Dr MK Bhat
GOOD economics stands for the good of masses rather than the good of a few at the cost of millions. The much talked economic growth rate is of no use unless it influences the living of people. In India nearly three fourths of the total population living in villages has yet to get the fruits of economic growth. Their backwardness hints at the bad economic policies adopted over the years. The polarisation towards urban development is embedded in history. British developed city centers for their vested interests and a little has been done in the independent India to change this scenario. Economic liberalisation of the country further aggravated the problem. It created job opportunities for English speaking people in BPO’s and KPO’s mostly confined to urban areas. It made corporate to apply labor saving techniques for being competitive in the market. This closed the doors for migratory semi skilled and unskilled workers from the rural areas and the neglect of agriculture sector added salt to their injury.
The high growth rhetoric of Indian economy mellows down as we move away from its cities – a different India appears on the horizon. The bad shape of roads, heaps of cow dung, patches of dirty water breeding mosquitoes, people wasting time for they have nothing to do, illiteracy, low health facilities, women fetching water from distant places and such other characteristics of poverty become evident. It seems an India neglected. A little change may have occurred here and there in last sixty five years of independence but the pace is so slow that the change looks negligible. Poverty in rural areas makes people move towards cities thereby they strain the urban infrastructure too. The disparity between rural and urban areas points to the failure of planning process to mitigate the gap and has started to give birth to regional tensions and bad politics. It seems that the policies are framed away from the ground realities with political motives. No federal setup can work in harmony, if its majority is left behind in the economic race. Less attention is paid to agriculture, agro-based industries, cottage industries and the result over the years has been big towers at certain places and the majority there where it was.
The per capita consumption expenditure of more than 70 per cent of rural population is less than Rs 20 per day. The average village household income rests at Rs 2100 that is close to poverty line. The lack of attention by successive governments towards rural areas has lead to their vicious circle of poverty and misery. They take birth in pathetic conditions and take these conditions as fait accompli. The majority among them is not educated and those who get good education move to cities for better living. The villagers become the darling of every politician at the time of elections and stand nowhere after elections. They have schools, but teachers remain absent because no officer wants to visit such areas. In the same way, there are dispensaries without doctors. At certain places a school up to primary level consists of two or three rooms only and may have just one teacher. Better roads, banking facilities, health and education facilities are still a distant dream. This backwardness restricts the overall economic growth of the country. The economic development of rural India can escalate the domestic demand of industrial goods and may thereby help in the development of Indian corporate.
The mainstay of rural India is agriculture. It involves nearly sixty per cent of the total population directly and contributes less than 16 per cent to GDP. Compared to this 5 per cent of people are involved with agriculture in UK and they contribute 5 per cent to its GDP. The National Sample survey organisation in 2005 held that 48.6 per cent of the farming community lives in debt. The high employment and low contribution hints to lower returns in this sector. Its low productivity has lead to rampant inflation in cities and farmers suicides in villages. The attention towards agriculture has not been serious throughout our planned period and in the post liberalization era, it has been further neglected. India lives in villages and agriculture influences their living both directly and indirectly. Its development is of paramount importance for the good health of the economy. The usual procedure of waving loans, easy availability of funds- subsidy is no solution to the problem. There is an intense need to grow fruitful employment. People will migrate to cities in search of living if they fail to get in the rural areas .It is not only PURA that will help; the need is to develop earning avenues too.
It is an irony that 60 per cent of Indian farms depend on rain. The irrigation network is inadequate and little has been done to create additional irrigation potential. It rather came down from 3 per cent per annum during 1950-51 to 1.8 per cent per annum during tenth five year plan period. The heavy dependence on rain gods makes things quite difficult. The linking of rivers was never taken seriously which could have solved our irrigation and power problem to a great extent.Three per cent of the agriculture produce is getting waste because of low storage facilities and no Walmart will solve this problem. There is no agriculture planning. Crops like pulses, oil seeds, coarse cereals etc. can be easily grown in dry lands. There has been no extensive cultivation in these areas. The result is that price of pulses at present are hardly affordable by a common man. Crops like sugar which need more water are not only produced for domestic use but even exported . This leads to the depletion of water table at various places and points to worthless agricultural planning.
It is time for government to realize the importance of rural economy and desist from the gimmickry of stock exchanges which do not involve even one per cent of the total population and can not be held as an indicator of the economic health of the majority. The backwardness of majority after sixty five years of independence conveys either the failure of planning or calculated move of the decision makers and it provides enough clues to rethink about our economic strategies.
(The writer is Principal, Maharaja Agrasen Institute of Management Studies GGSIP university Delhi)