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Opinion
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Plenty of free bites on eve of Lok Sabha poll
By Brij Bhardwaj
The fear is that in coming times distress in rural areas will grow as employment opportunities decline. Agriculture incomes are continuously falling. Even the increase granted so far has evoked fears about rise in inflation. There is fear that with decline in area under pulses cultivation and uncertainties about monsoon, the GDP growth targets will not be met.

As the time for election for the Lok Sabha approaches, promises are being made which will be difficult to fulfil as no home work has been done nor any preparations made to make them good. In this connection the top place will be taken with respect of procurement price fixed for agriculture produce. It is no secret that farming community has been under stress leading to suicide by farmers and products like tomatoes, milk and vegetables being thrown away as farmers are not getting proper price for them.

It is no secret that many vegetables in the whole sale market were fetching a price much below the cost of production while milk was selling below the price of bottled water. Farmers were also not getting the procurement price fixed for items like wheat, rice and coarse grains. The procurement made was well below the offerings in the markets. As for the items procured there was no storage space leading the same being spoiled during rainy season.

Under the circumstances one wonders how higher targets for procurement will be achieved. There is neither storage capacity nor funds for the same. There is little doubt that higher procurement prices have been fixed keeping elections in mind particularly in case of paddy and wheat. One wonders what will happen if targets are not achieved. BJP which had talked about doubling the income of farmers has been very slow in taking action. Farm insurance has only benefited insurance companies. The gap between the cost of production and procurement price is yet to be filled.

In some states loans have been waived, but according to experts it is no solution of the problem. The fear is that in coming times distress in rural areas will grow as employment opportunities decline. Agriculture incomes are continuously falling. Even the increase granted so far has evoked fears about rise in inflation. There is fear that with decline in area under pulses cultivation and uncertainties about monsoon, the GDP growth targets will not be met.

With no serious growth in agriculture incomes, investment in industry being stagnant and foreign investors sluggish the future prospects in the year before elections do not look very bright. There is little doubt that the national economy is taking a long time to come out of the downtrend which started with demonetisation of currency and introduction of GST. As such the Finance Minister faces tough task ahead to balance the budget in the year before country goes to the polls and also meet the aspirations of the poor in the country.

Another area of concern is the high level of growth of non-performing assets with the State owned Banks. In this connection it may be pointed out that diamond merchants, power companies top the list. Lack of growth in exports, huge rise in price of crude will pose a big challenge of balancing the current account for the Finance Minister. Under the circumstances only area of growth will be hike in Government spending which will have limited impact.

With not much to show on economic front the fear is that political parties may fall back on agenda of encouraging communal divide and divisions on account of caste and regions.

The atmosphere in the world will not be of much help as conflict between USA and Iran, U.S.-China trade war is expected to make the world trade murkier. The outlook in years to come will not be bright. As such Centre will have to make sure there are no tall promises or throwing around of few more "Jumlas" which will be difficult to fulfil. To meet the current challenges there is need for unity while the party in power and in opposition are on war path.

The Center and States are working at cross purposes while in Union Territories like Delhi and Pondicherry, administration has come to a halt because of conflict over governance. They are spending more time in courts to fight legal battles instead of governance.

(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)

—[IFS]


News Updated at : Monday, July 9, 2018
 
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