Small planters are in for tough times – and no help

Points to Ponder

A First Point: I have read in one of our papers that small planters are producing table potatoes from ordinary seed that they have always used, and which have given us satisfaction so far. We have never said that the potatoes have not been to our taste, whether curried, fried, as chips or mashed. Who therefore is protesting that our planters are not using certified seeds? What is the opinion of the Minister of Agro-Industry? It looks as if he is going to side with those who are against the small planters.

Some people give us the feeling that they want to enjoy a monopolistic production and control the market. This is how it always starts. Use the media to start with. Say that the small planters are making use of uncertified seeds. Tell them that that seed is not good, that it will affect the other plantations and that the produce of the certified seeds is better and the trick is done. And all this with the aim of taking control of the total production of the potatoes that the country needs.

We just have to find out what variety of seeds we use for the cultivation of our foodstuff. We now have only genetically modified seeds. We cannot get the ordinary seeds that we used to grow our crops. A relative of mine wanted to grow some dhaniya, otherwise called coriander or cotomili. He got some seeds from his kitchen, but the seeds did not sprout. He started again but still it was no use. He told his cousin who is a planter about what happened and the cousin informed him that the dhaniya or cotomili used in his kitchen come from genetically modified seeds and is not meant to be planted. It is not the dhaniya that we knew in the past, which could be used in the kitchen as well as for planting. The cousin then offered him some coriander seeds for planting. The seeds to be consumed are different from the seeds to be planted.

And what is the price of the planting seeds? About a hundred times more than the seeds that we planted some years ago. Who makes and pockets the huge profit, or rather who fleeces the planters and the consumers? We all know who those persons are and with what category of persons are they being helped.

Coming back to our potatoes, those people who are behind the ban of ordinary planting seed potatoes say that the ordinary potatoes of the small planters will infect their potatoes and what not. But according to me, the real reason is simply to get rid of the small farmers. They are already saying that the certified potato seed costs as much as four times the price of the ordinary seed. Who produces the certified seed potatoes? Do they pay a royalty for the certified seeds? Why do they want to finish off the small planters? There is a reason behind it and we must write about it at a later time.

Genetically modified crop or food is taking over the country. A majority of the people are not aware of the effect of such food, and here we must blame the government for not doing enough to bring to the attention of the public what is in effect genetically modified food. I do hope that the Minister of Agriculture has heard of genetically modified material, but then why is he not taking the measures that are called for? Some people do not want to consume genetically modified food. Are all our food clearly labelled as genetically modified or otherwise? Do all our imported items of consumption clearly say so? Obviously not. Who are the government trying to protect? Are the Minister of Agriculture Satish Faugoo and the Minister of Consumer Protection Cader Sayed Hossen doing their duty according to their conscience and to their best of their ability?

Can a Member of the National Assembly put a few questions to those Ministers on the points raised here?

If it works, don’t try to fix it!

A Second Point: Every Mauritian thinks that he is the centre of the world in which we live. He thinks that he is the best in everything and all others must listen to him as they do not know anything. Take the case of the Best Loser System (BLS). Here is a system that has given us satisfaction over the years and yet some people are not satisfied with the system and they want to abolish it. To replace it by what? Well, they do not want to replace it, they want to abolish it purely and simply.

The system as it is gives some guarantee to the minorities that they will have a more or less adequate representation in our Parliament. And the people are satisfied on that score. We know that in Mauritius we have four communities, duly recognized in our Constitution and that also for electoral purposes only. We know that every Mauritian is recognized by his name, his religion, his upbringing, or his looks and if he does not want to go by these characteristics, then he is considered as belonging to the General Population.

So far as I know, the persons or rather the politicians who want to change a system that is giving satisfaction may be well-meaning, but they exist nevertheless on the fringe of our political system. In what country exist such a heterogeneous population practising so many different religions and having so many different cultures and languages, and yet living quite peacefully side by side?

We are all Mauritian citizens and we are proud of it. But we have our intrinsic differences and we do not want to be of one culture. Do they want us all to become one, that is the General Population? Do they want me to give up my culture, my name, my religion or what? No, thank you very much, I like to be what I am. We do not want to be “ene sel le pep, ene sel nation” — a slogan that was coined in Guyana in days gone by.

Politicians who are for the abolition of the BLS can fight the next general election, win a majority of the seats on a well-defined programme and then change the Constitution. The political system in which we exist allows everybody to be a politician and nobody can prevent any Johnny-Come-Lately to satisfy his ambition, but there are certain rules to be followed. But there is something more serious that is raising its head. That is the Proportional Representation to be introduced in our political system. This is a pernicious idea that will prevent a stable government with a multiplicity of small parties all around, with the majority community becoming the minority community, and political stability and peace leaving our shores forever. Who has the guts to introduce such a system? Obviously somebody belonging to some minority group and the person who is fighting the hardest for it is no other than Paul Berenger and the MMM.

We have so often asked, and here we are doing it again, in which country has the system that they want to introduce here been successful? Does such a country have a population comparable to ours? I know of only one country like Mauritius, and that is Guyana. The system over there failed miserably, the country suffered a lot and now that they have kicked out the system they have relative peace. Some people want to carry out an experiment here for which the country will suffer for a long time to come.

Adequate provision for parking in high rise constructions

A Third Point: Many high rise buildings are being constructed in all the towns. This shows a certain degree of progress, but at the same time these constructions are a source of untold miseries. Take the case of the parking of vehicles. How many of these buildings make adequate provision for the parking of vehicles on site? The constructions concern residential buildings, office buildings as well as factories.

We would expect that a building that is made up of, say fifty flats, to be provided with at least seventy parking lots, an office with 100 employees with 50 parking lots and the factory with a like number, taking into consideration the number of visitors coming to transact some business. If parking spaces are not provided in situ, people will park their vehicle on the street, thus causing problems to the road users as well as to pedestrians.

The municipalities have the duty to see to it that the legislation relating to buildings as well as other legislation are respected and obeyed strictly. I am sure that some ministry also must have its share of responsibility in this matter. Now the question is whether the relevant authorities take their responsibilities as they should?

Politicians follow what their followers dictate, and this is most unfortunate. The officers do what the politicians command them to do. So the work is not done properly. This is the long and short of the story. And this is not restricted to one political party — all of them do likewise. The common man who is a silent spectator of all these illegal happenings has no remedy, and we cannot think of what should be done in these cases. Can we have a sort of Public Interest Litigation as they have it in India? The PIL gives satisfaction to the alleged litigants. Can a resident of say Quatre Bornes approach the Supreme Court with a case of breach by the Municipality of its public duty and ask for a prayer that the Municipality should be ordered to do what the law says and do it properly? Surely an inhabitant of Quatre Bornes must have sufficient interest for the Supreme Court to be seized with the matter. Only then will the officers do their duty and will see to it that the property developers do provide adequate parking space to service their buildings.

Will our judicial system be prepared to accept jurisdiction in such matters? The jurisdiction of the Courts will be widened but then more judicial officers must be recruited.

* Published in print edition on 21 September 2012

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