Distressed rural India

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The Modi Government wants to win back the estranged sugarcane farmers by announcing a Rs 7,000 crore package for sugar mills. The objective is to infuse enough liquidity in the industry so that the cash-strapped mills could be coaxed to pay over Rs 22,000 crore dues of farmers. The ruling BJP has learnt the lesson the hard way. The recent Kairana bypoll defeat has rattled the ruling BJP more than its Karnataka miss. Therefore, the multi-crore rupee sweetener reflects the party’s anxiety over losing a high value seat in the politically significant UP. Its leadership very well understands that the ire of farmers could snowball into a larger anti-government wave, particularly in the cow belt, which could prove crucial in the 2019 elections. Rural India is the Achilles heel for the BJP, and this has been reflected in the outcome of several recent bypolls and Assembly elections. But slogans can’t ensure votes. The much-hyped promise of “doubling the farmers’ income” is like adding insult to injury for the farmers who are denied timely payment for their produce. Although the present poll prospects of the ruling party do not appear bright as compared to 2014, there are some favourable tailwinds, such as a normal south-west monsoon, which is likely to bring cheer to the farmers. The rising inflation, which was a concern for the government, has been suitably addressed by the RBI. Inflation has already crossed the comfort zone of 4 per cent and is  moving up sharply. The RBI’s decision to hike policy rates will certainly help the government in checking price rise in an election year. But it comes at the cost of antagonising the middle class which will be saddled with costlier credit.The Centre is making efforts to please rural India. It has recently extended the procurement period for gram in Maharashtra and garlic in Rajasthan. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The task of the government does not end by doles to  mill-owners — the government must ensure that the mills clear the dues of the farmers. And take into account the expectations of urban India as well.

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