Self-congratulations by one and all!

Panchayat Raj is identified with Collectors’ Raj!

This is no way to generate employment or reduce poverty!
One year of UPA doesn’t even mention employment generation, rural development, poverty reduction!

Somehow, the mindset of the New Delhi government is out of sync with the mindset of the rural India. There is a clear divide of the rural and urban India. More so the mindset of the new style ‘imperial Delhi’!


Completion of one year of a coalition led by Congress is after all a new experience for the Congress. Congress itself is accustioned to some imperial political style! It had always considered ruling India is its natural inheritance! So, it learnt from BJP the coalition management, What its new allies, the DMK and its TN splinter groups. Also the new found power of the Left did under the Congress were deals!

Lalu Yadav has been the main beneficiary. Other allies are doing or pursuing their own narrow (if we can say so, their own selfish) goals of strengthening their political base in their respective states. This means the Congress becomes more selfish too. How to ensure the numbers at the Centre at the cost of the state-level political and economic issues? This is the calculation of the Congress since Mrs.Indira Gandhi split the party in 1969. So, the same narrow agenda is now all that the Congress pursues. The outcome is there for all to see. Dr.Manmohan Singh is just another mask! As Vajpayee was allegedly the other day not long ago!

Now, Singh is doing his assigned job well. That is all to say about him. But he is a bureaucrat and had been so all his life. So too others he seek advice from. Ahluwalia is another bureaucrat. P.Chidambaram was a lawyer till he took to politics. He could argue his case well. As a lawyer. As for his commitment or vision. The less said the better. Given these rootless three ,others are holding their briefs for their respective regional chieftains.

So, there is no larger coherent ideology or vision for an economic development plan. Right? So, you see the hastily printed “achievements” pamphlet doesn’t have much to say about employment or poverty reduction and mass deprivation issues. The “promises” remain what they are even after one year : mere promises!

Critics of this government have become more and more sucked into the political pressures generated by coalition politics of survival. The PM addressed a (hastily called )two day 450 District Collectors meet on May 19-20. The PM asked the Collectors to transform India! We are sorry to say this is just a cruel joke! The Collectors themselves are a harried lot these days with so many new pressures on their time. Now, these old relics of the past would transform the new India’s villages? Impossible. The revenue departments under them are the biggest drags on the lives of farmers and villagers! Please ask former Chief Ministers like Chandrababu Naidu or S.M.Krishna or Digvijay Singh who in fact tried to transform the rural India by deploying IT in a big way. The wise thing is to take the programmes forward from where they had left. Not to call back from obscurity the past relics!

No, sorry, we have to register our protest in the name of millions of voiceless poor and the farmers in the countryside. The aged Communists and the other caste politicians are now becoming apologists for the non-performers in the government. Agriculture is the serious reversal. The declining trend from 4 per cent to 1.5 per cent is noted by the PM himself. The PM should be more forthcoming and confess his lack of understanding of this sector, he does seem to shift the responsibility to the states. This is unfair, to say the least. Sharad Pawar must be more than willing to help out. Perhaps, he has his own political calculations or compulsions! Who knows? Take for instance issues like employment. Does anyone seriously believe this government believes in generating employment? Not any one! Does this government seriously believe in panchayatraj? If so, why the portfolio is tagged with the more demanding portfolio of petroleum? If Mani Shankar Aiyer is a “dynamic” minister for the panchayat raj, as L.C.Jain says in a recent column, then, either Aiyar has not proved his dynamism, except to pay off some fleeting visits to some villages once a while or Mr.L.C.Jain, a self-confessed Gandhian, is either being generous or himself wanting for an assignment to revamp the panchayat raj setup!

Yes, this is the serious tragedy now we witness in Delhi. There are any number of committees appointed by the PM and also any number of retired bureaucrats recalled from their retirement to occupy the bungalows in Lutyen’s Delhi! What the government has generated is “100 days of employment for a number of retired bureaucrats” at such high costs!

Jain is a senior person and he must be writing on things with some more concern for the villagers. He in the particular column writes about the failure of the Singh government in agriculture, employment, poverty and panchayat raj. Jain is supposed to be an authority ,he is, on panchayat raj.

Let us dispel the wrong notion somehow we Indians had acquired. Panchayatraj is instantly, without any serious introspection, identified with Gandhi. I mean Mahatma Gandhi! This is incorrect. All the great Mahatma was talking all his life was about rural India and the villages. He didn’t in any place advocate a panchayat raj as such. It was the isolated individuals, from A.O.Hume, the founder of the Congress and several others. Anyway, it was Ramakrishna Hegde government that gave the panchayat raj the modern, more genuine structure. Then, Rajiv Gandhi brought the Constitution amendments. That was a decisive step. But then nothing happened much. Now? The states have panchayat raj institutions but they are all politicised, from West Bengal to Kerala to TN. May be in Karnataka serious belief is held in the panchayat raj as structure into three tiers. But a recent news notes about how the funds allocations even in Karnataka are faulty. On the last day of the financial year some 20 per cent of the funds received. Some 36 per cent in the last month! So, panchayats are still starved of funds and also lack of zilla parishad level direction and momentum.

But let us be clear. Panchayat bodies don’t generate wealth in rural areas. Certainly panchayat raj institutions don’t promote agriculture. Nor they generate employment or they lead to poverty reduction. Panchayats are supposed to deliver rural services efficiently, undertake infrastructure development. But unfortunately panchayats are used politically. The Communists and the Gandhians failed. Gandhians by not able to think afresh and understand current issues of politics and economics. The Communists, by their penchant for reading history wrongly, always! Now, they have implemented the panchayat raj institutions in Kerala and W.Bengal. What they have got to give to their UPA as inputs so that Singh & Co. will benefit? Nothing! The Communists in India are a cursed lot.

Jain is no exception! He too quotes approvingly C.Subramaniam, President Abdul Kalam, V.P.Singh to plead for agriculture. But he has no practical ideas. May be he has none. The point is that we have flogged the agri sector for long without taking any practical steps. What we need is not grand theories, nor even raising productivity of the soil or the crops or fertilizers or credit.

What we need is to maximise the market prices for what the farmers produce today! Today’s problems need today’s solutions!
See what for instance one horticulture minister does in Karnataka. There is either excess production of fruits or vegetables and prices fall. Or, there is shortage of production and prices rise. What is being done in Karnataka or AP (may be in other states too) is to create cold chains or set up processing plants. Also, grading, sorting, making quality produce available through some marketing networks like HOPCOMS as in Karnataka. So that producer gets reasonable prices and consumers also get products art reasonable prices.

These infrastructure needs currently serious attention. What we say here for horticulture, applies for medicinal crops or other crops, specially for those crops or processed intermediates there is now an export market. This ‘marketisation’ of agri/horti produces can generate lots of employment in the farm sector. This rural employment. We at Vadamalai, have done our bit in generating lot of rural employment. So, we speak from our practical experience. There is a whole new world of employment potential in the agri/rural sector. There is also an unlimited agri/horti processing industry potential waiting to be tapped.

This government is trapped in its own internal struggle to survive. It had not got a leader to look beyond political survival. This is a minimum performing government with a minimum programme. This is the common minimum positive good it had done so far. If you are a pessimist, then it is okey for you! If, like us, if you are an optimist, then, this government’s performance is no good for us!

 

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