Why farmers have to be defensive when they demand for an account of the performance of this government and its priorities? There is a news report and it is with full of data on the progress of the NREGA projects in Gujarat, Bihar, Orissa, MP, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan. Also the two districts represented by Sonia Gandhi (Rae Bareli) and Raghuvansh Prasad (Vaishali) in Bihar are also monitored. The NREGA, it is made clear, is yet to take off in these two constituencies.

“Not a single beneficiary has so far been enrolled for work under the NREGA that guarantees a minimum of 100 days work at minimum wage for needy people in 200 districts. Barring Assam, none of the 14 other Congress-ruled states is taking advantage of the NRGEA.” If the records are to be believed, not a single person has enrolled for work under the scheme in AP from where the top leadership launched the programme.

The English language newspapers as a rule don’t report much on rural issues, nor on the issues of the poor or farmers. Not even the Parliamentary debates are reported fully in our media. Indian mindset is one of officialdom, what is good for the governments, for officials, for the urban newspaper reading public is only news in English!

The regional newspapers don’t get the facilities like invitations to accompany the Prime Minister or the President on their Boeing Jets whenever they go abroad. We are not sure whether our President is an exception or he too had fallen victim to this trend.

Anyway, our news media or the TV channels all go out for scare stories or tragedies or some such panic situations like avian flu to report. Thus, we were happy to find the bird flu stories caught the nation’s attention! But as for actual positive development issues we don’t find the use of the poor or the farmers for our media.

The Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha debates show the same mindsets, prejudices and partisan politics. C.K.Chandrappan of the CPI spoke of the economic development strategies. Yes, he is right to point out that India is falling in the human development index. He cited lots of statistics.Fine.233 million still remain hungry; four million unemployed, 16 crores families with a wage of Rs.3 a day, though the US cows get fed with feed worth 2 dollars a day! The member also questioned the PM’s wisdom of talking always, day in and day our about the rate of economic growth. As if it is the end of all!

The CPI veteran questioned this economic logic. He said economic growth is not economic development! Fine! Here is at least one MP who knows some economics. Yes, an economy can grow to 9 per cent. But as India had already demonstrated, our agriculture is reporting near-zero growth. Economic growth may mean growth for stock exchange traders but not for the poor and the weaker sections. Grave inequalities, inequities always accompany even high economic rate of growth.

Employment is now seen as a global crisis and there is an estimated 1.4 billion, working poor who live on 2 dollars a day. Particularly, the young ones at age 15 to 24 are particularly find themselves unemployed and this is the source of much social unrest in many parts of the world. Poverty reduction policies fall into three categories: populist, authoritarian or ideological responses. The UPA poverty reduction strategy falls into all the three categories. It is purely populist. Because you don’t know how long the UPA will be in power or how long the PM will last nor when and how much the promised sums would be found.

Already, even before the budget is being finalized there are unfinished arguments between the Planning Commission and the FM about where the funds would come from. So, what guarantee we should believe in the full-page advertisements? Second, the scheme is authoritarian in the sense for the simple reason that is the government targeting? Tribals are most vulnerable. They are unlikely to come into the net. It is most likely the vote-banks that would be targeted and the funds, even if it is routed to the panchayat raj, it is likely to be leaked through the party functionaries. This has happened in TN, in Kerala and AP, as far as we know.

So, what guarantee it is not the same in other states too. Third, the scheme is purely ideological response, to please the Left, to show off with the more innocent NDA and to pretend that the Congress party always cared for the poor. A latest social survey reveals the deep pockets of endemic poverty, people living below poverty line, in Orissa (47.15 per cent, the highest), Bihar (42.60 per cent) Assam (36.09per cent). Among the population groups, STs (43.8 per cent), SCs (36.2 per cent) and other backward Classes (21 per cent). In UP only less than 25 per cent of children immunized! Bihar, UP and MP and Rajasthan, 45 per cent of the population, also account for two-thirds of infant mortality rate in the country (in UP alone 21 per cent).

So, what message we have to give the poor of the country who by looking at the full-page advertisements and might likely to believe the ads. At least in rural sanitation or creates jobs in agriculture. Let the food for work is conducted on the farm, also engage first on a priority basis in such pockets like Vidarbha and in the tribal districts so that the heart-rending stories be put an end. Otherwise, if you stretch your scheme geographically, we warn it would end up as one more scheme to fetch votes in election time!

So, the point is that farmers and the poor and their spokespersons need not feel defensive when they demand for an account on the performance and the priorities of this government. The farmers, the villagers do need separate, well-defined allocations from the budget. It is their fundamental right to demand so.

Image Source : congress4india.com

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