Sunaina Rawat and the dilemma of Bharat -Richard Mahapatra

-Down to Earth

The new government has to focus on the rural population, their aspirations and the economy

By this time most of us know Sunaina Rawat. Still a brief introduction: she is a 12-year-old girl from a village in Uttar Pradesh. When the news channel NDTV’s head Prannoy Roy interviewed her on life and aspirations while covering elections, she immediately became one of the most imposing symbol for the country’s rural economic crisis and the aspirations of the rural masses. Remember, in 2024 she will be a first-time voter. And there will be millions like her.

She is a walking statement on India’s agrarian crisis and our criminal failure in averting this crisis. To sum up her conversation with NDTV: she wants to be a doctor, but her economic condition is not so encouraging. Her family has lost whatever little income they used to earn from farming as stray cattle destroyed it. And there is no alternative source of livelihood. Can she be a doctor? Her answer revolves around the great divide between rural and urban India that she insists in that interview. “Urban people have money”. She repeats many times. In half-an-hour, she captured the agrarian crisis of India, and unfolded how a rural Indian earns or doesn’t earn. She also indicated governance’s overt bias towards India, or the urban Indians who according to her enjoy more privileges.

The new government, thus, has a precise agenda: to cater to the economy of people like Sunaina, their aspirations and apply the healing touch to this rural Bharat that has been bleeding profusely from ignorance and neglect.

It is no more a subject of debate. After years of brewing, India’s rural and agrarian crisis is exploding. Farmers are committing suicides even if we have stopped counting them. Unemployment is high even if we have discarded all government data on the same. The economy is on a downslide despite our claim of it being the fastest growing economy.

India’s rural economy accounts for half of its gross domestic product as well as private consumption. And 40 per cent of its output comes from agriculture. If the next monsoon is below normal, it would be the fifth consecutive below-normal monsoon and drought year for close to 250 districts in the country. Most of them are in India’s rainfed areas and host the country’s poorest population.

Currently, 300 districts are already under drought, the third and fifth consecutive for regions such as Marathwada in Maharashtra and Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh. On April 6, 2019 Prime Minister Narendra Modi arguably made his first mention of the word “poverty” during the current poll campaign. And in a huge symbolic gesture, he made this mention in a public rally in Sonepur in Odisha, one of India’s poorest districts.

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Down to Earth, 16 May, 2019,

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