Amid opposition flak, Pandurang Fundkar says foreign study tour was productive

Maharashtra minister Pandurang Fundkar on Wednesday said the recent foreign study tour undertaken by some state ministers, including himself, was "productive", which taught them the need to promote mechanisation in farming for enhanced productivity.

A delegation of ministers and government officials, led by state Legislative Council chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar, recently visited Australia, New Zealand and Singapore as part of the study tour.

However, the 14-member Commonwealth Parliamentary Affairs (CPA) tour, had drawn flak not only from the opposition Congress and NCP, but also from the ruling ally Shiv Sena.

When asked whether his priority was the tour or the crisis surrounding the tur dal procurement, Fundkar said, "We were on a tour organised by the CPA and the delegates had been selected by its chairman. We had taken permission from the Chief Minister and only after he assured that there are other ministers to handle the tur dal issue, we had proceeded."

Sena minister Ramdas Kadam and former chief minister Prithviraj Chavan had demanded that Fundkar and minister for food and civil supplies, Girish Bapat, should return mid-way saying that the state was witnessing an unprecedented agrarian crisis with excess tur production.

"Even after I went on the tour, the procurement of tur dal didn't stop, on the contrary it went up. There was no additional problem whatsoever in my absence," he added.

Fundkar said that a crisis-like situation had been on since the beginning of tur production season.

"Agriculture department's role is to increase production and purchases, while the sales part is looked after by the marketing department," he said.

When asked why families of official invitees accompanied on the study tour, Fundkar said, "The expenses of family members were borne by the legislators and not by the government."

Giving details of the tour, Fundkar said, "We visited Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Land holding of each farmer in Australia is more than 500 acres. Advanced machinery is the major source of labour and they do not hire more than 4-5 labourers to take care of 1,000-acres land."

He said all farm works- from sowing to reaping- is done by machines only. "We learnt from this tour to promote mechanism in farming to increase productivity and I will do it on a priority-basis in Maharashtra," Fundkar said.

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