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'His life will keep on inspiring people': PM Modi pays tribute to APJ Abdul Kalam on his birth anniversary

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday paid tribute to late former President APJ Abdul Kalam on his 88th birth anniversary and remembered his contributions to the country.

"My heartfelt tribute to Dr APJ Abdul Kalamji on his anniversary. He dreamt of the India of 21st century, which was capable and then went on to give his exceptional contribution to the goal.

His ideal life will keep on inspiring the people of the country. India salutes Dr APJ Abdul Kalamji on his Jayanti," Modi's tweet, which also had a short video highlighting the key achievements of the former President's life embedded, read.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too remembered the former President and asserted that he continues to live on in the hearts and the minds of the people of the country.

"Remembering former President of India and a phenomenal scientist, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam on his birth anniversary. He was a people's President who would continue to live in the hearts and minds of the people of India. I bow to him on his Jayanti," Singh's tweet read.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, better known as the 'Missile Man of India' for his contributions towards the development of the country's missile projects was born on October 15, 1931, at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu.

In 2002, Dr Kalam became the 11th President of India and famously became the 'People's President' for his friendly nature to one and all.

In 2010, the United Nations decided to recognise October 15 as World Student Day. Dr Kalam was very dedicated towards teaching and he always referred to himself as a teacher first.

The former President suffered a cardiac arrest on July 27, 2015, and passed away while giving a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong.

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar while paying tribute to Kalam, reminded citizens that it was due to his extreme love and dedication to the students that the former President's birthday was celebrated as the World Students Day.

"The birthday of Dr APJ Abdul Kalam - the most popular President of India -is celebrated as World Students Day. He was a real teacher and loved students and even died while delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong. My tributes to the Bharat Ratna Abdul Kalam," Javadekar's tweet read.

Absolutely no governance in state, says NCP leader Hemant Takale

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Hemant Takale, visited the office of The Free Press Journal and Navshakti on Monday and speaking to the editorial team, decried the lack of governance in Maharashtra and explained how the economic condition of the state had deteriorated in the last five years.

Team FPJ

How do you assess the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in the last five years?

There is absolutely no governance in the state. Over the last five years, the economy of the state has fallen significantly. The chief secretary of the chief minister is frequently being changed, companies are being shut down, foreign investors are fighting shy of investing, farmer suicides are on the rise and most importantly, there is an environment of fear and oppression being created. Whoever questions the acts of the government is dubbed anti-national. This is a serious threat to healthy governance and democracy.

With Congress and NCP heavyweights switching to the BJP, it seems as though the fight has gone out of the opposition. Aren’t the upcoming elections going to be completely one-sided?

We are campaigning aggressively. With our campaign rallies – the Shivswarajya Yatra, Halla Bol and Jail Bharo Andolan, not only were we able to reach out to the people of Maharashtra but also gained their confidence.

People have completely lost faith in the present government and they are about to vote them out in the assembly elections. Farmers and youth are infuriated with the BJP-Sena rule.

So you are confident of coming back to power? What do you think will be the margin of your victory?

Yes, we are confident we'll be back. You can see that in the speeches of BJP also. Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are constantly bringing up Article 370 in their speeches.

How is Article 370 relevant to the election in Maharahstra? Isn't it evident they are doing this only to divert attention from the real issues ailing Maharashtra right now -- the issues of unemployment, poverty and inflation, to name just a few.

The government is turning a blind eye to this and people can see that, they are not fools. The govt has been only successful in dividing people on the grounds of nationalism.

The Sena-BJP alliance has already taken a call on who will be their next CM. Who is the CM face of your alliance?

We will decide that after the poll results. Such decisions cannot be taken overnight. Several factors must be taken into account. Our alliance believes in democracy, so we will take a call when everyone is on the same page.


Margaret Atwood, Bernardine Evaristo jointly win Booker Prize 2019 as jury breaks rules

London: Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo jointly won the 2019 Booker Prize on Monday after judges "flout" the rules by declaring a tie.

British Indian novelist Salman Rushdie's tragicomic 'Quichotte' was among the six books shortlisted for the prize. The Booker rules say the prize must not be divided, but the judges insisted they "couldn't separate" Atwood's 'The Testament' and 'Girl, Woman, Other' by Evaristo, who is the first black woman to win the prestigious award since its creation in 1969.

The rules were changed after the last tie in 1992, and organisers told this year's judges that they were not allowed to pick two winners. But after five hours of deliberations, Peter Florence, the chair of the five-member judging panel, said: "It was our decision to flout the rules." The judges said they strongly wanted both the authors to split the GBP 50,000 award at a gala ceremony at Guildhall here. "The more we talked about them, the more we found we loved them both so much we wanted them both to win," Florence said.

Seventy-nine-year-old Canadian author Atwood expressed her joy at sharing the award with a younger writer. Atwood joked to her co-winner: "I would have thought I would have been too elderly, and I kind of don't need the attention, so I'm very glad that you're getting some." "It would have been quite embarrassing for me. if I had been alone here, so I'm very pleased that you're here too," she said. Evaristo said, "We black British women know that if we don't write ourselves into literature no one else will."

"It's so incredible to share this with Margaret Atwood, who's such a legend and so generous," the 60-year-old said, after the shock joint win was announced. The others shortlisted included Lucy Ellmann for 'Ducks, Newburyport', Chigozie Obioma for 'An Orchestra of Minorities', and Elif Shafak for '10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World'. Atwood's 'The Testaments' had been the bookmakers' favourite to scoop the award. She had also made the shortlist with 'The Handmaid's Tale' in 1986, with her latest book set 15 years after the end of that novel.

The 2019 shortlist had been selected from 151 submitted books published in the UK or Ireland between October 2018 and September 2019. On Rushdie's 'Quichotte' the judging panel commented, "A picaresque tour-de-force of contemporary America, with all its alarms and craziness. Rushdie conjures a celebration of storytelling and language that will delight lovers of Cervantes, lovers of daytime television and lovers of life." This was the fifth time that the Mumbai-born novelist was shortlisted, including the 1981 win where he bagged the award for "Midnight's Children".

Rushdie's latest work is inspired by the classic 'Don Quixote' by 16th century Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes. The judging panel said this year's shortlist offered an insight into different worlds from the dystopian setting of Gilead, the monologue of an Ohio housewife and the tragicomic tale of a travelling salesman in America; to mostly female, mostly Black, British lives across generations, the trials of a young Nigerian man on a quest to improve his prospects and true allegiances within the brothels of Istanbul.

Florence, founder and director of the Hay Festival and Chair of the Booker Prize judging panel this year, said: "The common thread is our admiration for the extraordinary ambition of each of these books." "There is an abundance of humour, of political and cultural engagement, of stylistic daring and astonishing beauty of language," he said. "Anyone who reads all six of these books would be enriched and delighted, would be awe-struck by the power of story, and encouraged by what literature can do to set our imaginations free." Each of the shortlisted authors received GBP 2,500 and a specially-bound edition of their book.

Last year's winner was Northern Irish writer Anna Burns for 'Milkman', which has sold around 546,500 copies in all formats since the award. The Booker Prize for Fiction, first awarded in 1969, is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland. The prize is supported for the first time this year by venture capitalist Michael Moritz and novelist wife Harriet Heyman's charitable foundation Crankstart, rather than the Man Group.

By Aditi Khanna/PTI


'Wahi Dhaak Ke Teen Pat': Manohar Lal Khattar hits out at Congress again for making Sonia Gandhi as party chief

Julana: Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar whose snark comments on Sonia Gandhi invited the ire of the Congress Party, has again criticised her and the opposition party, three months after its massive defeat in the Lok Sabha polls.

Speaking at a public meeting here on Monday, Khattar said, "Rahul Gandhi resigned from the post of Congress president and said that the president should be not from the Gandhi family.

I thought it was a very good move, but after three months who was made the President?" Khattar replied to his own question with the phrase 'Wahi Dhaak Ke Teen Pat' (remaining in the same situation).

What Khattar meant was that even after losing the elections and after Rahul Gandhi's resignation, the Congress party had chosen a member of the Gandhi family as the party president.

On October 13 at a poll rally, Khattar had said: "After losing the Lok Sabha elections, Rahul Gandhi resigned as the Congress president and started saying that the party should get new president from outside Gandhi family,"

"We thought this was good, to move away from nepotism (parivarvad)... But they spent three months moving around the country in search of a new party president.

After three months who became the president? Sonia Gandhi. Khoda Pahar Nikli Chuiya, Vo Bhi Mari Hui. This is their condition," added Khattar.

Khattar also hit out at Congress party saying that they have made huge promises in the polls but these promises but the party won't be able to fulfil the promises.

Khattar further said, "We have a scheme in which the person works for 100 days and get paid Rs 7,000 for that but the Congress has announced that they will give money even if the youth does not work.

So they are promoting a habit of freebies among the youth." "Haryana is known for its hard work and we will not allow our youths to not work and get things for free," he added.

The assembly elections in Haryana and Maharashtra are scheduled to take place on October 21 and the results will be declared on October 24.


BJP following same corrupt practices of previous government: Prakash Ambedkar

Aurangabad: Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) chief Prakash Ambedkar has alleged that the language being used by BJP leaders during the election campaigns shows their "dictatorial" attitude which doesn't suit the democracy.

He also charged the BJP-led government of being involved in "corrupt practices", but said its way of grabbing money was different from the previous Congress and NCP-led dispensations.

Addressing an election rally in Maharashtra's Aurangabad district on Monday, he appealed to the Muslim community to support secular forces and start a "new chapter of friendship with VBA".

He said BJP leaders were claiming that they will win around 240 Assembly seats out of total 288 in the state.

"They think they will never go out of power, but they should remember that it is the voters who decide the government, not the political parties," he said.

"The language being used by BJP leaders in their campaign is of dictatorship and doesn't suit the democracy," the Dalit leader said. Hitting out at the BJP-led government, Ambedkar alleged that it was following the "same corrupt practices of the previous government".

"The only difference is their way of grabbing money is different," he added. He claimed several projects undertaken for expanding the road network served as a medium of grabbing money for the government.

The rates which the sub-contractors get for making roads were quite less, compared to what the head contractors were getting, he said.

Ambedkar said the welfare schemes which the BJP-led government was trying to implement were available during the tenure of previous dispensations also.

Hitting out further at the government, he said malnutrition was not just limited to tribal-dominated villages, but was spreading in other areas also. "But, the government doesn't want to address this issue," he said.

On the problem of scarcity in some parts of western Maharashtra, he said if 40 TMC of water going to some private power projects there is reserved for drinking and agricultural purposes, it will end water woes in 50 per cent of the drought-prone areas.

Ambedkar also hit out at the All India Majlis-e- Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM), which snapped ties with his party last month.

"The Muslim ward members in Auragabad were elected on Muslim votes in 2015, but they voted for the Shiv Sena in the state Legislative Council elections held a couple of months back," he added.

The AIMIM-VBA alliance did well in the April-May Lok Sabha polls in terms of votes received, but their ties broke ahead of the state Assembly polls.

Earlier, the VBA-AIMIM managed to hurt the Congress- NCP in several seats in the Lok Sabha polls, prompting the opposition combine to call the former as the "B team" of the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena.

Polling for all 288 Assembly seats in the state will be held on October 21 and counting of votes will take place on October 24.


10 killed after cylinder explodes in Uttar Pradesh's Mau district

Mau: At least 10 people died and 15 others were injured when a cylinder exploded in a two-storey house in Walidpur area here on Monday, a senior UP government official said. Food was being cooked in the house when the explosion took place.

Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Awasthi said, "As per the District Magistrate of Mau, the death toll in the blast stands at 10." "UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has taken cognizance of the blast in Walidpur where 10 persons have died.

He has expressed deepest condolences to the family of the deceased and directed the DM and SP to immediately provide all possible relief and help to the injured persons," he said.

District Magistrate Gyan Prakash Tripathi said around 15 people sustained injuries in the blast.


Sourav Ganguly likely to become new BCCI President, Jay Shah to be inducted: Report

New Delhi: Former Indian Cricket Captain Sourav Ganguly is likely to become the new President of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Currently, CK Khanna is the acting BCCI President.

A source from one of the Cricket Associations speaking on condition of anonymity said, "We have decided that Ganguly will be the new President." Brijesh Patel is set to take over as IPL chairman. October 14 is the last date to file the nominations for BCCI elections which is scheduled to take place on October 23.

On October 10, it was reported that the BCCI had barred eight state units out of the 38 from attending the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to be held here on October 23. In the AGM meeting, Ganguly will represent the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), while Rajat Sharma and Mohammed Azharuddin will attend as the representatives of Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) and Hyderabad Cricket Association, respectively.


Ayodhya: Section 144 imposed till December 10 in anticipation of verdict in Ram Mandir land case

Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh): District Magistrate Court imposed Section-144 in the district in anticipation of a verdict in the Ayodhya land case. The decision was also been taken considering the upcoming festivals.

Section 144 will be in effect till December 10, District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha said in the order. "Decision to impose Section-144 also taken in consideration of upcoming festivals," Ayodhya District Magistrate, Anuj Kumar Jha. He said that the order has been passed to maintain peace in the district. According to the order, there will be a ban on the use of drone and no shop will sell them without prior information.

Last month, Chief Justice (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi had said that arguments have to be completed by October 18 even as the mediation panel may continue its work under confidentiality, in a move apparently aimed at quickening the hearing process in the matter.

"As per the estimate of tentative dates to finish the hearing in the case, we can say that the submissions have to be likely completed by October 18," said the CJI, who heads the five-judge constitution bench hearing the case. He is set to demit office on November 17. The top court is hearing a batch of petitions filed by -- Hindu and Muslim and others sides -- challenging the 2010 Allahabad High Court judgment, which divided the disputed site in Ayodhya into three equal parts. The day-to-day hearing had started on August 6 after a court-appointed mediation panel failed to resolve the dispute through amicable settlement.


Like a thief, they hacked Aarey trees: Aaditya Thackeray

Aaditya Thackeray, who is the Yuva Sena Chief, Shiv Sena's Worli candidate and the son of Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray, expressed his displeasure over the cutting of trees in Aarey. The trees were cut in the night akin to a thief's act, he said in a special interview with the Free Press Journal's Political Editor, Pramod Chunchuwar.

Question- You have promised to bring a legislation to give more power to elected public representatives in the local self government bodies. What will be the nature of this bill?

Answer- We are witnessing that the elected representative in the Local self government bodies are not having sufficient powers. This is affecting performance of these bodies.

I have seen in the world that public representative in key metros like New York have more power than their counterpart in other metros. They are almost like ministers.

We agree that there should be a sound check and balance system in the place to avoid misuse of these powers. We feel that the public representative in Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad and Pune should have more powers for decision-making and its implementation.

Has this demand stemmed from your experience in running BMC, where IAS officers are blamed for not allowing the elected body to work?

It will be wrong to say that IAS officers do not allow an elected body to work. Actually, this demand is based on our experience of hurdles in decision making and its implementation.

The decisions of local self government bodies has to pass through various channels, including Mantralaya. IAS officers working in local self government bodies too face these hurdles. Many times, these IAS officers are willing to do very good things but they could not.

If we take into consideration the example of BMC, there are many agencies in Mumbai. The people blame BMC for a pothole on the Western Express highway, which comes under the National Highway Authority.

In Mumbai, there are 16 agencies like MMRDA, MMRCL, Railways, NHAI, PWD at work. But there is no one organisation that will coordinate with these agencies. The elected public representative may play an important role in this.

The Thackeray family was known for having a remote control with them and not for contesting election. Why did you break this tradition? Why choose Worli instead of any rural constituency in Maharashtra?

The remote control is still with Uddhav Thackeray. But the remote control also needs a TV in front to work, isn't? I have 9 years of experience in active politics. I was willing to contest elections even in 2014. But that time my age was below 25 years.

Though Shiv Sena is a regional party in electoral politics, its voice is always national. Be it the issue of Kashmir, whether it is a matter of Rajasthan or Kerala, the Shiv Sena has been expressing its role at the national level in the national interest.

It is true that the option of contesting election from rural part was actively considered. But I wish to personally monitor the development work in my constituency in my personal capacity. It does not mean that I would not go to the rural part of Maharashtra.

In fact, my Jan-Aashirwad yatra passed through rural parts and got very good response. Worli is a constituency which truly represents Maharashtra.

The people of all key castes, religions and regions of Maharashtra reside here. It has Koliwadas where original inhabitants of Mumbai stay.

You have large populations of Marathis and other communities, there are slums, high-rises, BDD chawls and places not developed for 18-20 years.

There is a lot of scope for development. I know if I am elected, there will be challenges to develop Worli. But I dream to make Worli a model constituency.

Question- You played the politics of Marathi Manoos for a long time. But now you are appealing to Worli voters to vote for you in Gujarati, Tamil and other languages. Is this not a contradiction?

Answer- We have to use a hammer and chisel to carve a statue. After carving the statue, we did not use the hammer and chisel. If we did, it will destroy the statue. Whether it may be Gujarati or Tamil, all languages are Indian and spoken by our own people.

I have sent a pamphlet to all residents of Worli constituency where I have saluted them not only in Indian languages but also in foreign languages like French and German.

I will develop this constituency in such a way that even the foreign tourist will come to Worli area. This will boost tourism in Worli. I am following inclusive politics done by my grandfather Balasaheb Thackeray.

Question- After you jumped in the election process, what is your routine?

Answer- I do not believe in a 9 to 5 job. There is fun in non-routine. I have no fixed routine during the time of election. Sometimes, I am sleeping at one o'clock, sometimes at three, sometimes at four o'clock. At times, I have to get up at six o'clock in the morning or at nine o'clock.

Especially during elections, I work for the the whole day. Sometimes i work online because today is also the age of social media. I am missing my food at times, for which my mother snubs me.

I could not attend gym due to election work. In the last 6 months, I could not watch any movie. Even the poetry writing has stopped.

Question- Will your younger brother Tejas join politics after you enter assembly?

Answer- Tejas is currently touring in Maharashtra with our father Uddhav Thackeray. He is interested in wildlife. He is checking who is more wild? Whether politics or wildlife?

Question- After getting elected, will you prefer to join the cabinet or work only as a legislator?

Answer- Whether I will be a minister or Chief Minister will be decided by the people. To get to the floor, you first have to be climb steps. I will act as an MLA in the house.

There are many politicians in the state whose sole dream is the minister's post. In this round, they are not able to enjoy the whole process of democracy. I am not one of them. First let me win the election. Then the public will decide what should I do.

Question- Whose impact can be seen in your politics? Balasaheb Thackeray, Uddhav or Raj Thackeray?

Answer- My politics is completely influenced by the workers of Shiv Sena. Their devotion for party and Maharashtra inspires me. As they work without expecting any post and position, I am too am not expecting any post in politics.

Question- You were aggressive against building the Metro car shed in Aarey. Uddhav Thackeray had also claimed that the car shed will be changed. But despite this trees were cut in Aarey for the car shed and you chose to remain silent. Even your manifesto is missing this subject?

Answer- Since Aarey car shed is Mumbai's subject, we have not mentioned this issue in the state level manifesto. We are coming out with region-wise manifestos too. Aarey issue will feature in Mumbai regional manifesto and it will be uploaded on the website.

The manifesto is only for promises that we want to implement it for the next five years. The tree cutting was done by MMRCL and not by the government or BJP. The issue is city versus destruction. Even NEERI has said the Aarey is a flood plain.

We are very much angered about the way trees were cut. As MMRCL won the case in the Mumbai High Court and Mumbaikars lost in this legal battle, why did MMRCL cut trees in the night like a thief?

They should have celebrated their victory by cutting trees in the day. We want to convey our disappointment to the government through you. These officials of MMRCL should be sent to Pak Occupied Kashmir to attack terrorists.

Question- Why did Sena not protest or call a Mumbai bandh against tree cutting in Aarey?

Answer- It is not true that Sena did not protest. Our leaders like Subha Rawool, Shital Mhatre courted arrest when tree cutting was being carried away. We opposed this project right from the Development Plan process.

The tree cutting was also opposed by Sena in the Tree committee. Our corporator Yashwant Jadhav filed a petition against this in the High Court and now is going to Supreme Court.

But tree cutting was done by deploying police force of 3,000 personnel. We opposed using all our might. But if we had organised mass protests or called for Mumbai bandh, it would have been immoral and would have been a burden for the police force which is already under pressure during the election period.

Through you, I wish to ask whether the MMRCL chief ordered arrest of activists. These officers are misleading the state government. The youths who protested were arrested. What was their fault. Did they resort to a violent protest?

At one hand the government appeals to plant trees and on the other it cut trees. You are displacing tribals terming them encroachers but you are giving land to commercial malls in this Aarey. We have conveyed our disappointment to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in various committees of assembly and Lok Sabha.

Question- Your earlier scheme of Zunka-Bhakar failed. Is it possible to give "Thali" for Rs 10?

Answer- We have studied this scheme in detail before mentioning this in our manifesto. We have analysed the financial implications of this scheme for the next 10 years and it is financially possible.

We have also studied the implementation of our Zunka-Bhakar scheme in the past. We will bring international kitchens in Maharashtra. The Women Self Help group will get the work at these kitchens. If MacDonald can give food for Rs20, why the government cannot do?

Question- Single use plastic was banned in the state. But no effective implementation is seen.

Answer- The single use plastic was banned in 17 states, and we are the 18th state to ban it. But we were the first state to implement this ban. After this ban, the hotel and restaurant industry stopped using plastic spoons, plates, straws.

But 100 per cent implementation of this ban is not possible immediately, and it will take time of at least next 5 years. Because the use of plastic has become an inseperable part of life and it has acquired the status of "breath" of a human life. We are happy that PM Modi has copied our legislation word-by-word for the central government.

Question- What is the status of night life suggested by you?

Answer- We work 24x7 in Mumbai. People need food in the night too. This scheme is approved by BMC and the police. The Shops and Establishment Act has been amended. The Chief Minister's approval for this scheme is awaited.

The food and beverages industry employs 5 lakh people in Mumbai. If we allow night life, it will at least employ 10 lakh people. In London, this economy from 9 PM to 9 AM period is of dollar 5 billion. You can then imagine what will be the economy of Mumbai's night life.


Political Commentary: Doubling farm income, action needed in the fields

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), if voted to power again, has promised that the new government will step up efforts to double the agriculture income by the year 2022. It also constitutes BJP-led government’s resolve to achieve a $1 trillion economy by 2025 from the present $475 billion. However, experts believe doubling the income is undoubtedly an ambitious target considering the agriculture sector's present state of affairs in Maharashtra.

A look at the numbers will clear the picture. Although, Maharashtra maintained the pace of growth in the gross state domestic product (GSDP) at 7.5% in 2018-19, the biggest decline was in the agricultural sector with a decline of 2.7% expected over the last year. The BJP government had blamed the low growth in the farm sector on the prevailing drought. The decline in the agri output was due to deficient rainfall. Except in 2016, the state received below average rainfall over the last few years.

The agriculture production has taken a major hit, as it is expected to grow at a paltry 0.4% in 2018-19 against 3.1% in 2017-18 and 2.9% growth in the overall agricultural growth of the economy. The crop production is expected to fall by 8% in the real gross state value added (GSVA) against 0.8%. Agriculture contributes 11% to the state GSDP.

Despite the big talk, the state has allocated 6.1% of its total budget towards agriculture and allied activities, which are lower than the allocations of other states (6.4%).

The growth in the agriculture sector has been fluctuating. The lower growth can be attributed to drought in the state on the back of uneven rainfall during the fiscal 2018-19. This year, the agriculture production may take hit again due to scanty rainfall in parts of Marathwada and southern Maharashtra, while floods in parts of western Maharashtra and other districts.

The real challenge lies in effectively tackling the problems of the small and marginal farmers. There are 1.76 crore farmers with land holding less than 2 hectares, and 67,000 farmers with land holding less than 1 hectare. Maharashtra, owing to climate change and fluctuating monsoon patterns, has a vast area, which is hit by drought every year. The level of agricultural distress in the affected regions results in less income realisation, loss of crop and lower productivity, thereby exposing the farmer to numerous risks, including agricultural, social and economical.

In its comprehensive analysis released in June this year, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has estimated that doubling the farmers’ income till 2022-23 over base year 2015-16, requires annual growth rate of 10.41% in farmers' income, which indicates a sharp acceleration in growth.

The major avenues within agriculture for growth are: a) Improvement in productivity b) Resource use efficiency or total factor productivity, saving production costs c) Remunerative prices of crops d) Increasing cropping intensity e) Diversification of high-value crops and non-farm income f) Technological integration g) Conversation and better utilisation of available natural resources (soil, water).

However, the government will have to overcome a number of hurdles to achieve its targets. Some of the roadblocks comprise mono-cropping pattern, inadequate post-harvest structure, delay in payment and sale of the produce (26%), lack of transparency in better price realisations, limited processing facilities and cold storage facilities.

Ironically, despite the partial implementation of crop loan-waiver scheme and thrust on the crop insurance scheme, the small and marginal farmers depend more on the informal sources like money lenders for credit for asset creation as compared to the medium and large-size landholders, which charge exorbitant rates of interest compared to formal sources of income.

Despite awareness about the insurance schemes and benefits, there is reluctance by the farmers to adopt crop insurance policies on account of lack of funds for payment of insurance premium, lack of trust on insurance companies and unfavourable policies. Between 2015 and 2018, the state recorded that more than 12,000 farmers committed suicide.

The Shiv Sena had repeatedly expressed concerns over improper disbursal of insurance compensation to farmers. It claimed due to its protest, insurance companies disbursed Rs960 crore to 10 lakh peasants. Under the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY), the farmers pay 2% of the premium amount, while 98% is borne by the government.

So, the ball will be in the court of new government to boost farm growth and income. Mere promises in poll manifestos won’t work, as the action is clearly needed on the fields.

Sanjay Jog

Senior Journalist and Analyst