PREVIOUS

3D/HMS-RG/4.00

ִ֤ Ͼֻ (֟) : , 133 ֋ ׸ ָ ֮ ֤ ֵ֟ ׻֋ ָߤ ֵ օ ֳ֬ , ֳ ֻ , 133 ֋ 00 ֵ߅ ֵ, ׿ִ֯ ֻ ֵօ ׻֋ ָָ ׸ևӛ , ָ Ӕ ֟, ֯ ֯֙ ָ ֻ֯ ָ 5 400 ֋ ֓ ֓ 50 ֮ ֓ ֓ ֵ? 20 ָ ֵ ֓ օ 20 ָ ֋ ߻ ߅ ֻ֯ , ָ֮ ֯ ֮ Ù ָ ָߤ , פ ? Why do we want to spend our valuable foreign exchange for this purpose? Just for nothing. ױ ָ ֮ , ָ ֳꌟ ָ ׌ ָ ׌ , ָ ֮ߕ , ֻ ֳ օ ֳ֬ , ָ ֳ ׻֋ ָ և ? ߬ ֟ ָָ ־ֲ ֤ Ӥ ָ ֮ ֤ -׌, ߾֮ ßָ ֮ ׻֋ ֤ ֓ ױ ׾֤ ֤ ?

ֳ֬ , ӲӬ ָ ӡ ָָ ߮ ֟, ֵ ׸ ֯ ֮s ? ï™ ׻֋ ֯ ֮ ֕ ? ָ ֟, ֯ ָߤ , ֵn ïױ֮ ָ ֻ þã ׻֋ ֵ֤֮ , ֟ ֯ ָ ? ָ ֟ ָ ָߤ ֻ ֻ֛֛ ו ױ ߓ ֮ ֛, ׸ ӛ ֮ ֛? Ͽ ׮־ ָָ ֮ ן ָ : ׾ָ֓ ָָ ™ߵ ֮ ֛ ֟ ָߤ ן ָ ױ ׾ָ֓ ֳ֬ , ֱ ׮־ ֮֟ ꌙ ִ ָָ ֟ ָָ ־֮ ִ ֻ ֯ ׻֋ ָ֟ ֲ ӛ ֟ օ ױ ֕ ֻ ֮ ֯ ֕ ָ ֋օ ֯ -, ֕-֕ ֻ ֓ ׻֋ ֲ֕ ֛ ֵ ،֙ ֤ ײ֛ ֻ ? ֤ ֮ Ù ֱ Ù ֺ ֮֟ ֮ ֮ ױ י ֯ ֣ ߙ , ָָ -- ֟ ן ׮֬׸ ֣ ֯ ֓ ۴ߙ ֯ 640 ֋ ־ ָߤ 740 ֋ ָߤ, ֯ ֋? ױ ֯ ꌵ ֯ ױ ֟ ֮ ִֵ օ ָָ ֛ ߬ ָ ִ֮ ֳ֬ , ָָ ָ ָ ֟ ֕ ֵ , ׻֋ 000 ֿ֮ ֯ ֛ ִ֮֬ ׮ֻօ ִ֮֬ ? ָ߲ ֤ ֿ֮ ֯ ֮ ֮ ֻ ֕ ֲ ָ ֯ כÙ߲֮ ָ ? ִֵ ָ ? ӡ , և ֮ ֕ ֯ ֕ ָ ֯ ֕ פ ? ֳ֬ , ׻֋ ָָ ־ã ֛ ? ָ ָָ ֮-߮ ִ֮ ־ã ָָ ֮ ׵֟ ׮ֳ֮ ֕ ֮ ֟

(3 /ߋ־ ָ ֿ:)

3e/4.05/ks-psv

ִ֤ Ͼֻ (֟) : , ׮ִ ֟ ֟ ֳ֬ , ֯ ֤ ִֵ օ

ֳ֬ , ӟ ӡ ֯ þֵ ־ ֯ ֮ ׮׿֟ ֮ ן օ ֯ ֣Ԯ ֯ ׮ֵԟ ֛֓ ֛ ֯ ָ ֮ ָ ׳־ר ֮ ִ ֯ ָ ٣ ֵ֟ - ֕ ֮ , ߕͻ , ײֻ֕, ֮, ֤ ߕ , ָ ִֻ ֯ ֤ , ִֵ , ֲ ֻ ֛ , ™ ָ׮ֵ ֜ ? ׻֋ ֯֠ ֻ--ֻ ־ã ϵ , ָ ֵ , ָ ָ ֛֓ , וִ֮ ָָ ִ֣ , ָָ ֱ , ֮ ׮ָֿ ֋ ֮ ֟ ִ֯ ֮֯ ָ פ, ׻֋ - ֮־֤ (ִ֯)

SHRIMATI N. P. DURGA (ANDHRA PRADESH): Thank you, Sir, for allowing me to speak on this very important issue of wheat import decision taken by the UPA Government. The speed with which the Government is rushing for import of wheat to southern ports indicates that there is something fishy in the whole process. On the one hand, the Government is saying that the wheat stocks are depleting and to replenish the same it is importing wheat. But on the other hand, Sir, if you look at the total wheat production this year, it is going to touch 74 million tonnes against the earlier expectation of 73 million tonnes and the procurement figures indicate that it is going to procure about 16 million tonnes against the expected target of 16.3 million tonnes. And, the Government says that the official grain stocks have dropped by 2 million tonnes against the buffer-stocking norms of 4 million tonnes. But, is it not true that, as of February end, there were 47 lakh tonnes of wheat stocks in various godowns? So, if you calculate the whole thing, there is a shortfall of about 2 million tonnes, whereas the Government wanted to procure 3.5 million tonnes i.e., 15 lakh million tonnes of more wheat. I would like to know from the hon. Minister the reasons for procuring an additional 1.5 million tonnes. This is my first point.

The second point I want to make is about the quality norms. I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether it is true that the quality norms have significantly been relaxed for import of wheat. This becomes clear if you look at the norms set by the STC to procure wheat when compared to its previous tender floated on February 20, 2006, through which you had imported five lakh tonnes of wheat from Australia. So, I would like to know from the hon. Minister whether it is not true that the February tender specifically says that the imported wheat would be free from moulds. But, if you look at the Tender issued in May, there is no mention of moulds. That means, wheat can be procured even if there are moulds. What are the reasons for exempting this? I would also like to know as to what are the reasons for allowing dwarf bunt and ergot fungi pathogens to the extent of 0.005% and 0.01% in the proposed import of wheat whereas you had not allowed the same in February tender. And, same is the case in respect of allowing the moisture content. Now, you are allowing 13.5% moisture content, whereas, you had allowed only 12% in February and that too by paying a higher rate. What are the reasons for increasing the moisture content this time?

The next point I would like to know from the hon. Minister is: What compelled the Government to import wheat at Rs. 9500 per tonne whereas the Government is procuring the same from Indian farmers at Rs. 6500 per tonne, of course, with Rs. 500 additional incentive. What problems the Ministry is facing in the procurement of wheat from our farmers at the rate of Rs. 7,000 per tonne? What are the reasons for importing wheat when the new harvest has already started hitting the markets and this year is expected to get a bumper crop?

Sir, these are some of the points on which I wish to seek clarifications from the hon. Minister. I request him to specifically respond to these queries while replying to the debate. (Ends)

(Followed by 3f)

3F/klg-tbb/4.10

ִ ֵָ (ָ Ϥ) : ֤ߵ ֳ֬ , ֤ օ ָ ׾֮֫ ֣ ֮ ֤ , ֮ ֤ כ , ׻֋ - ֟ ֯ ִ֮ օ 5 և, 2004 ֕ ֳ ֤ ֣֯ ֲ ߮ ָ ׾ֵ ָ ֓ ֻ ֓ ֟ , ֵ֟ ֟ ָ ֮ ָ , Ϥ ֮ ֮ ָ, Ϥ ֮ ֮ ָ ִ ָָ ֮ ӳ߸ ? ָ ֮ , ֮ ֟ ߮ ָ ׻֋ ֕ , ו ֮ ֮ ֓ ָ ָ ־ ֮ ָ ָ ֮ ֕ ֤ פ, פ ֮ ֋, ֌ ֮ օ ׮ֵ ִִ ߕ ָ ֮ , ߕ ָ ֮ ָ ֮ ֟֋ ? ֻ ָָ ֻ֟ ןֵ ָ ֮ 12 ָ ָ, ָ ָ ָߤ ֻ ֮ ָ ָ ֯ ? ֯ ִ ו֋ ãן ? ָ ָߤ ָ ׻֋ ֤ ֺ ? ָ, ױ ָ ֻ֋ ִõ ָ ִ֮ և , ֮ և , ִ ֜ ֮ և ֮ ִֵ օ ֲָָ ׯ֔ ִֵ ֮ ֟֋ ֲ ָ ֯ ׾֮֫ ִ֬ , ֛ ֕ ֟ ֻ օ

, Ӭ ֤֕ ֵ֟ , ֮ ִ߮ ָ ֛ , ו ßֻ ָ ֮ פ ֮ ִ߮ ָ ßֻ ֋ ָ ֛-֛ ׮ , ֯ ß ֟ ָ ׮ֵ ָ ִ ֕ ß֮ ֻ ֻ ָ ָ Ϭִ֮ӡ ֻ ֤ á ָ פ - "ֵ ־֮, ֵ ֮" ִ ֟ ָ ߴ֋ ֟ ָ ֮ ״ֻ, ߕ ָ ׻֋ ֺ ִ ֟ ָ ִ֮ ָ ָ ֤ؕ ֻ֮ ׻֋ ֺ ֮ ׻֋ ֮֋ ֮և ? י ֟ , ָ ֟ ֻ֟ ָ ֻ ֕ ֻ ֟֋ , ֕ և

, ֓ , ִ ֻ ֟ ָ ָߤ ֮ ß ֲ ֮ ֮ ֟ ״ֻ, ֕ ? -֮ ? ӳ߸ ֟ ׸ֻ ָ ׻ֵ ֵ, ֮ ֻ ִֵ Ӥ , ֟ ֯ ִ ו֋ ָ ִֵ ֵ 1964,65,66 ֟ , ֲ ָ Ӥ פ և ֲ ֟ ֻ֟ ָ ֕ ֕ ָ ֕ , ׻ֵ ß ֻ ֮ ֲ ߮ ֕ և ֟

3 ָ ..

AKA-KGG/3G/4:15

ִ ֵָ (֟) : ו ָ ִ , ֟ ױ ׸ãןֵ ֮ ָ ָ ֮֋ ֮֋ ו֮ ָ ָ ֛ ִ߮ ßֻ , ָ ִ ִ ״ֻ, ִ , ֮ ֛ פ ןֵ ֮, خ ִ ִ ֱ֟ ֛ ֟

֯ 12 ָ ֕ , 4 ָ , ֯ 4 ָ ֕ ו֋ ו֮֟ ָ , ָ և ֱ ו֋, ֲ ֣ ֵ օ ֮ ֛ , ֮ ָ ִ ߤָ , ֤֕ ֛և ִ, ָ ֮ ׻֋ ִ ֵֻ

׻֋ ֮֮ߵ ӡ ׮־ ָ ֮֋ ֮, ו֮ ָ ֳ ״ֻꅠ ֟ ָ ן ָ -- ֮ ֮ ִ , ָߤ ! ֟ ֻ֟ ? ֟ ֻ֟ , ׸ ֟ , ָ ׻֋ ֟ ֟ ? ֟ ֮ ָ ֮ ֓ , ֮ ָ , , , ִõ , ָ ֮ ֲ ָ, פ ִ ? ֮ ׿ ֟ , ֮ ֟ ֤ ֮ ֮ , ִֵ ֮ ãן , ִ

ֳ֯ן , ֤ ֮ օ ֮ ӡ ױ ߻ , ׮־ ׮ֻ ו ָ ֻ ֓ԋ , ֟ ָ , Ӥ , ׮ ֻ , ֳ ӡ ꅠ ָ ֟ ָ ֮ ֮ , ״ִ֮ ? ׮ֵ ߕ ָ ֱ֟ ֯ , ߕ , ו ֲ ָ ߾֮ ֻ֟ , ו ָ ֱ֟ ״ֻ ָ ָ ֱ֟ ״ֻ֟ , ױ ָ ָ ֱ֟֋ ָ ֮־֤ (ִ֯)

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (MAHARASHTRA): Thank you very much, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Sir, I am sorry I could not follow the whole debate because from 3 o'clock, we had a meeting of the Standing Advisory Committee where we had to finalise a report and I had to leave the House for that purpose. But, since I came, I have heard some speeches and, I think, I have generally followed the trend of the discussion that has taken place here.

The situation, Mr. Vice-Chairman, Sir, is extremely grave. I feel like howling and crying out when I read reports of 7-10 farmers committing suicide everyday in the region of Vidarbha itself. But howling and crying and histrionics and making speeches with raised voices does not yield the result or any solution. What is necessary is to sit down coolly, make an analysis of the situation, diagnose the disease and find a proper remedy. As far as the farmers' suicides are concerned, I think, I have in this House spoken at least a dozen times on this subject. But the subject has come up again and now there is a general broad agreement on the real cause of the farmers' suicides. (Contd. by 3h)

KLS/3H-4.20

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (CONTD): In the early reports prepared by the experts it was said that suicides always take place because of a complex of various factors. It is never a single factor that results in suicides. It was said that farmers who commit suicide have some addiction, they possibly have some illnesses, diseases that make them despair of the life. But finally everybody came to the conclusion that the most proximate cause of all suicides was the fact that the farmers were heavily in debt and there was a pressure brought from the creditors who might be a private moneylender or more often a cooperative credit society and they use methods of recovery, which were humiliating, insulting and that resulted in loss of prestige to the farmers for whom living in dignity in that village is a very important consideration. So, the final stage, the penultimate stage is the humiliation heaped on the farmers because of the kind of recoveries that were being imposed by the creditors. Why did it come to this stage? The reasons are very clear. It was C. Subramanium who pointed out for the first time that Indian agriculture was a losing proposition because the farmers did not get the prices that would cover their cost of production. This was a diagnosis made by C. Subramanium himself. The farmers movements in the last 20 years have been giving enough evidence of this, and I would say today that except for a few enlightened farmers, who apart from agriculture also do some processing, also do some exporting or have some kind of an associated activity with agriculture, and are possibly able to meet their expenses, agriculture per se, agriculture by itself, is necessarily a losing proposition. In fact in the movements, Sir, we do tell the farmers, "Do not be shy of admitting that you are in debt. If you are in debt, it only means that you are honest. It is only a dishonest farmer who can be without debt. All honest farmers are in trouble today in this country." Why did this happen, I do not want to go into all the controversies. The matter is very clear. We know and it has been admitted by the Minister for Commerce, it has been admitted by the Minister for Agriculture that even today the Indian agriculture is working under conditions of negative aggregate measure of support which in common parlance means that the farmer in India gets much lesser price than he would have got in a market where there was no intervention by the Government -- in a hypothetically free market. In all the countries like Japan, Europe and USA the farmers get much more than what they would have got in free market. In India farmers get much less than they would have got in a free market because of the various restrictive policies including the Essential Commodities Act imposed by the Government, the various bans on exports, dumping operations carried out, as is being carried out right now, we purchase wheat at a higher price and bring it in our market and dispose it of at a lower price. We have restrictions on the movement of agricultural commodities from one State to another, from one district to another. We have restrictions on the processing, we have restrictions on the storage and all this results in the fact that the farmers are never able to recover the cost of production even in years when the nature is favourable and the crops are good. Now you will get a clue as to why is it that the cotton producing farmers have a greater incidence of suicides than, for example, the sugarcane producing farmers. It is not that the sugarcane producing farmers are more brave, it is not that the cotton producing farmers are cowards. The fact is, and you will see it in the statement that was submitted by Pranab Mukherjeeji as Minister of Commerce to the WTO, that in 1986-1989 cotton had a negative subsidy co-efficient of 110 per cent which meant that if the cost of production of cotton was Rs.210, the farmers were not able to get more than Rs.100.

(Contd 3J)

-KLS-SSS/3J/4.25

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (CONTD.): That was the position of cotton. On the other hand, in the case of sugarcane there was a positive AMS, i.e. if the cost of production was Rs. 100, the sugarcane producers were able to get about Rs. 108. Sir, that is the reason why the cotton-producing farmers have a greater incidence of suicides. Before I left, I heard some analysis of what kind of farmers commit suicide and I would like to make some positions very clear. There is very little incidence of suicides amongst farmers who do not own any land. The landless labourers don't commit suicides because they are better off in today's situation than the land-holding farmers. The land-holding farmers, incur the risk of natural calamities and of Governmental irregularities, while the landless labourers who earns his wages, but they are fixed wages and nothing is cut from that. There is no incidence of suicides amongst the landless farmers. The suiciding farmer essentially is a land holding farmer and you will find that, in fact, there were farmers who had 25 to 30 acres of land who commit suicide and who also go on Employment Guarantee Scheme work in order to find out a livelihood. There is no pattern about the land holding, there is no pattern about the caste, there is no pattern about the age. It is simply that the farmers are not able to repay their loans and are unable to withstand the humiliation involved. Sir, the remedy is going to be, and, I think, the UPA Government is making a horrible mistake here, everybody had been talking about it, our Minister of Agriculture has been talking about it, the Finance minister is talking about it, giving additional supply of credit to the farmers is not the solution because he will take the credit. He finds himself in such a position that he will take additional loan but finds himself even more indebted and horribly indebted because of that. What is important is to take measures that will make agriculture a paying proposition i.e. the income of the agriculture should be more than the cost of production involved. We appointed a National Agricultural Commission under a very eminent scientist like Dr. Swaminathan. I have gone through the report and I find that these are the reports essentially of a scientist, which concentrate, on the increase in production and improvement of infrastructure. But he has not gone into the economics of a field operation and found out why is it that the agriculture continues to be a losing proposition. I have suggested to the Minister of Agriculture in a private discussion that we have come to a situation now where the things are unlikely to improve, they are more likely to deteriorate hereafter because we are entering the WTO era of competitive marketing and we are entering an era of bio-technology and more advanced technologies and the farmer who is a farmer because he got his land from the farmer and, is therefore, trapped in agriculture and is unlikely to be able to meet the situation, the challenges that are faced by this new agriculture. The important thing is, to liberate agriculture from the sort of straight jacket into which it has been placed. Firstly, get rid of the principle of eminence juris. The land should not belong to the State. The land must belong to the farmer and he must have the right to hold that property and no Government should have the possibility of acquiring land at the slightest pretext. Secondly, the Government should have no control over the supply of inputs nor should the Government have any control over the manner in which the farmer is able to dispose of the fruit of his labour. After that is done, the Government will have to make amends for the sins of the last fifty years. If I have to say, in one sentence, why is it that the farmers commit suicide, I would say that it is because of the gangrene wounds of the chronic exploitation by the Government of India of the Indian farmers ensuring that the farmers are not able to make any margin there. If that is the situation, then, of course, the Government will have to take some measure and I made an assessment of that. (CONTD. BY NBR/3K)

-SSS/NBR-GS/3K/4.30

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (CONTD.): The loss caused to the farmers on account of the adverse policies of the Government of India in the last twenty years -- most of them are Congress years -- was Rs. 3,00,000 crores. This is all documented. That is the kind of policies that have been followed. You have to use, at least, a part of that for ensuring that the farmer is able to stand up in the market and if he was fleeced by the Governmental system of marketing, he, at least, gets a good chance, a good start in the new era that is to come. Therefore, the money should be used for developing infrastructure, for developing a network of laboratories, for developing a network of information technology, so that the farmers have an access to information from outside. If you ask me, 'What is the quickest solution that can be given?' I would say, 'Tell farmer, who is on the threshold of suicide, no need to commit suicide. All your trade, your business might have been a losing proportion. But, you are an asset, which is a substantial asset, particularly in the present epoch where the land values are appreciating.' If you are able to give the farmers a chance, give them some money, at least, equal to the stamp value of the land and say that we will pay you a better price that will be more appropriate to the market conditions in about 12 months time. But, even if you give farmer, as an advance, the stamp value, I think, most of the suicides can be avoided. But, rather than doing it before suicides, we are prepared to give every farmer Rs. 1 lakh who commit suicide which serves as an adverse effect. If farmer gets an impression that he is under debt of about Rs. 30,000, then, naturally, he works out, 'If I cannot pay Rs. 30,000 and I am humiliated by the moneylenders for this purpose, then, if I commit suicide the Government will come running and will give Rs. 1 lakh. And, at least, my family will be happy.' Giving compensation or paying people who commit suicide is a very wrong policy. And I, even as a farm leader, would say that this policy should never be followed. Giving money for people who die proved to be counter-productive in Tsunami and it is proving to be counter-productive even in the case of farmers' suicides.

Sir, on 10th December, in my area of knowledge, the hon. Chief Minister of Maharashtra announced a special package for five districts in Vidarbha where the number of suicides was the highest. And, surprisingly, the number of suicides has increased after that. Everybody knows the reason. At the same time, the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra made a statement against private moneylenders. With the result, the farmers are not given credit even by provision stores. Their situation has become even more cornered and the number of suicides has increased after that. And, the Government continues to entertain the old bygone Leftist philosophy about what is good and what does a private moneylender do and what does a cooperative bank do. I think, you will have to get rid of all those cobwebs and think coolly if you really want to save the farmers.

Having said this much on suicides, I would, now, come to the question of import of wheat. In the month of June, I have read a report in The Business Line, for which I write, which says that the Government of India is contemplating import of wheat. I posed a question here. The hon. Minister of Agriculture gave a specific reply that we have ample stocks of wheat and we need not import any wheat till the end of the year i.e., till the beginning of the procurement of wheat. That is the reply. You can see it in the documents or the records of this House. But, at the same time, I had given him a copy of the cutting, because in the American newspapers, it had appeared that the Indian Government is expected to import something like 1 million tonnes of wheat this year. That was a forecast made by the Americas at that time. While, our hon. Minister of Agriculture was saying that we are not gong to import anything. Little-by-little, we heard that 5 lakh tonnes were to be imported. Then, it came to 10 lakh tonnes. Every time the issue came, I have raised the point in this House. And then, the latest figure I heard in the newspapers was 30 lakh tonnes. And today -- while I was in the meeting of the Consultative Committee for Agriculture -- somebody spoke in my ears that now it is going to be, at least, 40 lakh tonnes and not less than 35 lakh tonnes in any case. (CONTD. BY USY "3L")

USY/3L/4:35

SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (CONTD.): What is this happening? What is this hush-hush? In the newspapers, we read about the fact that when tenders were called, the specifications were given in such a manner that only one party could fulfil them. This was a complaint made by many people who submitted tenders. That is very common that those whose tenders are not accepted, they tend to make complaints. But there was a specific complaint that the specifications were irrelevant, and were made to suit a particular supplier. Firstly, the question is there was no justification whatsoever. Secondly, the way the quantum of import has been increased looks to me very fishy. Thirdly, having talked about the quality, today we find the quality is accepted to be not acceptable by the suppliers themselves. I read in the newspapers that all the ships are lying in the ports of New Zealand and Australia because they are not likely to be sent here. What is happening? Why all this secrecy and cloud of mystery?

Then, Sir, I come to the question of prices. Everybody has talked about it. What is the point in importing wheat which costs Rs. 879 per quintal, even in the southern ports; whereas, we are paying on Rs. 650 plus Rs. 50 bonus. What kind of policy is this? I remember, in the days of Rao Birendera Singh, when he was the Minister of Agriculture, an import of that type was made. When a question was put in Lok Sabha, his reply was, "We have to give higher prices for the wheat of American farmer because the America farmer has a higher life style to maintain". That is the reply that you can see even today on the records of the House. Is that the philosophy that we are entertaining? I feel very sorry because the present Minister of Agriculture not only comes from my State, but he is a very honoured and respected leader of farmers there. And, we have been together in farmers' agitations and courted arrest even together -- if he would like to admit this at the present stage? But we had fought the agitations together. So, when he became the Minister of Agriculture, we all had great hopes that for once there will be some kind of improvement in the lot of farmers. Mr. Vice-Chairman, Sir, I feel very sorry that since he became the Agricultural Minister, the last three years have been the worst period for the farmers in India. The number of suicides has increased; and, rather than supporting the farmers in Punjab, we are importing wheat once again and going back to the old days. I tried to work out what was the great hurry for two things that were done by the Minister of Agriculture, at the same time. We imported wheat so that the prices will be depressed. If the prices are depressed, they will be of advantage to the regions which do not produce wheat, and they will be of disadvantage to the regions that produce wheat. At the same time, the farmers in Punjab will be hard-pressed to give the wheat to the Food Corporation of India, while those who don't produce wheat and who accidentally, coincidently -- I am not making a charge -- were going to the polls, at that time, were given the advantage of depressed wheat prices. I will give you another proof of that, Sir. The sugar quota, the monthly free sale quota, was augmented just on the eve of elections, at that time, for obvious reasons because elections were not taking place in the sugar-producing regions, the elections were taking place in non-sugar-producing regions. But the quota was increased, which is normally done at the time of Diwali festivities etc. It was done deliberately in order to influence elections. I had made a complaint to the Election Commission about this particular matter, but that is not the thing for discussion here.

Mr. Vice-Chairman, Sir, there were two issues involved. On the question of farmers' suicide, it is clear that farmers' suicides are taking place because of the gangrene wounds of the Central Government policies, inflicted on the farmers for the last 30-40 years under Nehru, under Indira Gandhi, under Rajiv Gandhi, and even under Manmohan Singh. If that is true, then, the Government will have to do something to make reparations for that. And, if the wheat policy is any indication, then, we are not only not on the right track, but we are going exactly the opposite way. That is what I am very seriously concerned about.

Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman, for having given me the time.

(Ends) (Followed by 3m -- VP)

VP/4.40/3M

SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (WEST BENGAL): Mr. Vice Chairman, Sir, I was listening, with rapt attention, to my previous speaker's speech. His sentiments are laudable and I agree with them. But, unfortunately, his diagnosis and his solution, both, are flawed, if I may say so. And, I want to put this very clearly. It is not true that agriculture has been doing badly in the last few years compared with the previous years. I can get into the statistics of agricultural production and investment, increase in productivity and all that. But that is not the issue here. The issue today is the distress and the fact of the distress cannot be denied because we are seeing, everyday, the suicides that the farmers are committing. I want to submit that if we are going to tackle this problem, we have to tackle this problem, precisely, in terms of the distress situation that the country is facing today. But, it does not mean that we should ignore the long-term policies. There are many mistakes, there are many things that are actually happening and quite a few improvements are actually taking place, but this will take time to materialise. We may have a separate discussion on agriculture as such, but today's problem is the problem of the current situation of agricultural distress and that has to be tackled on a short-term basis. He is absolutely right that the farmers are committing suicides because of indebtedness. There are a plenty of studies on that, and I would say, for those who are not very familiar with this, that there is a recent issue of Economic and Political Weekly which gives State-by-State an analysis of what were the factors that have caused these suicides. The overwhelming fact, and, I think, Mr. Joshi is absolutely right, is the indebtedness of the farmers, particularly, the small and marginal farmers. He is also very right that the agricultural labour is not involved.

(MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN IN THE CHAIR)

The agricultural labourers do not commit suicides mostly; it is the small and marginal farmers who are overwhelmingly indebted. Now, he is right, they are indebted; they cannot solve their problems because of the overall depressed nature of agriculture, particularly, of the small and marginal farmers. If there is a discussion on the agricultural situation, I would like to establish that the agricultural development has favoured in our country mostly the rich farmers in this country. The poor farmers, the small and marginal farmers have remained as poverty-stricken as possible. But, that is not the issue which I want to talk to you today. I want to say, accept the fact that the problem of indebtedness is causing the crisis among the farming community, committing suicides; the destitution you can see, and the facts say it quite clearly if you visit the countryside. Now, what would be the solution? The commonsense solution is to do something about their debt. Do something about the basic reason why these people are committing suicides. And, I submit, the Minister is sitting here, that he may like to consider seriously together with the Finance Minister to launch a full programme of waiver of loans to small and marginal farmers. This is the major issue. In fact, Sir, I do not know whether you were here when Mr. Chidambaram was answering a question on indebtedness. I raised this issue and Mr. Chidambaram, whom I like very much, talked to me in old college debate style, "this is not the subject we are discussing. If you discuss the general question, I shall come forward, but you are talking only about a very specific issue of States' indebtedness." But, I have a very definite thing in mind and I want to put to you this question. The only way these loans can be waived would be, be it the cooperatives or the banks, which have given loans to the small and marginal farmers, those loans will have to be taken up by the State sector.... (continued by 3n)

PK/3N/4.45

SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (CONTD.): Whether in the States, or, in the Centre, depending upon who is the source of credit, and that would imply an increase in deficit and that was what I was referring to the Finance Minister, which he avoided to answer. But, I am putting it to you, Sir. You are sitting here; this question will come up. There are three ways these loans can be waived. (a) You can convert this into long-term low interest debt. That would also mean there would be some grant element in this, to that extent, it is waiver. Secondly, what you can do is to give them cheap loan so that they can repay the mahajans from whom they took high-cost loan, and, thereby get out of the whole thing. This is something which has been done in all indebtedness problems, whether it is the Latin America, whether it is in other parts of Asia. This is a way called debt swap. But, then, again, it is the Government which takes most of the burden. And, the third which is the easiest is just give a simple waiver. This waiver is different from the earlier practice of loan mela which was done in this country, completely flawed by corrupt practices. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the conscious policy of waiving the loans for a year or two of the small and marginal farmers. You will find a tremendous impact on the distressed farming community. This is something which is an immediate solution, temporary solution. Let us not bother about increasing fertilizer supply, giving them higher prices for tomorrow next year. These are the questions that will be considered separately. Today's problem has to be solved today, and, this is a simple solution. It is not a simple solution in terms of management, but the financial burden is quite substantial, and, I hope Mr. Minister you will take it up, discuss and, maybe, you can work out the full details of the subject. I now come to the question of import of wheat. Since I have very limited time, I do not want to talk at length. I do not understand why should we be so much against import of wheat. Unless I am somebody who have some stocks -- because I am a rich farmer, I have not given all my stocks to the FCI, I have kept them in my godown -- and I do not want the price to fall, because if the price falls, I lose the profit. In other words, all rich farmers, all rich farmers' lobbies would be against any additional supply of wheat in the country from whatever source it is, because if we have foreign exchange, why can't we import? Let me put to you this question quite categorically. There is nothing wrong in imports. What is important is that we have to manage our food economy. Now, I have some figures here which show that, today, our buffer stock is so run down that we shall not be able to maintain our Public Distribution System, distribution to the TPDS, SGRY, and other programmes, and, still come back at the end of the whole year with a positive stock. That is a dangerous thing. When we talk about food security, Mr. Deputy Chairman, we do not talk about food self-sufficiency. We should be able to satisfy the fluctuations of our demand and supply position, and, that is why the buffer stock question comes, that we need a minimum amount of stocks, so that it can take care of this kind of fluctuations. If that stock cannot be replenished from domestic procurement, then, there is nothing wrong in imports. Another day, I think, Joshiji was here, he raised a question. Unfortunately, our Minister, who was sitting here, could not answer the question with statistics. I felt like standing up and giving the statistics myself, it is a fact that if you talk about the imported wheat and the domestic wheat, -- because you are talking now about import, not for production; you are talking about import for meeting the demand -- if you compare the cost of the imported wheat with that of the domestic wheat, imported wheat is cheaper, for a very simple reason. (Contd. by 3O/PB)

PB/3O/4.50

SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (CONTD.): For that, I must give credit to our Government, to our Ministry that they are organising the imports in such a way that it comes to Southern ports from where the transport cost becomes very marginal. As a result of that, the economic cost, the domestic economic cost, that is, the procurement price plus all the costs of transport, plus all the costs of handling, is higher than the economic cost of imported wheat at the Southern port. At least, Rs. 120 per quintal is a lower cost of that. So, I don't think there is anything wrong in imports, if you are talking in terms of consumers, in terms of supplying to the demand. The question comes as to why should we import at a price which is higher than the domestic price. Well, the international price changes. I shall come to this point within a minute. But the question is not that. If we increase the price today, we shall not get a single additional tonne of foodgrains because the foodgrains production has already taken place. They are already in the stocks or markets. An additional price would only go in favour of those rich landlords who have kept their stocks in their godowns and not sent it to the market. It is not going to have any effect on the actual procurement of wheat to the Public Distribution System.

Now, the second question is that if we do import ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI TAPAN KUMAR SEN: Kindly link it to the distress of the wheat farmer. It is just not a commercial transaction in plus and minus. ...(Interruptions)...

SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA: I am sorry, Sir, I thought I am answering precisely that question. The distress question is, long-term distress and temporary distress. Long-term distress problems have to be solved over a longer period where the Minimum Support Price is a factor. If you ask me I can get into the discussion or refer you to a beautiful study by Mr. Abhijeet Sen, one of the stalwarts of the Left economists. Why is he against continuous increase of Minimum Support Price? So, this is a different issue. Sir, this is a long-term distress. With regard to the short-term distress, I have given you an answer. To my mind, the only way to deal with short-term distress is to give loan-waiver. I am talking about import wheat in terms of meeting the balance of demand and supply that we should be able to maintain this. Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, if we do not do this thing, I am terribly afraid of one phenomenon because we have seen that whenever there is a shortage, what programmes suffer. They are the TPDS, Targeted Public Distribution System, SGRY, etc. It is because these are actually meant for the people who do not matter. So, you reduce their supplies and try to save the buffer stock system. This is exactly what will happen, if you do not allow wheat imports to take place today. The wheat supplies given to the unemployed people, the NREGP people, the poor people through various schemes will be stopped. These schemes will be stopped. If not altogether but, to some extent, the Public Distribution System will also be affected because there is no other alternative. You have to add things up so that they meet the supply. So, what I am suggesting, therefore, is that in a situation where we have such a large foreign exchange, there is nothing wrong in importing wheat to augment your buffer stocks. The only criticism that I have, and this is what is slightly different from others is that this should be a part of the long-term policy. We are now going to face this situation, that we shall periodically face this kind of situation of food insecurity, if we do not import, because other areas have become much more lucrative, profitable and giving returns. So, more and more farmers will be shifting away from gain to those kinds of high-yielding varieties. So, we should be prepared to have a policy which we should be able to sustain over a period of time. And, with regard to imports, when you come into the situation suddenly, the whole world knows that India is going to enter and the prices would go up. (Contd. by 3p/SKC)

3P/4.55/SKC

SHRI ARJUN KUMAR SENGUPTA (CONTD.): If you have to have an import policy over a long term, have a hedge against the uncertainty; buy and sell, but, at the same time, you could play a very major role. We have done that in our country before -- having a long-term contract; whether you import or don't import, prices remain the same. I am mentioning this because this question has been raised by Dr. Joshi -- and I hope, Mr. Minister, you would reply -- saying that there are reports about buying wheat at a very high price, of buying wheat and withdrawing certain specifications to suit some particular suppliers. I do not know whether they are true. This point has been mentioned; I have seen in the newspapers and I hope there would be a substantial answer. I saw a newspaper story saying that the same Australian Wheat that was sold to us was sold to the Egyptians at a price 30 dollars less. Maybe the newspaper reports are wrong; the markets also fluctuate. But this is a kind of issue that needs to be answered. In other words, we have to import wheat, but then, we have to import it properly. We have to import it with a certain kind of discipline, so that there is no substantive loss for the exchequer.

So, Sir, this is my submission. I think the Government policy is quite all right in terms of meeting the domestic requirement. But, please, do not reduce PDS supply. Please, do not reduce those Employment Guarantee Scheme supplies. That is the easiest way and it has happened again and again. The first people who suffer from these things are these people -- the people who are not bothered about. The Minister might well say -- 'what can I do? I have to balance the demand and supply.'

So, this is why I do not see any way out other than imports. But those imports have to be done properly. For the suicide and distress programme, I think the only solution that lies today -- and that would be a bold solution which will be appreciated everywhere -- that we should have a national programme of loan-waiver for small and marginal farmers.

(Ends)

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: There is a request from Mr. Janardhana Poojary. On your submissions about loan melas he wants some clarification.

SHRI JANARDHANA POOJARY (KARNATAKA): Sir, the hon. Member is an economist. During the time of Shrimati Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, he was looking after the financial matters of the Government of India. I was in the Finance Ministry. During this period, small and marginal farmers and the poor people were not getting loans. Nationalisation of banks had taken place. Late Indiraji had nationalised the banks thinking that loans were not being given to the farming sector and the poor people while they were being given to rich farmers, rich people and big industrialists, and that there should be mass -- not class, but mass --distribution of loans; it should not belong to a particular class.

Sir, what had happened? There was corruption at that time. It was thought that if loan melas were held openly, there would be no scope left for bank people to indulge in corruption. It was also thought that farmers and poor people should be educated about the rates of interest at which loans were being given under the IRDP, DRI and various other schemes in the farming sector. With this laudable objective, loan melas are held. Sir, what was the criticism at that time? The Opposition parties, inside Parliament, the Lok Sabha, and also outside, made a lot of criticism against this system of loan melas and of offering loans to the weaker sections. At that time, they said that by giving away loans like this, by giving loans to the weaker sections and the farming class, banks would go bankrupt, and that because of this programme, the entire economic system would collapse. Well, it is true. Sir, the figures are not given by me. Figures were given by the Reserve Bank of India at that time as to the rate of recovery. (Contd. By 3q)

 

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