As an answer to this crisis, the national budget presented six weeks ago offered a Rs.60,000 crore farm loan waiver and waved it as the magic bullet. The naivete of the prescription must stun you, were you not quick to catch the cruel cynicism behind the waiver. Election are nigh and rural India was sought to be bribed in exchange for votes. Confirmation of rank cynicism that animated the offer arrived when the government began to mount large political rallies, of the type that herald elections.
Mercifully sometimes, politicianss are cruelly thwarted. If the government thought it can call a snap election and ride home on the basis of the loan waiver, something awaited to startle it out of its wits. The inflation rate published shortly after the budget showed a sudden jump from 4% to 6% and it has risen every week since then to stand at 7.4% now. In the background, the price of oil per barrel was rising steadily beyond $115. It was officially pronounced that the US economy was in recession. Global food prices were getting out of reach because of droughts and because corn was being diverted to make fuel for cars. We may yet burn our houses to keep warm.
The visage of the government went from triumphal to feckless. It said inflation was a global phenomenon; that the rising prices were inevitable. Wait a minute, now. Did the western world not – rightly- condemn centralised economies, such as the erstwhile socialist ones, as those that lead to shortages and inflation? What then is a homogenised, integrated, globalized economy if not an internationally centralised one, where a sneeze propagates as a flu? Aren’t the virtues of strong, nearly self-sufficient localised economies, self-evident? Just a year ago India exported its surplus food as though it was going to a deposit pool from which it can draw whenever it wished. Now it hops around the world and finds there is no food to import even if it could afford the prices.
Let us revisit the earlier referred irony. The urban world is formally well informed about inflation, climate change, stock and commodity exchanges,the nation’s budget, recession etc but it can escape the negative effects of these in the shorter term because of the cash in its pockets. Rural India on the other hand, has no formal knowledge of these but directly experiences them- consequences of unseasonal rains and rising costs of farm inputs for instance hit them almost immediately. The remaining question is whether rural India can survive these in the longer term. The answer would be yes, for it is closer to the neglected earth. But the yes is a qualified one. The malign neglect of farming must stop, convictions must grow that natural farming -as against chemical farming- can be profitable.
Well, well, well… isn’t this beginning to be a blame throwing article that I’d sworn I’d avoid when I took a break from GoodNewsIndia and jumped into pointReturn? Let me stop and propose instead, a solution that can turn India around.
Our rural crisis consists of the following: break up of communities and joint families leading to lack of manpower, decreasing soil fertility, depleting water resources, rising cost of inputs, lack of capacity at the village level to part-process and hold harvested produce and most of all, inefficiency and corruption of the bureaucracy and implementation agencies.