Vice President Venkaiah Naidu airs concern over farm populism during elections

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu (PTI file photo)Vice President Venkaiah Naidu (PTI file photo)
NEW DELHI: Expressing concern over farm populism during elections, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu on Friday said crop loan waiver cannot be a permanent solution for problems in the agri sector and a long term plan needs to be put in place to tackle new challenges in the sector.

His remarks come a day after the Congress reiterated its promise to waive all farm loans if the party came to power at the Centre in 2019.

Naidu also stressed that Parliament, political parties, think-tank Niti Aayog and media should pay more attention to farmers' issues amid the rising challenges of climate change and environment degradation in view of growing food demand.

"We have a clamour to populism to win over people during elections. That is not going to solve the problem (in agriculture sector). We have a clamour for free power. I am not in favour of free power. We also have the practice of asking for farm loan waiver. This cannot be a permanent solution," Naidu said at an event.

Waiving crop loans for once will not solve the problem as farmers require credit every year. Political parties make promises during elections and some may fulfil it, but it is not a long-term solution, he said.

"Are there banks which lend money and never ask for repayment? ...My point is we have to think long term. Loan waiver cannot be a permanent solution. Farmers, scientists and policy makers should think seriously on this matter," he added.

On another populist measure of free power supply to farmers, Naidu said, "I am not in favour of free power. Free power means first low power and afterwards no power. No power means free power only. People want assured and quality power for 24X7. That is the need of the hour."

The vice president was here at an event to give away the $ 1,00,000 World Agriculture prize - instituted by private body ICFA - to renowned farm scientist MS Swaminathan for his outstanding contribution in the field of agriculture.

Yesterday, while addressing the All India Kishan Khet Mazdoor Congress' rally, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had said: "If the Congress assumes power at the Centre then our first major work will be to waive farmers' loan. (Party president) Rahul Gandhi has already announced this."

Emphasising the need to achieve the target of zero hunger by 2030, Naidu said the farm sector faces "new problems and challenges" in spite of best efforts by the governments in the last several years.

"Agriculture needs a big push in India and other parts of the country. It is obvious that concerted and coordinated efforts are needed on number of issues that impact growth of agriculture sector and quality of life of people who depend primarily on this sector," he said.

Lauding the contribution of Swaminathan to India's agriculture sector, commerce minister Suresh Prabhu said the country has come out of 'ship-to-mouth' situation and now become an exporter of agri-produce.

An agri-export policy has been drafted and will soon seek the Cabinet approval, he said, adding that there is a need to make agriculture more economically viable for farmers.

Therefore, the focus should be on growing more food in less area and with less water, he added.

Kerala governor Palanisamy Sathasivam, Haryana agriculture minister Om Prakash Dhankar, Indian Council of Agriculture Research director Genera T Mohapatra were among others present at the event.
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