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Loan Waiver Can’t Solve Farm Woes Unless Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj Model is Adopted: Activist Radha Bhatt

According to the Gandhian activist Bhatt, governments never offered the due respect to the farmers as they had to industries since the time of independence.

Vivek Trivedi | News18

Updated:March 12, 2019, 5:11 PM IST
Loan Waiver Can’t Solve Farm Woes Unless Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj Model is Adopted: Activist Radha Bhatt
File photo of Gandhian activist Radha Bhatt.

Bhopal: Farm distress might be on top of poll agenda for parties heading into the Lok Sabha elections, but veteran Gandhian activist Radha Bhatt believes that there will be no drastic change unless Mahatma Gandhi’s Gram Swaraj model is implemented in villages.

The activist is a former chairperson of the Gandhi Peace Foundation and has remained a trustee of Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust.

While in the city to deliver a lecture, Bhatt said that governments never offered the due respect to the farmers as they did to industries since the time of independence.

"No sector faces as many atrocious actions as the agrarian sector," said the 85-year-old activist. Bhatt now runs the Laxmi Ashram in Uttarakhand’s Kusani, which was founded by Mahatma Gandhi’s disciple Sarla Behn (Katherine Mary Heilemann).

“Earlier, it was a problem of low productivity and crop glut lead to price crash and both have left the food grain growers doomed," she said adding that farm woes won’t end unless the Gram Swaraj model of Mahatma Gandhi is implemented where the entire village collectively sits and decides what to grow, how much to grow and who would grow what.

“If this happens, there won’t be excess produce and if the needs of the nearby urban areas are to be fulfilled by villages, the farmers will know exactly where their market is,” she said.

To illustrate, Bhatt said, “Imagine an area like Punjab, which doesn’t have sufficient water. It can’t switch to sugarcane crop which primarily thrives on water. Agri planning is a requirement and should be done according to the geographic region to avoid losses and haphazard production."

The Gandhian said that the same should be done in the case of economic policies, which should be modelled in accordance to a country’s demography, labour abundance, literacy, workforce, requirements and so on.

“Besides, for ending rural distress and farmers’ debts, unnecessary expenses including those incurred on court cases should be restrained and petty cases could be easily settled in Gram Sabhas”.

Bhatt, who has seen India emerge from the shadow of the British rule and bloom into a democratic country, is of the belief that the elections haven’t been beneficial for anyone.

“Wherever we have gone, including the villages, the unity and harmony have disintegrated soon after elections crept in.”

Citing the example of under-construction on the Char Dham road project where locals’ solemn pleas of diverting the route to save thousands of trees fell on deaf ears, Bhatt who was also a part of the historical Chipko Andolan of Uttarakhand said that those in power were not ones to listen while making policies.

“They call themselves ‘public representatives’ but in reality, they are ‘party representatives’ who pay heed to things said by their parties only as they know they won’t be offered tickets unless they do,” she said.

According to Bhatt, the need of the hour is to field people’s candidates who have an understanding of public issues and who care for their welfare.

Bhatt has been a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize along with 1000 other distinguished women from across the globe.

Asked to differentiate between the Congress governments of the past and present BJP government, the veteran social worker claimed they are identical saying, “Earlier Nehruji used to visit Russia to woo investments and no PM Narendra Modi rolls out the red carpet for investments.”

Asked to comment on the gradual changes in Indian politics, Bhatt said that in the early days the parties had a certain ideology but nowadays it only politics is only limited to personal attacks at the rival party leaders.

“Lack of visionary leaders has brought about this decline and it also reflects in developmental front”.

Commenting on the caste-based reservation spree presently underway, the veteran activist claimed it won’t benefit anyone and would instead fuel social disintegration.

“Growing Hindu-Muslim tension, mob lynching on cow slaughter and growing hatred is concerning.” Bhatt said.

Gandhian thoughts might have been forgotten in present era but I am sure the country would be compelled to fall back on his ideology in future, she opined.

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| Edited by: Angana Chakrabarti
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