its traditional security for the farming families.

Unfortunately, Indian politics is divorced from ground level realities. At the Centre. In the States. Bureaucracy is still very strong. Some of the promotion agencies like APEDA or National Medicinal Board or National Horticulture Board are all highly bureaucratised and they don’t want to share any information with the media. How much funds allotted for farmers’ subsidies. The B level officers are more guilty. It is they resent the change to share the responsibility to disburse subsidies! We don’t know how this would lead to more “equity” in the share of bank loans. Time educated farmers rise up! Protest for their rights and due share in the allocation of resources for agri sector!


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