THIRUVANATHAPURAM: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Venkaiah Naidu said here on Thursday that India would face an agrarian and food crisis unless immediate pro-active steps were taken to stem the decline in the production of food crops.
Addressing a press conference, the BJP leader demanded that a policy decision be taken against diversion of agriculture land for industrial purposes. As a one-time measure, agriculture loans up to Rs.50,000 should be written off. The government could do this as there was buoyancy in tax revenues.
Mr. Naidu demanded that the interest rates on farm loans be brought down to 4 percent. Besides, an agriculture risk fund should be created and a crop income insurance scheme introduced to protect farmers. In addition, private loans should be converted into public loans so as to bring down the interest burden on farmers. This could be done on production of documents.
The arbitrary powers of Collectors for land acquisition should be taken away. A consensus should be arrived at to amend the State laws towards this end.
He announced that the BJP would be organising a massive Kisan rally in front of Parliament if its demands were not met.
India, he said, is on the verge of becoming a net importer of good grains. When the National Democratic Alliance government was in power, the country was an exporter of food grains. The United Progressive Alliance government’s polices resulted in shortages. Productivity is not increasing for want of research. The Food and Agriculture Organisation food price index went up by 40 per cent in 2007.
Mr. Naidu recalled that the Centre had cut down on the food grains quota of Kerala from 1.13 lakh tonnes a month to just 23,000 tonnes a month. This could only lead to price rise. Paddy production had declined. However, the Centre was providing a subsidy of only Rs.760 a quintal for paddy against Rs.1,000 a quintal being given for wheat. Production needed to be increased from 2,000 tonnes to 4,000 tonnes by 2015. But the support price was not being increased to keep up with the rise in input costs.
He stressed that the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) were enacting a drama over price rise and other issues. While Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president Ramesh Chennithala staged a fast in Thiruvananthapuram against the State government, the CPI (M) was protesting against the Central government in Delhi.