Nehru’s Word: Mann Ki Baat in 1952

No talks with leaders of farmers, no discussion was permitted in Parliament, repeal Bill was bulldozed through both Houses arbitrarily. Contrast this with Nehru, in an address on food situation, 1952

Jawahar Lal Nehru
Jawahar Lal Nehru

NH Web Desk

Although the Parliament rolled back what farmers called the three Black Laws this week, the complete lack of empathy for farmers and their sufferings was striking. No talks with leaders of the farmers were held, no discussion was permitted in Parliament, the repeal Bill was bulldozed through both Houses as arbitrarily as they were enacted last year! Contrast this with the attitude of the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in an address on All India Radio (June, 1952) on the food situation. Do note the frank manner in which he shares the difficulties being faced with his audience, and the child-like pride he takes in the success of the crop competitions in achieving high yields!

“Friends and comrades,

I am speaking to you over the radio after a long time. Much has happened during this interval. But today I shall speak to you chiefly about the food situation… I should like to talk to you about our common problems because it is very necessary that there should be a close understanding between the people of this great country and the Government they have elected.

You know that for many years we have had to face tremendous difficulty about our food. The last world war, the partition of India, overwhelming natural disasters in the shape of earthquakes, floods, and drought and the growing population of India made this country deficit in food…Because of our lack of food, we imported large quantities of food grains at an enormous cost to this country.

We have struggled against famine and scarcity in many parts of India, and even in recent months we have had to face very difficult conditions in Rayalaseema, parts of Mysore, the Sunderbans area in Bengal, eastern Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Saurashtra, the Hissar district in the Punjab and Ajmer. In some parts of India, even drinking water has been difficult to obtain.

Some districts of Madras, such as in Rayalaseema, have been peculiarly unfortunate as there was a drought for four successive years. We sent our army to do relief work there, and from all accounts they did a very fine piece of work indeed and demonstrated that they are as good at serving the people in a civil capacity as they are in their military capacity….

We have tried to the best of our ability to give relief by productive works, by deepening wells, boring new wells, desilting tanks, authorizing agricultural loans and remissions of land revenue, and distribution of free food, where necessary. In spite of this serious situation that we have had to face and our manifold difficulties, there has been in some respects a turn for the better.

For the first time, we have got large stocks of food grains and prices have generally gone down except for the foreign imported grains. Our stock position, therefore, is very good for the present, and to that extent is some insurance against future mishap. We started the year with a stock of 13.3 lakh tonnes of food grains. At present we hold a stock of more than 36 lakh tonnes, of which a little over three and a half (lakh) tonnes is held directly by the Centre. The wheat harvest is good, and our procurement this year has been better than that of last year…

Now is the time for all of us to cooperate in coming to grips and solving this problem of food, which has been a menace to us for these many years. The solution may take some time, but we can go a long way towards it if we try hard enough.

Essentially it means more production and not hoarding. Procurement must be made easy and prices must be kept down. There are many ways of increasing food production: more land can be brought under cultivation, more water can be supplied for irrigation, and there can be more intensive cultivation. Our governments have undertaken many schemes for these purposes all over India.

Over two years ago, the Government of India introduced a crop competition scheme on a countrywide basis in order to increase food production. As I speak to you, we are having our crop competition fortnight for this half year. This competition has already yielded very fine results and prizes have been awarded to many of our farmers. These prizes are given for the highest yield at the village, the mandal, the district, the State or at the all-India levels.

Three crops were originally selected for competition, namely, wheat, paddy and potatoes. This year three others have been added to them, namely, gram, jowar and bajra. We want these competitions in every village and we want the Gram Panchayat or the agricultural development committee or cooperative society to organize these competitions. The prizes go up to rupees 5,000 for wheat; a tractor costing Rupees 7,000 will be the all-India prize. Also a diesel engine for paddy. Those who won these prizes will be awarded certificates and will have the title given to them of Krishi Pandits. I shall tell you about some of the remarkable results already obtained through these competitions.

In Uttar Pradesh, the highest yield for wheat per acre has been over 59 maunds; for potatoes, over 726 maunds. For paddy in West Bengal, the figure is over 73 maunds. In Madras it is 146 maunds. Look at these figures. They show what we can do if we make up our minds to do it. Even if these are exceptional figures, the average goes up, and a ten per cent increase in our average solves all our food problems.

These crop competitions are thus very important and I hope that they will spread to every village in India. In Uttar Pradesh this year, 60 thousand competitors enlisted. They hope to have over 9 lakhs of competitors at the next competition. But this is not enough. We want every farmer to enlist and we want scores of millions of farmers to take part in these competitions all over India….

I hope therefore that you will undertake this task with all earnestness and strength of will and that good fortune will be yours.

Jai Hind.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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