Agricultural reforms detrimental to poor: Bhalla

INDIA-MONSOON-SOWING
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Kochi: Why is a farmer forced to commit suicide? More often than not, the financial policies related to the agriculture sector is the reason, points out eminent economist Dr Surjit S Bhalla.

“Ironically, the poverty alleviation policies are proving detrimental to the progress of its target group-the poor and underpriveleged in the country,” the economist said during the 20th Malayala Manorama Budget series speech at Le Meridien Hotel in Kochi on Monday.

Pointing out the flaws in the system, Bhalla questioned the norms that require the farmer to sell his produce in a licensed market.

"Does any other country in the world specify such norms for agriculture? A farmer should be able to sell his produce at any place which yields him maximum profit. But the Public Distribution System (PDS) and the Essential Commodities Act and the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) are aimed at wrecking the farmers. They are forced to sell their produce for meagre prices," he added.

Further highlighting the problems faced by the farmers, the economist said, "Fifty per cent of the grains distributed via the PDS vanishes into thin air owing to corruption. The profit is reaped by politicians and middlemen.”

Bhalla also slammed the poor storage system for food grains.

"Lakhs of grains go rotten at Food Corporation of India (FCI) godowns. This is the produce meant for lean periods. Why is it not possible for our country to safely store grains in specialised warehouses? This indicates that vested interests are in play. The grains procured at meagre rates from the farmers are being destroyed in this manner," he pointed out.

"Reforms are needed in the agricultural sector. The industrial sector has been enjoying the benefits of reforms since 1991. But no such reform was implemented in the farming sector. If this continues, farmer suicides cannot be curbed," he asserted.

Profit-motive is key to progress

The economist further said that the very approach towards agriculture has to undergo a change.

"Is profit such a bad concept? The general idea among Indians is that it is bad to work for profit. This is entirely wrong. Sectors, including agriculture, should aim for higher profits. This will play a crucial role in moulding India into an economic power. For that our thinking should change," Dr Bhalla said.

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