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Pradip Kumar Maitra, Hindustan Times
Nagpur, January 27, 2013
The NCP chief and the union minister for agriculture, Sharad Pawar on Sunday said that the “populist” food security for poor and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) in the country could lead to affect the work culture.   Pawar, who was in Nagpur for three-day Vidarbha tour, said that whether giving such huge concession on food grain to 67% of the population in the country was necessary, was a matter of serious re-consideration. However, he made it clear that as a matter of principle he was not against giving concession on food grains to poor who deserve help. 

“But under the new scheme, the subsidy of Rs1.10- lakh crore would be required. This put unbearable strain on the already precarious financial situation and a huge burden on the union budget. Moreover, if we project that nearly 70% of the population needs such dole, the question that would inevitably crop up is what we have done in last 65 years to alleviate poverty. It reflects rather poorly on our economic achievements. Instead of such large beneficiaries, it would make sense to target only the needy poor for the scheme," Pawar said.

On NREGS, he said it needs to be changed a lot. Like sowing and harvest operations in private farms could be brought under NREGS. Rights now it is getting difficult to get farm hands because two days’ of NREGS wages is enough to buy food grains for a month and the men prefer sitting idle for the rest of time. “Now most of them are simply enjoying the benefits and sitting idle,” he regretted.

Pawar informed that his ministry has already made necessary suggestions in this regard to the concerned ministry.

Answering a question, he refused to give a certificate to Congress youth icon Rahul Gandhi, who has been elevated to the post of party vice-president recently. "If the Congress has decided to give chance to generation next, it is a good idea. But I have hardly had any interaction with him till now and hence in no position to comment on his work and effectiveness," said Pawar.

During his Nagpur visit, Pawar shared a dais with the former BJP president Nitin Gadkari in an agriculture exhibition on Saturday evening. He said that the union agriculture ministry is planning for a national level agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing exposition in Nagpur end of this year.

"It would be held in Nagpur because of its central location. We are planning it as a big 10-15 days national event. It will be sponsored jointly by the government of India, the state government, the agricultural and other universities in the region," announced Pawar adding that preliminary discussions on it had started and next meeting would be held soon in Delhi. He said latest trends in dairy farming, methods of cattle breeding could be showcased at the fair and would give the much needed boost to dairy farming.

"Holding such event annually at one venue like Delhi is not convenient for people from all over the country. Instead, we would spread it out, each year in north, south, east and western parts of the country so as to increase its reach," explained Pawar.