Chidambaram should deliver on his promises!
The PM should activate ministers!

We are a responsible media. We use responsible language. Even when it comes to ask difficult questions! As a responsible media we have to articulate the voices and opinions from a sector like agriculture which in the UPA’s priorities seem to rank low!
Recently, there is a lot of activities in Delhi, Parliament passes job guarantee bill, Sonia Gandhi is taking lot of credit for it and the World Bank President had been to India and our PM and FM and the Planning Commission raised their loan demands (or applications?) for as high as 9 billion dollars! This is what the WB had committed to India. Big money? Yes, even the Bank chief says it is “substantial amount”!The employment guarantee bill alone would need something like 45,000 crores! Assuming the government really spends the sum, it would be a huge task. A huge expense? Yes, it could be. But then, as we, Indians, should be aware that the governments in Delhi, from Rajiv Gandhi to V.P.Singh to others, down to Rao and now Dr.Singh, we have really not acted on several of our promises to the poor, rural India and in particular, the farmers!
See what Sharad Pawar, our current agri minister has said the other day in Rajya Sabha. He is one who knows agri sector inside out! But his mind seems to be not in agriculture this time when he reeled out the same statistics muttered by Dr.Singh days ago.
Yes, who doesn’t know that agriculture is 24 per cent of GDP? Nor the 10th plan target of 4 per cent growth in agri sector proved deceptive. We have a shameful 1.4 per growth, in the first two years it was just 0.9 per cent!

Much more shameful is the fact that during the last three years of the 10th plan, actual plan expenditure has not been more than 27 per cent of the budgetary provision!
Where is our finance minister? Now, he had come out with one more idea: “outcome budget”. What is this new animal? Budget allocations would be targeted to targeted sectors “backward classes, SC/STs etc”. Fine, fantastic!

Sonia Gandhi’s game plan (whoever put it into her head) is how to win for Congress seats in the coming Assembly elections! First in Bihar where the Congress is zero. The party is so desperate to support for Lalu’s 25 MPs without whom the Central government might fall!
So, there is also the fear about how to win in other states where the more irresponsible regional leaders are out to tally a credible Third Front! Pawar is moving closer to Naidu (TDP) and there is this visible desperation. So, Sonia Gandhi is celebrating the rural jobs bill as a feather in her cap. Other such equally “unviable” schemes are coming. Who cares in this battle for survival any sense of norms, norms of governance? Or, where is governance?

Nothing seems to be moving as planned or wished by the poor Dr.Singh.
The PM ,it looks, takes solace in articulating his leisurely (academic-like) wanderings in his interview to the McKinsey Quarterly, the journal of the world’s top management consultancy McKinsey & Co.

The PM puts the blame on the Left for their opposition to economic reforms etc.
Old wine? Yes, it is. We tell the PM: “Your Ministers, most of them, are not performing; please pull them up”. Or, we say the respected PM: “At least you can talk directly to the men at the grass roots. You had convened a meeting with the district collectors. So, you can ask them, say at least once in three months, through video conferencing what is going on there in the rural India, in the farm sector, in the employment generation sector, panchayat raj, in the many critical depts. like revenue, health, education etc..”

Yes, we feel the many critical ministries like Finance and Agriculture, not much is happening at the lower levels. We don’t want to tire our readers with the same old laments : banks don’t pro-actively do their jobs in timely agri credit, our co-operative banks are in deep crisis, our panchayats are powerless, the hold of the bureaucracy, the district collectorates are dents of corruption. Corruption is so widespread that nothing moves in India without paying bribes at all levels.

There is no computerisation of collectorates, even in such developed districts like the industrial city of Coimbatore in TN. Corruption might be the number one reason why not much is moving as per the Delhi’s planned targets.
Sonia Gandhi seems to be blissfully unconcerned with the tears of the poor. So many malnutrition deaths in Maharashtra’s Vidarba region. So much leakages from the same Maharashtra which implemented the same-type job guarantee scheme now envisaged for the whole of India.

Jean Dreze, the economist who co-authored with Amartya Sen so many economic treatises,now a member of Sonia Gandhi’s advisory council had exposed so much of these “leakages”. Rs.9 crores leakaged in Maharashtra scheme. So, what guarantee the same might not now occur in other states?

So, we say : please allot the jobs more focussedly in agri sector alone. So that all production targets in foodgrains or cash crops will be realised. Or, link the jobs with agri credit from banks so that some targeted projects like contract farming in biodiesel crops are taken up in wastelands? Bring in the public-private partnerships, with third party guarantees in farm projects, food processing sectors, export-linked agri projects, rural roads infrastructure too can be linked with the panchayats.
The point is we cant link the jobs scheme with vote-banks! Are we clear about this? We are not sure!

The PM is a helpless personality in this murky political games. We know this. But as a responsible media we have to point out the hard truths, when it concerns the millions of poor farmers, the poor in the remote villages, poor children, out of school children, girl children’s education, poor marginal farmers are all played around by entrenched and insensitive state level bureaucracy.

The PM can at least make some surprise visits to remote villages. The PM’s prerogatives to use the airforce planes can be put to the full use by flying around the country to land and take-offs in remote villages. That could fire the minds and imagination of the people across the breath and length of the country.

The moral: The Prime Minister must do something to activate his ministers and his entrenched officials. Luckily, there is the modern technology of IT tools, there is the quick-moving air transport and communication facilities. Please, let our people enjoy the fruits of a great opportunity to reduce and remove poverty quickly.

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