India’s Rural Sector
A comparative study of the performance of the UPA and NDA Governments
- Arun Jaitley
Last week multiple farmer organisations, predominantly owing affiliation to several opposition parties and ultra-left fronts organised a protest march in Delhi. They were concerned with the rural distress. They accused the Government of ignoring rural India and the agricultural sector.
WHAT ARE THE FACTS
The Narendra Modi Government assumed office on 26th May, 2014. Stress in the agricultural sector was not born thereafter. It was inadequacy of the resources pumped into the agricultural sector by the Congress that had led to both an agrarian distress and an inadequate quality of life in the rural areas. The NDA Government planned a multi-pronged strategy to improve the quality of life in Indian villages, to enlarge quantum of investment and to make the Indian farmer self-sufficient and farming remunerative rather than be only dependent on State agencies.
The roads in the rural areas on which depends the access of farmers who bring their produce to market but also connect rural population to the cities. Before Prime Minister Modi assumed office, 3.8 lakh kms. of regular roads existed in the first 67 years after India’s independence. As of November, 2018, this figure has already touched 5.7 lakh kms. of roads. In the past four and a half years, close to 1.9 lakh kms. of roads have been built in India’s rural areas. The investment in rural roads has increased three fold. Very soon we will be close to the destination of connecting every village with a pucca road.
There are 16.53 crore rural households in India. As of 2013-14 only about 70% had been electrified in the first 67 years of India’s independence. Today as of November, 2018, 16.53 crore households (95%) have already been electrified and over the next few weeks rural electrification programme would be completed.
As far as rural housing is concerned, during the UPA’s final year, about 10 lakh houses were built in a year for the poor in the rural areas. This figure has increased four and a half times and now about 45 lakh houses are being constructed. The Awas Yojana in rural areas has been an unprecedented success. By 2022 every rural Indian will live in a regular house.
As of 2nd October, 2014, 38.7% of the rural households had a sanitation coverage. This was when the PM announced the Swachcha Bharat Yojana. As of November, 2018, rural sanitation has moved to 96.72%.
As of 21st November, 2018, 33.3 Crore Jan Dhan Accounts have been opened, virtually linking every person to the banking system in India.
In 2017, the Ujjwala Yojana to provide cooking gas connection to poor households was launched. In just over one and a half years, 5.8 crore households have already been provided with cooking gas connections. This figure is likely to touch 8 crore by 31/03/2019.
Thirteen crore households have been given the benefit of Mudra Loans. 54% of the recipients are women.
For Healthcare of India’s poor, more particularly, rural poor who had for 67 years after Independence inadequate medical facilities available, the 10 crore of the poorest households in India (40% of India’s population) would get the benefit of Ayushman Bharat where the treatment of family in hospital for specified diseases upto Rs. 5 lakh per year would be at the cost of the Government scheme. For the last two months since the scheme has been in operation, about 3.8 lakh number of people have got the advantage of this.
ON FARMER INCOME
To increase the productivity of the farmers and to enhance their income, the Government has already increased its expenditure on animal husbandry, dairy and fisheries. There has been increased investment in agricultural research and education. Investment in irrigation has substantially increased. To help the poorest, under the Rural Job Employment Scheme this year close to Rs. 60,000 crore, if not more, would be spent on MGNREGA. This is almost twice the amount spent by the UPA Government. For the poorest including rural poor, Rs. 1.6 lakh crore has been set aside for food subsidy. The MSP has already been increased on several specified products to ensure cost plus 50%. The amount sanctioned for interest subvention has been doubled. Last year (2017-18) a phenomenal amount of Rs. 3,96,831 crore was spent on the poor and rural areas. This year the expenditure is likely to be around Rs.4,38,741 crore. UPA had spent Rs. 2,41,602 crore in its last year.
Removing the agrarian distress and improving the quality of life in rural areas cannot be done by slogans alone. From 1971 onwards, the Congress policy was slogans and not resources. The NDA has pumped in resources into the rural areas. These resources have improved our infrastructure, are improving the quality of life of people living therein, have increased agricultural productivity and are intended to give a remunerative price to the farmers. The past four and half years is just the beginning. If this level of investment with its annual increase is continued in the rural areas for at least the next two decades, we will be close to providing a quality of life and infrastructure in rural areas which is more urban like.