Sunday, 9 March 2008

Budget India ’08: A grand cover-up act

Budget India ’08: A grand cover-up act:
India’s Budget – A commoner’s View

by Remigius de Souza

Episode: India’s Finance Budget 2008, │ Main Cast: Finance Minister (Fin-Min) P. Chidambaram │ Date: Friday 29 February 2008

India’s Budget – A commoner’s View

The first World India has harnessed so much wealth that it (not she, not Mother India: note it) can waive 60K crore rupees bank-debts to the farmers: indeed a great cover-up. Very, very sexy! As expected it created a great buzz in the media.

The dead-by-suicide farmers and those had paid their loans, and those dying by hunger and malnutrition (reported / unreported) – the second-class citizens, the Third World India (and the Fourth World India) – are redundant.

The peasants and adivasis, displaced due to development euphoria, e.g. special economic zones (SEZs), dump themselves in the slums in metropolises, cities and towns to earn their daily bread with dignity rather than begging, in the past sixty years that still continues, are redundant.

This is apart from atrocities by the ranks and files the fundamentalist, the extremist, the regional/ provincial chauvinist of many colours and shades, the law and order lapses, the black money economy, the scams, rampant bribery and corruption – the man-made calamities that affect the poor most. When there are natural calamities we need foreign aid.

By waiving 60,000 crore rupees debt, the government has not really given the farmers anything tangible. Fin-Min says, it is ‘the accumulated dust’ (Interview, Times of India, March 2, 2008, p.15), perhaps, in the files or the system! No one really knows how many farmers, and where they are? They begin the count now, not when the calamities started.

Engines to uplift the poor

To uplift the poor (they are in great majority) the rulers have devised many engines, in the past and now, of course, with benevolent intentions. The engines, Bharat Nirman (literally Bharat Creation. They conveniently change India to Bharat on occasions: here it actually means the Third World India that also includes the Fourth World India, who are beneficiaries.), Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, National Rural Health Mission… to mention a few are from the long list. Several thousand crores of rupees are provided in the budget. But no one knows how these will be managed, who will manage them, and when would they materialise? This is sixty-one years old story. Time now flies faster.

It took sixty years for the rulers of the Republic of India to wake up to the fact (though not fully yet) that neither the great trickle down development/ prosperity nor the great engines, mentioned above, succour the poor (there are about 200 – 300 million persons below poverty line (BPL); their numbers, however, fluctuate with new definitions of BPL devised by the Planning Commission of India, time to time). The great engines remain promises if they fail to deliver results in time bound frame.

They are now devising yet another engine, Monitoring and Evaluation (Ref: Fin-Min’s Budget Speech, 115 and 116) that I quote below:

Monitoring and Evaluation
115. Robust economic growth has thrown up many new challenges, among them the need to put in place effective monitoring, evaluation and accounting systems for the large sums of money that are disbursed by the Central Government to State Governments, district level agencies and other implementing agencies. I think we do not pay enough attention to outcomes as we do to outlays; or to physical targets as we do to financial targets; or to quality as we do to quantity. Government therefore proposes to put in place a
Central Plan Schemes Monitoring System (CPSMS) that will be implemented as a Plan scheme of the Planning Commission. A comprehensive Decision Support System and Management Information System will also be established. The intended outcome is to generate and monitor scheme-wise and State-wise releases for about 1,000 Central Plan and centrally sponsored schemes in 2008-09.
116. Government also intends to strengthen evaluation. Some ministries have started concurrent evaluation. This needs to be supplemented by independent evaluations conducted by research institutions. The Planning Commission will authorise such evaluations of the major schemes and complete the task by the time of the mid-term review of the Eleventh Plan.

For the last sixty years the same stories repeat. The Five Year Plans are not implemented to the end; thousands of court cases remain pending and get accumulated; budgetary provisions are not fully utilized – either because of ignorance of the people or apathy of the executive bodies, or both; money and resources meant for the people do not reach the remote places (not by distance and time). Besides how much, what proportion of the money, provided to make engines work, goes for the executive personnel, and how much is hijacked by the undeserving persons is not known?

But why, why does this happen? Any sane person can tell that there are not enough persons – educated or even literate – motivated / rewarded persons to work in the rural areas.

The second reason: There is no scientific, economic and environmental evaluation of peasants’ work and their form produce. None of the social and natural scientists has done this study in the last hundred years from the late Justice M. G. Ranade to this date (I am ignorant if there is any). We are speaking of organic, labour intensive traditional faming, not mechanised farming with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Instead the feudal practices of yesteryear to treat peasants as subjects- now called beneficiaries continue. Are there any exception/s in foreign countries?

The third reason: The ‘haves’ do not want to share with the ‘have not’, their work, knowledge, education, skills and resources, which they monopolize, and which ethically should belong to all: occasionally they give out dole and charities. Why otherwise the planners, experts, policymakers, the creators of great engines to uplift the 80 percent people should fail to deliver?

The reason: They, in the first place, are the products (or victims?) of the great engine of education (that gives them the blinkers of compartments / departments) devised by the British rule. Hence, they continue to copy, collaborate and borrow from the West, and compare with the West, and ironically, also, want to compete with the West on borrowed technologies.

They don’t meet the 80 percent people on equal ground, on one plane. They utterly lack any sense of community participation – the millennia old ancient tradition that still prevails. It could have opened them to many time tested vital aspects of the people’s wisdom, knowledge and skills. The government could learn from the farmer’s action of watering the farms how to save money/resources during their distribution from pilferage and waste.

Even the street vendors (migrated from the hinterland) are better economists and planners; they sustain with right and affordable tools and right place, and don’t miss an opportunity to upgrade. Even a spider knows where and how big or small web it should place. Even a weaver bird (male), knows what resources to use, and where to place his nests; in fact all birds know.

To this date more than 60 percent people are illiterate; in some places, in any of the regions, up to 100 percent illiteracy prevails. This amounts to politics of literacy and politics of education of the First World India by denying the peasants and adivasis the right to education and the right education. Whatever model education they are receiving, if continues, will do more harm to them and the country, both.

The changing times demand appropriate education to all in all 600,000 villages and habitats in India.
"By the direct proportion to places and people in rural India (and the migrants in urban areas), the managers of country’s affairs should have started farming schools, colleges and universities, by the rule of majority then, and now.
As the count goes, the anticipated 600,000 schools should lead to 60,000 colleges and 6,000 universities spread over entire country, all of them from primary to higher education in the farming discipline to enhance the farming skills, knowledge understanding and practices of the people of India’s agrarian society; these must be added with non-formal education. To supplement these, the Farming Training Institutes (FTIs) similar to Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and polytechnics should be started for the adults and the school dropouts." (Farming and the Politics of Education in India: Challenges of 21st Century)

This must be stupendous job! The present rulers are not even mentally equipped even to think of it because it doesn’t fit their departmental protocol. It demands many disciplines to come together and above all the decentralization of power.

This is only a glimpse into one part of the budget, which is meant for peasants – the unorganized sector the Third World India. There are many aspects besides education that are ailing the peasant in India. The great promises will never work without the people’s participation; but here again the first requisite is the decentralization of power.

The other part of the budget is the reality management of the great realty bazaar of the First world India – the organized sector.

The two parts expose the Bharat – India dichotomy, the promises and the reality – the great Indian divide. Fin-Min’s great cover up act exposes the naked truth. Any half-naked, illiterate, the so-called backward peasant could tell you that, if he could even the text in any language.

The peasants have sustained themselves with their education and within their limited local resources – land and waters – for more than ten thousand years. This place then had no name – India or Hindustan or Bharat, there was no boundaries, and was no civilized society. They had then (as the scientists say) domesticated plants and animals (biotechnology), without any laboratory.

They, we, don’t need either Nuke-deal with the US, or we don’ need to go on the Moon.

We are 1100 million people strong human energy spread over 3,287,263 square kilometers land.

The first step is to put to creative work this immense human energy, and to reach the realities Down to Earth.

Remigius de Souza (06-03-2008)
© Remigius de Souza, all rights reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment