Modi back to ‘vikaas’ hardline

Prime Minister seems to have gone back on promises to farmers

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Monday 30 November -0001

Prime Minister seems to have gone back on promises to farmers

Just a few months back, during the election campaign for the national elections, prime minister Narendra Modi made a big splash among the farmers of Yavatmal by promising big time overhauling of minimum support price of agricultural produce. Having royally reneged on the promise immediately after elections, this time around, Modi has chosen to keep clear of that sort of messy promises in the campaign for the Maharashtra state assembly elections, even while making loud pleas to the people to give his party a comfortable majority in the state.

Instead, the prime minister is going big time for the ever-green big-buck ‘development’ jargon. In Beed, where the BJP’s campaign was kicked off, he posed rhetorical questions about whether farmers, tribals, dalits  and women – the weaker sections of society – benefitted from the UPA’s 15-year rule.  But when it came to answers, the promises were all in terms of mega-buck development projects – Japanese collaboration for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail, an industrial park in Maharashtra by China, and so forth.

In Mumbai he promised the ‘best metro network in the country’, along with the Navi Mumbai airport and the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link. In Nagpur it was the eternal MIHAN, a corruption free government and turning ‘scam Maharashtra’ into ‘skill Maharashtra’.

So what is in there to benefit the poor in these projects? Anybody’s guess.

But Modi’s speech in the tribal dominated Gondia district certainly took the cake. Here he talked about the development of tribals. In Beed, one of the rhetorical questions he asked was, do people need a government that takes away people’s land? In Gondia, he answered the question quite clearly – the tribals of Maharashtra have not been ‘developed’. Under his government, they will see development on the lines of Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. Of course, he omitted to mention that this ‘development’ has been achieved at the cost of large scale grabbing of people’s lands by corporates.

And yes, everywhere he went, he talked about scrapping ‘obsolete laws’ that were bottle-necking development, without quite specifying which ones.

So now the poor of Maharastra know what to expect of the ‘comfortable majority’ BJP government if they should give their mandate to it.

No wonder the rural poor in the state are in a state of apathy and confusion regarding who to vote for. The UPA government, which ruled for 15 years, passed good laws, but failed royally to deliver. The BJP promises to scrap even the protective laws. And with Congress and NDA leaders switching over to the BJP ranks in dozens every day since the campaign started, looks like voters are facing the biggest crisis of choice in recent times.

As one exasperated tribal farmer in Yavatmal told me a few days back, “We thought the Congress (that is how they know the UPA) was bad, so we turned to Modi in the hope that he will do something for us poor. The first thing he did was to slash our BPL rations by 5 kg. So we thought they too did not care for us. And look at the scenario now. Who do we vote for? Not for the Congress surely, but if we vote for BJP, all the old Congress guys are right there. And what will BJP give anyway?”

But if this makes you think voters have given up, no. This morning, I opened my mail and found this open letter written by a group of farmers from Anjangaobari in Amravati district to their electoral candidates. The letter had a very clear set of demands. Fixing of payscales for farmers and labourers, and ensuring that prices of agriculture produce are sufficient for farmers to earn enough for themselves and their labourers. Second, minimum eight continuous hours of electricity.  Third, godowns and cold-storage facilities at village level for farmers to store their produce. Fourth, all season roads from farm to village.

“This is what we call development, not big metros in big cities,” said one of the farmers when I called him up, “We are going to send letters to all the candidates from our constituency, and only the one who promises to work for these goals will get our votes. If no one does, we will not vote.”
Mister Prime Minister, listen. Your voters are going to set their own development agendas now.

The only thing to appeal to the poor in Modi’s spectrum of development  ‘vision’ is the setting up of a skill development ministry

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