It comes as a grave shock to see the budget allocation for a ‘Green Revolution’. It seems like our elected representatives don’t learn—or don’t want to learn—neither from their own experiences nor from the experiences of others. The original Green Revolution has been strongly criticised by eminent scientists and economists for the havoc it wrought in states like Punjab. I’m concerned that instead of actually improving the lives of farmers the money spent will only line the pockets of corporations—as this money will be provided by way of subsidies for the purchase of fertilisers and pesticides. This is an expedient way to transfer money to the corporate sector in the name of programmes to aid poor farmers.
I cannot help notice the token investment of Rs 800 crore for wind energy in the Budget. Although the FM explicitly mentioning the commitment to promoting wind energy is an encouraging sign, Chidambaram could have used his budget to boost these renewable sources of energy as an avenue to balancing economic needs with environmental concerns like global warming. The truth is that thermal and hydro power plants have a very high social cost as they require very large tracts of land, thus displacing large sections of our people. And this forced displacement has been a key contributor to increased violence on people and even armed-conflict.
Instead of wiping away the tears of the aam aadmi, the government is determined to formulate policies that only lead to large scale displacement, and migration. As far as I know, 92,000 villages have vanished from the Indian map in the 65 years since Independence and in 29,000 villages, Dalits do not even have a graveyard. Rather than allocating money to acquire land for homesteads, the government is in a rush to acquire land for corporations. Rather than demonstrating their commitment to the aam aadmi by formulating a progressive land acquisition bill that actually puts the villagers’ interest ahead of acquiring land, the government is showing its commitment to the corporate sector by setting up a regulatory body to fast-track acquisition of land for road construction.
Indeed, I am disheartened to see the complete absence of land reforms as a strategy for pove, landrty eradication in the budget. Instead of allocating money to initiatives like setting up fast-track courts and land tribunals and acquiring land to provide homestead land (as had been promised in Agra), the government is allocating Rs 1,000 crore to provide the youth with skills training that will prove useful in the corporate sector. Acquiring land for people with lives revolving around agriculture and the homestead will make it possible for them to keep their identity, dignity and security, while prioritising only the development of youth skills will only make them unequal runners in this capitalistic race.
Though there are good decisions, like the allocation of Rs 1,400 crore to set up water purification systems in villages hit by arsenic and fluoride pollution, raising the allocation for the rural development ministry by 46 per cent, setting up six AIIMS-like institutions, doubling allocation to address maternal and child malnutrition, the budget has been a disappointment. Many policies that appear pro-farmer are not. Rather than formulate policies to make people self-reliant, the government is making them stand before babudom with a begging bowl for its various welfare schemes.
The writer is president of the Ekta Parishad; E-mail your columnist: ekta.rajagopal AT gmail.com