Vidarbha sop too little, basic issues not addressed- Left
New Delhi, July 3 (UNI) Unhappy with Prime Minister's "Vidarbha sop", the Left parties today stressed that Dr Manmohan Singh's much hyped relief package had not addressed the basic" malaise" of the agricultural economy, which had now been confirmed by the UNDP's Asia-Pacific Human Development Report 2006.
India like other Asian countries has been neglecting agriculture, bedrock for the poor and turning net importer of food under the free trade regime, the Report has said.
Talking to UNI, the leaders of the CPI, CPI(M) and Forward Bloc said the UPA govenment would have to shun its policy of" neglecting agriculture, "while claiming that Dr Singh had" re- announced" some of the earlier programmes like the Accelerated irrigation benefit Programme, for which the" funds have already been allocated." CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan, referring to the PM's face to face interaction with the village farmers, said the package did not address major lacunae- continuous decline in public and private investment in agriculture sector, discriminatory policy of nationalised banks vis-a-vis Industry, absence of credit facilities from the nationalised banks and near total dependence on private money lenders.
"The money lenders charge that exorbitant interest which finally lead to the debt trap- the major cause of unabated suicide phenomenon," Mr Bardhan, the veteran Communist and freedom fighter, said.
CPI(M) senior leader and Polit Bureau member M K Pandhe charged the government with adopting a policy which was "anti farmer" by all standards which included heavy reduction in the subsidy, repeated hike in diesel prices and farming inputs like seeds among other things. "With the result that agricultural operations have become uneconomical." Rubbishing the PM's package announcement as" mere symbolic", the CPI(M) leader said if the government was sincere to the cause of the farmers the government would have to streamline its procurement policy unlike the last year when about 50 per cent of agriculture produce was purchased by the private agencies who fleeced the farmers.
CPI National Secretary Shamim Faizi quoting the UNDP report, said India in the last decade had largely neglected the agriculture sector as serious decline in investment began in 1990s falling by 29 per cent until 1990 adversely affecting the farm growth.
Mr Faizi, the party Weekly new Age editor, deplored that the Manmohan Singh government continued to neglect the agriculture sector in the matter of public investment. "The trend must be reversed. The government must also evolve a comprehensive plan to procure the Kharif crop at the remunerative and fair prices so that the farmers have not to go in for the distress sale which lead them to the debt trap, the main cause of suicides." Forward Bloc National Secretary G Devrajan said, "What the PM announced is just a jugglery of words. He has also re-announced some of the projects, already launched." On the farmers' demands, he said they were demanding Rs 3000 per quintal for cotton, Rs 1800 quintal for soyabean, the Minimum Suport Price for agriculture produce and the subsidised inputs and loan waivers and ending their dependence on money lenders among other things.
Mr Devrajan also made a case for the Congress-led coalition to take Agriculture out of the ambit of WTO.
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