Especially when wages are going up, and BPL population is falling

Speaking out against “populist measures” like the food security Bill, Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Friday said wages were getting higher and the number of people Below the Poverty Line was also diminishing but the country was thinking of targeting fresh subsidies at about 68 per cent of its population.

Wheat was being bought at Rs. 18 a kg and given to the poor at Rs. 2. How would this impact the prices that are paid to farmers? If farmers were not paid adequately for foodgrains they produced, there was a danger of their shifting to other crops, putting food security at risk, he said.

The Minister was speaking at the inauguration of the renovated office of the Nationalist Congress Party here.

The Prime Minister also referred to the reduction in BPL numbers, Mr. Pawar pointed out, adding that in this context, it should be examined whether such a large section of the population needed to be given foodgrains at Rs. 2 a kg. He called for a rethink on the extent of subsidy and said that in times of economic crisis, striking a balance was important. Moreover, he said, giving away things cheaply or at a nominal cost would reduce their value.

Wages for daily labour under rural employment schemes had risen and in Maharashtra the payment was Rs. 145 a day, he said.

Drought aid

Describing the water supply situation in Maharashtra as grim, he said one of the issues under discussion was ferrying water by train in some places but the problem in the absence of rail connectivity could scotch that plan. The Marathwada region was one of the places which recorded poor rainfall and the situation in the Aurangabad division was also grim. The Central team assessing drought in the State had recommended an aid of Rs. 778 crore and it would be cleared within a week.

Urging party workers to take a tough stand on crimes against women, Mr. Pawar said awareness was needed of the plight of victims. Referring to the gang rape in New Delhi, he said the woman was taken abroad for treatment but the real concern was how society would look at her when she recovered. There was a great need to create empathy for such people, he said.