Annadata Starves, Jeweller Prospers


(B Someshwara Rao)

MANY POSTS AND  blogs have appeared blaming the Narendra Modi government for not passing on aid money to the affected people  by directly paying it into their Jan Dhan bank accounts, though the same people say not all the poor have bank accounts.

Raju Mhatre had an acre of land at Panvel near proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport. With the real estate boom, land prices shot up to Rs.  4 crores per acre. He sold his land and got a hefty sum of Rs. 4 crores.  From a  marginal farmer tilling a 1-acre land and earning a pittance from the paddy he grew, he suddenly became a rich man. Raju Mhatrya  turned Rajudada Mhatre.

He bought a Mahindra SUV, loads of gold chains, gold rings on all fingers, and a gold bracelet. Money flowed for wine, meat, and women. The gold chains and the car were soon sold and Rajudada became a pauper, but with many vices. He is Raju Mhatrya again.  He now works as a watchman in the residential complex built on the land which was once his, built by the real estate developer who bought it from Raju. The builder became a millionaire.

“This is not a standalone story of some Raju Mhatre of Panvel. It is also the story of a Charan Singh Chaudhary of Gurgaon, a Venkatakrisha Nadar of Chennai or a Balappa Gowda of Bangalore, the post said. My former driver Manjunath had an acre of land in a village near the Devanahalli airport of Bengaluru, He also lived there.  He used to point it out to me whenever he drove me to to the airport, telling me the names of the Telugu film stars owning the surrounding lands. One day he came for duty with gold chains on his neck and told me he would not come from the next month. He sold his land for Rs. 1 crore and 80 lakhs. I told him the amount would evaporate in months if spent lavishly and insisted he buy cheaper land elsewhere, a taxi which he could drive only when he felt like it and open a kirana shop that he always wanted to. A year later he met me – to thank me for making him do all that, as others who sold land along with him became paupers. The money had vanished and they had no skill to fall back on.

Why I am writing this story?

This is because a lot of liberals are outraged that Modi has not put any money in hands of the poor. They want that Modi should splurge lakhs of crores by distributing it to the poor. The same liberals wanted that gold and wealth from temples must be given to poor people to pull them out of poverty. This flawed logic has been proved wrong again and again over centuries. As disaster management worker I came to know of dole dependency problem. When Gandhi went with a broom to clean villages people stood by and told him where to clean, till he said all volunteers should have an equal number of villagers working with them.

In the last 70 years all farm loan waivers, grants, subsidies or doles have not helped farmers in becoming rich. Same goes for all casual labour. Such an economy would turn India into another Venezula where people starve despite an abundance of resources. The economist prime miister of the UPA Government used NREGA to pay money to poor labour.  Itonly resulted in a huge hole in the loan-based finances of the states and diversion of  tax money to feed the poor. It  kept them as poor as before and delayed all development projects.  Poverty alleviation or ‘Garibi Hatao’ remained an empty slogan.

“The fact remains that you can’t remove a person’s poverty by giving him money or making him dependent on the government and perpetual state support to remain alive”, says a post viral on social media.

Dole outs to poor as recommended by the Congress socialists keep them perpetually poor. Their dependence on a ‘Maai-Baap Sarkar’ increases the scope for corruption by politicians. With all time on hands, the Covid-19 lockdown should make us think how farming could be made economically viable.  Farmers are not allowed to directly sell in the markets to get a better price.  Instead, they are forced to sell in Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs) where dealers form cartels to lower auction bids and fleecing farmers. Rising food prices only help middlemen make money. The traders in  APMCs do not add to the food chain. And yet they make money and the farmer starves. Sugarcane growers are forced to sell to assigned sugar mills that allowed to keep lakhs of rupees in arrears while the mill owners make millions. The post calls it a “closed circuit oligopolistic” economy. No ‘sickular liberal’ protested against this.

Industry and import-export have been liberated from the ‘Licence-Permit-Quota-Raj’ in 1991. The manufacturing and trading economy has been reformed. But the agricultural economy escaped all reforms. Farmers are now being freed from the clutches of traders profiteering by fleecing them. One time big money or frequent small doles do not make farmers rich.  Farming should be made economically viable. The Government must see they get a fair price for their produce.

The Modi Govwernment’s effort to reform the agriculture sector is a radical, landmark measure. One need not fear being branded a Bhakta by  dynasty devotees for backing it,. “Teaching them to fish in deep waters with mechanized boats and fishing equipment, instead of giving them fish every day to eat” is what they would themselves have called it admiringly if done by the grand old party and its allies.

Now they are busy searching for abusive words to use against it.