Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Swatantrata Diwas 2007

Distressed by the failure of economic policies to benefit Indian farmers, indebtedness, poverty and hunger among Indian farmers, respected economist and Indian Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 15 August 2006, Swatantrata Diwas, Tuesday assured them of remunerative prices for farm produce and every possible assistance to redress their distress.

Maybe by this he meant that a "Bharat Kisan Budget" would be soon launched by a separate Kisan Mantri, just as "Indian Budget" is announced by the Finance and Sensex Minister.

The Budget in India, on last day of February, is an annual excercise to balance the Government Account Books, expenditure versus incomes. It has been a central feature of Indian urban growth, political economy, industrial subsidies, giving incentives to stock markets, traders, businessmen, launching Poverty alleviation schemes for non farming rural and urban poor, launching Food Support measures for Dalits, for announcing Employment Guarantee schemes and other social support measures, and for giving export incentives to exporters and businessmen.

Till now it was assumed that the Budgets delivered by Indian Finance Minister would be able to arrest rural decline. Sixty years of Finance Ministry budgets, have proven the total futility of this excercise for Indian farmers, who are considered only as bonded producers chained to the farms.

On pre Budget Day, all top Indian Industrialists and businessmen, have their photo taken with the Indian Finance Minister. Special journalists and media are given the task of analyzing the Budget proposals. The Left parties make some suggestions about arresting inflation, protecting Navratnas, arresting food prices and oil prices.

Indian farmers do not not even get a ten minutes interview because the Finance Minister is more busy meeting top industrialists, businessmen, traders, commerce federation chiefs, political parties and before he finalizes the books of the Budget.

Rapidly increasing income gaps, also show that while enriching industrialists who have their photo taken with Finance / Sensex Minister on pre Budget Day, and consolidating economic power in urban areas, farmers have been growing more and more indebted and victims of vagaries of nature, moneylender, industrialists and traders.

Distressed by this situation, and also the futility of the National Commission on Agriculture headed by Dr Swaminathan, that nobody gave any attention to, the British educated Indian Prime Minister, gave a speech from his heart on 15 August 2006.

"We need to understand, if we want better prices for farmers, so that they earn a better livelihood, the prices of what they produce and sell will have to go up" the prime minister said in his Independence Day address from the Red Fort here.

"In order to ensure that the needy and the poor do not get adversely affected, our government is committed to ensuring adequate availability of essential commodities at affordable prices to them"' he added.

"We certainly cannot grudge our farmers better incomes when incomes of other sections of society are rising."

The prime minister said he was aware of the acute distress the Indian farmer was facing on account of heavy debt burden, adding that an expert group had recently been constituted to look into this issue.

"I see that our farmers in many parts are in a crisis, not managing to eke out a decent living from their land. When I visited Vidarbha, the plight of the farmers there made a deep impact on me," he said.

'The agricultural crisis that is forcing them to take the desperate step of committing suicide, needs to be resolved. We need to think about how we can provide a decent livelihood to our farmers.'

"I am confident that in a few months, we will take concrete measures to help our farmers overcome the burden of crushing debt," the economy background Prime Minister asserted.

Reiterating his promise in his Independence Day address two years ago, of a new deal for rural India, he said while much had been done in this regard such as doubling of farm credit, much more remained to be accomplished.

"Importantly, we must ensure that more people get employment in manufacturing and services so that the disproportionate burden on agriculture in providing a livelihood to two-thirds of our population gets reduced."

The prime minister said the government was also reviving the cooperative banking system, and would pay special attention to horticulture, animal husbandry, cotton, sugarcane and other crops.

"We are trying to reach institutional credit to each and every farmer so that they are out of the clutches of moneylenders" he said.

"A National Fisheries Development Board has been set up to increase the livelihood of fishermen. Agricultural research is being improved and Krishi Vigyan Kendras will soon be functioning in every district of the country by the year end."

The above were the most optimistic economic prescriptions this economist turned politician Indian Prime Minister could offer.
Two years from that speech, the Indian Prime Minister, now faces a daily toll of debt ridden and suicidal farmers in rural India, with still no clue as to how to stop these suicides.
Despite his best intentions, he has failed, even as his Sensex Minister has his photograph taken with the top Indian industrialists, visiting foreign delegations, commerce and trade bodies, and his Cricket Minister celebrates the rise of Indian cricket.

Each year this budget has ensured that government books are balanced, Navratnas books are balanced, Industrialists books are balanced. Even while inflation is arrested, poverty alleviation measures are taken, and hypothetical small number of jobs are created in food retail, Call Centres and manufacturing urban centres.
But gaping holes are left in farmer books and the pages are removed from the accounts books of farmers.

Maybe the Indian Prime Minister is now planning to announce a Kisan Budget on 15 August 2007, where the Kisan Books of Incomes and Expenditure, will be balanced, and a new chapter of Indian independence, after six decades of one sided Sensex Budgets, will be opened for the prosperity of rural India. and this time there will be photos with farmers on pre Budget Day of 14 August 2007.

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