Charging the government with showing apathy towards the grievances of farmers, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Saturday insisted that the proposed Food Security Bill should be formulated after discussing the issues with those involved in the agriculture sector.
“Government wants to bring a Bill which aims to provide food security to the people. Then a person who does not get food can go to court. Such a Bill cannot be made in air-conditioned rooms and should be formulated after consulting the people on the ground,” Ms. Swaraj said.
She was speaking at a Farmers’ Parliament organised by the BJP here.
Ms. Swaraj hit out at the government for failing to provide adequate facilities for storage of grains including gunny bags, corruption in distribution of grains through PDS, faulty export policy for sugar, cotton and other products.
“We wanted that a special session of Parliament be held to discuss only the agricultural policies. That effort has not yet been successful,” Ms. Swaraj said.
The BJP leader alleged that fertile land which yields three crops a year is being bought from farmers by the government for building malls and factories. She gave the example of Singur, charging that an unsuccessful attempt was made there earlier.
“Storage of crops is the weakest link in the chain of production, storage and distribution of crops. Government has failed to provide godowns even 65 years after Independence... The Madhya Pradesh government had made advance payment for jute bags to store crops but these have not been provided by the Centre,” Ms. Swaraj said.
Ms. Swaraj maintained that Madhya Pradesh government had made all arrangements for buying and storing crops in godowns but Centre's failure to provide jute bags had put a spanner in the works.
“I pleaded with the Finance Minister with folded hands to provide gunny bags as farmers are facing a crisis,” she said, adding that Rs 58,000 Crore worth of foodgrains are wasted every year as the country does not have enough godowns.
Ms. Swaraj charged that the distribution system is also faulty due to rampant corruption as grains meant to be given to the poor through PDS are sold in the open market.
However, the BJP leader claimed that implementation of PDS in Chhattisgarh, where her party is in power, has been so efficient that it is worth emulating for the other States.
BJP also criticised the import-export policy of the government. Quoting an example, she said sugar was imported in a particular year at Rs. 35 and exported at Rs. 12 simultaneously.
Referring to the recent ban on cotton exports, Ms. Swaraj said the decision was reversed by the government under opposition pressure. She insisted that though this ban has been lifted, government has put several clauses making export nearly impossible.
Ms. Swaraj asserted that people making the agriculture policies are such that they cannot differentiate between crops and are not aware of the basics of agriculture. She demanded that those having “earthy wisdom” be roped in while making these policies.