Why this aspect is not talked about in India?
India’s economic strength is derived from the people!
Why agriculture and rural India neglected? Why they are a low priority?
Simple! We in India, are a very British-style influenced bureaucrats-filled Indian steel-frame mentality nation! Thomas Metcalfe, the famous British civil servant has called the Indian villages” little Republics”. True at that remote times. Now, of course, we have changed.
India became independent in 1947 in the shadow of the 1943 Bengal famine syndrome, right?
India was always known or shown by the British rulers as a country known for its famines and poverty. India was never recognised by the foreign rulers as a country rich in natural resources. May be in some other short-term sectors like jute and before it calico cultivation country and economy.
The opium trade soon after the 1857 crisis and also afterwards the Manchester textile mills needing cotton and so on.
We are not experts and unfortunately our experts haven’t seen agriculture, Indian village economy etc from this point of view.
On the other hand we had leaders and administrators, among whom A.O.Hue is an example who saw village poverty, village peasantry as a significant issue but in the over-all power grab, the British and the Maharajas, the most illiterate and most rapacious exploiters of their subjects, we saw a cost co-existence!
The British were happy to consolidate their power by their diwanis and other revenue collection that prevailed from the Mughal days and what the British did was to maximise their revenues.
The then existing historical, social and economic conditions were left to their own devices and the political consolidation required only the application of the instruments, arms and armies and also some guile and treachery (all these were amply exercised by no less a person than Robert Clive.
Is Clive a hero or a villain for the Indians? Then? Or even now?
You can’t get a clear and quick answer, you have to notice?
Indians still admire and like to read more of Robert Clive, Rudyar Kipling and why even the greatest villain of all, namely Winston Churchill!
So, what priority such lowly existence as the agriculture economy or for that matter, the economy of the peasantry?
No chance at all!
That old mindset, we dare to say, prevails even today. In the lower, if not the top levels, of the revenue administration! It is hurting to our own sense of a free and independent India that we still continue the old Mughal days revenue administration, the revenue collection is abolished no doubt but the peasant as a last citizen and his status reduced to more than a slave and you can see the cringing faces and the helpless hands even today in every taluk and even at the village level lowly recruits who consider this village jobs as god-given even today, right today!
There is such a fight for this job that every year you read in the newspapers that for some, say 1,000 jobs something like 1,00,000 applicants, from school passers to even post graduates and other competing for this lowly positions.
The one modern trigger is of course, the widespread corruption and even farmers, big or small, even today knows that corruption and corrupt practices start right at the village level clerical hands called by various names in various states!
Then you take this ladder to the top and in New Delhi, it is a babudom of very unimaginable ferocity and fight for survival.
The Indian civil servant or servants have few parallels.
The latest phenomenon is the transformation of the civil servants into various avatars. They now hope and also strive hard for these new transformations.
The archetypal civil servants are now everywhere. He or she is Governor, or army man, policeman and even politicians, why, the coveted job of Rajya Sabha nomination is now every civil servant’s dream or fantasy.
The ultimate prize if of course the country’s Parliamentary system where the Prime Minister is now an unelected member of this old secretariat culture.
So, what do you expect the Indian attitude or the mindset when it comes to the very soul and the very heartland of India, the agriculture and the village?
Agriculture and the very rural living?
There have been poverty and famines and hunger in the country from time immemorial.
But then a cult of poverty and self-lessens and sadhus and ascetic men, why even armed ascetics were venerated in Indian culture and religion.
This, in our view, is the ultimate negation of all that can be considered good in the rise and fall of civilisations. When we read about the civilisations, from Mesopotamia to Rome and even later periods of high civilisational growths in the West.
In India, in the East, it was always a very degraded life for the average Indian peasant.
Only after the arrival of the British, both the oppressions in the form of various taxes, tax on opium, salt and stamps, excise, customs and provincial charges. (See The rise of the British dominions 1740-1880 by Perceval Pear).
Only after the 1857 rebellion by the Indian princes and the Indian sepoys, there came about some modern regulations.
But by this time, the industrialisation in England also put pressure on the Indian peasant on cotton that was demanded duty free and other pressures built up for some modernisation. The Indian railways were a progressive step that united the Indian markets and also helped India to engage itself in the world trade.
But this was all under the supervision of the imperial government. There are so many issues to be considered when we look at the place of Indian resources, land water and trade and other market opportunities.
It is noted that how when Constantinople was at its height Indian and Chinese goods, for India it was the clothes, Dacca muslins and for China it was silk that supplied the world’s almost half the supplies.
India and China were the two large economies then!
From then onwards it was decline all the way. Indian peasant was always an exploited lot. So too the cottage industries.
It was only after the arrival of the various foreign interests, Portuguese, British, French and the Dutch that trade as such came into the consciousness of the Indian peasant and small time cottage industry artisans.
Otherwise, even under the Mughals and the later, Marathas, the land revenue was the only source of state revenue and it was the peasant who were always the victims.
It is reported that when Akbar ruled his total income was almost as that of double the revenue when the British started to collect revenues directly. Perceval Spear’s book carries some valuable information and data on The village, the Land and Trade-the People and the Government, Chapter 6 of the book, pages 189-200) Some lines: “The cultivator in the village at first saw only a new kind of tax collector, more implacable, if not more rapacious than before”. How true even today!
Another line:”It would be a great mistake to imagine that the population of India was a uniform “mass”. Position dependent on intricate social patterns. Position depended as much upon on caste as on wealth and land holding”. There were no corporate traditions like those of Europe. Indian villages in general were closely-knit societies; Indian villages had shown extraordinary resilience through ages of invasion”(page 189).
The point of great irony is that even now, our rulers, as they are in New Delhi, these days; we imagine that the rulers don’t know the Indian villagers’ mind!
So, if we want to build a strong India we have start with the foundations in the rural societies.