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‘Ease of Doing Business’ not the only thing – ‘Make Agricultural Procurement easier’

New Delhi (By Rajeev Ranjan Tiwari) : Ever since Modi Govt. came to power, it has been pouring cold water on the agriculture policies of the UPA. At the end of the second tenure of the UPA and after a decade of persistent work India is now witnessing record agricultural outputs for every major crop — grains, oil seeds, pulses, cotton, vegetables and sugarcane. This became possible because of UPA government's thrust on improving agricultural inputs such as quality seeds, pesticides, fertilisers, up-gradation of canal systems, easy access to agricultural markets, higher agricultural credit to small and marginal farmers at lower interest rates, higher farm productivity, better rural road connectivity, debt write-offs and remunerative prices which have transformed the face of agrarian India under UPA. Mr Vijay Inder Singla, ex MP (Sangrur) and AICC Spokesperson stated that Mrs Harsimrat Badal, an Akali Dal nominee Minister in the Modi Government, despite being an agriculturist herself is perhaps not aware of the advances made in Agriculture under UPA Govt. Instead of giving irresponsible statements, both inside and outside Parliament, she should use her Ministerial position to convince her Govt. to pay attention to the plight of Farmer who deserves attention in this hour of crisis. An assessment of the ground situation in Punjab yesterday by Sh Rahul Gandhi, VP – Congress Party indicate that the Akali – BJP Govt. is least bothered as crops are lying in open mandis and there is no Govt Agency to buy it at assured MSP. The voices of farming community to compensate them for losses suffered by the farmer on account of bad weather has fallen on deaf ears. Mr Vijay Inder Singla, ex MP (Sangrur) and AICC Spokesperson stated that Modi Govt. must take time out of their fetish regarding ‘Ease of Doing Business’ for industry and come out with programmes and policies which make the agriculture procurement process easier so that Agriculture is encouraged and farmer lives are saved. Insistence to bring the Land Acquisition Ordinance and forcibly acquire agricultural land for commercial interests will further put in jeopardy livelihood of 60% of population who depend on Agriculture. Mr Vijay Inder Singla scoffed at the meagre MSP increases done by Modi Govt. and questioned as to what happened to the electoral promises of MSP to be based on 50% plus cost promised by him. He stated that MSP increase for the past 10 years, between 2004-05 to 2014-15, have varied from about 125 per cent for foodgrains such as wheat and paddy to over 200 per cent for pulses like moong dal. The average annual food grain yield has increased by 207 kg per hectare and the average food grain production per year during UPA was 28 million tonnes more than that during the NDA rule. Of the total food grain quantity produced since Independence, 25 per cent was produced during the UPA tenure. Mr Singla, ex MP (Sangrur) and AICC Spokesperson stated that the situation was drastically different when the UPA formed the government in June 2004. Agriculture was in crisis. A government drunk on its “India Shining” propaganda had largely ignored the sector. From 1998-2004, agriculture grew by a paltry 2.9 per cent. This low growth adversely affected the livelihoods of farmers and posed a serious threat to national food security. Farmers resorted to private borrowings, often at very high interest rates. UPA’s inclusive growth policies led to financial institutions lending more than Rs 7,00,000 crore in 2013-14 - a seven-time increase from 2004-05. UPA also systematically brought down the interest on short-term crop loans from a high of about 12-14 per cent in 2004-05 to a 4 per cent average in 2014-15. Not to forget, the largest one-time farm loan waiver scheme, worth Rs 52,000 crore, was delivered by UPA 1 to bring the poorest debt-ridden farmers back into the financial system. Emphasis on development of hybrid seeds since 2004 has resulted in the share of public sector seeds increasing vis-à-vis the private sector. The two major National Missions, namely the National Food Security Mission and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana, launched by UPA in 2007 have also shown great promise. Moreover, the benefits of the UPA’s policies have not been limited to farmers. Farm labourers have also seen a record increase in daily wages in the last decade as MGNREGA set a base wage. For the UPA, revival of agriculture was not an option but is an imperative – I hope Modi and Badal Govt. will see reason and act. Till then, Congress will stand up and fight for their rights.
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