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Guha farm policy bombs

Calcutta, Feb. 5: Hopes of an end to the almost year-long quest for a please-all agriculture policy suffered another setback today when the government ordered a fourth draft to be drawn up after its constituents virtually trashed agriculture minister Kamal Guha’s blueprint at a ministerial committee meeting.

The decision on a fresh exercise to formulate a modern agriculture policy that will open a door to foreign markets came as a boon for the pro-reformists as finance minister Asim Dasgupta will oversee the latest effort.

Planning and development minister Nirupam Sen had formulated two earlier drafts broadly underpinned by recommendations from global consultants McKinsey. Guha, and his party, the Forward Bloc, had blocked Sen’s policies.

An unfazed Guha said at Writers’ Buildings his draft policy successfully blocked any influence of globalisation and sought to protect farmers’ interests. “I have stopped the horses drawing the globalisation bandwagon from moving any further in Bengal,” he said.

Guha’s draft — submitted to the chief minister two weeks ago — came up for discussion at a meeting of the ministers’ core committee, where all Left Front constituents are represented.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told Guha that the draft had missed at least eight vital points and was bereft of any national or international perspective.

According to sources, Bhattacharjee said it does not mention the international agro-produce market and the national situation on agriculture, the role of farmers and other agriculture-related cooperatives, and how farmers should work towards getting remunerative prices.

The chief minister added that the draft does not speak of irrigation needed to cultivate crops and measures required to control floods that damage crops worth crores every monsoon.

At this point, fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda of the Socialist Party said the draft had neglected vital departments linked with agriculture, like fisheries, social forestry and animal resources development. “What about the water bodies and fish farmers'” he asked.

The sources said Dasgupta told the chief minister that agriculture policies in other states and at the national level included separate chapters on these departments. Bhattacharjee reportedly said he had no objection to including the three departments’ suggestions in the new policy if the constituents were unanimous on it.

Guha agreed to meet Dasgupta to discuss the revisions in the draft on February 17. The policy now may be finalised by the end of February and placed for approval at the next Cabinet ministers’ meeting on March 6.

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