July 12, 2015 12:00:09 am
India won a lot of well deserved compliments for its rescue efforts in Yemen. Many other countries whose citizens were trapped in Yemen were relying on India to help them. In the tragic events in Nepal, again Indian rescue efforts have been exemplary. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown true leadership and mobilised the resources which the urgency demanded. This is very much an Executive responsibility which the PM is alert to and he delivers what is required.
The problem the Government has run into is however on the legislative and political side. Here the target is slippery. The Opposition has no incentive to cooperate with the Prime Minister. Indeed, it can only gain advantage by blocking progress in Parliament. .
The distress of the farmers is a result of long-run structural neglect of the sector. As student of economics in the Fifties, I had to take an examination in Indian economic problems. As far as farmers’ distress is concerned, nothing seems to have changed over the last 60 years.They may cry crocodile tears about kisan, but the parties sitting in opposition created the problem by their policies.
That however is no consolation. What is striking however is the lack of visibility about what the government is doing to relieve the distress. Of course, it is a state subject, but it is a national emergency. The Minister for Agriculture is not someone we see on our TV screens or even could recall the name of. Where is the media blitz on Twitter or even in newspaper ads?
In the US, it took the Great Depression of the 1930s to move its small and medium-size farmers into urban areas. India is at this crunch point. Sixty seven years of neglect of small farmers has now reached its limits. The Prime Minister needs to tackle this problem with the same urgency as he has shown for Yemen and Nepal. There has to be a National Farmers Relief Initiative. Money is not a constraint. What is lacking is serious concentration of effort and single-minded focus on the widespread tragedy.
The big worry during the Nehruvian days was that India did not have enough food to feed the urban population. The Green Revolution solved that problem by harnessing the larger farms in the more fertile areas.
India is awash with so much food that it is rotting. This time around the issue is too many small non-viable farms which have to be phased out. Farmers and their families have to be given a permanent viable economic alternative.
This is where quick infrastructural schemes are crucial. Manufacturing industries have to be set up fast. The caution about reforming labour laws has to be abandoned. Lives, especially of the next generation, are at stake.
The Government is going through its agnipariksha. It is lucky this has happened early in the political cycle. The PM has time to regroup his forces, reshuffle his Cabinet, read the riot act to his backbenchers. He has to act and to be seen to be acting.
Tasmat Uttishth Bharata
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