Central Vigilance Commission probes the wheat deal!  Please work for self-reliance in wheat!
Keep import as a last ditch option!

Shard Pawar is becoming increasingly an unsure minister. He hogs the news headlines entirely for the wrong reasons. Though he would like to bask in the glory of India’s historic victory in the world cricket match, poor man, he is also caught in the wheat import mishandling deal!
Everyday, he finds himself in the unending food import controversy. This is no good for a man who aspires to be the country’s Prime Minister!
First, he started the wheat import last year. Everyone thought that was the last time India imported wheat. This year? He started very badly. He became a sort of an advocate for wheat imports!

Under him, the big private traders in wheat, the MNCs and the local big fish, ruthless they are always, they are traders and they have none of the scruples one  can at least identify with even the most corrupt government agencies and they showed it this time, in such blatant fashion.
The government decided (or hustled into?)by the big private traders to quote a tender that was unusual. A government quoted a tender that was at such a high cost when the international prices were lower than what the government quoted!
How it came about?

No one knew. All we knew was Pawar’s nine-page letter he wrote to the MPs to wriggle out of the scandal!
Yet, the game doesn’t seem to have been played out.
There is every indication that this time too, in the second year running, the government might resort to wheat even when the local production and stocks are available to meet the PDS targets.

The tragedy of Sharad Pwar is that his time at the Krishi Bhavan hasn’t been a happy one; he is losing so much goodwill as he is inviting the wrath of the mass of farmers in the country. The wheat growing states of Punjab, Haryana and UP are not trusting the agriculture minister’s words and so they are holding back their stocks and hence the government at least this time came forward to raise the MSP. That is good and we welcome it. Our plea is: please give all you can to the domestic grower, instead of squandering away precious foreign exchange for a higher price for the foreign suppliers.

One hopes that the UPA would see the wisdom in keeping up its traditional policy of creating and sustaining self-sufficiency in food grains production. That is India’s only claim to some standing in the otherwise IMF-World Bank dictated economic reforms policies.
There is already the suspicion that most of the policy makers in the current regime are all ex-IMF-World Bank employees only!
So, the public would be weary of any such blasphemy like importing wheat at higher prices than what prevails in the country and thereby bartering away the interests and morale of the Indian farmers.

On a more serious note we have to say that agriculture needs a really serious introspection!
That might come after a new government comes to power? Very likely. It has to. If agriculture proves the drag what chance for the slick talks like 9 plus growth rate or containing inflation etc. Who would bother with such urban intelligentsia talk and that is how our men with no mass base manage to survive and thrive in the New Delhi milieu!

Indian agriculture sector has been changing a lot. In its own momentum. A momentum caused by the larger economic changes in the rest of the core sectors. Urban and rural infrastructure, the national highways, IT and telecommunications, civil aviation, the airports, ports are all impacting lives in the countryside.
There are positive changes; retail chains could add value to agri produce. Yet it is the negative side of the agri strategy that causes concern. Farmers’ suicides continue, the farm distress is still a reality in the countryside. Now, comes the likelihood of mid-term elections. This is no great news. Even in Left-ruled states, more so in W.Bengal in particular, such a diversion of attention would only affect the industrialisation progress. So, this is an election forced by the Left’s own ideological obsessions, not concerned with the ground level realities.

Such an election brings with it its own unpredictabilities and contradictions. There is already some desperation in some parties to search for possible suitors. One, the BJP seeks allies at a time its own house is in a disarray. Will Sena chief endorse Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate? Given his penchant for a Maratha at a time when Sharad Pawar is also seeking his last ditch attempt to cobble an alliance within the grand alliance of the UPA. His meeting the Gowda sons, given the senior’s own aversion for the Congress party strengthens the suspicion that in an unlikely event Pawar could ‘buy’ up unlikely allies to pose himself as the best possible candidate. Pawar is in a hurry and given his resources and an amoral approach to power politics and with Deve Gowda and others like him in a situation where the uncertain numbers could give them such an opportunity.

Now, the major Opposition, the BJP is still an unknown quantity. Advani is clearly on the prowl, he is feverishly gathering allies and given the all India pattern of Indian politics, the BJP could get its chance this time too. BJP is in a very aggressive mood; see how they spoilt the Parliamentary session this time rather too much in an ugly fashion that the voters have to keep this aggressive, rightwing and superstition-driven leaders in track.
The Left is the real spoilers this time. They have no vision, totally blind to realities; they just grope in the Stalinist dark. Mr.Prakash Karat has never contested an election and his arm chair dreams had created a great danger to the country’s future. Economic development is neither the forte of the CPI (M) nor that of the BJP. For that matter, economic development or a national vision or a secular, in the sense non-casteism are not the strong points of the other parties which are allies in the Congress-led UPA.
Will the elections bring about any new radical shift in policies?

Difficult to say.
But certain things can be said about a new general election. A new government may bring in new leadership and a new team players.
Dr.Manmohan Singh, his core team, the Finance Minister and Montek Singh Ahluvalia and the PM’s advisers like ex-RBI Governor Rangarajan are all a bit out of date when it comes to grasping the Indian rural realities. Even their own understanding of the economic reforms including that of the PM, seem to us, a bit off-track. They harp upon the rate of economic growth, without spelling out the components of the economic reforms package.
Economics is about people, the various dominant segments.

Their obsession with growth rate, unfortunately, didnt produce results at the grass roots. That may be one decision reason why the UPA might lose power this time! If they don’t, it would only be a miracle.
Given the alarming rate of farmers suicides and the shocking insensitivity displayed by the UPA leaders, with the PM/FM and even the Congress President to the Ministers like Shankarsing Vaghela and Vilasrao Deshmukh have hurt the farmers sentiments so badly. So, what do the UPA expect from the rural Indian voters? An approval for their policies so far?

The very nature of the economic growth has been to create the urban prosperity, create the great urban-rural disparities, the persistence of rural unemployment of the youth, the rather skewed development of the islands of prosperity and the poverty pockets have created an uncertainty among the voters this time.
The PM or the UPA chairperson are not able to articulate any new vision or hope. They are what they are! Politics came their way. That is all. They just feel secure (or insecure?) and o pulls on. They don’t seem to have the stamina to lead India in any substantial sense.
But India is changing. Changing fast, in spite of our leaders, limitations.

As for the farm sector, unless there is some change of government, there is no hope for any new set of policies for agri sector transformation.
At least partially, the farmers lobby in Punjab and UP succeeded in ensuring a higher price for wheat this season. $325.59 a tonne! The government lost Rs.400 crores badly timing its wheat imports! We pay food subsidy of Rs.30,000 crores in the last two years.
Yet, no one in the government talks of raising the farm subsidy. Such a concept is alien to this government’s  fake urban-centric reforms package!
Do you know that much of the growth has come about  without the government taking any conscious policy initiatives! All came about thanks to some  fortuitous circumstances, the IT revolution, the telecom revolution, the globalisation etc.

So, what we have got to give as a clear Indian farm policy?
At least the USA is grappling with its farm policy consciously.  Any great economy must. We debate the Indo-US nuclear deal. We don’t even bother to know the US Farm Bill 2007 that might impact the lives of the farmers here. Such myopic vision can’t win elections and  you don’t hope for running governments in this passive manner for a longer time. One has to live with optimism for whatever it is worth!

Image Source : purcellmountainfarms

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