Hinders economic development.
The Economist magazine, true to its verbal gymnastics, had called India’s much talked about employement guarantee programme (or just a promise on date?) as India’s poor law! In the same typical imperial mindset the magazine goes on to elaborate its wisdom as it see it. Of course what the Singh government is promising seems everyday becoming just hope! The budget’s first impression seems quite positive. On closer look there are some disquieting questions. The critics have ranged from known critics like S.Gurumurhty and theTN CM and some others. The budget doesnt give a specific agriculture development focus.
What it gives as rural India development focus hinges on the employment guarantee scheme that has transformed now as an all-encompassing umbrella programme. The food for work programme (launched in 2004) now converted into Rural Employment Guarantee Programme. The budget speech doesnt spell out the sources of funds for this programme, merely promises to”find the money for the programme” “Livelihood security for crores of poor families”. Elsewhere one crore rural jobs promised under the Bharat Nirman vision,”without a single rupee as budget provision for it” as Gurumurthy puts it. Promises are too many without any specific binding targets for even this year! The1000-odd pages of the budget papers no one reads. More and more TV and print media gushes with announcements of so many fringe tax benefits. Gurumurthy saracastically puts, this budget” deceives even the intelligent”.
The budget seems obsessed with managing the budget deficit and here again, as pointed out by critics, the States are burdened with the responsibility to “borrow from the market Rs.29,003 crores for financing their plans. There are too many bureaucrats and economic experts around! As far as agriculture is concerned it is a big disappointing budget. Yes, horticulture gets a boost but some of the crucial questions like revamping the agri credit, write-off of farmers debts haven’t been given any thought. While the sugar industry’s heavy debt burdens are taken care off by 2% debt reduction package, why not the very farmers, sugarcane farmers included, other farmers producing foodgrains, farmers in Punjab to TN, are reeling under debt burdens and farmers in AP are in deep debts? No one seems to have given a thought to the farm sector’s accumulated burdens. Banks and the agri credit subject needs a more radical policy package. As for the big picture, what happens to the inter-State river links? Or, even the NH development?
Rural India is about how to generate wealth and jobs. This can be done only through a modernised farm sector, new agro technologies, IT, new agro ventures. Not a word on contract farming is mentioned in the budget.
The budget speech concludes with a quotation with Amartya Sen. Poor Sen! He is now a convenient mascot for everyone who dont want to do a practical job! Prof.Amartya Sen descened at the right time and he held forthe in Kokatta on the four areas where he sees light. They are delivery of healthcare system, land reforms and its completion, basic education and microcredit. Who can fault his priorities? Then of course there is the redoubtable M.S.Swaminathan with his own pet themes. Now, he warns of ecocides, ecological suicides, as farmers’ones! He points to Punjab too where there are farmers suicides. So, what is his alternative? Not any clear path. Except villages as knowledge centres and of course improved farm practices. Nothing to quarrel about. Of course we have the veterans who sit pretty in Delhi’s various dingy and airy corridors, as you can see their importance or non-importance! So, in sum agriculture is going get the boost this time, right? Finance Minister visited Krishi Bhavan.
This is news. Horticulture, irrigation, wet/dryland farming, insurance, employment guarantee. As for Prof Amartya Sen, with due respect we say : he is totally out of touch with ground level realities in Indian countryside. He advocates land reforms and its completion! There is an acute farm labour shortage even in Kerala. So in other states. The farm labour is now migrating to neighbouring states, even distant states, where the farm wages are high. The villages are now faced with farm labour shortage. So, what chance there is for land reforms? One can buy any amount of land today for throwaway prices in any states!
Sen advocates healthcare delivery system. He is here again mistaken. In his own West Bengal state the healthcare system is in shambles. First let him help to put the system in one state in place. The problems are quite complex. So too basic education, Sen may be a great advocate for education. But there is 53 percent of heavy dropout!
We are not a serious people. Mr.A.B.Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister the other day in Mumbai released a book on the state’s PWD minister Mr.Gadkari who in record time constructed the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Vajpayee did say that he got his inspiration for his national highway project from Gadkari’s experience. Vajpayee in one stroke launched the NH project and today he is admired the world over what the NH project triggered off. Every NH is dotted with multiplier developments, petrol bunks construction and other developments. The point is that one need not talk too much,one need not be an expert, Vajpayee was certainly not an expert in any sphere. It is a vision and some resultant boldness to launch something imaginative is all needed. So, we say : speed up more NHs. Agricultre, rural hinterland, communications etc. would create the multip-lier effects on an unprecedented scale. E-governance, telecommunication networks are some of the technological backups we need today.
We conclude : agriculture hadn’t benefitted much by this government so far. So we can’t expect much for agriculture.
Do your job in other spheres. Agriculture will dictate its own dynamic responses! The very market forces will force changes to bring about needed mindset change!