Source: The Hitavada      Date: 11 Oct 2018 14:30:41

PRIME Minister Mr. Narendra Modi’s assertion that the Government is doing everything possible for the welfare of farmers certainly has much substance. Ample evidence is available that the Centre has put its best foot forward in the right direction in an endeavour to help farmers achieve better prospects of happy and prosperous life. Despite this, we must admit that still a very long way is to be covered to make possible a genuine and all-encompassing welfare of the farmers in a reasonable time-frame. 

Overall experience, however, asserts that a genuine welfare of farmers would not be possible unless an effort is made successfully to change the status of environment in which the farmers have to live and work, that is the village. If the village that offers the farmers an immediate eco-system remains sluggish, as has been the case in India for the past fifty-plus years, then the farmer, as an individual or as a community, cannot flourish. The biggest issue in rural India is the collapse of what used to be healthy socio-economic system in which the farmer flourished. So, if a genuine farmers’ welfare is to be attained, then upliftment of the village as the smallest community unit of the country is absolutely necessary, nay it is the essential condition to achieve farmers’ welfare. Somehow, we seem to have missed this reality.

It would be unfair to make a blind allegation in this regard, of course. For, evidence is available that some of the visionary rulers in post-Independence India did pay some attention to village uplift. Fired by the ideals pushed by Mahatma Gandhi, they tried to divert some national resources for rural development and village upliftment. In sheer money terms, the financial allocations to the rural sector continued to register growth. Yet, the missing component was an ‘actionable’ vision, which the Planning Commission could not provide. India’s planning bureaucracy kept an eye on investment of financial resources for rural development, but missed the bus by ignoring the socio-spiritual aspect of rural culture.

Therefore, if on one hand the planners kept pouring money into rural sector, on the other hand they ignored what was essentially needed to living in villages as good as that in the cities. They kept making the living in the cities better, but ignored the village in the worst possible manner. That led to a collapse in the healthy village living, which ultimately pushed the rural folks away from their traditional abode and pulled them towards the cities. This process led to a two-fold damage to India’s socio-economic process. One, the cities could never cope with ever-growing influx of people whose employability was of a poor level; and two, the villages continued to grow poorer economically and emotionally. The need, thus, is to understand this screwed up dynamics of India’s effort of comprehensive development.

This makes it imperative that India, from now on, pays a very focused attention to rebuilding of the village as the smallest but best organised community unit in the country -- complete with good connectivity by road, good supply of electricity that drives economic growth, good and very serious attention to farming as an essential and basic element of agriculture, truly good school-and-college system so that the rural youngsters remain rooted to their soil without having to make a bee-line to cities, enough gainful employment for people outside farming, and strong component of women’s empowerment in the rural eco-system. This may appear too complex to achieve, but is actually fairly easy if a practical vision and action-plan are evolved with care and caution and concern.

Farmers’ welfare, thus, is not about providing them opportunities of economic growth in a vacuum, but it is also giving them a cultural setting in which they are born and can live naturally.