Paul Lismore


Rédigé par Paul Lismore le Mercredi 29 Avril 2020

" For now I ask no more than the justice of eating.”--- Pablo Neruda, Chilean Poet, Nobel Prize Winner.

Those of you expecting my usual style of cursing or mocking our politicians had better wait for another day.

This is a serious post which addresses the main issue in this island now, the one that if not handled with skill and intelligence could impact very negatively on an already parlous law and order situation and which will affect the lives of everyone: Food shortage and hunger.

The rich, the middle classes, the poor will all suffer hugely if those who can no longer eat at least one full meal every day decide that a society that ignores their plight deserves to be treated with contempt and will show complete disrespect for the rules that have so far made us enjoy a fairly tolerant and peaceful way of life. 

Nearly 2 months ago, I wrote a post entitled " THE TERRIBLE FUTURE FOR MAURITIUS: ECONOMIC MELTDOWN AND STARVATION FOR MANY" and I highlighted the fact that we should " feel alarmed by the manufactured shortage of fresh food and basic necessities on the shelves of our supermarkets, and even these are being sold at prices that the poor simply cannot afford..... soon we will not be able to import food from abroad because the food exporting countries will rightly want to keep the food they export to us for their own people.

I suggested that hundreds acres of agricultural land in the possession of Rose Belle Sugar Estate, i.e. the government, ought to now be rented to genuine planters who could plant all the nutritious vegetables we all need, but which we now import for something like Rs 4 billions every year. Such a waste!

I also talked about the handful of super rich landowners who continue to live by the credo that wealth creation for themselves matter far more than their duty to the nation.

I suggested that Pravind Jugnauth ought to tell the big landowners to use a few thousand acres of their land for the cultivation all year round of the vegetables that we all need, and to sell them at a price that allows them a decent margin without strangling us. If they refuse and insist on converting their land instead into those stupid Smart Cities or luxury hotels, then he should confiscate as many acres as will be needed to feed this population, and allocate them at a minimum rent to real planters. He should get his minions to monitor the output from these lands on an annual basis and cancel the rent of those ki p zis kass ene poz, and transfer the lease to people who want to work the land. 

He should not ignore the huge advantages with this reform in our agricultural policy :

1/ a drastic reduction in the Rs 4 billions a year we give to farmers from foreign countries when we are forced to import their vegetables because of shortages here. Invest that money instead in our farmers and those who want to till the land.

2/ Many of us despair when we see otherwise fit and strong individuals living in precarious conditions having to queue up outside police stations for a few rupees every time it rains.This would also be an ideal opportunity for our downtrodden Creole community to get a share of the cake that they have been denied for far too long. Many of them only need a piece of land, some gardening tools, seeds, and perhaps practical  help from the 'experts' at the Ministry of Agriculture currently engaged in daily and prolonged exercises of sof bancs. 

3/ Women form nearly 52% of our population and yet remain at the back of the queue when it comes to government help. We also know from our own experiences with our mothers that no man could possibly feed us the way they do with the little that they have in their cupboards. So, give them a piece of land or get them to form a cooperative with other women and see how quickly they will do better than the men. All that they need is the land and the tools!

I can hear some whispers of disapproval from those who believe that confiscation or compulsory acquisition of some of the thousands of acres of the rich landowners is not the 'right' thing to do in our democracy. Well, they have been taking billions of rupees from us in land conversion exemption tax, and our criminally low Corporation tax rates have shoved more billions into their bank accounts. It is time for them to now put into practice the 'patriotism' they often tell us they exemplify. Either start planting now or give some of your land to people who want to plant!

Pravind Jugnauth would be mad to ignore the terrible future that faces us with regards to food supply.

Already, many planters are simply fed up with the terrible sight of seeing the fruits of their hard labour vanish when thieves turn up in the middle of the night and decide that it is ok to harvest what is not theirs. We have had two deaths recently, one of a banana planter left to the mercy of the thieves, and one of a thief stealing the piments that someone else had nurtured for months. Imagine waking up every day at the crack of dawn, working hard on your land, watch your plants grow until it is time to harvest, and then you turn up in your field one morning to see some bastards have stolen everything. How would you feel?

The police can say that they are patrolling efficiently, but I am afraid the cries of the planters tell a different story.

And why in God's name can't they be allowed to sell their own vegetables in front of their fields if all the Covid-19 precautions have been assiduously followed? Have you seen the prices that supermarkets and shops are charging us? Why can't the police stop harassing the planters and instead ensure that those people queuing up to buy their vegetables follow the safety instructions that the rest of us have to? How come so many people are out on the streets and the police can't see them, but they are quick to stop a planter from selling the fruits of his labour? Where is the logic in that?

The theft from the planters has now reached epidemic proportions and I fear that planters will simply give up if the government and its police force continue to ignore their plight. Where will we get our vegetables then if other countries stop exporting to us?

Ram Nath Kovind, the President of India, said: " The highest priority of my government is to remove various difficulties faced by farmers and to raise their standard of living." What is our priority, Prime Minister, with regards to farming and the provision of fresh food for the nation?

So, Prime Minister, time to think the unthinkable because the situation demands it. Release some of the RSBE land and if the rich landowners refuse to play ball, confiscate the acres that we need and rent them to people who want to do something for themselves and for the country.

Finally, please try to remove the straitjacket that stultifies the ability of all our politicians to think only in terms of their party, i.e. this nonsense that it is a sign of weakness if a politician is seen to adopt an idea of his opponent. That is silly and childish. One example: Navin Ramgoolam has said that the billions of rupees given to the private sector should in return be exchanged for shares for the government in those private companies. What is wrong with that? How much longer can we give taxpayers' money to the private sector in return for nothing? It is now time to think outside the box, as our often very unimaginative politicians like to say.

I hope you will view the above in a constructive manner and implement some of the ideas asap. If not, I am afraid hunger looms for many of our compatriots and that in itself will bring a degradation in law and order, and will make the lives of many quite unlivable. 

When the justice of eating is met by complacency and the absence of will to change a moribund system, the injustice of widespread crime will inevitably follow..

Mercredi 29 Avril 2020

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