Finance Minister’s unhelpful attitudes

There is this joke feature on the NDTV. It mercilessly exposes the humbug of our polticians, brings the PM, Sonia Gandhi and others and makes them answer to some plain questions. It brings in all the bigwigs, Vajpayyer, Advaniji and others too!

In one recent feature, the month being the budget one and so with the entire buzz about budget making, Mr.P.Chidambaram, the Finance Minister was caricatured. The questioners ask the FM: Oh, what budget you are making, be honest, present the last year’s budget as this year’s one, verbatim, no one would notice!

Yes, this sort of caricature would a lot of good for our polity, for politicians who are really harassed with all sorts of pressures and also a little bit of realism will come into much of our election-eve promises to admit we can’t do everything we promise the people!

We have been maintaining for sometime that this government led by Dr.Manmohan Singh is not a pro-poor, pro-farmer government. It is not we don’t hold the Doctor in high esteeem. We do. He is doing a good job, given the constraints. But a time comes and when we have to take stock of the progress made in respective spheres.

As for the status of agriculture under this government, that every passing day the government is getting exposed to its inability to understand or unconcern for the poor and the farmers.
There is an optical illusion of sorts whenever the government or urban experts speak of the poor. They all stand by the poor without realising that the majority of the poor are in the villages and they are all in agri sector or dependent upon it and it is the villages that bear the brunt of the burden of keeping the poor going.

There was this debate in the Rajya Sabha the other day and the members, most of them eminent and who were also unfortunately retiring soon were asking questions about the high rate of interest charged by banks from farmers. The main questioner was Janardhan Poojary, the others who asked the questions on the same subject were Sushma Swaraj(BJP),Sharad Yadav(JD-U),M.S.Gill(Congress-nominated) and V.Narayanasamy(Cong),N.Jothi(ADMK).The report in The Hindu noted that “the concern was so unanimous that the latter half of the question hour was suffused with supplementaries, forcing the Finance Minister P.Chidambaram to give an assurance that the Government would consider the issue(of reducing the interest rate to four per cent, as an expert committee had submitted).

What the Finance Minister said?
True to his colours! He said “the Government should not interfere with the price mechanism of ban loans”! He further said: “Unless the cost of inflation and the cost of administration of rural co-operative banks are reduced, banks will not be in a position to cut down the rate of interest from nine per cent”.

Some members pointed out that the Government’s indifference to continuing farmers’ suicides and the Government should intervene. Sharad Yadav asked for a time-bound response. M.S.Gill wanted the Government to be “pro-active”. V.Narayanasamay said the institutional loans interest rates were as high as 14 per cent, escalated to 24 per cent as compound interest rate.

Yet, the Finance Minister demonstrated a mindset that reflected the mindset of the Pm also. The PM never in his career, even in his earlier avatar as Finance Minister under Narasimha Rao, had shown any concern for the farmers, poor and the villagers.
His work and experience had been only in international agencies and also highly urban-minded and an unconcern for rural India comes easy for those who had made their lives city based and Mr.P.Chidambaram is no exception.

The FM has taken a highly complacent attitude and in the Rajya Sabha had sought to give a lecture on the working of the banking system and how the hon’ble MPs must understand economics!

The Business Standard in fact gave a caption to his lecture “FM plays teacher, explains credit basics in Houses
At least the PM is a trained economist and a monetary expert. The FM is neither. He is just an amateur at best, a politician trying to appear an expert. He is a poor politician as far as his heading the Finance Ministry is concerned.

The country and more particularly the farmers and the poor stand to suffer with such self-satisfied politicians. The farmers representatives, the likes of a Sharad Joshi and P.Chengal Reddy,our good friends, we seem to have some hope of farmers’ bodies making representation to the FM on the budget. They needn’t have such illusions. The Government, this Government in particular, knows best what is good for them! And what is good for the farmers and the poor.


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