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Pawar defends price hikes

india Updated: Jan 23, 2010 00:50 IST
Satyajit Joshi
Satyajit Joshi
Hindustan Times
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Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is currently taking flak for the recent price hike for essential commodities, has said that he did not bother with consequences when it came to taking decisions to protect the interests of farmers.

Pawar said this at the inauguration of a private milk plant at Saswad, 30 km from here.

Without referring directly to the controversy over his remarks on sugar and milk prices, he said any pro-farmer decision always attracts large-scale resentment.

“There was criticism when cane farmers got a better price, which pushed up sugar prices. People asked me to resign when a better price was given for vegetables. Tomorrow, they will ask for my resignation if it does not rain. Nobody said anything when the Sixth Pay Commission raised salaries, but when farmers get a better price for onions, there is a hue and cry,” Pawar said.

He added that 62 per cent of India’s population depends on agriculture, and that the country would not develop if this part of the population continued to suffer. Among the other statistics he offered to back his position on the issue, were that while 82 per cent of our farmers have less than two hectares of land holding, 60 per cent of agricultural land in the country is without water.

“In this situation, farmers have to look for other agro-based incomes. The Union government has made a provision of Rs 17,000 crore for agro-based ancillaries,” Pawar said.

Pawar said dairy development is one such agro-based business, and that India leads the world in milk production.

“But milk production varies from area to area — it needs to be standardised, and for this, new species of animals have be developed,” he said.