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SAD (B), AAP, Cong politicians debate Agricultural Crisis, Experts Take Them Head On

October 3, 2016 | By

Chandigarh: (Press Release): In a head-to-head first multi-party dialogue on the issue of crisis in Agriculture, senior leaders of Punjab’s top three political parties — SAD (Badal), Congress and Aam Aadmi Party — promised to pull out all stops to extricate Punjab from the crisis in the farm sector even as top experts pointed out flawed policies, poor implementation, lack of political will and failure to innovate as key reasons behind the stagnation and farmer suicides.

At the Multi-Party Dialogue organised by the Pind Bachao, Punjab Bachao forum, aimed at bringing together politicians, experts, farmers and other stakeholders at a platform for an informed debate, SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra, Aam Aadmi Party’s Kanwar Sandhu and Congress’ MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra laid out their party’s vision for the future.
The politicians took a few pot shots at each other though the barbs they faced from the agriculture experts were far more stinging.

SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajara (L), Farmers' leader Pashaura Singh Sidhupur (C-R) and economist Sucha Singh Gill (R)

SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajara (L), Farmers’ leader Pashaura Singh Sidhupur (C-R) and economist Sucha Singh Gill (R)

Well known agriculture expert Dr Sukhpal Singh, head, Center For Management in Agriculture (CMA), IIM, Ahmedabad; Dr Sucha Singh Gill, a leading economist affiliated with the Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID); and many other agriculture experts painted a very candid picture of wholesale mismanagement of farming sector, often putting the politicians in a tough spot.
“Efforts like these are very important as inter-political party debates are simply not happening because of political bickering and accusation hurling,” Chandumajra said, adding the farm crisis debate deserved a serious engagement without any political mudslinging.

AAP’s Kanwar Sandhu, the prime mover behind his party’s manifesto on the agricultural sector, gave a detailed presentation of AAP’s stance on MSP, subsidies, SYL, water resources management, ending corruption in farm related trade such as seeds and pesticides and said his party will make itself accountable for all promises it is making now.

“The political class as a whole must take the responsibility for landing the agriculture sector in this mess,” Sandhu said, and promised that AAP will find ways and means to pay farmers the differential between MSP and Swaminathan Committee-recommended minimum price equivalent of cost plus 50 percent profit.
Kuljit Nagra, the youthful face of Congress in Punjab and known to be close to party’s vice president Rahul Gandhi, rued the fact that politicians’ promises have increasingly lost all meaning since these are intended to garner votes, not actually bring about a change.

“My party is as guilty as others. It is time that we start promising only what we can deliver. Our manifesto is being readied and I can assure you that my party will make equally big promises, but the AAP’s fate in Delhi should be a lesson for everyone,” Nagra said.

Dr Sukhpal Singh minced no words in stating that gross inefficiency and poor management in farming was equally responsible alongside a clear lack of political will. Well known activist and senior journalist Hamir Singh cautioned against the tendency of victim blaming.

Hamir Singh also said incremental efforts to reform the existing structure were necessary but a bigger challenge awaits the people at the global level. “True reforms are not even possible without challenging the corporate-driven model of development that all political parties seem to have accepted without much resistance,” he said.

Dr Sucha Singh Gill said Punjab may soon lose its status as the predominant supplier to the national granary as eastern Indian states like West Bengal, Odisha and even Madhya Pradesh are ramping up their paddy and wheat production.

Dr Sukhpal Singh advised a three-pronged approach of bringing down costs in farming, reforming the agriculture marketing mechanisms and improving yield as well quality of produce.

All the political parties agreed to set up an institutional mechanism to involve agriculture experts in decision making, a suggestion made by Dr Sucha Singh Gill who rued that many reports given by experts were gathering dust in political corridors.

Among others who spoke were Dr Piare Lal Garg, former registrar, Baba Farid University of Medical Sciences; Prof Manjit Singh, Democratic Swaraj Party; Prof Bawa Singh, former vice chairman, Minorities Commission of India; Pishaura Singh Sidhupur, President, Bharti Kisan Union; Balwant Singh Kherra, social activist and Janta Dal (Socialist); Karnail Singh Jakhepal, International Democratic Party; Dr Rupinder Kaur, social and political activist; and many others from the domains of academia, activism, farmer and social organisations.

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