Short-Duration Discussion onThe Mid-term Appraisal of the Tenth Five-Year Plan
23 August 2005
SHRI SHARAD ANANTRAO JOSHI (MAHARASHTRA): Thank you, Mr. Vice-Chairman Sir. Shri Sitaram Yechuryji opened the debate discussion on the Mid-term Appraisal of the Tenth Five-Year Plan with special reference to agriculture, poverty and unemployment. Mr Yechury's reputation had preceded him, and we were all listening with rapt attention to his maiden speech. He did not disappoint us like Lakshman from Andhra Pradesh, from where he comes, his original State; he scored a century in the very first appearance, and like Pankaj Roy from Bengal, from the State that he represents, he again scored a good century. But he set a very high technical level in the debate, like an EPW article referring to a number of statistical tables, graphs, footnotes and quotations, and probably as a result, those who followed him were forced to keep that kind of a level, often quoting statistics, of which the origin they did not know. I am trying to, as a professional statistician; to demystify the whole debate by stating it in a simple way.
The Mid-term Appraisal says this: That the Indian batting is on; the first three wickets have fallen, and the required run-rate is so high that we are unlikely to make it and the match is as good as lost. This was the Mid-term Appraisal. At the end what we might say would be a post-mortem of the Tenth Five-Year Plan. That briefly is the summary.
Now everybody agrees that as regards agriculture, poverty and unemployment the diagnosis is exactly the same and it was music to my ears to see a comrade expressing sympathies with the farmers, for which they generally do not express any sympathy. But having agreed on diagnosis, the prescription can be quite different. The Left has a standard prescription for all rural problems; it is land-reforms, employment guarantee and public distribution system. These are the standard prescriptions. As they say, there is a Sanskrit verse. If you permit me, I will quote it:
वैद्या: वदन्ति कफपित्त दविकारान्
ज्योतिर्विदा: ग्रहगतिं परिवर्तयन्ति ।
भूताभिषंग इति भूतविदो वदन्ति
प्राचीनकर्म बलवन्मुनयो: वदन्ति ।
If you go to a Vaidya, he will say that your disease is on account of kapha, pittha or vayu. If you go to a Panchakshari, then he will tell you that this is because of some ghost haunting you. If you go to an astrologer, he will turn the planets to explain your situation. And, if you go to a Rishi, he will say that it is the fruit of your karma of the past births.
Similarly, whatever the situation, the Left thinkers would invariably put out their platform. Now if it were harmless, I would not have really even asked for floor. But I want to submit very humbly that the three things that he prescribed--number one, he said that the subsidy should not be reduced; he said that the PDS should be even more generalised; and, he said that the EGS should become the main factor.
Now, I am going to talk only on these three points, possibly in 2-3 sentences each. Number one, as far as subsidies are concerned, the hon. Minister for Agriculture is here, the Minister for Commerce, the other day in this House, admitted that even on way to Hong Kong, the situation in India is that Indian agriculture still suffers under negative aggregate measurement of support (AMS), calculated in any manner. It comes to the fact, as many people said, that the Indian farmer is not able to meet the cost of production with the income that he gets. That basically is the negative subsidy. If that is so, then it is quite clear that there is no question of either reducing the subsidies or increasing the subsidies because the Indian farmer has a negative subsidy as it is.
But I don’t think that Communists have ever accepted that Indian farmers have a negative subsidy. ...((Interruptions)... You have not accepted that. ...((Interruptions)... Even the WTO document says it. You won’t accept, it doesn’t matter...(Interruptions)...
When it comes to the Employment Guarantee Scheme, if the Employment Guarantee Scheme were that good, Hon. Sharad Pawar who was the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for so many years, has been there. EGS has been working in Maharashtra for 30 years and that has not given any of the beneficial effects that you have mentioned here. Surprising thing is that a comrade for once, even though you don’t accept, has suddenly gone for a Keynesian prescription of introducing liquidity to ‘dig and fill’ work programme. What is required in the agriculture is not a demand side economics but a supply side economics and his prescription of EGS is entirely wrong.
Similarly, PDS. In fact, if you have to go the other way round and rather than have a hackneyed system of public distribution, which since 1951 Dr. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai had recommended abolition of that, if we abolish it altogether, the Indian agriculture is likely to be much better because the supply side will be strengthened. The effect of the EGS, I will come back to this point, the result is if you give sixty rupees, and in Maharashtra that situation exists even today; people get paid for not doing any work at all merely because the registers are filled in by some officials. And if they get sixty rupees for not doing any work, then the labour is unwilling to go to the field for doing the regular day’s agricultural work with the result that the normal agricultural labour market is adversely affected and that has been a bane for agriculture in Maharashtra. When we will discuss the EGS in a couple of days coming, I will talk at greater length on that subject.
So, everybody is agreed that Indian agriculture is under distress. We don’t need to have the statistics and the tables of the Planning Commission for that. In the last three years, over 15,000 farmers have committed suicide and shown what kind of a distress the Indian farmers are in. Having agreed to that, if now the Leftists, who have always made a wrong prescription for Indian agriculture or for agriculture anywhere, now take the situation in hand again and try to push the Indian agriculture in a wrong direction, that would really be a tragedy. I hope, by my speech I have, at least, started the motion to move it in the other direction. Thank you very much.