Budget for unleashing creative potential of India
Railway budget, regardless of what anyone else thinks, is a progressive budget for women, elderly, physically challenged, poor who cannot afford to reserve seats, and for the environment and also for those who want to see India clean and orderly. I welcome the fund for promoting start-ups for solving problems of railway but also others. I also welcome that more than 400 workshops will be accessible for its staff and common people and youth to fabricate their innovative solutions. In situ model of incubation via sanctuary of innovations is on its way to become a success. Transition from entitlement approach to entrepreneurial model through blended and bundled approach is another positive direction in which country should move.
There are many more things that country expects in the budget. A similar innovation fund in each line ministry and corporation to support start-ups and grassroots innovators . Niti Aayog may match funds which states llocate for promoting inclusive innovations by students, youth and other self-employed people or even professionals, artisans or communities. Several ministries like rural development had thousands of crores for promoting innovations, they did not even use fraction of this fund. So mere allocation Is not enough. And we don’t need World Bank to advise us how to harness innovative potential of our society. We should either empower Atal Innovation Mission or create an inclusive innovation sectoral council under Ministry of Finance to ensure that every recipient of public funds makes conscious, deliberate, visible and reportable efforts to reduce unit cost of every public activity through innovations and efficient use of natural, institutional and material resources and energy.
Several specific steps that government can take to promote inclusion and social and rural development are: a) refocus major public programes like MNGREA (employment programs), and Food Security programs to focus on the poorest. Antyodaya model must become the watchword of public policy. I have been arguing for over twenty years that there is no case for public intervention in labour market where market wage rates are higher than minimum wage rates; b) redesign the employment program to include public works on private lands of small farmers and in exceptional cases other farmers for promoting water conservation, drainage, irrigation etc., besides promotion of culture, art, crafts and other traditionally evolved skills; c) the reforms in agriculture sector are overdue, potential of this sector has remained constrained by the stranglehold of bureaucratic hindrances in farmers and workers life and choices of dealing with market ; d) if we create innovation and entrepreneurship promotion fund at district level, use railway workshops, and other such public facilities for hard manufacturable innovations, make postal supply chain for green and innovative start-ups at concessional terms, we will hopefully kill the demand of reservation by affluent communities of the country. It is a telling commentary on the evolving socio-economic fabric of the nation that those who have more want even more at the cost of disadvantaged and some wrongly advantaged (the second generation and affluent beneficiaries of the existing quotas). The incentives to industry for R and D should not be withdrawn though accountability may be increased. In fact public and private investment in R and D and innovation has to increase, not decrease. It is all right to streamline all other exemptions but not kill the goose which lays the golden eggs. E) The investment in in situ value addition in agriculture sector must be enhanced manifold and goal should be that both from agriculture sector, and also from forest regions, nothing should come out without some value addition in ten years time. In situ value addition should become a mantra for future distributed job-enriching growth. The participatory in situ water conservation, achieved so well in saurashtra must become a model for vidharbha and other dry lands of the country. Likewise part time agriculture and industry as evident in Jamnagar and surat and some other places, should become a model for the rest of the country.
Budget is an annual statement and to expect too many radical changes may not be proper but if it is also a time for recognising that country needs a fresh thinking in its socio-economic model.
Bio-economy, circular economy and distributed and decentralised economy is the need of the hour. We will be able to achieve a clean and green India if we will rethink the approach to supply chain management, packaging and increasing use of plastic in the country. Several states have set a great example in this regard. Other parts must emulate those initiatives. In situ water conservation, in urban areas through roof top water harvesting must become obligatory in Delhi and all other mega cities, else they will never become smart in true sense. Frugality in our lifestyle, consumption pattern, use of bamboo and handloom products in every sector and home will give fillip to north-eastern economy and also the other resource rich-economically poor regions.