Ten policies that must change soon: Agenda for new government – part 1
With different parties vying for voters support, it is paradoxical that the debate on policies is so feeble or confusing. There is not a strong critique being presented by any party either to herald an incremental change or complete overhaul. Let me suggest a few changes which next government may consider, no matter of which party. If manifestoes are silent on these changes, it only reflects the state of democracy in our country. I hope that in years to come, there will not only be agenda for change at all levels beginning with local communities but there will also be major debate on multiple perspectives for taking India forward. Corruption is indeed a serious issue. But to suggest that continuation of current policies sans corruption will make India more responsive to the needs of disadvantaged sections of society is not tenable.
a. Making agriculture sustainable and more knowledge intensive:
The declining productivity of inputs, excessive ground water withdrawal, poor soil fertility, lack of incentives for using farm yard manure, conserving agrobiodiversity and other sustainable technologies are well recognized challenges. There is almost no farm machinery which has electronic sensors or control systems. The result is lack of efficiency in using existing resources. Unlike China, the diffusion of green houses has not picked up in India because of lack of policy integration. The silence of most NGOs and of course public agencies on increasing resistance of pests to chemical pesticides is so eloquent. I have not come across a single Bt cotton field, which has refugia i.e., non-bt cotton rows on the border. The resistance to Bt gene is an obvious consequence. While I am not against subsidies for farmers or workers, I do believe that many subsidies are misdirected and are leading to non-sustainable use of natural and other resources. There is a need for complete overhaul of agriculture policy to turn it towards sustainable outcomes. ‘The Gospel of Dirty Hand’ by Dr.K.M.Munshi will need to be revisited. Those lessons are still relevant. During my visit to the families in which farmer’s suicides had taken place in Maharashtra, I did not find a single family which had been informed or educated about non-chemical ways of pest control. Why should not such indifference to the cause of sustainable agriculture be widely criticized is quite enigmatic to me. Perhaps, all major parties wish to continue exploiting natural resources in the short run to the neglect of long term wellbeing of farmers and nature.
b. Redefinition of what constitutes ‘work’ in employment programme:
t is well known almost all over the country that the work ethic has taken a huge toll under Employment Guarantee Programme. The corruption has been democratized and decentralized to every village and functionary. However, even if corruption was controlled and proper work was done, the employment programme as designed will fail to lift poor people above the poverty line on a durable basis. It will also fail to promote better conservation of soil and water for sustainable agriculture. It is one of the largest deskilling programme ever mounted in the human history. Never before a civilizational society like India decided to derecognize work in the form of cultural creativity, craftsmanship, documentation of ecological, folkloric and other material and non-material knowledge systems in society. Isn’t it tragic that a sculptor must not be paid for making sculptures that could be kept in millions of schools but must be made to dig earth and break stones. This is true for all other skills. How can India aspire to be a knowledge society if it ignores systematically and denigrates local knowledge systems. When Dr.Kalam was President, he did write to the Prime Minister suggesting mental and not just menial work under employment programme ( this is in public domain). But, the Prime Minister’s office couldn’t overcome the existing stranglehold of expediency over excellence ( this is my inference from the resultant inertia) . I hope that every party will reflect on these issues and take cognizance of rising aspirations of common people and increasing concern for socio-ecological sustainability.
why should employment programes be implemented in the regions where market wage rate is higher than the minimum wage rate? Will Montek not remember his own paper on modified trickle-down theory? why are we distorting the markets where they do really work and invest in creation of employment where markets fail to do so?