World Bank experts ignored farmers’ views: Rahul Gandhi

March 17th, 2008 - 8:28 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) Experts from the World Bank have at times ignored the knowledge available with the farmers, only to learn it the hard way, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi said here Monday. “The World Bank wanted to set up a water project in my constituency, Amethi. The local farmers told me it was not feasible. But the World Bank did not agree. Finally, they came around after spending lots of money on a survey and realising the farmers were right,” Gandhi said.

The young MP and scion of the Gandhi family said this at a meeting on farmer policy organised by the panchayati raj ministry here.

Gandhi made a distinction between qualification and knowledge. “There was a time in India when we used to value knowledge. Today we value qualification. A farmer has knowledge but not the qualification, and so we think he is useless,” he said.

“Knowledge is dynamic. It keeps changing. Farmers are close to what they are doing. Qualification is static,” he said, adding that it is the former that should be given precedence.

“Panchayati Raj institutions are important as their representatives are close to people. And those who are closer to people are also more answerable to them. So what you are doing is important and I thank you for all that you are doing,” Gandhi told his audience, consisting of panchayat and zila parishad heads from across the country.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is trying to woo the farmers and the rural voters ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. A loan waiver of Rs 600 billion was announced in the budget this year and the government is now selling the step to win over the rural vote-bank.

Gandhi gave a patient hearing to the pleas of the panchayat representatives. Most of these were related to the problems faced by the farmers like debts, siphoning of funds by middlemen, stranglehold of the bureaucracy on the panchayats, and use of agricultural land for industrialisation.

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