Negative perception surrounds opium farming, says MP Sudheer Gupta

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MP Sudheer Gupta (L) with opium farmers

Lok Sabha MP, Sudheer Gupta shares with Delhi Post his vision for his constituency Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh. In an exclusive interview, Sudheer Gupta, also a former member of Planning Commission, Madhya Pradesh, addresses agrarian crisis in India, boosting opium farming in his constituency and the Indian government’s measures to double the farmers’ income by 2022. The interview is part of #KnowMyConstituency series where Parliamentarians from across the country will shed light on their achievements and talk about their hopes for a better tomorrow.

Delhi Post: What is your opinion on the state of agriculture in your constituency and in India?

Sudheer Gupta: We understand that under the changing and demanding requirements of our nation that came with the changing trends post 1990, when the whole world transformed into one global village.

We realised that we need to progress with these times. Talking about my constituency, it is renowned nationwide for producing over 100 agricultural products, courtesy our efficient farmers. The farmers ensure that all produce meet the global standards of quality and various other qualitative parameters.

What is required today is that all the agricultural products are comprehensively and timely evaluated. Also, we should work under a framework which ensures considerable economic prosperity. These objectives are duly furthered under the able leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Delhi Post: What drew your attention to opium farming in your constituency?

Sudheer Gupta: Firstly, the world perceives opium as a drug that it wishes to get rid of. This has led to many debates nationally and internationally which puts before us the good and the bad that opium can do. The ground reason for a negative perception is the lack of understanding and will power to avail its optimum utility.

I realised the importance of opium cultivation for the first time when I mulled over this issue as an MP and recognised that the medicinal value of opium has no alternative in the global market yet. The production of medicines through opium (Codeine, Thebaine, morphine etc.) has till now not been done to its maximum potential. The global demand of these is much more than what we produce and it is the need of the hour to cater to the growing demands.

Delhi Post: How do you plan to boost the opium cultivation while keeping a check on its illegal production and sales?

My state is one of the primary centres of opium production where we produce opium legally. We have a record of not reporting even a single case where illegal activities of opium production have been observed. So we need to make progress in these lines. Today India faces an acute shortage of poppy seeds, so much so that we need to import huge amounts of poppy seeds from other nations. We have demanded a cap on this, but there is not enough production to meet the demands. Our nation needs increased production of poppy seeds. I feel there is a need to set up of new a factory unit for increased production of opium alkaloids, which will result in progress of the nation and prosperity of the famers and our constituency alike giving greater employment opportunities to them.

Moreover, I believe that if the laws regarding cultivation of opium are made more stringent then I guarantee at least on behalf of my constituency that all the illegal activities regarding opium production can be effectively kept in check.

Delhi Post: How does the current government plan to double the income of farmers by 2022?

Sudheer Gupta: It is our aim and our commitment to our country. It is a commitment made by the Prime Minister. As seen in the past, just like we have tried to fulfill all our other promises, we would strive to fulfill this one as well. Today, in order to double the income of the farmers we need to work on two sectors. First we need to reduce their expenses and second we need to increase their production. Along with these, we need to work on other supporting factors simultaneously as well.

To reduce expenses we need to encourage more soil testing programmes as laid down in Swaminathan Commission Report. Soil testing methods would aid in reduced and optimum use of fertilisers, hence reducing their expenses. Moreover we do not even take interests on loans from the farmers, ours is one of a kind state which follows this practice. Effective irrigation practices are also crucial.

The Prime Minisiter Krishi Sichaai Yojana – Per Drop More Crop is a message that is being sent out at all levels to ensure effective supply of water to all farmers at reduced costs. Our government is there to provide unconditional support to the farmers, to help them through their losses and encourage them to enhance their production. But it is important that the farmers understand the markets and move accordingly. We have also encouraged farmers to engage in supplementary forms of livelihood along with agriculture as well such as poultry farming, dairy farming etc.

Delhi Post: What do you consider as your major achievements after becoming Mandsaur’s MP?

Sudheer Gupta: In terms of railways, I believe after a long time there have been visible improvements in this sector. Other than renovation of railways stations, electrification of railways, new surveys have been conducted to identify the need and demands for new rail lines in various areas of my constituency. Construction of under-bridge and over-bridge has also facilitated better transport system in the area.

Another major achievement I would like to mention is that the all the roads mentioned under Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana are constructed. In rural areas, more than 1100 new roads have been constructed in the recent years. I can proudly declare and set my constituency as an example before the country as we have achieved complete electrification of all households.