Farmers issue keeps cropping up

NEW DELHI, NOV. 27. Even after last week's defeat of an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha on the plight of farmers, the issue refuses to die down. The Lower House saw disruption of proceedings for the better part of the day while the Opposition sought to corner the Treasury Benches in the Rajya Sabha, accusing it of allowing the situation to drift for the past year.

Members in the Lok Sabha relented only after the Speaker, Mr. G.M.C. Balayogi, agreed to discuss the issue in the House tomorrow. In the forefront were Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal Members who stormed the well of the House in the morning. Terming the Union Agriculture Minister's reply last week lacking in substance, they said farmers in several States were being forced into distress sales. The Government must arrange to buy their produce as was done in Punjab, they demanded.

In the Upper House, the Leader of Opposition, Dr. Manmohan Singh, led the charge against the Government during an inconclusive short duration discussion. He refuted reports that the Congress regime was responsible for the increasing pauperisation of the peasantry and warned that the country's food security could be in jeopardy if corrective measures were not taken on a war-footing.

``The present situation is largely due to neglect and lack of knowledge about what is happening. India's agriculture is at the cross-roads,'' he said.

Accusing the Government of ignoring his earlier warnings, the former Union Minister wanted the credit system to be revitalised on the basis of reports submitted by NABARD and RBI, reversal of the declining rate of gross capital formation in the farm sector and revival of the plan to divide the country into 17 agro- climatic zones for area- specific assistance in cropping patterns.

Several speakers including Dr. Singh and the former Union Minister, Mr. Janeshwar Mishra, appealed to politicians to rise above party lines and analyse the situation objectively. ``There is no doubt about the great distress among farmers. Welfare is not a partisan matter. We will support all the legitimate measures to benefit the farming community,'' assured Dr. Singh.

PTI reports:

Mr. Vikram Verma (BJP) expressed concern over the conditions of farmers and called for remedial steps. As a result of impoverishment, some farmers in Madhya Pradesh had committed suicide. He, however, commended the Government's initiatives in issuing of `kisan credit cards' and said already about 70 lakh such cards had been issued.

Mr. S. Ramachandran Pillai (CPI-M) said some farmers had started selling their belongings to repay their debts and were now left without any alternative employment.