By Sarkaritel April 17, 2015 11:14


Modi Govt Strategy


By Dhurjati Mukherjee

Developments during the past few months make it abundantly clear that the present Government lacks concern for the poor and the economically weaker sections, though it may make tall claims. Starting with the reduction in corporate tax and various other measures such as the land acquisition ordinance, reduced budgetary allocation for NREGS and reluctance to hike wages in the job scheme, clearly the focus of the Government’s attention is on increasing growth and not on ensuring balanced development.

It is also quite surprising to note that comparisons are being made with Singapore’s Lee growth model and that of India without understanding the ground realities existing in both the countries. The percentage of people below the poverty line, the resource constraints for developing both social and physical infrastructure are poles apart in these two countries and thus the strategies of development have to be different. It is a well-known fact that even today around 60 to 65 per cent of the population is dependent on agriculture and there is no strategy or example whereby such a large segment of a country’s population can be shifted from its occupations to other sectors.

There has always been a pro-urban, pro-industry emphasis in Indian planning without understanding that such approaches pamper a small section of the population. The trickledown theory has been rejected long back but very little has been done in terms of allocation of resources to help the rural poor and small farmers to improve their standard of living.

Recent reports have revealed that suicides by farmers increased in 2014 for reasons such as widespread drought followed by freak rains and hailstorms. In a prosperous State like Maharashtra, suicides jumped by 40 per cent between January and July 2014. Such developments are quite natural in an era of climate change and if this affects the farming community, then something needs to be done by the Government. There have also been suicides by potato growers in Bengal due to over production and prices falling with no support from the State government.

There is no policy of support from the Centre in such situations and even if there is, it will be too late. While most farmers commit suicide for fear of repaying bank/ moneylenders’ debts, industrialists take crores from banks and do not bother about repayments. Likewise, while on the one hand, government employees get DA to keep pace with rising price index, on the other there is no mechanism to fix minimum support price to farmers.

At its recent meeting in Bangalore, the BJP particularly sought to project a pro-poor image. In his valedictory speech, Modi stressed that Swachh Bharat campaign would be linked to the state of health care for the poor. However, no definite plan of how this would be done was announced. Moreover, allocation of resources in the health sector does not speak much of strengthening district and sub-divisional health centres.

Worse, within a day of the meeting’s conclusion, the Centre decided to do away with the free drugs provision under the National Health Mission (NHM). A statement by the Ministry’s official stated that alternatively, “the Centre will financially incentivise States to start the free drug programme”, that is putting the burden on them. Taking such a decision has come in for severe criticism more so because only last year, while presenting the Budget, the Finance Minister stated: “To move towards ‘Health for All’, the two key initiatives i.e. the Free Drug Service and Free Diagnosis Service would be taken up on priority”. It no longer is the case. Moreover, prices of essential drugs have increased from April this year!

The complete withdrawal of the Centre from public health reflects that the Government has very little concern for the needy. While emphasis on water and sanitation sectors remain on paper, the need for improving better health services cannot be achieved by withdrawal of free drug scheme and allowing multinational companies to increase prices of essential drugs.

Development means it must benefit the masses — assures them not just food but other basic necessities like potable water, sanitation and, of course, shelter – which politicians term as inclusive approach. This has not transformed into reality because most present day polity is simply not interested. The spirit of community development that was once a part of our national policy and behaviour has steadily been eroding, with the result that a major section of politicians feel that welfare objectives and subsidies need to be curbed.

Take the case of the job scheme. After coming to power at the Centre, the Government slashed funds to National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, whereby the number of works sanctioned have been greatly reduced in most States. Even BJP-ruled States like Maharashtra expressed disappointment. The reason of corruption by officials cannot obviously be a viable reason for curtailing funds to the scheme.

Efforts should be made to curb corruption with an iron hand and create assets in villages so that the larger community could benefit in the coming years. But this too does not seem to be on the present Government’s agenda.

A pertinent question being raised: “Is it the growth of big business or of making huge profits that we seek? Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the social and cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that is necessary?

If Modi thinks that single-point focus has to be on high growth rate without adhering to other requirements of grass root development, the quality of life of the poorer segments of the population cannot be improved. Indeed, there is need to change the strategy of development and adopt a policy of good governance with inclusive growth that is so often voiced by our political leaders but rarely put into practice.

Today, the problems facing the country are of diverse nature — increasing pollution and warming temperature, affecting food production and declining agricultural productivity, insufficient funds for health and education, resulting in spurt of water-borne diseases, malnutrition and rise in unemployment and underemployment, etc. All these problems are primarily affecting the needy.

The Government must realise that the poor and the backward sections – the tribals, dalits and other such communities – cannot be neglected for long as this will have more serious consequences both on the social and economic front. The social balance in society is steadily being eroded due to widening inequality, resulting in violence, hatred and other reactions. There has to be overall developmental growth – more businesses by the people, for the people and of the people. The vision for the future should be based on Gandhiji’s charkha, which symbolized that people would be earners and owners of their own enterprise – the new meaning of inclusive democratic capitalism. —INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel April 17, 2015 11:14