Put it straight, food self-sufficiency is one, securing our national sovereignty is another. Only a thin line separates the two. In this respect, through the many debates we have so far had since the first planned development way back in the 1960s, the parliament has let the people down and made a mockery out of this vital national dream.
Self-sufficiency – in food, at least— is again being discussed in the National Assembly. That’s all right. We are not even surprised or excited going by the tone of the debate. The real problem is we are losing focus each time we bring the issue on the table. The question we must ask, now, is whether parliament is losing sense of its mandate or the elected representatives of the people are sideswiping just for political expedience.
In the joint-sitting of parliament yesterday, a majority of the members stressed the need to create accessible market facilities for farmers to reduce wastage of farm produce. This has not worked, not because it can never work. Our farmers need markets, give them. We can do so by limiting or stopping altogether food supplies from abroad. If our parliamentarians understood basic economics, we can produce enough, consume enough, and even export our premium products to our neighbouring countries.
We are an agrarian country, we say, but we buy almost everything from salt to cooking oil to wood products even. And the food self-sufficiency debate again? The elected representatives have much to work on and regain the respect and confidence of the electorate.
First, make the local markets robust. Then we talk about farmers’ plight. If there is anything to “pity’, it is a disservice that the elected representatives are doing to the people while they continue to bask in the perks and privileges of their position.
When our farmers cannot sell their harvest where they want and how they want, the loss is not on farmers alone—the society feels the repercussions. Centering the national debate only along these lines is short-sighted. Farmers have produced enough to feed the nation for months, even years, only to find that they are doing it to hurt themselves in the end.
‘Linking farmers to market’ is what the elected representatives see as ‘vitally important”. That’s true. Only the way they argue and make their points in the ‘august hall’ makes the difference, or it doesn’t. For Bhutan and Bhutanese farmers, the choice is urgent—let the farmers grow so that the nation doesn’t have to go around with a begging bowl.
The time is right; our actions aren’t equal to it, however. The debate isn’t about farmers and crops, it is about securing our national sovereignty. Seen things from this perspective, our farmers shouldn’t be whining about crop loss and lack of support from the government. And, why should we labour the point at every National Assembly session?