Rural India is now a changed place!
50% of the GDP now comes from rural India. Also, nearly 50 % of the rich and very rich are rural households.

This is how a leading national newspaper headlines its story! Rural India in shambles! Rural India had been a game for long. It is both good politics and bad morality, a pricking one at that!

Too many experts,  academic theoreticians and screaming headlines grabbing journalists do a great disservice to the rural India. From Gandhi to Kalam, we have had it enough! Too much utopia-building, too much easy chari fantasising!

Rural India is throbbing with a new sense of optimism and it is thriving. This positive reality is not conveyed by our growing competitive media industry, print and TV media!
Even the so-called highly respected and highly rated print media houses have become  so pro-establishment and also  faced with competition from rivals that often they resort to the simple device: sensationalism!

The Hindu(August 9, 2007) in its edit-page article by P.Sainath with his new found honour of the Magsaysay award for journalism, has written a piece on “the growing decade of our discontent” In this piece he cites so much statistics to show, among other things, about the rising farmers suicides and in this survey of growing inequalities and inequities he cites statistics to show that the last”15 years show the ruthlessness with which the inequality is engineered. The cynicism with which it has been constructed and the scale  on  which it exists”.

He cites two academics, about the “rich ,the top 1 per cent substantially increased their share of the total incomes of the reform period”. He also cites the fact that in the”1990s it is only the top 0.1 per cent who made the big gains”

“The average top 0.01 per cent income was about 150-200 times larges than the average income of the entire population during the 1950s”In this vein he goes on and on.
Then he reverts to the structural inequalities. “In the 60 years we never resolved the issue of land, nor those of forests and water rights”

“Even at the heart of the  reforms period, the bottom  half of the rural house holds accounted for less than 3.5 per cent of the total land ownership. The top  10 per cent of households owned well over 50 per cent. That is for all lands as a whole. If we took only the irrigated land, the picture is more frightening. In one estimate, over 85 per cent of rural households are either landless, submarginal, marginal or small farmers”

Is this anything so new and radical a news? Mr.Sainath thinks so. It is more surprising that after so much traveling and reporting the farmers suicides he seems to advocate to bring about a more equal distribution of the productive assets of land ownership into one situation like  that prevails in Kerala and West Bengal.

He seems to be saying we are taking away the land from small farmers and handing over the same to large corporations. “We are witnessing the largest in our history”

He seems to decry the creation of so many special economic zones. May be he is right in criticising the SEZ policy now under implementation. We have to allot the dry and even wastelands or locate the SEZs in backward regions, we cant allow the prime agricultural lands taken away. But then he is not clear in his mind what positive steps he advocates. He seems to be in creating a sort of panic and sensation for the sensation sake!

He doesn’t commend the cultivation of the cash crop, vanilla in Kerala and only interested in paddy crop! Yes, vanilla cultivation takes as much as 15 to 20 times the cost of raising paddy on an acre. But then paddy prices are depressed and in vanilla you have the chance to make a good return. Yes, vanilla prices being governed by international market fluctuations, it is bound to rise and fall. And then, there are cases where the vanilla farmers have done extremely well in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

You cant dictate to farmers these days anymore as in the olden times.
Now, the point is  the so-called inequalities and inequities are not the exclusive and sole domain of rural India! Urban India  has created and now in the full glare of creating increasing wealth as well as the attendant socio-economic changes that lead towards more inequalities and inequities.

This is a subject as much for the media as for the political class and also for the thinkers at many levels.

But then the current Indian economic reforms policies have generally done much more good than any harm as such. In fact, all the good for the Indian economy has come through the economic reforms years only.

This positive side needs highlighted and also the reduction  of poverty levels in the rural India! Today rural Indian households, as we can see in Tamil Nadu to other states, progressive and otherwise, there are  a steep rise in all development indicators, human development index to other developments like e-governance to the general governance parameters, education, health and old age pensions and in TN, these populist schemes have run wild!

In a city like Bangalore we cite the one statistics that should give us an idea of how the cities are also contributing to a lot of employment in the informal and unorganised sector as in ,say, the IT and related sectors. While we are often told about  the revenues generated by the  IT industry, say, IT exports from Karnataka is now Rs.48,700 crores, from Bangalore alone so much, in the all India share the state has something like 38 % share. And about 2 lakh of highly qualified IT hands are employed. And  in the urban infrastructure sector, we see 2.5  lakh construction workers from as many as eight states!

Rural India is now a radically changed place!
The mobile revolution is really the most radical instrument of change. Mobile  phone usage has affected every   type of persons and occupations. So too the use of two wheelers and other transport. In place of bullock carts  and bullocks-drawn ploughs there are tractors and tractor usage has also affected the old occupations and the prejudices  to change for  modernisation. Almost all the new generation Dalit youth are now tractor drivers and this has changed their  outlook, their prestige is now seen in the gadgets they handle in various activities. No less is the radical change in the education of girls and their role in the rural households.

There is almost progress in every sphere of activity, be it electricity supply to safe drinking water to sanitation and health coverage.
One  estimate puts rural electricity usage in villages at 41 %  for all India and urban usage is  77%.50% of the GDP now comes from rural India. Also, nearly 50 % of the rich and very rich are rural households.

As to ownership of land, it is a complicated question. No more all the landowners are feudal people or from the traditional village households. There is the new breed of urban businessmen and entrepreneurs who have invested in lands, the new class of real estate investors have almost distorted the rural reality, as imagined by our urban based Leftists!

There is now the Internet revolution and the various government policies of the government are going to connect the villages into a  vast network of a really vibrant India. Why only take the rural employment guarantee programme as the one good development. Equally important is the Bharat Nirman, the rural road connectivity which has done wonders, besides the National Highways project that had already succeeded in breaking the isolation of rural India in many parts of the country.

Only an incurable pessimist can despair about rural India. the education spread, the spread of the popular culture, cinema and TV culture has created a new awakening. Even in the elections we see the rural voters becoming smarter, they could defeat the popular idols in elections after elections. Now, the rural Indian people want results and they are standing up to their rights! So much for experts and other doom-mongers!

Image Source : drinking-water.org

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