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This sequence of events began on May 15, 1999. Before elections, a meeting of the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress party was held. During this meeting, the then INC President Smt. Sonia Gandhi asked the committee members if her foreign origin could affect the election campaign. Many leaders took a stand of persuading Soniaji. But Shri. P. A. Sangma and Shri. Sharad Pawar expressed their honest views and alarmed the Working Committee that Congress could face this issue during the elections. They also insisted on making strategies to respond to this criticism.
After that, the atmosphere in Delhi was heated against Pawar Saheb. Hon'ble Pawar Saheb and his colleagues then handed over a letter to the Congress party president, explaining their stand in this scenario. In that letter, It was stated that despite acknowledging the sacrifices of the Gandhi family and Soniaji's influence on the Congress party, the party will have to pay the price on the issue of her foreign origin. The leadership too will have to face this issue in the election.
After receiving this letter, the Congress executive committee held a meeting and they decided to suspend Shri. Sharad Pawar, Shri. P. A. Sangma and Shri. Tariq Anwar for six years.
Pawar Saheb was on his way to Mumbai when these incidents were taking place in Delhi. After learning about the suspension, many leaders contacted Pawar saheb and assembled in Mumbai. Shri. P. A. Sangma came and North-East India followed him, Shri. Tariq Anwar joined and Bihar, Uttar Pradesh followed him, Former Chief Minister of Assam Sharadchandra Sinha, senior leader Sanat Mehta from Gujarat also came to Mumbai. Since the original ideology was of the Congress, the name of the party was decided as Nationalist Congress Party. After that an open convention was held at Shivaji Park which received a humongous response from the people. Honourable Shri. Sharad Pawar laid the foundation of a new political party, which was based on the Gandhian ideology and principles of secularism. Shivaji Park witnessed the rise of a new era, NCP party was formed on June 10, 1999 .
When all this was taking place, Pawar Saheb was going through major medical condition. He was diagnosed with Cancer. Doctors had advised him to get operated at the earliest, otherwise it could turn into a life-threatening condition. In the run-up to the 2004 elections, he convened a meeting of the NCP executive, took them in confidence and got himself admitted to the hospital. Doctors said that there was a 50-50 percent chance of survival. But this strong man endured all these hardships and set an extraordinary example of courage. He told the party leaders that even if he is not in command, they still have to fight the war and with persistence, they have to win. His words motivated his young army and they faced elections with full dedication. In 2004 Maharashtra polls, NCP won more seats than the Congress. 2004 state elections will always be a memorable and unforgettable chapter in the history of the NCP.
As the Minister of Agriculture, Pawar Saheb ushered in the second green revolution in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar and Purvanchal by completing 100 lakh tonnes of paddy production in the country. During his tenure, India exported grains to 25 countries of the world with record production of rice and wheat. The food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines acknowledged and congratulated his work. These achievements established him as the pioneer of the second green revolution in the country.
While blowing the trumpet of the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP led National Democratic Alliance had emphasized on its India Shining campaign. But at that time the country was shaken up by the 2002 riots in Gujarat. Moreover, the rural and agricultural classes were completely neglected in the NDA government. The Congress had decided to contest the elections jointly against the ruling NDA. One morning, Smt Sonia Gandhi walked from her residence at 10 Janpath and came directly to Pawar Saheb's residence at 6, Gurudwara, Rakabganj. She expressed her desire to contest elections together. Pawar Saheb agreed and those elections were fought by the Nationalist Congress Party in alliance with the Congress and it resulted in the defeat of the NDA. UPA came to power in the centre under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh. The important responsibility of the Agriculture department was placed on the shoulders of Pawar Saheb, and after that our country experienced unprecedented growth in the agriculture sector and food exports. The credit of reviving the Agricultural sector goes to Shri Sharad Pawar.
Inspired by his mentor, Late Yashwantrao Chavan, Pawar Saheb has continued his efforts to develop the agro-industrial society throughout his career
In order to implement the horticulture scheme on larger scale, with 100 per cent subsidy, Pawar Saheb launched the National horticulture Mission and carried out a wider horticulture program across the country. Funding was given for production of vegetables, flowers, fruits, greenhouses, farms, micro-irrigation schemes, construction of tools, nursery, air-conditioned warehouses, refrigerated vans etc. As a result, fruit production increased significantly and India became the number one producer of fruits and vegetables in the world.
When Pawar Saheb became the Union Agriculture minister, Capital investment in agriculture was at a decline. As a result, the growth rate was stagnant and new jobs were not being created. This was affecting the overall growth rate of the country.
Pawar Saheb launched the National Agriculture Development (RKY) Scheme to tackle these issues. Thousands of crores were given to the states for capital investment in agriculture from the central government. With this financial aid, the states implemented various agricultural programs like irrigation, micro-irrigation, land improvement, farm ponds etc.
Pawar Saheb was instrumental in giving a Rs 71,000 crore loan waiver to approximately 4 crore 30 lakh farmers who were in arrears due to drought, unpredictability of rains and pest infestation. The 7/12 extract of the farmers was completely emptied, so that they can become eligible for a new loan and can get into the mainstream of production. Co-operative banks also recovered due to debt recovery and were able to provide new loans. At that time, Maharashtra received Rs 7,800 crore from Central government for this debt waiver. All these were the efforts of Pawar Saheb, his conviction made all this possible.
Shri Pawar Saheb started the Mega Watershed Development Program on the principle of head to toe. He consolidated several schemes so that all the works should be started at once instead of working piecemeal in order to implement the watershed development program in a scientific manner. As a result, a large amount of funds became available and all the works started at once and the results were immediately visible. The acceleration of the neglected watershed development program has helped eliminate the water crisis in drought prone areas and made water available for eight-month (four-season farming).
Until 2004, Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the leader of the National Democratic Alliance. NDA government did not increase the basic prices of agricultural products beyond Rs 5 to 10. As a result, farmers abandoned food crops and turned to other crops and due to this, the country's food production declined. India had to import it from other countries. When Pawar Saheb became Agriculture Minister in 2004, the first file that was laid on his table to start his tenure as Agriculture minister was that of wheat import. While signing the file, the only thought in his mind was that, it would be better to increase the prices of indian farmers instead of paying to foreign farmers. He then doubled and sometimes quadrupled the prices of 42 agricultural commodities for 10 consecutive years. Due to this substantial increase, farmers also started producing more grains. The production increased enormously and India became self-sufficient in food grains. Not only did the Nation start exporting to other countries, farmers' goods also fetched fair prices and this brought prosperity to their homes.
Pawar Saheb initiated a plan to build the required infrastructure to set up food processing industries. The objective was to increase the value of agricultural produce, he encouraged the food processing industries so that farmers can sell all their produce at a fair price. The network of each mega project could be set up in one place and all the facilities could be made available to those who want to enter the processing industry.
Bamboo is used for many things from paper making to building materials. In order to increase the production of bamboo and to create new varieties in a tissue culture manner, Pawar Saheb established the Bamboo Mission and through it increased the production of bamboo.
In order to develop the dairy business in the country, Pawar Saheb made special arrangements to import high quality crossbred cows from abroad and delivered them to the farmers. For higher Milk yield, these dairy cows were provided with good shelters and nutritious food. The implementation of Dairy Development program helped dairy farming immensely and also helped dairies to build infrastructure and provide up-to-date technology.
To make a greater use of India’s vast coastline, Shri. Sharad Pawar created a large-scale fisheries program. The aim of this program was to increase fish production and exports. He also encouraged freshwater cage fishing and encouraged states and private individuals to build cages. The states of Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have benefited immensely from this cage fishing scheme. For this, large financial assistance was made available from the centre.
Various fruit growers' associations were set up for the purpose of proper disposal of fruit production. Pawar Saheb wanted the farmers to earn good money for their produce. So, he took the initiative and established various organisations like MahaGrape, MahaMango, MahaBanana, MahaOrange, Pomegranate Production Association, Strawberry Growers Association and he helped these organizations immensely. The manufacturing sector was also converted into an export zone and provided with the necessary infrastructure. E.g. Alphonso Mango in Konkan, Kesar Mango in Marathwada, Nashik - Tasgaon grapes etc.
Pawar Saheb’s prime objective was to prevent farmers’ suicides. To cater this issue, the Prime Minister package was announced and Rs 3,000 crores were distributed in the districts of Vidarbha, Maharashtra where the rate of farmer suicides was high. Agro-supplementary programs were also undertaken to increase the income of the farmers like completion of irrigation projects, digging of farms, re-acquisition of wells, animal husbandry etc. Pawar Saheb always had compassion for his farmer brothers.
During his tenure, Shri Pawar Saheb noticed that certain crop diseases were eating and destroying the standing crop. There was a disease called Karpa on bananas in Khandesh and a disease called Lalya on cotton at that time. Immediately, a research program was undertaken with the help of Central government to help the farmers out of this crisis.
Shri Sharad Pawar provided immediate financial assistance to the farmers who were affected by the sudden onset of natural calamities like drought, hailstorm and heavy rains. Vidarbha Farmers affected by heavy rains were provided with the aid of 950 crores. He provided Rs 35,000 per hectare for the rehabilitation of drought-damaged orchards. During the drought, he also sent fodder and animal feed from co-operative societies in Gujarat.