Despite a continuing fall in the growth rate of India's GDP for the last several quarters there are indicators that point to a turn-around of the rural economy. Positive and long-term improvements can be seen in foodgrains production, in horticulture, dairy, poultry and fisheries, access to physical infrastructure such as electricity and roads, per-capita income of poorer states (which have a high percentage of rural population), wages of unskilled labour and growing employment in non-farm occupations due to programmes such as MUDRA. However challenges still remain in some vital sectors, such as water, marketing of fruits and vegetables, skill development, education and health.
Anupam Verma, who works for a multi-national company in Mumbai, was deeply disturbed after reading a report regarding the presence of poisonous chemicals in conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that he and his family used to eat everyday. The report was indeed scary. It said the consumption of these produce might cause life-threatening diseases like cancer, neurological defects, autism and respiratory and reproductive problems. Verma did not want to take a chance and decided to use only 'organic produce', which are presented in the report as a healthy alternative.
The British colonial administration brought in progressive developmental forces by bringing in education (Kindergarten to University) and railway networks for commercial exploitation of agricultural, forest and mineral resources and various social activists rose to the occasion with giants such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ranade, Gokhale, Phule, Dadabhai Naoroji, Pantulu, Sayyad Ahmed, Narayana Guru, Sane Guruji, Vidyasagar, Swami Vivekananda, etc.
The socio-economic development in India has been severely hampered because of the significant divide between the urban and the rural economy and a wide gap between the rich and the poor. While 30 per cent of the urban population has a wide range of remunerative employment opportunities, over 80 per cent of the rural population have to be dependent on a highly uncertain agricultural sector.
Whereas the number of poor can be fixed simply through a sample survey, identifying them would need visiting each and every household. While Planning Commission was the official agency to estimate the percentage of population below poverty line (BPL) once in five years based on the National Sample Survey on Consumption Expenditure, a Census to identify the BPL households has been conducted by the states through the Ministry of Rural Development of the Central Government three times (1992, 1997 and 2002) in the last 25 years.
A chain, they say, is only as strong as its weakest link. How then are societies and economies grow successfully without safeguarding and strengthening their weakest members?
"No One Killed Agriculture" was the cover story of April-June 2012 edition of INCLUSION. It highlighted the plight of farmers and suggested detailed, practical and workable solutions, at the centre of which was availability of formal bank credit. In fact, INCLUSION has been pitching for enhanced formal bank credit to farm sector for more than a decade.
The government subsidies must be directed at providing "permanent solution" to the country's most pressing problem of poverty by creating productive assets, Union Minister of Minority Affairs Najma Heptulla said at the Skoch Summit here.