Reforms poorly managed, says Montek

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MONTEK SINGH AHLUWALIA: Indian economist – PHOTO / SINGAPORE FORUM 2015
By Asia Samachar Team | INDIA |

The Indian Government is ‘walking into a trap’ when it pushed forward agricultural reforms without consulting the farmers and at a time when the nation is battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It should have been better managed, politically,” former deputy chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia told an Indian broadcast talkshow. “We need reforms. But like the 1991 reforms, get the farmers on board.”

Just as in 1991 when India undertook reforms, the economist said there was a similar need to generate consensus on agriculture marketing reforms as well as in agriculture.

“India’s agricultural productivity is half of what it is in nearby countries. The way we use water is ridiculous. We have lots and lots of problems – farmers not getting enough credit, etc, etc. So we need a complete revamping on agriculture, rethinking on agriculture, which would also have to include diversification [of crops],” he told The Print’s national affairs editor Jyoti Malhotra.

“We are producing more food grains that what we actually need. Food grain stock is two-and-a-half times what they call the norm.”

In a report prepared for Panjab state government for the medium term, Montek said they had suggested diversification and stop producing as much rice which was destroying the ecology.

“Panjab has to diversify. It cannot go on producing rice to the extent that it is doing because that is simply destroying the ecology of Panjab. Water being pulled out is huge.

“We had said that farmers had to be reassured that they will get a market. You can’t just do this by a diktat. We had told the Panjab government, why not do what Haryana is doing: pay Rp7,000 per acre to any Panjab farmer who wants to switch from rice to something else. Find ways of making them switch,” he said.

He added that the report had also suggested Panjab become the national seed capital for, say, potatoes and a few other things.

“Dairy is a major element for Panjab’s diversification. Panjab is the largest producer in India and it has the lowest portion of processed milk,” he said.

On corporations, one of the key concerns of the farmers’ protesting against three farm laws passed in September, Montek said: “You need to watch the corporates, and strengthen the hands of the farmer.”

Montek is author of Backstage: The Story behind India’s High Growth Years which was published last year.

 

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