It is about the expected wheat short fall. NDTV flashed this news for a near half an hour in prime time news. Also the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar brave assertion as of now there is no cause for worry. Yet the minister in the same breath assures that in case there is a shortfall the government won’t hesitate to import wheat to make it up in the public distribution system. So, after the Manmohan Singh government had come to power, the one single biggest issue that threatens the very rationale of the government is the food self-sufficiency goal. It is eluding the great many experts and tall talkers inside the Cabinet. Now, the Cabinet is to take a decision to give the wheat farmers Rs.25 or 50 or Rs.75 as bonus in addition to the Rs.750 per quintal msp.

Wheat shortfall is expected to threaten the Indian government policies. As per the latest estimates Indian wheat crop is affected in an extant of 10,000-15,000 hectares in Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh wheat belt. So, there is much uncertainty. Sharad Pawar’s talk doesn’t show his sincerity of purpose! Time to do, not talk anymore!

Sharad Pawar, the Union Agri minister was in Bangalore not long ago, where he spoke about the Indian agri sector’s many problems and of the sugar industry’s looming crisis. In fact, the minister in his capacity as the president of the board of cricket was to spend the next day in the city where he met with the game’s activists and others. That spoke loudly than what he spoke the previous day about solving the agri sector’s problems.

Yes, Pawar is a competent minister and has many ambitions. We wish him all luck. Yet, what he spoke on the solutions he has in mind about the agri sector was far from convincing. To rub slat in the wound he said so expansively and a bit carelessly we think about the five volume report of M.S.Swminathan committee on the multiple problems and perhaps the multiple solutions. Otherwise, how can the agri minister say so openly and so blandly that his ministry would send the report to various ministers, they would study them and they would come back to him, mercifully within three months, he says.

The ministries that would study this five volume report are: 1.Rural development, 2. Water resources, 3. Forests, 4. rural electrification, 5.Finance, 6.Planning, and 7.Women and child welfare.

We ask: is it fair on the part of the minister to say so? Knowing the way the ministries work, they often work at cross purposes, is it humanly possible for these unfortunate ministers or their disinterested civil servants to come to any workable solutions to the complex issues that agriculture policy would impact upon them? Is Pawar really serious or honest about what he has said?

Knowing well what the committee would have said, it is nearly an impossible approach to the really urgent issues that face the farming community.

Vidarbha suicides bring new shames to the Indian people.

Suicide farmers’ families take to prostitution!

Yes, the TV news channels have flashed shots that show how desperate the situation has become to these unfortunately families. The families, names and addresses are given by the news channels and the women stand by the national highways, the Cameras catch the tragic scenes, how the rowdies also indulge in overpowering the unfortunate women from these faming families into this trade. The country has to hang its head in shame for the unfortunate developments. Less said the better.

Pawar, more than any other politician in this country must know too well that in his own state the farmers are committing suicides almost everyday, to this day. The PM’s visit, as narrated by the unfortunate farmers of Vidarbha, was said to be a cruel irony. As one affected farmer wryly put, all they knew about the PM’s visit was that in the village near Wardha, they put up a new toilet and a new commode in the Panchayat Parishad’s office and as soon as the PM left the village, the very commode even was taken away! The package as announced by the PM neither stopped neither the continuing suicides nor the relief that was to come with it. Such is the superficial visit and the superficial solutions.

And now, for Pawar who always was very keen to safeguard his constituency, which is the co-operative sugar lobby in the Maharashtra is very keen to save it by speaking out as though the entire sugar industry is in crisis. The sugar industry is making record profits, as never before. That is the truth. The sugar stocks at the stock exchanges are quoted high, the Bajaj family troubles spring from the new interest in grabbing new sugar factories through such stock purchases etc. So, the Union minister must be knowing only too well, that the sugar industry now faced with the problem of surplus cane supply are pressing the farmers to leave with their supplies at record low price offers and it is the government that will have to reduce its taxes and other financial incentives to carry the excess stock forward. International sugar market will be what it is always, there will be excess supplies and excess demands, all depend upon the times concerned.

What one expects from the minister, who also holds the portfolio of public distribution and consumer affairs, besides the agri portfolio proper, whether the cane farmers will get the assured msp,the consumers will get sugar to reasonable prices and will the sugar stock will be stored and sold next time on the international market.

Doesn’t the minister know that despite there is a ban on the export of pulses since June 2006, there have been exports of this short supply commodity? Some 50-odd companies, the major ones names have been published in the press and the minister must seriously think of why he had failed in discharging his duties. More than 150,000 tones of pulses are reported to have been exported between July 2006 and Feb 2007.

To bring in China that is setting up new sugar factories, it is too far fetched a talk. All we in India have to do is what to do with excess cane supplies, go for enthnol, go for limiting the area of care cultivation, save water(this applies more to the Western Maharashtra than elsewhere)and also encourage alternative and more remunerative crops like maize, pulses and a massive horticultural expansion. Pawar himself is a promotor of the wine industry in which his family is said to be investing in a big way, so the grape farmers of the country could benefit.

The point is that for a true political leader there shouldn’t be any conflict of interest when he performs his public duties.

We are sorry to say so for the minister is not fully applying his mind and attention to take expeditious steps to diversify the agri sector in his own state and also in other states. Nor is he conscious of the many other issues that don’t need any expert study but just plain common sense, water conservation, power conservation all part of regulating the area expansion of cane cultivation. If there is a mind there is way. That is what we like to convey to the honble minister who is widely seen by the public and the farming community to be spending too much of his time on cricket and other activities.

Today Indian agriculture faces multiple crises. Mostly man-made in our opinion. We are acting in a desperate manner to import wheat and all the sundry items with duty or no duty. This desperate situation has to be brought under some rational control first. Then, think of the other measures to boost production and productivity.

There are some simple issues to complex issues. Our seed supplies to extension work and our agri research priorities all need a fresh look. Please bring in the new generation young farmers points of view. Encourage farm entrepreneurial activities, bring in a contract farming legislation, relax the many antiquated land reform laws, and give subsidies to bring in new farm technologies. Any of our issues of the journal is full of such suggestions. So, we ask the minister: please don’t disturb the fellow ministries!

Everything is on your desk, please act and does something so that we can remember your time at the Krishi Bhavan!

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