Plan Panel Member Paints A Gloomy Picture On Farm Front

Hyderabad, Aug 24 | Updated: Aug 25 2004, 05:33am hrs
Professor Abhijit Sen, member, Planning Commission, has said that Indian agriculture faces an uncertainty now and in the future. Especially, from weather and prices of a magnitude not seen before.

Responding to a question whether suicides by debt-ridden farmers in Andhra Pradesh has been due to the failure of the rural credit distribution system, he said: "It's a failure. Farmers have faced a real risk due to huge fluctuations in weather and in prices repeatedly never seen before."

When asked whether economic logic is being sacrificed at the altar of political expediency more so in recent times, he clarified that, it was not political expediency but political compulsions. "I think the answer is always yes. Even if you had asked me three years ago or so. That is the art of all politics. This is a government that didn't expect to win. So, they are trying to do what they think people want and not actually what people want," he pointed out.

Further, Prof Sen pointed to the `profligacy of the power sector'. In a reference to the recent move by AP Chief Minister Dr YS Rajasekhara Reddy to review his earleir decision to cut unauthorised agricultural power connections, he said: "Political costs of this move will boomerang and outweigh the benefits. If the Centre is not sensitive and the States are, it will later show as a Centre-State problem."

Earlier, giving a public lecture tilted `Rural Renewal, Constraints and Challenges' at the Administrative Staff College of India here on Tuesday, he said at least the current government's common minimum programme is focusing on those areas in which India is not shining.

Of the Rs 10,000 crore allotted in this year's budget for funding agriculture and development, Prof Sen said that that the Planning Commisssion after a lot of deliberations, has decided to spend it in the 60:40 ratio for the Centre and the states. To renew the rural ecconomy he precribed that the concentration should be on rural non-agriculture, moving away from dependence on rural agriculture.

He further stressed that the focus should now be on systems rather than on projects and they need to be rejuvenated and strengthened. "The cooperatives, which are all in non-plan and in States and the panchayati raj institutions," Prof Sen said.

He also pointed to the unholy nexus between Central departments and corresponding state departments irrespective of what the state Chief Ministers or the Union finance minister does, that are undermining the panchayati raj institutions.

Finally, "populism is also not what happens when you give to the poor. It also happens when you give to the rich," Prof Sen quipped.