Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Mar 12, 2003
Industry & Economy
Sompal flays economic policies
HYDERABAD, March 11
THE Planning Commission Member, Mr Sompal, appealed to students, academics and intelligentsia to generate a public debate on the present pattern of economic growth that was ``highly unsuitable for India''.
``We are embarking on a hi-tech jobless growth making disparities and mass exclusion more and more apparent and accentuated", he said in his address at the annual convocation of the Achraya N. G. Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU) held here on Tuesday.
Mr Sompal said gaps between rural and urban incomes, which used to be 1:2 till 1960s, has now increased to 1:6. The investment in agriculture as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) has been only 1.3 for the last three Plans. Taking the overall investment in the economy and contribution of agriculture to the GDP, agriculture should have received a minimum of 6.5 per cent of the GDP.
He pointed out that the terms of trade have historically been adverse for agriculture since the British days. The British policy of suppressing the agricultural prices for making cheap food available to the vocal urban population had been continued in the post-independence era. ``The process of liberalisation started in 1991 has almost completely bypassed agriculture.''
Mr Sompal said all sorts of restrictions imposed on the movement, stocking, financing, trading, processing and export of agricultural products have never allowed the agri-economy to reap the benefits of markets. In case of shortages, these restrictions were made more stringent and imports were resorted to freely.
However, whenever there was a glut and as a consequence thereof prices fell below the minimum support prices declared by the Government. Adequate price support was not forthcoming.
This apart, he said, uncertainties of nature still continued to haunt India's agriculture. The risk management devices such as agricultural insurance were yet to be in place. All quantitative restrictions have been as a part of WTO requirements but restrictions on export of most agri-commodities were maintained.
The experience of the past eight years, since the signing of the final Act of WTO in Marakkesh in 1984, proved that it ``had neither been fair nor equitable'' at least for the developing countries. ``Agriculture, therefore, has by and large become an unviable profession.''
Stating that the whole organised sector of our economy provided only 9 per cent of the total employment in the country, Mr Sompal emphasised that the organised sector had hardly any scope of additional job generation. It was the unorganised sectors, mainly agriculture, rural and small industries, transport and tourism that was expected to create more job opportunities. But the ``most intriguing part is that most of the investment in the economy, including public investment, is going to the sectors which have relatively higher incremental capital-output ratio.''
According to Mr Sompal, what is required today is the unleashing of Indian agriculture, removal of all restrictions on agricultural products, processing and exports and adequate financial and policy support.
Earlier, presenting the convocation report the ANGRAU Vice Chancellor, Dr I. V. Subba Rao, said if the agricultural universities have to effectively function and discharge their responsibilities in the changed agricultural scenario, the present funding of less than 0.5 per cent of the GDP needed to be stepped up to at least 2 per cent of the GDP.
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