N.S. Venkataraman 9/4/2018
Due to the rapid spread of visual media, around 25% of the Indians living below poverty line and another 40% of Indians living marginally above the poverty line are now becoming increasingly aware of the difference between their lifestyle and living conditions and those belonging to higher income group. Amongst the poor people, large segment constitutes the farming community. With the increasing level of awareness, the aspiration of the farmers to lead better quality life is becoming stronger day by day.
The recent 180-kilometre march by around 25000 farmers in Maharashtra state highlight the frustration of the farmers who belong to the unorganized class and who now feel that they are left out of the mainstream of national life, with a large part of national income being cornered by the organized and affluent class. The farmers seem to think that the tall talk about GDP growth and increasing foreign exchange reserves and overall prosperity index of the country mean nothing to them.
The fact is that the organized class of people working in government departments and other organisations, both in private and public sector, corner lion’s share of national income.In the case of several states, more than 70% of the income of the government is spent towards salaries and wages for its employees and other administrative expenses.
The recent steep pay hike for government employees in the wake of the 7th pay commission, rise in the salaries and perks for the MLAs and MPs, sharp increase in the salary for judges, governors, Vice President. President etc. have created heart burning amongst the poor people belonging to an unorganized class, who are left out of this prosperous organized class and privileged people.
The farmers and those living in the lower and marginally above lower income level feel aghast when they hear that thousands of crores of rupees are lost in the public sector banks due to corruption and fraud, and still, such defaulters live in comfortable conditions or conveniently run away from the country. The collusion between the bank employees, politicians, and businessmen in nefarious activities make the farmers and other poor people feel increasingly desperate and frustrated.
Seeing the restlessness of the farmers and poor people, the governments try to buy peace with them by extending freebies and gifts.
While governments are introducing several welfare measures for the benefit of the poor people and provide the opportunity to grow up in the economic ladder ,the benefits of several welfare measures launched by the government do not reach them adequately, both in qualitative and quantitative terms , due to poor implementation of several schemes at the ground level, consequent of the inefficiency and corruption in the government machinery and amongst the politicians in power.
Many poor people do realize that quality education for children from their families will alone help them to adequately equip themselves with qualifications and build their fortunes. With educational sector largely going into the private hands who demand exorbitant fees beyond the affordable level of the poor people, the poor farmers have to necessarily send their children to government-owned and government-aided schools and colleges. Unfortunately, the quality of education imparted in these institutions are so poor, that many poor families think that they are not benefited at all by free education facilities. The result is that the children from lower income group families are unable to equip themselves with adequate knowledge level and skill, which make them remain poor all the time. Same is the case of free medical facilities provided by the government to poor people.
Those belonging to the organized class such as government employees and bureaucrats, those employed in banks and other public and private sector companies and even the government teachers go on strike from time to time and paralyse the functions and force the government and other employers to yield to their demand to raise wages and perks. Obviously, the farmers seem to think they also need to adopt such strategies to get their share of national income.
The farmers’ protest and long march in Maharashtra state should be seen as symbolic of the feelings of restlessness, frustration, and disappointment amongst the unorganized class of people in India.
The demand of the farmers is that the government has the duty and responsibility to help them come out of the present precarious living conditions and the government should meet their expectations.
Modi government is certainly aware of the restlessness of the unorganized class and has introduced several proactive measures in recent times. Given the complexity of the issues faced by India, the government certainly does not have quick fix solutions. What Mr. Modi needs to do now is not only to keep on introducing more measures to promote equality of opportunities in the country. He has to come down very hard on those involved in corrupt practices in the government, amongst the business houses, banks, health, and education sector, etc., that will give confidence to the poor people about the earnestness of the Modi government.
Farmers and people belonging to unorganized class need to be convinced that they are not less important compared to those in the organized class. All actions on the part of Mr. Modi to create such feelings and sentiments amongst the poor people will go a long way in retaining his popularity and convincingly win the forthcoming 2019 national elections.