Is Rural India losing out?

Urbanisation, creation of new suburban cities, future of the villages!

Readers of this column must have had the feeling that we are dumping down our own individual views on what constitutes the genuine rural development vision. We don’t have any ideological individual view or vision as such. Rather our view is that in the mad rush we see the market economy that is developing the policy makers in Delhi, as they are constituted as a coalition for polticial survival, in our view with a blind rush to pursue their own partisan poltiical agenda. In this survival poltiical syndrome, the very economic development syndrome as such is being driven more by the market forces rather than by any rational and articulate enlightened public interest.

Do we convey something?

If so, then we welcome reader’s feedback. After all we are all committed to create a broad national consensus on some of the core national vision, a core value system for the emerging rural India as well. It is the rural India vision that drives us to formulate a broadly modern and liberal development vision. We need not be stuck with the old generation, Gandhi-Nehru visions. We need a current, new generation, Indian development vision where high paying employment generation is possible thanks to the new technologies like IT, ITes, BPO industries that is catching the imagination of the younger generation.

Yet, there is a rural Indian vision to be pursued. The urban conglomerates, as they are being driven by the unceasing urbanisation process itself, and the new danger is that if we allow the New Delhi policy makers they seem to be mere statistics like growth rate of  8.5 or 9%. This is very deceptive. See the agri sector’s deterioration in this new scheme of thing. The trio, the PM, the FM and  Ahluwalia seem to have no clue to this grand vision, any genuine policy making needs. So, the burden of articulating a grand vision for rural India, nay, for the very India of the growing cities and the growing villages lies with us.

Agriculture creates near panic in the government!

Nobody has a clue to solve the agriculture problems.  Since Independence, 50 per cent of the India’s cultivable land has disappeared.  600 million people contribute 23 per cent of the GDP from the agriculture sector.

Now, West Bengal Chief Minister is having a tough time in his own State and within his own party over his commitment to hand over 1000 acres to the Tatas and now he is engaged in finding ways to hand over, this time 24,000 acres of land in East Midnapore to locate a Special Economic Zone.  Indian countryside is changing. So too the Indian urban landscape.
A typical example is what is happening in Karnataka, more so in and around Bangalore.

Bangalore is soon to be expanded with building five integrated townships in the Bangalore Metropolitan Region. This means more and more agricultural lands changing hands for the creation of the new townships. The new concept of going about the development debate is to follow the PPP, Public-Private Partnership. The latest new township, the first to come out is Bidadi in Ramanagaram taluk on the Mysore highway. The township is expected to come out on 9,684 acres, it covers eight villages and the five proposed townships will benefit by getting the guidelines finalised for the first township project. In all the five townships, about 85 villages would be absorbed, covering a population of 79,000 to start with.

This is going to be new urbnanisation development model for other cities too. For Chennai, there are big developments in the offing. The Mahindra World City formula would be adopted, says Tidco, the premier industrial development and promotion agency. Mahindra directly engaged with farmers and purchased land, paid the market price, the government doesn’t get into the messy world of compensation, below market price and so on. The Mahindra city has come up in Chengalpet, 50 km from the city on the Grand Southern Trunk Road. The TN is to have some SEZs in Hosur and Perambalur on the same model like the Mahindra city.

Obviously, all these developments on the urbanisation front have not caught the attention of the Central government, it seems. Otherwise, there would have been some thoughts, new thoughts about how to limit the urbanisation and how to integrate with the other rural infrastructure, the building of new highways has already opened up the interiors and brought the many interior villages nearer the National Highways and as such the government must be planning to provide the PURA concept to link the villages with the modern urban faciltiies. Somehow such thoughts haven’t got into the heads of leaders and they all seem to be living far away from the realities of the countryside.

Prof Mohammad Yunus on China

Prof.Mohammad Yunus, the Nobel Peace winner for micro credit was in China recently and he says that in China micro credit hasn’t taken roots. Not only has that he said in China the urban-rural divide is more wider than what it is in India. This should be a lesson and a warning for Indian policy makers who have blindly imitated the SEZs, on the pretext of copying from China.

Mani Shankar Aiyar and the Panchayat Raj

Panchayat Raj seems to have become a victim of the emerging regional parties treating the local bodies as vote banks. The recent TN local body elections showed a new height of violence, booth capturing and the display of unaccounted money in propaganda by professional, paid daily workers,Rs.100 per day plus two meals for labor and other casual workers to go about and canvass votes for the dominant parties.  The Chennai Corporation Elections were a fraud on the electorate. All this was done with a vengeance by the ruling minority government of DMK which is notorious for its electoral tactics. No less is the case of W.Bengal where the local bodies are the CPM monopoly. In Bihar the story is again notorious. In such a scenario, what chance for Panchayat Raj, as we are made to believe.

Another fall out of the developments is the sorry picture of Mani Shanker Aiyar, the poor man who imagined that because he was once close to Rajiv Gandhi who made some momentous changes in the Panchayat Raj laws, he, Aiyar, has an ideological claim. No, he is now an oddity in the government led by the trio of economic reformers who don’t seem to believe in any such grand visions. Be it Panchayat Raj or a grand vision for a Rural India.


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