Fields to foreign shores, Chouhan spreads largesse


By promising to send farmers abroad on "study tours", Madhya Pradesh has proved that populism knows no boundaries including international.

The mouthful 'Mukhyamantri Kisan Videsh Adhyayan Yatra Yojana' announced by Shivraj Singh Chouhan at a farmers' rally in Bhopal is among several such schemes attributed to the Chief Minister.

In the CM's name, the poor now get grant to marry off their daughters, the parents whose only child is a girl get pension, the elderly go on pilgrimage, and those fighting goons to "protect a girl's honour" a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh. Then there are several generic schemes like Awas Mission, Peyjal, Annapurna that promise to give housing to the rural poor, drinking water and foodgrains, all in the CM's benevolent name. And yet sending farmers on foreign junkets to learn agriculture techniques is the most exotic idea to have emerged from his impressive repertoire.

Most farmers in MP are small and marginal and it's difficult to imagine how they would benefit from experience of abroad where landholdings, for example in the US, are much bigger, and the climatic conditions vastly different.

In fact, where MP lacks is in productivity, which remains very low despite its remarkable achievements in agriculture in recent years. State farmers could be helped better in this by trips to other states within the country.

In any case, a few "progressive" farmers already go abroad on the government's expense, accompanied by ministers and bureaucrats, often to countries like Israel to study drip irrigation.

BJP chief Rajnath Singh has said Chouhan has an "emotional connect with the masses" helping him come up with such schemes. It's another matter that these also make huge political sense in an election year. It's an entirely different matter that the BJP has been known to insist that it is foreigners who should learn about our agricultural practices than we copying them. As for the most crucial matter, of the drain on the exchequer, no one is keeping a count.

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