Punjab should open its agri markets to the world: Niti Aayog member
Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand says it is laudable that academicians have started speaking the truth rather than taking a political line. He urged academicians to dig deeper to look for the causes of the agrarian crisis and the way outpunjab Updated: Feb 07, 2018 11:14 IST
The Punjab government should open its agriculture markets to the outside world by amending its Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMC) Act, said Niti Aayog member Ramesh Chand on Tuesday.
“Why doesn’t the state allow its farmers to sell their produce outside? It has so much of infrastructure, best road network and farmers are ready to produce,” he said while talking to the media on the sidelines of a two-day conference on governance for the margins.
He added that the state needs revolutionary steps to come out of the agrarian crisis. “Punjab’s (agrarian) crisis can’t be addressed by MSP (minimum support price),” said Chand, who hails from Hoshiarpur district of Punjab.
“Withdrawal of the state from education and health services, especially in the rural Punjab, is hitting the state hard,” he said while answering a query.
Senior journalist P Sainath, chairing a session on agrarian distress, was dismissive of the analysis that suggests that farmers are in debt due to conspicuous consumption.
Speaking at the conference, he said, “Structural transformation of the economy with a special focus on engaging rural populations in productive ventures is the main concern. The scheme of giving one-and-a-half times of the cost of production as MSP to the farmers is workable and will be operationalised shortly.”
He said it was laudable that academicians have started speaking the truth rather than taking a political line. He urged academicians to dig deeper to look for the causes of the agrarian crisis and the way out. The Institute for Development and Communication (IDC), Panjab University, Punjabi University and Chandigarh University jointly organised the conference.
‘Rules of governance have to change’
Later, IDC director Pramod Kumar said the rules of governance have to change and that “just by prefixing an ‘e’ before everything will not change things. The poor cannot download food and shelter from the internet.” He said, “Doles are given as subsidies to the rich and subsidies are given as doles to the poor.”
Senior journalist P Sainath, chairing a session on agrarian distress, was dismissive of the analysis that suggests that farmers are in debt due to conspicuous consumption. “We have a swiftly diminishing farmer population but we are in denial.”
Pointing to a systemic failure, he said the suicide letters of the 900 farmers whose families he visited were not addressed to their families, but to the Prime Minister, Union finance minister, chief justice and other such officials.
‘A widening gap’
Prof HS Shergill of IDC underlined the widening gap between agricultural and non-agricultural income but said this gap is there in all the countries of the world and the state has to step in with subsidy even in the US.
“This gap is a necessary outcome of market forces. It is almost a law of capitalist economy, like the law of gravity,” he said.
He said the MSP actually is ‘compulsory procurement price’. “System of MSP should have stopped in 1980s when India became food-surplus but it has not happened due to political compulsion.”
Prof RS Ghuman (economics) of the Centre For Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID), said as per the 2011 census, though 62.52% population and 62.43% of workers of Punjab are in rural areas, social and physical infrastructure in the rural areas is in bad shape.
Dr Sukhpal Singh of Punjab Agricultural University said that based on a study in six districts – Ludhiana, Moga, Barnala, Sangrur, Bathinda and Mansa– it was found that 8,301 farmers and 6,388 farm labourers committed suicide during 2000-2015, owing to high debt as primary reason.