From Natu Patel to soil testing and from direct transfer of subsidies to preparing for the next generation of cooperative leadership , Dr Uday Shankar Awasthi the man who is the darling of millions of farmers for ushering in prosperity in their lives-talks unplugged and uncensored to Indian Cooperative. His role, his life and his dreams –he bares his soul in the exclusive one on one.
Indian Cooperative: IFFCO has won spate of awards in recent times. How do you explain it?
Dr U S Awasthi: To tell you the truth I do not know; IFFCO is on auto-pilot. There are different units and they all operate independently and responsibly. They keep participating and getting rewarded for their good work. What is important is one should not work just to grab awards and it is also important that good work gets appreciated.
As far as I am concerned, I only watch and monitor like the coach of a foot-ball team. I am a crisis management man who lies low until needed to address exigencies.
Indian Cooperative: Preserving soil has been your major concern but India is such a huge country; do you think you have made any difference so far?
Dr U S Awasthi: What more do you want ; now the issue is getting editorialized in newspapers (he referred to Business India edit on the subject ) If 6-7 years of my efforts have made some noise I am a happy man. Everybody is talking about it now; there is general awareness. Even Punjab Agriculture University is finally awake to the fact that bio-fertilizer is preferable to chemical fertilizer.
As MD of farmers’ cooperative what more can I achieve; I have raised the issue before every one from the Prime Minister to ICA to UNO. Now there is a general awareness and the new govt is geared to carry it forward .My mission is accomplished; I do not want any credit. I do not want people to remember me for doing any great job; it is internal; it is the deep satisfaction which I feel on this score.
Even this time when the hurricane assaulted our fields those areas where urea was not used held on and soil kept gripping the plants compared to those suffering from excessive urea.
Indian Cooperative: Has your demand for direct transfer of subsidies been heard?
Dr U S Awasthi: Even the World Bank says so now. It says if you want to remove poverty you have to have direct transfer to beneficiaries. All mechanisms involving wasteful expenditures have failed in the past. Indirect transfer being short term is bound to fail.
Now we have tool also such as Aadhar card which is there in case of roughly 67% of the population. Also there is Jandhan Yojana covering the vast population.
There is need to professionalize agriculture; pay them wages and salaries as you pay to staff such as peon, clerk or managers in industries. Take your focus away from the industries and shift the focus to agriculture instead. It has to be technologically oriented and professionally managed.
Indian Cooperative: Natu Patel , one of the members at the IFFCO board has been removed recently from GUJCOMASOL in Gujarat. What is the board thinking of him; would he be removed?
Dr U S Awasthi: We have no information and what we know is that he is very much continuing at GUJCOMASOL in his previous role. There are several court cases and the state government decision has been challenged. It is still a situation of uncertainty. We will take a call when the situation arises. As of now, status quo would continue. We will cross the bridge when we come to it.
Indian Cooperative: Coming to cooperative movement how do you see it today? Since you are associated with it for such a long time, would you rate it doing fine?
Dr U S Awasthi: The mutual conflicts among leaders are on the wane. Cooperators of different political stripes have come together and worked as a united team. Political affiliation is not standing in the way of team spirit; this is a welcome change noticeable in recent years.
For the sake of cooperative movement we all would have to shed our ego and get into killer’s instinct; let us get technologically oriented and professionally managed if we wish to grow; thankfully this is happening though slow at the moment.
Indian Cooperative: You are MD of the largest farmers’ cooperative of the world with 40 thousand cooperative societies as the IFFCO members. Do you ever entertain the idea of fighting cooperative elections and taking the plunge?
Dr U S Awasthi: IFFCO’s structure is much like our constitution where there is a President and a Prime Minister. Chairman is like President while MD is like Prime Minister. Whether I work from the front or from the side what is important is balance between the two. We at IFFCO have achieved remarkable balance as reflected in our activities.
Whether I take the plunge in electoral politics is in the cradle of future and for people to decide. Its for the cooperators also to decide. I am with IFFCO since 1976. In the last 40 years I have breathed cooperative only and have become part and parcel of the movement.
No one should think I have any desire left or greed for anything in life now. I am, trust me contentment personified. I think I have contributed my bit to the nation, society. As a human being also I have played my role in a manner that gives me little reason to regret.
I have done my job and am quite satisfied; what I have got in return is immense love and affection of seniors, juniors, colleagues and everybody associated with me. I want nothing else.