NEW DELHI: Citing his home state Maharashtra as a good model for dealing with the controversy over using agricultural land for industrial purposes, agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is advocating that small farmers be encouraged to exit agriculture as long as their land is getting a fair compensation.
In an interview, the agriculture minister said, “Farmers are favourable to industrialization, provided they are given a fair deal. In some states, land is being taken cheap from the farmer and sold by developers at exorbitant rates. This is unfair. ”
Pointing to his own constituency of Baramati, Pawar noted that it had attracted a raft of giant auto companies such as Telco, General Motors, DaimlerChrysler, Fiat and Tata over the past one year. “It will soon become the Detroit of the nation. People are happy,” he added.
The minister conceded that substantial agricultural land had been converted for development, but did not feel this was an area of long-term concern. According to Pawar, farming on small land holdings is the larger issue as it remains uneconomical and leads to low productivity.
“That is the reason why farmers are committing suicides,” he said. “So remove the pressure on land, and provide the farmer with an alternative source of income, and he will be fine.”
Pawar pointed out that countries such as England and Japan, where less than 5% of the population was engaged in agriculture, have shown remarkable progress. “We have to move in the same direction,“ he said.
Responding to recent and growing concerns over inflation and rising prices of food items, Pawar said that the problem was that farmers were not getting adequate remuneration for their produce.”We have to protect the interests of the consumer as well as the farmer,“ he said.
“We should be permitted to freely import food, and if the farmer gets a good price in the international market, he should be allowed to export well in time. But it should not be a one-way traffic,” the minister said.
Noting that farmers were not getting minimum prices, especially in sugar, Pawar added, “Unless the middle class is ready to pay a reasonable price for food, productivity will not go up.”