The Danger Of Silver Bullets -Ajay Vir Jakhar

-The Indian Express

Rural crisis needs nuanced interventions, not tall promises in party manifestos

Farmers were sold a dream in 2014 that everything was going to change. But now they have compelling reasons to feel they were deceived. Party manifestos indicate what the politicians want us to believe. After elections, winners get either selective amnesia (Rs 15 lakh in each bank account), re-interpret promises (MSP at C2+50 per cent), continue to tout failures as successes (crop insurance) or devise policy fine print to exclude proposed beneficiaries from the promised largesse (farm loan waiver). Actions not even referred to in manifestos wrecked a stable economy (demonetisation and GST) and, consequently, unemployment percentages have risen. Unable to create jobs (let alone the promised 100 million jobs in five years) or kickstart the Make in India initiative, the wisest thing BJP did with the lost causes was that it let them go. I had naively presumed it would similarly bury the “doubling farmer income by 2022” slogan. But it hasn’t.

Though, there are countless reasons and measurable indicators for rural India to reject the government and not cry over spilt milk, in election time it’s time to heed the words of C S Lewis: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Considering the acuteness of the crises in the rural economy and the external factors, it’s time to focus on practical deliverables and prioritise from amongst the best combination of trade-offs, rather than on populist unicorns (PM Kisan, Farm Loan Waiver, NYAY).

The earth is on the verge of crossing the planetary climate change tipping point and depleting natural capital. Everything has a cost, which we are transferring to the next generation, including what has not been even attempted. The unregulated over-exploitation of scarce natural resources is resulting in a falling groundwater table, deteriorating soil health and environmental pollution. While this generates today’s food surpluses and low commodity prices, it also ultimately foments farm distress. Ironically, this leads to public scorn and policy apathy towards farmer demands. Political parties are unable even to fathom the urgency of the existential crisis we are headed for.

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The Indian Express, 22 April, 2019, https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/lok-sabha-elections-farmers-bjp-congress-manifesto-5687360/

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