Right said Sainath

The UPA reserves its unkindest cut for the Vidarbha farmer

It is not common to see this blog cite a P Sainath article in approving terms. He continues to cast the issue of agrarian suicides in divisive terms, but gets one thing right in this op-ed about the UPA government’s 60,000 crore loan waiver for small farmers.

One funny outcome of the budget is that the media are now talking about farmers. Of course, the ‘analysis’ of what is ‘pro-farmer’ comes from the elite. From CEOs, stockbrokers, business editors, corporate lobbyists and touts in three-piece suits…

For three years, while the misery and suicides mounted in Vidharbha, there was not even the admission that a loan waiver was possible. Indeed, it was shot down by those now taking out full page ads claiming credit for it. As they complain in Vidharbha, this is not about karza maafi. It is about seeking voter maafi (voters’ forgiveness) in election year. [The Hindu]

Now a little analysis tells you that the loan waiver does not provide relief to the farmers in greatest distress. But it does allow the Congress Party to go to anyone who does not do the little bit of analysis—including famous columnists (linkthanks Amit Varma)—and claim that it has done a great good job for the poor farmer.

So why is this the unkindest cut? Well, because now the middle class millions will really believe something is being done about those farmers, and people like P Sainath will get less of a sympathetic hearing, because—as the Congress Party says—aren’t we spending 1.5% of the GDP on bailing out distressed farmers?

Economic analysts have tended to focus on moral hazards, lurking fiscal deficits and the impact on the banking sector. Those are serious issues. Now it is not uncommon for politicians to bail out distressed constituents. What is unpardonable in the UPA’s case is that the loan waiver doesn’t bail out those it claims to bail out.

Villagers won’t be suckered by propaganda

…but you* might

Ravikiran Rao wonders why the UPA government is advertising the benefits of the national employment guarantee programme, on NDTV?

Let’s set aside the spreading the love explanation for a moment. The question why the government is using an English language channel, targeting the urban middle class, when the ads ostensibly are meant for landless villagers, has a simple answer.

Because that is exactly what you would do if you want the urban middle class voter to believe that you are doing something for the landless villager. Because its proponents have been crying foul that you, gentle readers, have been subjected to a propaganda campaign against this gargantuan spending programme. [The best way to justify a propaganda campaign is to claim that it is necessary to counter an existing one]

* With due apologies to rural readers