Union Agriculture, Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Pawar spoke with Managing Editor Shankkar Aiyar and answered a volley of charges with a straight bat.

Do you think prices will come down in the near future?

The world over and in textbooks of basic economics, price is defined as a function of supply and demand. In India, there is a third variable. It is called politics. Look around and evidence is strewn all over. Everything that is in the domain of private India is getting cheaper--from mobile phones to cars to anything that is manufactured.

Democracy," Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi once said, "is the art and science of mobilising the entire physical, economic and spiritual resources of various sections of the people in the service of the common good of all."

The 2009 Budget is a politically powered effort to counter the effects of the global slowdown. Higher allocations across schemes for rural India are expected to trigger demand at the bottom of the pyramid and drag the economy out of the trough. The idea, though, is a big gamble. Already fiscal deficit is 6.8 per cent and borrowings at a record high.

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Real growth stems from real reforms, not inaction. The success of Mizoram and Himachal Pradesh validates the principle that sustained reforms and investment in health and infrastructure bring investments that create jobs and markets enabling prosperity.

Welcome to the Babel of numbers. Till last week, every third person in the world living on an income of less than a dollar a day, was an Indian.

This week, the World Bank announced a new measure of poverty. Now anyone living with an income of under $1.25 (Rs 55) per day was poor. By this measure again, every third person living under the poverty line was an Indian.

At around 11 a.m., Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar eagerly awaits an SMS. No, the message is not about the Indian Premier League. It is from his officials who send him the scores on a day-to-day basis on harvesting and procurement of foodgrain. Last week, as his slim mobile phone silently whirred, he checked the message and smiled to himself. His department had set a new record by procuring 210 lakh tonne

He sits in Vigyan Bhavan in the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region. The secretary sits in Krishi Bhavan; the additional secretary in Sardar Patel Bhavan and the joint secretary in Samrat Hotel.

Shorn of any big idea, Budget 2007 is an essay that tries to manage the exigencies of politics and the public outcry on inflation even as it attempts to balance the need for growth. It satisfies neither political wants nor economic needs.

It is the saga of callous and pathetic implementation of relief I work and rehabilitation of the tsunami-affected. The tsunami I that hit the Indian coastline on the morning of December 26, 12004, swept away 1,089 villages, claimed over 10,273 lives I and rendered 2,39,024 families homeless. By all accounts, it was the biggest natural calamity to hit India.