Agri, SEZs on Sonia radar; PM stress on governance
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi have urged chief ministers from their party to unleash a second agricultural revolution in their states. At the seventh conclave of Congress chief ministers, the focus was on rural India, and there were indications that a new agricultural policy — based on reports by Dr M.S. Swaminathan of the National Commission on Farmers — was on its way.
Sonia gave a call to ensure India’s agriculture scaled “new frontiers”, and underlined that agriculture must be the focus of the Eleventh Five Year Plan.
She underlined the need to strengthen the public distribution system.
Sonia referred to the issue of special economic zones (SEZs), without using the term. “Prime agricultural land should not normally be diverted to non-agricultural uses,” she said. “Industry requires land. But this must be done without jeopardising agricultural prospects.”
She added that farmers must be compensated well for their land, rehabilitation policies must be strengthened to reassure displaced people, and farmers could perhaps be given a stake in projects set up on land acquired from them.
In order to be able to feed a projected population of 1.4 billion by 2026, India needed to inject massive public investment in agriculture, and reform the public distribution system, Sonia said. “The task appears daunting, but it can be done,” she told the gathering that also included six union ministers and 15 AICC leaders in charge of states. She also proposed overhauling and computerising the entire system of land administration.
The Prime Minister urged chief ministers to personally review the progress made on internal security and agriculture. “Congress-ruled states must stand out as role models of good governance,” he said. Building rural infrastructure will give a boost to rural economy and agriculture, Singh said. He set chief ministers a task: “I want you to ensure that by 2009 your states are fully electrified, that all villages are well connected with roads, that all other goals of Bharat Nirman are achieved.”