Sunday, February 10, 2008

Coverage:The Hindu,11 Feb 08

The Hindu,11 Feb. 08

Pedalling for farmers’ cause

S. Harpal Singh

Campaign calls for an Agriculture act that lays restrictions on SEZs
Photograph :
Crusader: Anil P. Joshi, leader of the campaign, speaking to the nuns at Asha Jyothi Bhavan in Adilabad on Sunday

ADILABAD: By peddling some of the more serious concerns of our times, a 11-member team of cyclists led by well known social activist Dr. Anil Prakash Joshi is out to garner support for an ‘agriculture act’. The team started on a bicycle campaign from Kanyakumari and is slated to reach New Delhi in March while learning the problems and gathering opinions of farmers on the subject en route.

A Padma Shri recipient, Dr. Joshi is a former associate professor at Garhwal University and is an expert in cycle yatras having led similar campaigns on issues earlier. The passionate social activist team comprises three girls and a 68 year-old-man also, all with agricultural background, mostly from Uttarakhand.

The campaign focuses on legislation for an agriculture act that lays restrictions on special economic zones (SEZ) across the country and establishment of a farmers bank. The team already has enough opinions and data on the subject to justify the campaign.
“By establishment of SEZs, extents of land under agriculture use are drastically coming down thereby reducing the food grain production. The Government needs to regulate such activity so that a food grain crisis does not emerge out of it. Today if a SEZ is established in Punjab, people in other States would also go hungry because that State imports supplies across the country”, observed Dr. Joshi.

The social activist suggests a ‘green line’ that demarcates agriculture lands in respective regions that are not to be sold for establishment of SEZs. “In case this cannot be done then it must be laid down that farmers whose lands are acquired for SEZ should become partners in the establishment”, Dr. Joshi added.

On the role of banks in advancing agricultural loans, the Padma Shri awardee says there is unanimity among farmers across the country. To buttress the complaints of farmers, he says the lending is only to the extent of 12 per cent while NABARD guidelines insist on 20 per cent of the credits to be extended to farmers.

“In order to accord a more favourable condition to farmers there is a need for a farmers’ bank that lends interest-free loans to the extent needed by farmers. It can realise its income by being stake holder in the agriculture activity or in the farm implements being purchased by the farmers”, pointed out the former Botany Professor.

The team members are slated to meet United Progressive Alliance chair persons Sonia Gandhi with the study made during their yatra.

The study is expected to project the issues in proper perspectives.

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