Nitin Gadkari, road and transport minister, in Mumbai. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Elections 2019: Farm Crisis Immense, Don’t Claim To Have Fixed Everything, Says Nitin Gadkari

The crisis in India’s agriculture sector is of a magnitude that can’t be fixed in the five years that the Narendra Modi government has been in power, said Union Minister Nitin Gadkari.

A global glut in commodities has led to surplus production in every major crop, and the government has attempted to find solutions via higher minimum support prices, farm loan waivers, and irrigation programs, Gadkari told BloombergQuint’s Sanjay Pugalia.

We have done a lot, but the problem is immense.
Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister

On the prospects of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Gadkari asserted that Narendra Modi will be prime minister again, and that the BJP will exceed its 2014 tally of 282 seats.

Watch the interview here:

Read excerpts of the edited transcript here:

The issue of farm distress and jobless growth is quite serious. Even the GDP growth figures, the previous system of measurement shows that the country is growing at a moderate pace. If I’m being liberal, I’d say that the BJP has achieved less than 50 percent of what they set out to achieve. Would you agree?

You have raised four issues here. First of all, yes, the farmers are in distress. We are now a global economy. Brazil decides the prices of sugar which costs Rs 20. In India, sugar costs Rs 34 and accordingly we pass on the price of sugarcane to farmers. We have pulses, wheat, rice, sugar in surplus. We have high production and less demand. It is not in our hand to decide the rate in global economy, irrespective of who is in power. If in Brazil the prices fell, then we can’t cost higher here. Therefore, we took some decisions in agriculture.

We have funded 99 incomplete projects from central government, for the first time in history of country, through Pradhan Mantri Sinchayee Yojana. 25 percent was funded by granted aid and rest 75 percent was funded through NABARD. 1.28 lakh hectare land will come under water irrigation. Instead of building canal, we are making pipeline for drip irrigation which is successful in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Agriculture growth rate rose to 23 percent in Madhya Pradesh.

We have introduced connecting rivers projects. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Orissa and Jharkhand have acute water crises. For water availability, we introduced connecting water projects. Overall, there are 30 projects and later we added six to seven projects. DPR is clear for eight projects. We have even applied for environment clearance certificate. So, we are about to start project of Rs 3 lakh crore anytime soon.

Even Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan face water crises. During partition, both the countries have access to three rivers each. The water which was accorded to us was flowing to Pakistan. Regarding this, we have cleared 2 projects and one more is about to get cleared. This will solve the water conflict between Punjab and Haryana and even supply water to Rajasthan.

We are building six dams on Yamuna wherein the river’s water share will increase by 160 percent and will also solve the water crises in Delhi. We will get hydropower. We are doing a hydropower project in Pancheshwar with Nepal which could produce 6,000 MW electricity.

Development of agriculture depends on water. Now, instead of canal, water will get supplied through pipe by drip irrigation. Farm production and water usage will rise by three times. It is for first time that central government is backing state government by sponsoring these projects. 1.28 crore hectare land will come under irrigation.

We have given Rs 12 lakh crores to farmers through priority sector by also giving concession in interest cost. Farmers are even getting zero percent crop loan in some state where state governments are adding their concession too. We have rose MSP prices. Where MSP prices are lower, we are depositing cash in farmers account. In Maharashtra, we cleared 5 lakh electric pumps which were in waiting list. We have bought solar pumps.

Despite taking all these measures, farm crises is immense and won’t get solved in just 5 years. There is a need of diversification of agriculture towards energy and power sector. We have created ethanol. We had crude oil import of Rs 7 lakh crore. We want to give Rs 2 lakh crore to farmers from this amount. Our planes fly on bio aviation fuel on 26th January. It is a new policy measure which is coming up. We have added ethanol in petrol and now we are about to add it in diesel. We brought 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation ethanol to diversify agriculture fuel by alternatives.

It will take time for the policy measures to bear fruits. I didn’t promise to solve these crises in mere five years. I didn’t even reckon that everyone is satisfied, and all problems have been solved.

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There is probability that BJP might be single largest party but will fall short of majority. Even the current NDA won’t reach to the mark of majority. In this case, you might require new allies.

I am confident that BJP will get more seats than previous election crossing 300 seats mark. We are in no doubt that NDA will get majority and Narendra Modi will be next Prime Minister. He is our Prime Ministerial candidate and we are fighting this election under his leadership.

Will new allies ask for leadership change?

This ‘if’ and ‘but’ politics are up to you to decide. Concerning work, what was not done in last 50 years, we have been able to achieve it in five years. We will get full majority; form government and Narendra Modi will be Prime Minister and we have no doubt about it.

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There are alliances taking shape on state level. Congress is improving from its historic defeat. Will this be a challenge for BJP?

Alliances are done on principles. Those who had opposite ideologies are coming together. But we are kingmaker for them. Due to fear of losing from us, they are forming alliances. It is obvious and it happens in politics. But people want a stable government. They haven’t even decided on their leadership nor on their Prime Ministerial candidate. So, on what basis people will give them votes? They didn’t have unity on ideas and economic policies. This cat fight will destroy our country. So, people want a stable government which only NDA can attain. People have this trust on us and thus we will win.

Dalits, Maratha reservation and the agrarian crisis are the three issues which seems will go against you on grassroot level.

In my constituency alone, we had 108 projects under Baliraja Yojna on irrigation front and about 27 projects are under Pradhan Mantri Sinchayee Yojana. We are trying to complete it within three years where Maharashtra’s irrigation will rise to 48 percent from 18-20 percent. Aren’t this Devendra Fadnavis efforts?

The water crises has been severe in Maharashtra since the last 60 years. We have waived off the loans. By building the Damanganga Pinjal project, all dams on Godavari river will be full to its capacity. Due to this, there won’t be water crises in Nashik, Malegaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, Ahmednagar and Marathwada. I have given clearance to Tapi-Par-Narmada project.

We have taken decisions on such important projects for first time and it will take time to bear its fruits. Devendra has awarded tenders for Samruddhi Mahamarg. Industrial investment is rising in Maharashtra.

Agriculture crises exist. But will the agriculture crises get solved if government changes? The solution for problems varies by its term. These are the fruits of wrong policymaking by the Congress government. We are not claiming a miracle, but we have done more than the previous government and more work is due. Give us more time and we will change this situation.

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Will you get a promotion?

I am not in politics for profession but involved in conviction-oriented politics. I entered politics during the emergency period. Politics is an instrument of socio-economic reform. I want to work for our country, society and its people.

In my constituency, I am doing Seva Prakalp and Vikas Prakalp. I run 1,100 vehicle schools. I have aided 8,000 heart operations. I have aided 700-800 leg transplants. I am working in agricultural sector for organic farming and bio-fuel. I am conviction oriented. To change the situation of country and society is what gives me promotion and that’s our challenge and mission.

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