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Rurban India to be NDA priority

LiveMint logoLiveMint 09-06-2014 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on Monday committed to give a big push to rural India by guaranteeing the provision of adequate public amenities and livelihood opportunities.

To do so, it has decided to pursue the idea of “rurban”, where the NDA has promised to provide urban amenities to rural areas while preserving the ethos of the villages.

However, experts struck a sceptical note, saying a government that was so fiscally strapped cannot look to launch new spending programmes.

During his nearly one-hour-long speech, President Pranab Mukherjee gave high priority to water security and elaborated that the government will complete long-pending irrigation projects on priority and launch the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (Prime Minister’s farm irrigation scheme) with the motto of “har khet ko paani” (water for every field).

The President emphasized that the government will promote micro-irrigation to ensure per drop, more crop, even as he said that every effort would be made to promote water conservation and groundwater recharge.

“The main problem is that where is the money? The tax-GDP (gross domestic product) ratio is around 15% in India whereas developed countries collect around 40%. We have to increase our revenue and also sort out design flaws in programmes like MGNREGA and PDS,” said N.C. Saxena, a former secretary in the ministry of rural development and former member of the Planning Commission. MGNREGA is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. PDS is short for the public distribution system.

Saxena says that the announcement of new programmes by the government is not the answer to the issues related to rural areas. “There is a need to check leakages,” he said. “In India, we don’ have a measurement of outcome. Programmes are announced, money is spent, but outcome is not measured.”

While elaborating on the plans of the government, Mukherjee said the new government will strive to end the rural-urban divide and it will guided by the idea of rurban—providing urban amenities to rural areas.

Mukherjee said the government was committed to improve the quality of life in villages. “A substantial part of investment will focus on creating community assets and improving basic infrastructure such as roads, shelter, power and drinking water,” Mukherjee said in his address to a joint session of Parliament.

Elaborating on the blueprint of the government for the rural sector, Mukherjee said there will be increase in investment in agriculture, both public and private, especially in farm infrastructure, and steps will be taken to convert farming into a profitable venture through scientific practices and agro-technology.

“My government will address issues pertaining to pricing and procurement of agricultural produce, crop insurance and post-harvest management. It will incentivize the setting up of food-processing industries. Existing cooperative sector laws will be reviewed to remove anomalies and lacunae,” Mukherjee said.

Political analysts following the President’s speech said while the government has sent a clear message that it will try to end leakages in the rural job guarantee programme, it will also try to control inflation by increasing crop productivity and providing better farm infrastructure.

“The concept to end the rural-urban divide is not new,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst. “It was first started during the government of United Progressive Alliance government which is now being carried forward by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government.”

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