MinisterDhananjay Munde spoke exclusively to Frontline about the Sunil Kendrekar report, farmers’ suicide in Maharashtra and the growing need to empower them. Excerpts:
What is the Maharashtra government’s view on the Sunil Kendrekar report?
I won’t say that it totally needs to be neglected. But I would say that the government needs to study it and decide which suggestions need to be accepted. Like he has said that the government needs to give money to farmers for cultivation purpose. That’s right. But shutting down schemes like food security would be the gross mistake.
Do you think that spending Rs.50,000 crore on such a scheme is viable?
This is the key issue. The government has said on the floor of the Assembly that it is not feasible. But that doesn’t mean it completely needs to be rejected. We need to find ways to strengthen farming.
The report has exposed the crop insurance scheme—how companies have benefited due to the scheme is clearly mentioned in the note.
The crop insurance scheme is aimed to give security to every farmer. I will say that in recent times the Beed pattern of crop insurance has changed the scenario. Now, the State government gives guarantee to the insurance premium. The Kendrekar note has not taken this reality into consideration.
It seems that the report has come when the Bharat Rashtra Samithi is trying to enter Maharashtra politics. Is it a coincidence or is it possibly connected?
I won’t comment on political aspects. But I will say that the note given by Sunil Kendrekar (former Divisional Commissioner, Aurangabad) is not what the government sought from him. He was asked to give only the report. But it’s okay; he has given some suggestions and government will think it over.
Don’t you think that one lakh farmer families from Marathwada in a suicide-prone zone is a serious matter?
It is a serious thing. I am from Beed (a city in the Marathwada region) and I know how bad the situation is. But shutting down the Agriculture Department is not the solution as Sunil Kendrekar suggests. Strengthening the farmers, giving them modern technology is the solution.
Such schemes are being implemented in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Don’t you think Maharashtra is financially better off than those States?
Maharashtra is financially better off but the situation is different. Telangana gets a special fund since it is a new State. Maharashtra does not. Also, the topography of Maharashtra is different. In Haryana, the production cost of one quintal of wheat is Rs.900 and in Maharashtra, it is Rs.2,900. Why? Because the water table of both States is different. We need to carve out a policy as per the situation.
What will be your priorities to change the farming scenario in Maharashtra?
I will say that security cover is important. We are giving Rs.12,000 to farmers every year; Rs.6,000 from PM Kisan Samman Yojana and Rs.6,000 from the State. The second priority is crop insurance. Third, safeguarding the interests of farmers in the market. I think this will be a comprehensive cover for the farmers. We will get to see the results of these schemes within two or three years.