Even if they read the tragic story of Rajendra Tukaram Chavan, a Nashik (Maharashtra)-based farmer who travelled 70 km to the Solapur APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Centre) to sell 512 kg of painstakingly grown onions, readers of this top-selling daily — (ToI, 24/2) — overwhelmingly indifferent, urban middle class citizens — are unlikely to lose any sleep over it. Chavan was disbursed a cheque of Rs.2.49 from APMC.
This story has been repeating countrywide for over seven decades. Typically, the ToI narrative didn’t include the back story of open, uninterrupted and continuous neglect of the agriculture sector under the Nehruvian socialist development model which has beggared the nation, and continuously short-changed rural India.
To understand Rajendra Chavan’s predicament, it’s pertinent to remember that Mahatma Gandhi repeatedly advised that free India’s economic development effort should start in its villages. But this proposal was rubbished by the newly independent country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru — the indulged Harrow School and Cambridge (UK)-educated only son of influential Congress party leader Motilal Nehru.
After Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 and Sardar Patel — who had good understanding of India’s private enterprise business tradition — passed away in 1950, under Nehru’s stewardship the country officially adopted the “socialistic pattern of society”. As a result, national including agriculture, savings (and huge foreign loans) were canalised into giant public sector enterprises run by business-illiterate IAS officers and government clerks. Unsurprisingly they went into the red from day one. Simultaneously, a strangulating licence-permit-quota raj was imposed on private industry.
As a result, rural India has been losing 40-50 percent of its horticulture produce valued at Rs.75,000 crore per year before it gets to market. In the US, Brazil and other countries which are major fruit and vegetable producers, Mr. Chavan’s onions would have been purchased at good price by an agro processing company. Powerful fresh produce vendors’ lobbies have continuously blocked the growth of a downstream food processing industry Meanwhile academia pundits and the intelligentsia are silent.