Leader of Opposition LK Advani on Monday laid out three specific plans for India’s business community to revive the rural economy and check what he called "the spreading crisis" in agriculture.
Addressing the 79th annual general meeting of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Advani exhorted the corporates to go for large-scale private investments into irrigation, agricultural marketing, agricultural extension services and rural infrastructure such as roads, cold storages, and grain banks.
Secondly, he said, it should take care to modernise and professionalise back-end supply chain as they enter the retail sector so that farmers and small traders entered into the business community a mutually beneficial relationship.
"The entry of big business in retail has made them feel apprehensive that they would soon go out of business. My party will not like, and will not allow, this to happen."
Thirdly, he said he wanted the private sector to take initiative to impart education in agriculture and other areas of rural economy, training in arts and crafts and development of employable skills in new areas of economy that has been largely neglected in India.
In response, FICCI President Saroj Kumar Poddar said the coporate India would love to invest in rural India but for which land laws relating to ceiling would have to be changed first.
Advani reiterated his admission that his party lost power because of its "India Shining" campaign, which he said should rather have been named "India Rising."
Advani said, "None of us can be happy with an India of glittering malls and sprawling slums. The benefits of economic reforms have largely bypassed India. With the share of agriculture in India’s GDP falling at an alarming rate, we have a large population that is now suffering the pangs of stagnant or declining incomes, growing unemployment, indebtedness and distress."
Opposing acquisition of fertile farmland for industrial projects, Advani demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh call an all-party meeting over the special economic zones (SEZs).
"Although SEZs are needed as enclaves of world-class manufacturing units with special focus on exports, it is unfortunate that the UPA government has not exercised the necessary precaution and transparency in formulating and implementing the policy."
Advani described as "wasted" the period between the late 1960s and the early 1990s for the Soviet-influenced model of economic development.
He also accused the Communists of double-speak on current economic issues, citing the row over farmland acquisition at Singur in West Bengal for a Tata Motors car project.
Attacking the Left allies of the UPA for calling bandhs against the government, which they supported, the BJP leader remarked that the "nature" of the ruling coalition was itself a "big roadblock" in the country's progress.
The BJP leader also spoke about his party's concerns over security. "We want to have good relations with our neighbours, but not at the cost of security," he said.
Advani praised Ratan Tata for his accomplishments while referring to his bid to acquire Corus, a British steel company, and Laxmi Mittal for his Arcelor venture. In response to a question from a member of the audience, Advani favoured the film industry to have censor powers.