India needs another Indira Gandhi: Mani Shankar Iyer

Former Union Ministery Mani Shankar Iyer said that the country needs another Indira Gandhi if it wants another Green Revolution.

Iyer was addressing a symposium on “Indian Agriculture – Contribution of Smt. Indira Gandhi and a review of present scenario” organised by Kishan-Kheth Mazdoor Congress as part of birth centenary celebrations of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi here on Tuesday.

“The conditions in India when Indira Gandhi took over the reigns as the Prime Minister were extremely bad. India literally begged for wheat from the USA and even had no money to pay for it in dollars. Since US had over-production of wheat, it agreed to import the wheat. But it laid several conditions and they were so severe that India was unable to maintain open diplomatic relations with countries like Cuba which were hostile to the US. India’s had lost its image. It was referred to as a population bomb and many experts had predicted a severe famine in 1970s and 1980s. They were more or less similar to the famines faced by the country during British Regime which included the infamous Bengal famine of 1943,” said Iyer.

Iyet said Pandit Nehru ensured increase in the GDP by almost five times from 0.72% to 3.5% in first five years of independence. Nehru used to say that “Everything can wait, but not agriculture” and therefore, the government spending on agriculture was almost 50%. Several land reforms like abolition of Zamindari system were introduced.

“Indira Gandhi brought a new variety of wheat seeds from Mexico and the team comprising of Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, C. Subramaniam and Shiva Raman was entrusted the task of brining in a Green Revolution. Besides seeds, supply of water, fertilizer and pesticides were ensured. Further, training was imparted to the farmers by sending hundreds of students of Punjab Agriculture University. Within seven years, the conditions were reversed and India no longer needed the wheat from the US. The measures taken by Indira Gandhi had a long term impact which eventually brought food security for the country,” he said.

He said it was due to Indira Gandhi’s vision that India could gain food security. While the wheat production in 1966-77 was 12 MTs, it increased to 102 MTs in 2015-16. Similarly, the paddy production increased from 34 MTs to 91 MTs. Now India is the largest producer of spices, cereals, milk, mango and other products, he informed.

Iyer said when was hit by another major drought in 1988-89, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi toured the affected areas. He said Rajasthan was the worst hit State and the Central Government made biggest ever investment to fight drought on permanent basis.

He ridiculed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of doubling the agricultural income in five years. He said Modi had no clue about the difference between growth in ‘Real Terms’ and ‘Nominal Terms’. If a farmer is earning Rs. 5 today and if it increases to Rs. 10 in next five years, its value will remain the same after taking inflation into account. However, he alleged that the Prime Minister was unable to understand this simple logic. He said presently the agriculture growth rate is about 1.7% and if the farmers’ income has to be doubled, then the growth rate must be at least 4%. He said the target could not be achieved by spending just 13.4% of GDP on agriculture.

Stating that Indira Gandhi was completely focussed on bringing a Green Revolution and  she had a team of Dr. Swaminatham, C. Subramaniam and Shiva Raman. However, he said Modi had a team of Radha Mohan Singh and Sanjeev Balyan. While Radha Mohan Singh’s knowledge is confined to Yoga, Balyan heads the Gau Rakshaks who are creating havoc across the country. Even Modi had no knowledge about agriculture as he himself holds fake degrees.

He said Indira Gandhi had introduced the Minimum Support Prices (MSP) for various agriculture produce. However, he said under the Modi Government, farmers were being forced to sell their produce at below MSP. Giving comparative figures of prices of various products like Garlic, Potatoes and Tomatoes, he asked as to how farmers could grow their income when they are forced to sell their products at below MSP and at much lesser prices compared to last year. He said compared to 1991, there has been an increase in input cost by almost 700% and net margins have reduced. Iyer also said that the wrong policies of Modi Government, the situation in Kashmir was turning worse every day.

Iyer said that the Congress party needs to draft a detailed policy on agriculture in the next two years and bring about the required change in the mindset.

Addressing the symposium earlier, TPCC President N. Uttam Kumar Reddy blamed the wrong policies of BJP and TRS Governments for the deteriorating conditions of entire agriculture sector in the country, especially Telangana. He said that the farmers were being denied remunerative prices for their produce and they were gunned down by the police in Madhya Pradesh when then held protest for the same. Simliarly, KCR Government booked cases, jailed, chained and hand-cuffed chilli farmers of Khammam when they sought better price for their produce. He said the crop loan waiver schemes was implemented in an erratic manner by the TRS Government and many farmers were yet to get the fourth instalment cleared with their respective banks. He said KCR Govt was responsible for over 3,000 farmers’ suicides in the last three years.

Uttam Kumar Reddy said despite having a budget of Rs. 1.40 lakh crore, TRS Govt failed to spend a single rupee on procurement of agriculture produce. However, he said in view of next elections, KCR is now promising Rs. 4,000 per acre input subsidy from next year’s Kharif. He said that the Chief Minister should stop playing election gimmicks and pay input subsidy from this Kharif itself. He said that the Congress party was all set to return to power in 2019 elections and it would ensure return of ‘Rythu Rajyam’ in Telangana State.

The meeting was also attended by former Union Minister Oscar Fernandez, AICC Secretary R.C. Khuntia, CLP Leader K. Jana Reddy, Leader of Opposition in Council Mohammed Ali Shabbir, TPCC Kisan-Kheth Mazdoor Congress chairman Kodanda Reddy. (INN)