Chandigarh, September 11: What is novel in the Kisan manifesto released today by the Aam Aadmi Party at a massive rally at Bagha Purana in Moga district in the Malwa heartland is to provide much needed relief to the farmers, besides through other measures, by promising to put corrupt Akali ministers in jail.
It states: “High-level and time-bound Inquiries will be initiated against Agriculture Minister, Tota Singh, Food & Civil Supplies Minister, Adesh Pratap Singh Kairon, Revenue Minister, Bikram Singh Majithia, Rural Developments and Panchayats Minister, Sikandar Singh Maluka and others, besides their cahoots who allegedly amassed properties and diverted money from schemes/ grants earmarked for farmers; Such properties will be confiscated and the guilty jailed in accordance with the law.”
Jittery AAP now seems to be in a hurry to retrieve the damage that it has suffered during the last two months. Putting behind bars the corrupt ministers would hardly make any difference to the deepening crisis in the farm sector or in AAP.
Had this been the solution, the crisis might have been over a long time ago when Capt Amarinder Singh after taking over as the chief minister in 2002 put behind bars not only Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal but also almost half of Badal’s cabinet colleges in the 1997-2002 government.
The memory of the people anywhere is never that short.
The massive crowd had converged to Bagha Purana mandi had come with the hope that AAP would come out with something different that has not already been said. Capt Amarinder Singh is going about almost with the similar agenda for the farm sector. It was perhaps for this reason that AAP was in a hurry to be the first to release its manifesto as otherwise, it would have looked like repetition.
But then it falls short of the hopes of the people.
The authors of this manifesto should have also gone through the legislation that is the Punjab Settlement of Agricultural Indebtedness Act, 2016. It was adopted in the budget session of the Assembly. Some of the issues that have been taken up in this manifesto have already been taken care of.
The loan waiver is for small farmers and farm workers. However, there is another promise which is making Punjab farmers debt free by 2018. There is no clarity whether this includes all farmers and if so, how as the waiver is only for weaker sections. Capt Amarinder Singh is also going about making similar promises. There is no clarity about resource mobilisation for this purpose. Moreover, there is no reference to non-institutional loans in the manifesto. Capt Amarinder Singh is taking care of that loan also.
Several of the schemes are just improved versions of the existing schemes like theShagun scheme.
AAP team should have also gone through the 2012 manifesto of the Akali Dal to avoid repetition. The party talks of developing dairy farming. The Akali Dal manifesto stated in 2012: “SAD-BJP will undertake a major initiative to start WHITE REVOLUTION by providing liberal incentives to the dairying sector”. This sector has been doing well till the sons of Gau Mata stepped in to stop export of the cattle. Punjab is heading towards social tension on this issue.
Yet another interesting part is that of implementation of the Swaminathan Committee recommendations by December 2020. Wheat and paddy are procured by the state government on behalf of the centre and the minimum support price of farm produce is fixed by the centre.
This manifesto does not explain whether this report would be implemented by the state government and in case the answer is yes, then the centre would not pay for the difference and would rather prefer to go in for imports. The cost of wheat imported from Australia that is shipped to some port in Tamil Nadu is less than that of Punjab wheat being transported by the railways to that state.
The 2012 manifesto of the SAD had also promised to implement this report in coordination with other state governments and political parties. The BJP in its 2014 Lok Sabha manifesto had also made similar promise. The Narendra Modi government has now backtracked. One does not know whether the Akali Dal as alliance partner has officially registered its protest on this issue or not. To look sincere, the Akali Dal should have at least withdrawn its minister from the Modi cabinet.
When talking of addressing the farm crisis, there is another basic issue. Why should the Punjab government export wheat and not convert it into flour and other value added products. The issue is that of capital investment. This would not only create thousands of jobs but also result in capital formation. The problem is that the state government has failed to run even its two fruit processing plants at Abohar and Hoshiarpur.
The rot is too deep. However, this does not mean that one should lose hope. The people who converged to Bagha Purana had come with high hopes and that should not be belied.
Punjab needs a government that is of the people, works for the people and is a model of participatory democracy.
Akali Dal manifestos have always been documents worth preserving. Punjab needs implementation and not just rhetoric.