What new he would do in agriculture?

Sharad Pawar is back in Krishi Bhavan. This is not the old Pawar. This is a new Pawar. The old Pawar was the most swaggering and more ambitious leader who thought his eye on the Delhi throne was very much within his sight. Alas!

Politics is a cruel and power game. It doesn’t wait for anyone. Time and tide don’t wait for anybody. So, Pawar is now out and down and beaten roundly, if we can say so in a much more downright straightforward manner.

Yes, Pawar has many credentials to his illusions and delusions. He has the experience, the wealth and the reach. He is a master tactician and manipulator and as every other Indian politician he is thoroughly amoral and has no scruples.

He never stood for any consistent politics, he was always winning and wanted to win and that is why he has come so far. In the process accumulated money, power and fame. Unfortunately democratic politics in India is being played; it seems, on a different set of rules, more so after the advent of Sonia Gandhi.

As some media commentators during the campaign and after have noted that democracy in India is one thing. You can have your own formulations and visions. But then there is the Indian National Congress which, by now, after the advent of the Gandhis, both Sonia and Rahul, has acquired its own meaning of democracy. There is the dynasty factor.

Given the long history of the party, any split, and any revolt within the party is nearly impossible to sustain. So, all who had revolted and gone out have come back and submitted to the demands of the family.

Seen in this context, this time Pawar’s calculations have gone all completely awry.
NCP lost owing to a combination of factors. The Shivsena split, the BJP and the Raj Thakeray’s MNs had split the Marathi vote and the man who wanted to symbolise the Marathi pride stood isolated.

So, surprisingly, the urban Mumbai voted solidly for the Congress and in the sweep the Congress came the winner and the NCP the loser.

Yes, it is a great pity.

Now, what Pawar would do in Krishi Bhavan? We know what he did in his previous term.

He went for swings in policy, import when there is a shortage, be it sugar or wheat or other commodities, palm oil or pulses. This time too he would do the same, as we can expect. Pawar is a realist, too much of a realist and too little of a visionary.

So, he played the sugar lobby with such penchant for profits the result today is that there is a severe shortage, there is import and most of all sugarcane production has become unviable and the consequences is there for all to see. At one point, there was the talk of taking away the portfolio of food and consumer affairs from his charge.

In fact, it would have done some good, at least it would have given Pawar and for us, the public, a perspective of what he would be doing with the raising the production of foodgrains and other commodities.

Now, he is there with the promise, the Congress promise to provide the “free rice” scheme under the election promise of protection under the National Food security Act. This may be one more big populist scheme like the massive farm debt write off? It looks like that.

But then there are other deeper structural issues in Indian agriculture. The point we like to raise here is: does Pawar has any idea of what the Indian agriculture currently cries for attention? One is not sure. There is the basic and sustaining reality about the Indian agriculture. Progressively, farming in India is becoming economically unviable, right?

How to make farming a viable activity and also living in rural areas more meaningful? for this to happen we need a series of policies. A more realistic land reforms policy.

Owning land and leasing it out for farming must be realistic. An antiquated tenancy system drives away land owners from leasing out. So we see there is much “absentee landlordism”, there is a very restrictive land ownership policy and this courages buying and investing in land.

We have to “liberalise many of the land reforms acts”. We have to encourage investments in new rural and land technologies, a new policy that would encourage investments in SMEs in the rural and agriculture fields.

A range of production, preservation and marketing of agri products through a revamped co-operative marketing system, as well as co-operative credit societies. There is now new policy or even there doesn’t seem to be any awareness among the   new policy makers about the need to implement the Vaidyanathan committee report on co-operative credit.

The result is that once the massive write off of farm credit, the next step or the process is left to an un known future. Banks, ideally, are not the ideal institutions to give the rural credit the sustaining power of being near and protective to the needs and requirements of the farmers. The point is there needs to be institutional reforms at the agriculture and the rural levels. Something like an Amul co-operative farming and marketing of inputs and output. Pawar never showed any insight or imagination in bringing new talents and insights and even advice and expertise in innovative farming sector reforms. It is time he becomes a bit more restive and more modest in calling for new faces to interact with him.

Let us hope there is some fresh winds across the windows and shutters of the stuffy Krishi Bhavan!

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