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FDI in retail will benefit poor farmers: Beni Verma

Last updated on: August 22, 2012 12:23 IST

FDI in retail will benefit poor farmers: Beni Verma

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Kavita Chowdhury

Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma has been in news for his statement "inflation helps farmers". He talks about why he stands by his statement and how FDI in retail would set right prices for both agriculturalists and consumers.

You have said 'inflation helps farmers', but in reality, inflation also leads to rise in prices of agricultural inputs like fertiliser, diesel and so on, affecting their cost of living.

Since Independence, all classes and groups have progressed; farmers, in comparison, have not progressed as much as other groups.

The population has quadrupled, and, hence, the land area is getting smaller for the individual farmer. Those who are into growing routine crops, the returns are far less than from cash crops. Therefore, small farmers can't invest much in their land for better yield. In fact, farmers are getting poorer by the day.

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Image: Beni Prasad Verma
Photographs: Courtesy, Press Information Bureau

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At the time of Independence, government servants whose monthly income was Rs 100 a month today gets between Rs 70,000 and Rs 80,000. The income disparity between the government servants and farmers is rising.

In modern India today, 75 per cent of farmers still don't have toilets, they can't afford to give their children good education or send them to engineering and medical colleges.

The UPA-I government had given a farm loan waiver of Rs 72,000 crore (Rs 720 billion) to provide relief to farmers. Then, MNREGS gave relief to landless labourers. But these measures were not enough to uplift them.

The only solution is FDI in retail. Why are political parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposed to it? Don't they want farmers to be uplifted? FDI will benefit farmers, only the middleman would be eliminated, and small shopkeepers would not be affected.

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Photographs: Reuters

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FDI in retail will benefit poor farmers: Beni Verma

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Your recent statements have caused a furore and the Congress party is being accused of moving away from the 'aam aadmi'.

No, it is not so. The Congress is still connected with the 'aam aadmi', of which farmers are the biggest segment. If FDI in retail comes in, agricultural prices and consumer prices get balanced. The middleman would be done away with and both farmers and consumers would be benfitted.

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Photographs: Reuters

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You have also been quoted as saying, 'If people's salaries can go up, why not prices of farm produce.' Do you still stand by your statements?

I stand by my statements. I see nothing contradictory in them. Price rise of agricultural produce helps farmers. What I meant by 'inflation' was in fact 'price rise in agricultural produce'.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: FDI , Beni Verma

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Your recent comment ticking off Mulayam Singh Yadav for suggesting a third front with him at the helm after 2014 election has soured the friendly relations between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress.

I can tolerate the Samajwadi Party's friendship with the Congress party, but I cannot tolerate the prospect of Mulayam Singh Yadav as the prime minister. I will choose not to join that government. In any case, that is an impossible scenario.



Image: Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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