Monday, April 09, 2007

Shekhawat spoils party

Shekhawat spoils party
Ganesh Kanate
Monday, April 09, 2007 02:27 IST

It was supposed to be a cosy function held in the honour of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar. The Man, A Vision, Beyond Tomorrow, a photo-biography was released to commemorate the NCP leader's 40th year in active politics by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat at Bhabha Auditorium on Sunday. But instead of singing praises of the veteran leader, Shekhawat seized the opportunity to bring to the minister's notice the ever-increasing farmer suicides in India and Vidarbha.

"Pawar has said he would not share the dais as everybody would only praise him and that would make him feel embarrassed. In that case, I will not only praise him, but also criticise him. Later, he might just repent his decision, as he would not be able to answer my criticism," he said. Having said that, Shekhawat actually went on to indirectly criticise not just the country's agriculture policy, but also described farmers' suicides in Maharashtra as a blot on the country's reputation.

Despite the fact that he did not criticise or hold Pawar directly responsible for the grim reality, Shekhawat did not mince words while pointing out that the suicides were a clear failure of the system that does not guarantee fair market price to its agriculture produce. "There is no system of marketing that will ensure that the farmer gets what he has invested or deserves," said Shekhawat before pointing out that he too was a farmer and therefore, understood the community's woes. "Efforts must be made to put into place a modern marketing system that will directly help the farmers and Pawar will take initiative in this regard," Shekhawat announced.

Stating that the Indian economy was growing, the Vice-President said, "The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening like never before and this might create unrest. Therefore, it must be ensured that the wealth that is being generated should percolate and the poor get to taste the fruits of a growing economy." In fact, it is the corporate houses operating in the country that enjoy both, direct and indirect benefits of the economic growth, he added.

Another concern was the burden on the country's agronomy. Shekhawat said agronomy was being burdened with 60 per cent of country's labour force. "While population is burgeoning and the overall land-holding of marginal farmers is decreasing below one acre per farmer, it must be ensured that either population stabilises or the dependence on agronomy is immediately reduced." Demanding a rethink on the 26 per cent population below the poverty line, Shekhawat said, "It cannot, and should not, be accepted as it stands."

Governor SM Krishna presided over the function while Union MoS for Civil Aviation Praful Patel and RR Patil were the guests of honour. Former LS Speaker Manohar Joshi, industrialist Anil Ambani and a host of senior politicians were present at the function. Sanju Hinge, who has authored Pawar's photo-biography was felicitated as well.

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