Friday, August 21, 2009

Diesel subsidy scheme for drought affected farmers

Agriculture in India has not got due attention from the policy makers and also the media. When big industries are hit by the economic downturn, they receive stimulus packages in front of the TV cameras. The news of alarming agrarian scenario in the country got buried under the dreaded swine flu outbreak and not many in the country was updated on the fate of the millions of the poor farmers residing in the rural areas. It was only on the July 30, 2009, that the agriculture minister of the country, Mr. Sharad Pawar announced a diesel subsidy policy worth Rs. 1000 crores for the draught affected farmers of the country.

This policy would be applicable to those districts where the rainfall deficit is more than 50 percent as on July 15 or to such talukas or districts, which have been declared drought affected by the respective state governments. The farmers in these regions would be provided 50 per cent subsidy on the cost of diesel for up to three protective irrigations between July 15, 2009 and September 30 of the Kharif season.

Background: 75 % of the India’s annual rainfall occurs during the southwest monsoon, between June and September. Thus, this period is crucial for India’s food production, as 60 percent of the country’s farms depend on rain. However, according to the latest estimates of the Indian meteorological department, the cumulative seasonal rainfall during this year’s monsoon has so far been 43 percent below the long term average. As a result, several districts of the different states in India faced drought situations. The political ‘interest groups’ which draw their huge vote bank from the farmers made a ‘policy demand’ to thier respective state governments and also the central government to declare drought in their respective areas and also formulate policy to save the farmers from the consequences of drought. Thus between June and July, as many as 10 different states had declared 246 districts as drought affected. Consequently, on 30 July 2009, the Agriculture minister Mr. Sharad Pawar declared the diesel subsidy policy for the drought affected farmers as a short term measure. The ‘policy statement’ was, ‘the drought affected farmers would get a maximum total subsidy of Rs. 1000 per hectare and total of two hectares per farmer.’ The diesel subsidy to the farmers would be shared between the central and state governments on 50:50 basis, it would be subject to the state government taking the initiative to start the scheme and bear its share of the burden.

The policy model in this case, could be considered as the ‘rational model’ given the fact that 246 districts which amounts to 46-47 percent of the total districts in the country was reeling under drought. The drought could result in 10 percent decline in the rice production and sharp decline in the production of sugarcane and oilseeds. This could mean steep rice in the prices of rice and other essential food items which could have a bearing on not only on the poor farmers’ lives, but also on the million others. Besides these, the food subsidy scheme which the government runs for the people below poverty line could be under threat due to non availability of stocks. Various development schemes like the mid day meal scheme and the ICDS also could be hampered.

The expected ‘policy output’ depends to a large extent on the state government taking the initiative to start the scheme and bear its share of the burden as it is based on 50:50 sharing of costs. To analyze the ‘consequences of policy’, I personally feel that the scheme is not going to benefit the farmers of most of the regions where the farms are not mechanised especially the north eastern states where three states namely Assam, Manipur and Nagaland have declared parts of their states as drought hit. Farmers in these regions do not have the required diesel pumps. Besides, these the scheme was basically introduced for the paddy growers who are drought hit. However, the scheme has come late and the paddy growing season starts mainly in June and July. Also, the macro issues related to draught can be managed. But, when the drought comes, micro-management food security of small farmers and poor people who are dependent on farms are challenging. In the absence of rains, food security of families is affected. Even when an alternate crop is produced, the income level goes down. However, given the severity of the condition, the scheme could help in minimizing the severe consequences of the drought when implemented properly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Finally the dream of free and compulsory education for all children in India seems to be shaping up. In a major boost to education sector, the Union Cabinet has cleared the long-pending Right to Education Bill, which promises free and compulsory education for children between 6 year and 14 year. According to the Right to Education Bill every child in the year 6 to 14 age groups will be eligible for free education. The children from all over India will liable to get free elementary education (from class 1 to class 9).

The bill also seeks to ban private tuition by teachers and ensure that no child is subjected to physical punishment or mental harassment.

The objective of this right to free education bill is equal education for all, free, for age group 6 to 14.

According to the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Bill, 2008, every private school will have to earmark at least 25% seats in class 1 for free and compulsory elementary education. As the bill has passed by the government of India which ensures that every private school will have to provide free education to at least 25 percent of the student. The government of India also provide financial assistance to the private school but in case suppose the private school does not provide free education to at least 25 percent of the student from class one then in case the private school will not paid any financial assistance from central government of India. But here the reality in the Indian society is different which the person belong to financially backward can study in private school. Even though he is provided free education by the private school but he is not able to manage the school dress/ uniform because of lack of finance.

The crucial role of universal elementary education for strengthening the social fabric of democracy through provision of equal opportunities to all has been accepted since inception of our Republic. The Directive Principles of State Policy detailed in our Constitution lies down that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children up to the age of fourteen years. Over the years there has been significant spatial and numerical expansion of elementary schools in the country, yet the goal of universal elementary education continues to elude us. The number of children, particularly children from disadvantaged groups and weaker sections, who drop out of school before completing elementary education, remains very large. Moreover, the quality of learning achievement is not always entirely satisfactory, even in the case of children who complete elementary education. The proposed legislation is secured in the belief that the values of equality, social justice and democracy and the creation of a just and humane society can be achieved only through provision of inclusive elementary education to all. Provision of free and compulsory education of satisfactory quality to children from disadvantaged and weaker sections is, therefore, not merely the responsibility of schools run or supported by the appropriate Governments, but also of schools which are not dependent on Government funds.

Here the central government is looking very sensitive for the elementary education because some important care is to be taken like - provide training facility for teachers, provide infrastructure including school building, teaching staff and learning material, ensure admission of children of migrant families and ensure that the child belonging to weaker section and the child belonging to disadvantaged group are not discriminated against and prevented from pursuing and completing elementary education on any grounds. Even if the central government is providing such a facility but how much is possible in practical life- I think that this policy will work better in government schools but it does not seem more feasible in private schools even though the private schools provide free education to at least 25 percent student, but the student from financially weaker section will not be able to mange the standard of private schools like school dress/ uniforms and other related things until and unless the children does not get any financial assistance. And in the government schools this is very much dependable on the parents of the children because the families which are from very weaker section do not send their children to school because they do not even have the money to eat and to survive their life so they send their children to work. So in this case to attract the children as well as parents the central government will have to provide the financial add to the children.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rocket Principle proved once again..

We used to say in our college days that we all work on rocket principle; unless our asses are on fire, we don’t work. This saying proved itself once again when we got an assignment of presenting a social entrepreneur and sufficient time was given to prepare. And Guess what we did; Yes, we prepared it at the last day, last night more precisely. Some of us are still sleeping as they prepared it till 7 AM in the morning and presented at 9AM. But as always, we got to learn a lot from this assignment.

When I chose “Jeroo Billimoria”, I did not have much idea about what she actually does, in fact I could not write her name precisely; I wrote it as: Jeero Billu Moria and I actually wasted a significant time in searching on Google with this name. When I could not find any link through Google, I thought I had made a wrong choice. But my understanding about this name turned 180 degree when I actually read about her through various sources.

She is lady of her own kind. Although she just talk about 2 major qualities in herself: Acknowledging one’s mistake and be passionate, I believe she has a lot more which we discuss whenever we talk about Social Entrepreneurship. I feel she is Hard Working, Sensitive, ambitious, innovative, a leader, a listener, a manager, an orator and so on.

She runs a small BIG organization: Childline, a toll-free call service basically for street children and homeless. I became more curious about her when I got to know that she is from TISS only. She has been a student as well as a teacher in this beautiful college.

One very important quality which she possesses is her convincing power. She has done this all through her great communication skills and convincing people right from the director of TISS to ministry of health care. She also convinced Tata Trust when she needed seed capital for her start up, she received a handsome amount of Rs. 2,50,000/- in 1998.

She played it very smartly when she finds the conflict between the working of her organization and police official specially; she involved government officials, health department officials, railways officials, police officials and other key agencies to work along with her. Now neither any police man was given a chance to beat up a child at the street nor did any government hospital have the choice to deny a child from a slum area.

She also showed her Transformational Leadership when she quit the organization in 2002. As our great sir Mr. Zubin Mullah taught us; we must build an organization which is not hooked solely with us, it should remain intact even after you serve and come out of the system.

Ohh, somebody is knocking at the door, I feel those people are awake now and we’ll have to go to Tapri to have a cup of tea. CYA.

7:00 PM