The farce of rural development and distortion of consumption utility in poor

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Dudley Seers while presenting a paper titled “The meaning of Development” at the Eleventh World Conference of the Society for International Development between November 14-17, 1969 in New Delhi succinctly addressed the basic question of the meaning of development when wrote: the question to ask about a country’s development are, therefore:

  1. What has been happening to poverty?
  2. What has been happening to unemployment?
  3. What has been happening to inequality?

A question must come to mind whether poverty in India has been eradicated? Puzzles are grabbing the eyeballs in finding answers? Don’t worry! The government of India thinks those who earn Rs. 32 and above daily are rich. They can buy plots on the moon. Burj Khalifa is their second home. The writ of fate never changes so does poverty. Since demonetization, unemployment has surged. Even the rural economy which has disguised unemployment is panicking at more than 5%.

Employment in rural India is related to agriculture only. Imported technology in agriculture leads rural India nowhere. In fact, it is a failed experiment worldwide. Last year, farmers from Punjab and Haryana were protesting against the industrialization of agriculture in India because the same was only to the extent of procuring food grains from the farmers at monopoly which would have been used to make profits on food grains only. This industrialization would have been built at the expense of enterprises that meet people’s basic needs. A country with the largest agrarian land striving for nutrition is a curse. A country with the largest youth is struggling for employment. It is a shame for the government.

Inequality is the biggest enemy of any civilisation which vasectomies the self-respect of any individual. Every person and every nation seeks self-respect, honour, and dignity; the absence of which indicates a lack of development. According to the World Inequality Report 2022, the share of India towards the poor is more than that of the population in the world. The bottom 50% have sustainability challenges in life in India as per the report. Don’t well up your eyes with tears as you have chosen your destiny in an election campaign that was nothing but a sort of network marketing agent’s commitment. Everything was available at the fingertips those days by the biggest opposition.

On April 4, 1936, Mahatma Gandhi wrote in Harijan:

India is to be found not in its few cities but its 700,000 villages. But, we town dwellers have believed that India is to be found in its towns and the villages were created to minister to our needs. We have hardly paused to enquire if those poor folk get sufficient to eat and clothe themselves with and whether they have a roof to shelter themselves from sun and rain.

He further wrote in Harijan on August 29, 1936, “I would say that if the villages perish, India would perish too. It will be no more India [sic.]. Her mission in the world will get lost. The revival of village life is possible only when it is no more exploited.”

There are rising expectations of the people of India since the advent of the internet. First, the demonstration effect of the rural elite, urban rich, and foreign tourists engaging in ostentatious consumption of exotic and luxurious goods has distorted the consumption utility functions of the poor. Second, movies, radio, television, e-commerce websites e.g. Flipkart, Amazon, Indiamart, Alibaba, and aggressive advertising have exposed the masses to modern gadgets and lifestyles, and have thus aroused their expectations; they too want to have those things. Third, local and national politicians have assured the rural poor of the modern amnesties of life, if they would vote for them. Fourth, the central governments have declared, time and again, that the eradication of poverty is their major policy goal. Under the influence of all these factors, the common man has first learned about the new products, gadgets, and services; then, comes to want them and now, demand them.

The economies of India cannot fulfill these expectations immediately. It’s a different matter that Narendra Modi built castles in Spain during the 2014 general election campaign and made the people believe that a government can do miracles. He exaggerated the expectations without knowing the reality that demand is being created for those who don’t deserve it. To be more precise, the sacrament “first deserve then demand” vanished. The result is before us, as it is said that misfortunes seldom come alone, the government distracted the denizens from those demands by making the internet costlier and inciting communal feuds day after day. Instead of making rapid agricultural and economic development a national imperative, they are making it so that when Muslims can pray 5 times, Hindus must replicate the same. The concept of sarvey bhavantu sukhinah gets replaced, just to incite, by a new distorted concept dharma hinsa tathaiv cha which is nowhere written in Indian holy scriptures.

Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland collectively called Nordic is having a unique model which focuses on healthcare, social safety and education at the forefront which bridges inequality. The Nordic model of economy works on a unique combination of capitalism and socialism where people have their faith deposed on the government. In India, just the opposite is encouraged. Here, the majority have a different view as that of the government giving a restlessness in the economy. This is due to the conduct of the government which failed to send a message that India is a safe haven for all. New Lords, new laws have robust ground here. Ex-CAG like Vinod Rai, just for the sake of political favour, makes hue and cry labeling wrong allegations on the good governance, and when he gets his work done apologises by tendering unconditional apology. His selfish needs make the people of India suffer. This is what is called anti-national in all sense.

When people become prisoners of political agenda!

Outlook published a report where it is mentioned, “…CAG Vinod Rai issued a written apology to Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam for having “incorrectly stated” that the MP had pressurised him to not mention Manmohan Singh in the report. The apology brings some sense of closure for both Manmohan Singh and Nirupam.” The report further goes, “I have inadvertently and wrongly mentioned the name of Shri Sanjay Nirupam as one of the MPs who pressurised me to keep the then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s name out of the CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation during the meetings of the PAC or the sidelines of the JPC etc,” Rai writes in the letter.“

Do I need to say anything else about the conduct of Vinod Rai? Whether capital punishment will be extreme for him I don’t know!

There is a need of the hour that education and healthcare must be nationalised and be free for all in India. Public transport should be either free or heavily subsidised. Investment towards PPF etc. must be encouraged by incentivising. Pension scheme for all; home for all for different categories for different income groups; luxury should have a price; measures for increasing agricultural output; safety for women and children a priority. Responsibility and accountability of government officers must be fixed. The state entry tax in any form must be abolished. I would congratulate Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, for making transport free for workers and women. I would also congratulate him for making the journey of buses safer for women. A good work must be acknowledged.

Writer is a Kolkata based professional specialising in finance and governance.

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