Special Correspondent

Says budget has no long-term plan to build agricultural infrastructure

“Though an excellent budget, it failed to spell out mechanism to control prices”

“Just as industries fix prices of products, farmers should fix prices of produce”

VELLORE: The massive loan waiver announced by the Centre in the Union budget is only a one-time temporary relief to farmers, and the budget has no long-term plan to build agricultural infrastructure that will bring permanent benefits to farmers, according to Pattali Makkal Katchi founder S. Ramadoss.

“Though it is an excellent budget, it has failed to spell out a mechanism to control the prices of essential commodities, which have gone up steeply in the last two years,” he said while talking to newspersons here on Saturday.

Dr. Ramadoss said just as industries fix the prices of their products, farmers should be empowered to fix the prices of their produce in order to relieve them from the debt burden and prevent them from being pushed to the brink of suicide. Mere reeling out statistics that agricultural production would go up by 4 per cent next year would not help the farmer.

“Schemes should be devised in such a way that agricultural produce is exported from India but no produce is imported from abroad.”

The PMK leader mooted the constitution of an agricultural board similar to the Railway Board. Just as no decision regarding the Railways is taken without the approval of the Board, no decision concerning farmers should be taken without consulting the agricultural board.

He said when he met Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at the latter’s residence in Chennai on February 21, he had requested him to present a separate agricultural budget. The government should ensure that agriculture was a profitable business.

Dr. Ramadoss said the PMK had devised a plan to enable the State government to earn sufficient income through alternative means to compensate for the loss of excise revenue that would result from introduction of total prohibition. The alternative means would be spelt out in the ‘draft budget’ to be released by the party next week.

The PMK plan envisaged substantial increase in income over and above the excise revenue earned from the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor through retail shops.

He recalled that sales tax was first introduced by Rajaji as an alternative source of revenue to the government after introducing total prohibition.

He said when he met Mr. Karunanidhi, he suggested to him to gradually phase out the TASMAC shops, restrict sale of liquor from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and to declare holiday for the shops on Saturdays and Sundays.

The PMK leader said the move of the Andhra Pradesh government to construct dams across the Palar and the Ponnai should be prevented at any cost. Vellore and nearby districts would turn into deserts if what little water the Palar gets during rain is taken away by the dams.

On the proposal to acquire agricultural and residential land at Anpoondi and nearby villages to expand the existing airport near Vellore to facilitate operation of passenger flights, Dr. Ramadoss said though the PMK did not oppose the setting up of an airport, there was no need for haste in establishing the airport since the people of Vellore were not suffering without the facility.

The district administration seemed to be in a hurry to acquire about 640 acres of fertile land (including three irrigation tanks) and the land on which more than 1,000 houses had been built, to expand the airport, “just to please some persons.”

Dr. Ramadoss wanted Vellore district to be bifurcated and a new district formed with Tirupattur as headquarters.

As part of his propaganda against consumption of liquor, the PMK leader addressed meetings in Tirupattur, Vaniyambadi, Ambur and Vellore on Friday.