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Speaking on the motion regarding the food situation, Anna makes a penetrating analysis of the subject. He says that the food problem is an amalgam of many problems, the three main aspects of which are production, he highlights the failure of the land reforms. He points out the need to ensure that incentive prices declared by Government do not remain in the hands of a few Landlords but should trickle down to the actual tillers of the soil. He urges on the need to concentrate on reducing the cost of cultivation to the farmer by reducing the price of fertilizers, seeds and land revenue as far as uneconomic holdings are concerned. With the insight of a shrewd economist, he finds out the pitfalls in setting up the proposed Foodgrains Corporation and highlights the need for handling the distribution in a sympathetic and human way with a view to benefiting the producers as opposed to the middlemen. He urges the Government to take over the grain trade as a whole and not to try to handle part of the trade and warns the Government that “just as the landlords have beaten the Government in the game of land reforms, these grain dealers will beat the Government in the game of land reforms, these grain dealers will beat the Government in this game unless the entire grain trade is taken over and controlled by the Government.” He also urges the need to remember the paramount interest of the consumer in fixing fair prices for foodgrain.

Most of the problems on the food front highlighted by Anna in his speech remain with us. One of the factors for the massive victory of the DMK Party in the 1967 General Elections was the debacle on the food front in the then Madras State. The administrative bunglings were so colossal that a few weeks before the general elections, most of the ration shops in major urban areas in the city had no rice to distribute. One of the important promises the DMK Party made in 1967 before they came to power was to do justice to the consumer by selling rice at Re. 1 a measure.

anna at delhiAnna: Sir, the motion before this House presented by the Hon. Minster is couched in such colourless language that it shows the astuteness of the present Food Minister. He has asked us to consider the present food situation without taking us into his confidence as to why the present food situation has deteriorated and what were the steps that were taken for stemming it. And he has also given certain assurances and certain promises which were offered in plenty by his predecessors. Of course, the present Food Minister succeeds to a seat which has been occupied by equally alert, equally able, and equally vigorous Food Ministers. The Food Minister would himself admit that they have been experienced colleagues. And what were the factors that went into the failure of the food front? A probe ought to have taken place on this, and the House ought to have been taken into confidence about the failure on the food front. Of course, many Hon. Minster, of this House, stood up to pay sweet praises to thee Food Minster, and thee Food Minister himself has stated that he would look into the matter and see that this riddle – or is it a muddle – is settled once and for all. He is only asking this House to show the green signal. He says, "Give me the signal. Off I go and off goes all the evil on the food front”. I am very glad indeed that sweet sentiments have been expressed by Hon. Members and I am elated too when I hear a Member from my own state and my own personal friend repeating the many sweet sentiments expressed here. But I do not propose myself to succumb to the temptation of singing a sweet song in praise of his head or heart. As a matter of fact, I am going to ask him certain blunt questions. I would like to know whether the present Food Minister is enunciating a new policy or whether he is announcing the present and the future activities of the administrative wing. I would like to ask thee Food Minister whether he realizes and admits failure on the food front for the past so many years. If he thinks that this House will be satisfied with only assurances, I can assure him that such sweet assurances were given by his predecessors and I am certain that he cannot beat his predecessors in the art of giving promises to the House and to the country. His predecessors, the Food Ministers, have stated in very emphatic terms:

“For the first time after many years, we have found an atmosphere where we are not afraid that worse days are ahead. In fact, it is an atmosphere of self – confidence.”

“We have laid a very stable foundation of a self – sustaining and self – developing agricultural economy.”

Through you, Mr. Chairman, I would ask the present Food Minister to note the words, "stable foundation of a self – sustaining and self - developing agricultural economy". I would like to know what has become of the stable foundation. Has it not been shattered, or was there no stable foundation except in the imagination of the Minister? And if that stable foundation has not been shattered, there would not have been any need for the present Food Minister to discard his previous portfolio and take over the present portfolio. It was the Hon. M. S. K. Patil, when he was taking over the Food Portfolio who said that he had laid a very stable know. Perhaps, the Ministers being Members of the ruling Party, may argue, because of natural calamities like floods, locusts and droughts, what can any Minister do? But the Hon. Shri S. K.Patil, who announced that he had laid a very stable foundation, also said:

“There were unprecedented floods in some parts of India, continued droughts for several weeks in other parts and visitation of locusts once or twice; in spite of all that, our food grain production has increased.”

And he has assured us: “if my policies succeed, I shall not import food grain after three years.”

He had stated it in 1961 and has assured the country through this House that he would stop the import of food grains after three years. I would like to know what has become of that stable foundation. Unless we find out what the reasons are for the shattering of that foundation, we cannot solve that food problem by mere assurances.

My friend, the food minister, has also stated or requested that politics should not be imported into the food problem. Yes sir, politics ought not to be imported not only into the food problem but into all the measures that are to be undertaken by the food ministry, by the machinery that he proposes to build, by the methods of implementation which he has got in mind. I would like to know from the Minister what exactly he means by “importing politics into the food front”? Is the food ministry headed by an accredited economist? Are all the plans that are formulated by the food minister or the food ministry devoid of political or party sentiments? May I say that the present debacle is, to a very large extent, due to the fact that party politics has been imported into almost all the activities of the agricultural, cooperative and community centre spheres, in all those places where the ruling party holds sway, which mean throughout India? And it is because of the import of party politics into all these spheres that we find that although all these plans look very good on paper when they are implemented, we do not get the maximum benefit from these projects. This house may not be interested in knowing the details, but I can assure this house, through you, sir, that I am taking the fullest responsibility for proving that party politics has entered into all these activities. Last month, while I was touring the Salem district, I found the president of a major Panchayat board making a public complaint that when a congress minister was touring that sector, the panchayat congress president invited him to come to his particular panchayat so that he might place certain facts before him, and so that he could get some English-tenement on vital matters. And this house will be surprised to know that the Minister refused to comply with the request, not for lack of time due to his multifarious national activities, but simply because the president of the panchayat board happened to be a member of another political party, not of the DMK, but of the Communist party, and even among the Communist party, a member of my Hon. Friend, Mr. Bhupesh Gupta’s party. Is that not importing politics into every sphere of activity?

The Minister is, of course too intelligent to give his real motive. He said that he had no time. But he had time to go to other places. I would give you another instance. The agriculture department is interested in maintaining panchayat fruit gardens. A friend of mine, a member of my party, happens to be the president of a panchayat. He is maintaining a fruit garden. When that Minister was invited to visit that fruit garden, though that fruit garden is considered to be the best in that particular sector, the Minister had no time. It is very curious that he cannot find time whenever members of the Opposition parties request him to come.

There are co-operative spheres wherein members of all parties are eager to enter, but the members of parties other than the ruling party are not allowed to enter. So, I would say that the advice administered to us should be a two-way traffic and not a one-way traffic.

Sir, if politics or party politics is not imported into the food problem and allied problems. I think extra energy can be mobilised for the increase in food production.

Now, Sir, I would like to look into this problem of food scarcity. I would like to have it analysed so that we can find out what the best way of solving this question is because the food problem is, after all, an amalgam of various other problem and each one of these problems differ from one another. For instance, one aspect of the food problem is the increase in production. Another aspect of the food problem is the distribution of what is produced. And the third aspect is how best to hold the price line.

Sir, only in economics does distribution come after production. In actual practice, distribution and production are simultaneous begin to distribute. So, also there is another misconception that people can be divided into producers and consumers. Producers are consumers and consumers are producers. There can be, of course, some margin. But we cannot altogether divide society into two water-tight compartments of producers and consumers.

Sir, if we take, first of all, the problem of increased production, I would charge this Government with having made the land reforms legislation a dismal failure. When the people of the various political parties have been pressing for this land reform, they expected that it would revolutionize society on the agricultural front, they thought that their children would get a fair deal, that there would not be a concentration of land in the hands of the few. Yet the way this land legislation has been carried out, has landed us in fresh difficulties.

Sir, an unbiased American study team visiting one of the agricultural centres in my state, has issued a statement very recently that the implications of the land legislation have not been properly understood by even the officials that, there is a concentration of land in the hands of a few individuals, that there is absentee – landlordism, that there are gentlemen farmers who sit in their town villas asking agricultural labourers to carry on the tilling operations. Hence the graveness of the charge, that this Government has failed to implement in a socialistic way, the land legislation and allied reforms. And I need not quote the strictures of the Americans, because my friend, Mr. Bhupesh Gupta, would be worried that I am importing American stuff. We have got our own stuff. The Finance Minister, Mr. T. T. Krishnamachari, has stated very recently, that on this point he has been beaten by the big landlord. He has stated very categorically that assuredly the land legislation has been defective. We have been defeated in this game by the big landlord. Sir, why is it that the big landlords have beaten us? Why is it that we do not retaliate? Why is it that we allow the landlords to beat us? Is it because their lash is dipped in gold needed so much for election purposes? If only we had implemented the land legislation in a proper, radical and revolutionary way till now, production would have gone to stupendous heights.

We talk about farmers, we talk about peasant proprietors. I know there are peasant proprietors in the district from which the Hon. Minster comes, the Coimbatore district and the Salem district. There the peasant proprietors take pleasure and pride in being on the spot, in being actual cultivators. But there are other States, other places where there is still the phenomenon of peasant – landlordism, of gentleman – farmers. And, therefore, when we talk if incentive price for improving production, we should see that it goes to the actual tillers who carry on the agricultural operations. It is not enough to declare an incentive price, a remunerative price and then allow that remunerative price and that margin, to remain in the hands of a few magnates for none can deny that the ruling Party today is being bossed over on the mental level by magnates. I would like the ruling party to publish the names of the bigwigs of their membership, with their economic status and their political attitude. And if they publish that, that itself would be an added weight to my argument. It is because the ruling party is aligned with the landed magnates that these reforms which have been announced as revolutionary reforms have not yielded the best results. If an incentive price or a remunerative price is being given, the margin of profit should not be pocketed by the landlords themselves but should go to the agricultural labourers. Just a few minutes ago, when a Member asked whether there is any scheme for improving a lot of the agricultural labourers, the Minister was pleased to state that there is no particular scheme, but all those schemes which are adumbrated for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, will apply to them also. That is the way in which thee present Government is looking at the agriculturists. Unless the lot of the agriculturists is bettered, they cannot get two meals, where there is one now. They cannot get him that extra energy that is needed, that extra energy which is more powerful than your fertilisers, that extra energy which will make him feel, “I work, and I live. I labour and I get the product, I am working in the fields and my life is comfortable.” Unless the agricultural labourer is made to feel that measures taken on the food front are going to help him also, unless you take that step, you cannot find a solution on the plane of this agricultural food production. Therefore, I would like to know the methods by which they are going to fix the remunerative prices or the price incentives. I find, wading through the debates of previous years, that almost all the Ministers who have preceded the present Food Minister have also stated that they were going to give incentive price, remunerative price, the fair price they used many other phrases. In fact, Mr Patil went to the extent of saying: “Hereafter the price structure is going to be producer oriented rather than consumer oriented.” I would like to know how you are going to fix the price. If the Minister had taken us into his confidence to find out the methods of tabulating the cost of production, the margin that the producer should get, the margin that the trader should get, the margin that the middle man is to get, if he had taken us into his confidence in these details, then, of course, we could have offered certain suggestions and the debates could have yielded much benefit to him.

About food production, they say that they are going to put in extra energy to see that food production increases very much. For that, they are saying they are going to give incentive price to the farmer. But I would like to point out that the monetary value or amount given to the farmer is not as important as a reduction in the cost of cultivation. Any farmer wants a reduction in the cost of cultivation. There ought to be a reduction in the price of fertilizers. There ought to be a reduction in the price offered for goods seeds and there also ought to be a reduction in land revenue so far as uneconomic holdings are concerned. Therefore, I would request this Government to enthuse the farmer first by assuring him that there would be no land revenue up to five acres. If you give such sort of incentives, the farmer will get enthused and he will put in extra energy.

Another item that this Government should take into consideration, is that more fertilizers are being used by the producers. I am glad to inform this House, that of all the States, Madras State depends on fertilizers to a very great extent. I find that the amount spent by a Madras farmer, by a Tamil Nadu Farmer, on farm manure is the highest. Therefore if there ought to be more production, increased production, then there ought to be a reduction in the price of fertilizers. But the Minister might say: “We do not have enough fertilizers, we have to import them and therefore we cannot reduce the prices.” But this is what the Public Accounts Committee is saying:

"Price had deliberately been kept high with a view to making profits. This, the Committee regret to point out, was not consistent with the objects of the pool which was never intended to be a revenue earning scheme. In the circumstances, such a wide margin of profit (Rs.86.8 per metric tonne in 1961-62) could by no means be justified a sort of indirect taxation which was the prerogative of Parliament only. Besides, this defeated the basic concept of establishing the pool which was to make the fertilizers available to the cultivators at reasonable rates in the interest of maximizing agricultural production.”

Therefore, the strictures of the PAC show beyond doubt that on the fertilizers front, the Government has been following an unsympathetic attitude for increasing food production. I would like to know whether in his anxiety to increase food production the Minister is taking into consideration the reduction in the price of fertilizers also, because unless there is a reduction in the price of fertilizers, the farmers cannot go on purchasing fertilizers and so long as there is no fertilizer at reasonable prices, there would be a reduction in food production.

Another item that I would like to know is this. The Food Ministers has formulated a scheme that he is going to have a Food grains Corporation. I welcome that project. In fact, I have had occasion to write to him that we the DMK, are one with him in the formulation of a Foodgrains Corporation but he has not enlightened this House about either the structure or the method by which it is going to function. That was why an Hon. Member from this side after a speech stated that he was reserving his opinion about the Foodgrains Corporation till it actually starts functioning. I have pointed out the various schemes which were adumbrated by his predecessors. We seem to think that whenever a Minister comes forward with any proposal, that proposal is the one that is needed for solving the problem. When land levy and procurement were proposed, we stood up to say: “Yes, that is the best method of solving the food problem.” When we had the Food zones created, we were ready to support it and say that by forming the Food Zones, we were going to feed the deficit areas through the surplus areas. When state trading was adumbrated, we said: “The Food problem is now solved.” When buffer stocks were mentioned, we said: “By building up the buffer stocks, we are going to solve the problem once and for all.” When Mr S.K. Patil went to America I ought to have said, visited America, and when he returned to India, with P.L. 480, we said: “Now at least the food problem is solved.” That is why I say that we should not take any project or policy or scheme adumbrated by the Minister at its face value. He should explain certain details. Of course, he can withhold some information in the public interest but the should tell us the broad features of this programme because from previous experience, as far as State trading in foodgrains is concerned, I find again from the Estimates Committee that in 1960-61 there were Rs.88.48 lakhs lost in transit, in 1961-62 it was Rs.79.57 lakhs and in 1962-63 it was Rs.207.74 lakhs lost in transit. When there we increase food production or not, we seem to be very alert in increasing production in these kinds of losses. As regards storage loss, in 1960-61 it was Rs.6.43 lakhs, and in 1962-63 it was Rs.23.02 lakhs. I would like to know whether proper safeguards have been taken by the present Food Minister, to see that the proposed Foodgrains Trading Corporation will not land us into all these difficulties.

Another point that I would like to know from the Food Minister is whether the Foodgrains Trading Corporation is to be a body working on the maximum ‘no profit, no loss’, or whether it is going to be merely a commercial body. If the Foodgrains Trading Corporation is merely to replace the grains traders, and if they are going to take a margin of profit as the grain traders are taking, I do not think we can have a reduction in the prices, because the overall expenditure of any Government machinery is bound to be higher than the overall cost of any private machinery. The private traders have got various methods, some of them dubious, some of them illegal and some of them not to be encouraged, I admit. In any case, their cost of machinery is less than the overall cost of Governmental machinery. I would request the Food Minister to see that the proposed Foodgrains Trading Corporation is worked on a no-loss basis. But he has in ambiguous terms said: “It will be a commercial organization,” and it is due to the fact that there are various commercial organizations having various commercial ethics, that we are having these increased prices. Therefore, when my friend, the Food Minister, stated that this Foodgrains Corporation is to be a commercial organization, I was wondering whether he was, after all becoming the biggest grain trader. I would not like the present Government to become the biggest grain trader only; I would like them to handle grain, but then I would like them to see that the margin between what they pay to the producer and what they charge to the consumer is less than what the grain traders are charging. Unless the people realize that the Foodgrains Trading Corporation is handling the food situation in a more human way than the grain traders, we would have created another Governmental organization which would need another probe, perhaps another Public Accounts Committee Report, another Estimates Committee Report and another debate here. I would not like newer and newer organizations of the Government to spring up unless they have got a purpose behind them, and this Foodgrains Trading Corporation I take it, has a purpose behind it.

There is every necessity that people ought not to be tossed about this way and that by the whims and fancies of grain traders. Food is the most basic necessity, and if people are tossed between the profit motive of private producers and others, then they are not going to get that extra energy which is needed for production on other front because, though the agricultural producer is a producer, there are others who do not produce agricultural commodities, but they are producing also, producing other commodities. That is why I was saying that the differentiation between producers and consumers was illusive, because producers do consume things, and consumers do produce things. So those who are called consumers, unless they produce agricultural implements at cheaper rates, and give them at cheaper rates to the agriculturists, cannot expect the agricultural producer to produce food in a greater quantity. Therefore, they are interlinked and we cannot look at the problem of food only from a particular angle. It is, as I said, an amalgam of many problems put together, and in that connection, I would like that the policy of the Government is that there ought not to be too many changes in the Food Ministry; not that I wish that a Minister should continue for all time to come, but when a particular Minister adumbrates a new scheme, he should be allowed to remain in his scat to formulate the scheme, work it out and then stand up and say to the House and to the country, that during his tenure of office he chalked out a scheme, built up a machinery for it and carried it out. I am particularly apprehensive because my very good friend, the present Food Minister, before he became the Food Minister, was handling another portfolio from where he gave out sweet promises. I am very sure he chalked out policies and programmes also for the Salem steel plant, and just when we were hoping to get it from him, he had been asked to go over to the food front. I am very glad that the present Government has placed such high confidence in my friend to handle one of the most delicate portfolios. But if the previous method of shifting a Minister so soon after he formulates a scheme to another portfolio is adopted here also, we might perhaps find Minister Mr Subramaniam handling Education and Cultural Affairs next year, whereas his successor may be saying: “Well, the Foodgrains Corporation adumbrated by the Government is being looked into.” I do not want such a thing to happen here. I am saying that because the scheme that he has presented, the Foodgrains Trading Corporation, is the most delicate machinery that any Government can handle. Therefore I would request that the man who has given this idea should be asked to translate that idea into action, and he should be kept in the Food portfolio so that we can have the Fooodgrains Corporation worked out with this clarification, that the proposed Foodgrains Corporation should be on a no-profit no-loss basis. There should not be too much officialdom in the Foodgrains Corporation: there should not be transit loss and storage loss; there should not be all these things which have been beautifully depicted by Parkinson and Appleby. This should not become a sort of white elephant to the Government and to the people, but should become an alert, vigorous, delicate machinery, sympathetic to every mood of the agriculturist, every mood of the consumer, and for that I think, debates from time to time in the Houses alone will not be enough. There ought to be consultation amongst members of all political parties, members of the various sectors of society, from time to time to see whether the plans formulated have borne fruit, whether there is a necessity for bringing forward new schemes. That is why, when I was in the State Legislature along with my friend, I said that there ought to be a sort of permanent committee to look into agricultural and food problems, and the Minister replied at that time that the very idea of the formulation of such a committee, such an all party committee, would create a scare in the minds of the people, that people would think that there was something seriously wrong with the food position and that therefore such a Committee was constituted. I think that the psychology in Delhi is different from Madras and my Hon. Friend would have convinced himself of the necessity for the formulation of such a consultative committee.

C.Subramaniam (The Minister for Food and Agriculture): But I think I consulted the opposition leaders on most of the vital subjects; I do not think he can throw the blame on me.

Anna: That shows that sometimes Members of the ruling Party are adept in the art of taking away some of the opposition parties to their side. If there is nothing else, I would like to say that the consultative committees should be placed on a permanent footing so that we can meet very often and find out what is wrong and where it went wrong.

When this Foodgrains Trading Corporation scheme was adumbrated, I had an occasion to have a talk with a grain dealer in my parts. He said that the Government should take over the grain trade wholesale, but if they wanted to compete with them, the grain trader told me they cannot beat us in the game. He said that the Governmental machinery if it goes to purchase paddy, cannot differentiate between one kind of paddy and another. They will rely upon the petty officers and they cannot understand the mood of the market, they do not know where to get it, how to get it. Therefore, if they are going to handle part of the trade and if another part is going to be felt to us, then we can beat them in the game. I do not point this out in favour of the grain dealers. I am just placing the fact before the Food Minister, so that he can know the psychology of the grain traders. They think that the Government when it enters this field half-heartedly cannot compete with the grain traders. So I would ask the Food Minister to consider this aspect. Why should we leave another sector of it in the hands of the grain traders? When just now an Hon. Member pointed out what the grain traders are saying, he has stated in the answer, in a classical way, that an alternative may be thought of. Of course, for a Minister holding a responsible portfolio, he cannot be plainer than that. I would like to know what prevents him from taking over the entire foodgrains trade. Is it the paucity of funds? Is it the paucity of machinery, or is it paucity of men? If he had advanced any one of these arguments, any Hon. Member of this House would have pointed out the solution for that difficulty. But to have a Foodgrains Corporation for 30 per cent, and leave the remaining 70 per cent in the hands of the grain dealers: I think that the grain dealers have every chance of defeating the Government on this plane. When I say that they have got every chance of defeating the Government, I would like to remind the House of what the Hon Shri T.T. Krishnamachari said, namely, “The landlords had beaten us in the game.” Just as the landlords have beaten the Government in the game of land reforms, these grain dealers will beat the Government in this game, unless the entire grain trade is taken over and controlled by the Government. If there are difficulties, they cannot be insurmountable. If cooperation is needed, every political party which has any sense of radicalism behind it would be prepared to strengthen the hands of the Minister and the Government.

The last item that I would like to place before the House is that when we fix up an incentive price and a remunerative price for the producer, we should not forget that the consumer is today being put to great hardship by the increase in prices of foodstuffs and other articles also. He cannot bear the burden. However much the present Government may condemn the agitation taken or proposed, they can never dispute this fact that when the call comes, thousands and lakhs of people gather to register their protest against the increase in prices. Therefore, the consumer’s difficulty is very acute, very critical and grave. Therefore, the consumer’s point of view should be paid the greatest consideration. There were agitations against rising food prices. But by a curious combination of certain political forces, we find that the consumer is entirely forgotten and it is now a problem of giving remunerative prices and incentive prices to the producer. From the consumer, we have shifted to the producer I would like the present Ministers to take into consideration the consumer’s point of view, and if the price that is allotted for the producer is too high for the consumer, then the Government should not shirk the responsibility of subsidizing the consumers by giving more D.A. to the white-collared workers and so on, and thus alleviate the difficulties of the consumers. I say this because the consumers unless they are given certain incentives, are not going to produce the goods which they are engaged in producing. Therefore, a sort of sympathetic middle path between the producer and the consumer ought to be followed by the Minister, so that the price that is finally arrived at will not hit the consumer and will give certain incentives to the farmers. When incentives to the farmers are discussed, I would like to say that the cost of production, in this case, the cost of cultivation, should be considerably reduced by reducing the fertilizer prices, by reducing the prices of other items that are needed for cultivation. If we take this overall picture, we can arrive at a solution. I think that increased food production is not beyond our capacity. If only our state is given cheaper power, if our state is given Godavari water, if our state is given the atomic plant very soon, we cannot only produce for ourselves, but we can solve the food problem of India itself. Please do not think, Sir, that I am entering another field altogether. My favourite field. It is not for that purpose that I am saying this. I can point out that food production in Madras State per acre yield, whether it be rice, ground-nut or jowar or maize, is the highest that is obtained. And yet we do not have perennial water. We depend on deep wells and that is why electricity is needed for our state in larger and larger quantities and at cheaper and cheaper rates. And since we have exhausted all other revenues, we want the atomic plant and the diversion of the river water from the Godavari and other rivers. Therefore, I would request the Hon. Minister to take these also into consideration and to see to it that this particular state which is fast becoming the granary of the entire country is encouraged still further so that we can produce more and solve the food problem facing the entire country.

Thank you,

(C.N. Annadurai's speech at Parliament on September 1964)


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