The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies fret over farm policy

Calcutta, March 9: Three days after Cabinet approval, the Left Front constituents raised voices against the draft agriculture policy saying it overlooked major problems in the farm sector.

Many of them also feel that the role of the panchayats — responsible for the comprehensive development of the districts — should be defined more clearly in the policy.

Unveiling the policy draft on Thursday, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had said the ministers could put in their suggestions within a week, before it is tabled in the Assembly.

The Forward Bloc and the RSP have prepared notes demanding the inclusion of cash crops like jute, tobacco, silk and tea in the draft. Both the parties have said that local MPs and MLAs should be involved in the implementation of the policy.

The RSP also mentioned that the draft underestimated the problem of low bank exposure in the agriculture sector.

“We fear that in the 10th Plan period (2002-2007), the expectations of a Rs 10,000 crore investment will not be fulfilled. Moreover, it should also be kept in mind that the excavation and restoration of rivers, canals and lakes for storing water requires huge investment,” the note said.

Bloc chairman and agriculture minister Kamal Guha admitted today that two major cash crops — jute and tobacco — and their marketing had been overlooked in the draft. He said he has already submitted a note to the chief minister on the lapse and emphasised that a monitoring committee should keep the panchayats under tight vigil.

“The panchayats will have to play a vital role in implementing the policy. They will be drawing up the list of beneficiaries under various schemes. So, they should be closely monitored,” he added.

The RSP called for the inclusion of silk and tea on the list of cash crops at the Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The RSP note pointed out that there is no mention in the policy about how to prevent the rampant operation of brick kilns and salt water pisciculture in violation of the land reforms laws.

The CPI said the panchayats should not be the sole arbiter of the policy at the grass-roots level. “In many panchayats, crores are lying unspent because they do not know how to spend them for development,” said a leader.

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