The big picture we have to get right!

Who says agriculture is an unfashionable subject. Or, rural India is just for votes! No, no. Please listen. Farming is bout one’s country’s basic strength. India is a rural power. I want to enhance this perception through all the means at my command.

A vision for farming, for rural India is not just politics. It is an intellectual belief with me, it is a philosophical question as to where truthful activities can thrive. As Tolstoy perceived, it is in the simple peasant whose beliefs are free from all corruption. So, too the hard and honest labour of the village poor that touch depths of my heart. Also, I am not immune to the many wider issues. The big picture we have to get it right. The globalisation, the IT revolution, our modernising lifestyles all impact on our thinking. Certainly, they do so in my thinking processes. The full implications and the hopes and expectations raised by the WTO talks in Hong Kong have not penetrated to the rural India. But we are confident the message will finally reach the desired audience.

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Where are the funds? When it will be disbursed? Where are the institutions to receive the funds? Who are all accountable for the funds use or misuse?

Any hopes for rural India? For the rural poor? The Central government seems to have lost its direction and also the initial dynamism for action. Many new developments had burdened the government with other preoccupations. The oil for food programme scandal in which Natwar Singh and even the Congress party are caught is to be resolved. The Bihar elections might completely give a psychological blow to the Congress in its capacity to hold on in government. So, where are the promises of reducing poverty? The passing of the Employment Guarantee Act, promising 100 days of work for a poor family, was touted as the biggest achievement of the UPA govt. But why is it still not taking off? Where is the fund allocation? When it is to be kicked off?

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What defines rural India?
An invitation from my English hostess is waiting for me to pay a visit to her country house in northern England of Cumberland country. This is very much near the Lake District made famous by Wordsworth. My hostess, Mrs.Dikcenson, had been our family friend ever since I was a student at Oxford in the late Sixties. How I got to know her family?

At Oxford there was meeting soon after our first term (three months), a meeting called by one gracious and aristocratic lady, Lady McDonald of Sleat and she asked us, students to put down our preferences as to the places for our stay. Every one, most of them Indians, put their preferences for London to spend their holidays. I put my preference as: “put me in a remote English countryside, I like to live in an English village!” As the great Lady read out our preferences, my name evoked a near shriek in her! “Oh, who is this?

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Sonia populism vs state CMs’ populism!

Is the National Advisory Council functioning? Aruna Roy resigns, others also lie low? Sound economic principles are needed in rural infrastructure development schemes. A pity such sound economic sense is missing now!

The so many populist schemes where heavy subsidy or subsidies or almost freebies, like free ration rice as in TN, or doles for unemployed graduates and post-graduates as in UP or massive debt write-offs, as again in TN and the so many other ” free”s, like free power, free this or that are now making the current UPA schemes like the employment guarantee scheme almost as no news!  Yes, the much-touted NREGS seems to have been grounded when the rural realities hit hard!

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The rural “pastoral idyll, a dream fantasy” farming is, yes a bloody profession today but it can regain its old value system and might become or turned to be a perennial source of inspiration.

Every morning the first thing  we do in Bangalore is to call the village, some 300 km away, and talk to our house workers, the maid servants, the farm manager, farm workers, the daily wage labour, the others who are all on  different assignments. The cows have to be milked in time, milk taken to the co-op sales point, the veterinary doctors to be attended and other routines of running farm have all to be attended to. The villagers in our blood veins survive and our day in the city doesn’t start without these preliminaries are gone through!

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