By Arun Sinha
Out of the green? Our PM wants young people to move out of farming and seek jobs in the cities, which aren’t prepared for them
As the Manmohan Singh government makes evident its unfriendliness to villages, the nation hurtles towards disaster. It’s a danger no one wants to face.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been trying for years to make us believe that agriculture is a vast marshland in which a huge population is stuck ankle- to neck-deep and it is his duty to rescue them. “Our salvation lies in moving people out of agriculture,” he says in one speech. “We need to move people out of agriculture by giving them gainful employment in non-agricultural sectors,” he says in another. He says it whenever he talks of agriculture. His alter ego, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, echoes it whenever he can. Whether agriculture is a marshland or a Garden of Eden—and how it came to be so—is another thing. First, Dr Singh, we need to ask where you will take the evacuees.
Your government departments and public enterprises are cutting down on staff. Private companies are buying technologies to replace labour. Traditional industries, such as the glassware industry of Firozabad and the shoemaking industry of Agra, where labourers’ hands and not machines produced goods, are devastated with the opening of international trade and inundation with foreign brands. Artisan industries are closing down because of growing consumer preference for the machine-finished quality of goods from big cities. Companies are not investing their surpluses in rural manufacturing, saying Manmohan Singh must first create infrastructure. Manmohan says his government has no money; only private capital can do it.
So, you see, the country is in a fix. Seventy per cent of Indians, who live in villages, are in a fix. And that makes more than 80 crore farmers, labourers, artisans...men, women and children. Where do you want to take them?