As famously quoted India lives in its villages, for leisured Sunday evening read with the thoughts of Monday blues in the horizon let us meet a gentlemen named Pradeep Aditya Jain, a son of the soil from the hinterlands of Bundelkhand who rose all the rungs to reach the portals of North Block and served as Union Minister for Rural Development in UPA-II. Why and What we read through the conversation ? Well we through this absolutely no politics chat with Mr Jain try to understand in the lingo we comprehend about the rural landscape of India, its opportunities and challenges. How was his experience in designing policies for such a diverse nation like India, who were the key stakeholders involved and what were his KPIs when he stepped in as the Union minister for the 1st time. And Yes for the political bug inside all of you, well we promise to bring out some exclusive political content from Mr Jain without being at all political through out the conversation !
Que : As a former Rural Development what according to you is the biggest hindrance in its growth story ?
Ans: 649,481 villages are there in India and each village is unique in its challenges and the opportunities they present. Thus its highly imperative for both policy makers and implementors to be as localised as it can be with the policies and at the same time strike a perfect balance with standardised global best practices. Apart from this there is another major problem in the allocation of our budget for rural works which is divided into primarily two segments : Planned and Non Planned. The planned segment of the budget has all the bases covered including the allocation of funds, timeline and methods for implementation. However in case of non-planned segments of Budget which are mostly complementary to the allocations and schemes of the planned items, there exists only directives to State Governments without any structure. Here the synergy between the two govts plays a pivotal role and as you know the highly competitive political landscape we are in two, if parties of two different ideologies govern state and centre they and the schemes land up being out of phase in many cases. These two are the fundamental challenges that I faced as Rural Development Minister and I believe if these issues are handled it can spin Rural India’s development in the right direction.
Que : As mentioned by you the parity between Planned and Non Planned provisions in the budget what according to you is the way out ?
Ans: In my opinion the answer to this problem apart from a constitutional amendment is what my leader Shri Rahul Gandhi also advocate : “ Egalitarian Humanism” which not only means decentralization of power and decision making at both State and Central level but also inculcation of participatory policy making and a responsive exception handling mechanism something in lines of what Bapu practiced in his Swaraj Model of Governance which would enable involvement of multiple stakeholders including the ones who will be directly impact by the polices and thus will reduce the monopolistic nature of mid-level Govt employees and will be a step towards achieving “Minimum Government and Maximum Governance”
Que : There is been a lot of talk about Swaminathan report and MSP, how do think profitable pricing could be given to the farmers ?
Ans: As we speak, be it a Carpenter or be it a Doctor ever profession other than farming has their own means and right to choose their pricing or have a structured body/committee to decide so. The problem with farmers and MSP are two fold in my opinion.
(a) The changed nature and representation of lawmakers : The percentage of farmers entering into parliaments and assemblies or lawmakers practicing farming is dismissively low if you compare the 1st Lok Sabha. This is something that we as a society collectively and all political parties should think that do the farmers actually have their voices in the parliament and strong are those ?
(b) Second problem is the pragmatism of the guidelines that we have with the commissions. No doubt the recommendations are all great and ideal However mostly they are silent on the implementation methodology and the ancillary challenges arising out of it.
Thus I strongly think a more holistic approach and empathy towards the farming community can bring in real changes to the lives and MSP of the farmers because Union Govt has always been serious about this issue but it alone cant solved. ( UPA Govt.)
Que : Can you explain in details for our urban reader on the entire process of Crop Selling of an Indian Farmers and who are the stakeholders involved ?
Ans : The entire process of crop selling and the profit margin calculation begin well before the harvesting of the crops. We today stay in a rural setup which is highly ridden by migration, So what that has done is rise in the marginal farmers thus due to their ill financial condition they lack proper financial planning and fiscal discipline. The absence of financial impunity is exploited at most of the cases by the agents and middlemen. These people in connivance with the Govt employees delay the opening and the initiation of the Govt MSP process. Thus the farmer in the immediate need for cash settle in for a lesser price with the middle men and which in turn fails the entire effort of Govt to offer an equitable pricing to the famers. The lack of cash-crops in Indian farmlands is also a major reason for the immediate need of the farmers. The lack of technology and age-old practices forces the farmers from not having a documented and strategical plan for there farmland. How to utilize that space and adopt a mixed farming option with multiple crops in offering depending upon the soil type of the area.
Que : Farmland planning ! This is a revelation for me personally. What are your top three intervention as the Rural Development Minister ?
1. Bhundelkhand Plan : Short term and Long Term on inclusive farming and social upliftment.
2. Establishment of Mandis and Anaj Ghar at strategical locations across the rural landscape of the nation.
3. Ecosystem Creation : There was a concentrated effort from my ministry to try and create an ecosystem around farmland, farmers and farming there by catapulting farming as an Industry as we have IT-Service Industry, Textiles etc.
Que : Do you think majority of financial problems in Rural India are social in nature ?
Ans : Definitely they are. Indian villages and India as a society is very close knit. We as Indians are traditionally high on empathy and this can be well understood by our relationships with other members of the ecosystem like Sun, Rain, Cow and Trees. However post liberation the advent of MNCs and Foreign players have changed the dynamics of economics in India. The Economy has become market centric. However as already discussed due the farmers lack of control on the pricing of its produce, the balance has failed. The farmers to seek for quickest harvest means and maximization of its produce without considering the means and methods of the production. This has led to the change in the social fabric of their habitat and it does give the farmers short terms gains but in the long run pushes them more into the trap of profit and market thus leading to deep financial crisis that we are seeing today in a farmer’s household.
Que : What was your first reaction when inducted to the Union Ministry and more specifically as Rural Development Minister ?
Ans : I come the Bhundelkhand area from UP which has seen extreme poverty post-independence. However due the visionary plans taken by subsequent Congress Govts. I have seen the situations change. So I always wanted to be a part of the social change and harness the magic of Change Management as a tool for Development. So I started my journey in Public sphere by running a NGO that worked for smooth implementation of Cnetral Govt. Schemes in the State of Uttar Pradesh. When I was bestowed this responsibility by UPA Chairperson Smt. Sonia Gandhi and PM Dr Manmohan Singh I sensed and understood the opportunity and responsibility that was coming my way. However all through 5 years in office I had the visionary guidance and support of the Rahul ji with me who has always been empathetic and interested on the Rural India.
Que : How has the society in UP has changed ? You as someone from the public domain in UP, how do you see communal nature in UP Society irrespective of political canvas ?
Ans : The advent of technology has it both positive and negative connotation. However since last 2-3 decades, the state governments in UP has converted themselves into a people managing machinery from the responsive family it used to be earlier. What this has resulted to is rampant migration from the rural landscapes, mushrooming up urban slums and poor lifestyle in the society as a whole. In contrary to this India’s growth story has been on the high. This has led to mass scale frustration and helplessness in the lanes and roads of UP. In order to distract attention from this helplessness amongst the citizens political parties ruling has resorted into emotive issues of caste, creed, religion and community. As majority of the parties have peaked this mode of communication during the polls and otherwise this has led to large fixtures in the land of Krishna, Ram and Sufism. As a result of this unsustainable practise of politicking we see this disturbed society today. However even today the Ganga Yamuna Thehseeb is very much engraved the hearts and minds of common citizens of UP.
Que : Why disheartening was the loss in 2014 elections ? How life changed post 2014 polls
Ans: I believe in that school of thought that preaches life keeps teaching you in every sphere. Those 5 years as Union Minister was extremely fruitful. In Manmohan ji’s guidance and Rahul ji’s leadership I just kept working for the people of my Nation and my Constituency and not for any particular caste or community. So by the end of 5 years I have not created any vote bank and thus the inevitable happened and there was the Tsunami of Namo False Promises too. But then I ended my stint as a minister on a very happy note, satisfied for making a difference and that is what I wanted always ! About life changing ? It has bettered actually – People today recognise the change I have made to their lives and that smile gives me the kick to continue in the public sphere. However now in the Yogi Govt and NDA-II it is very disheartening too see all my efforts being sabotaged systematically. Rural India is being and particularly UP is being pushed to a vey imminent dark end.
Que : A million dollar question today to everyone in Congress party, What is your take on Rahul Gandhi and Congress party’s leadership crisis ?
Ans: Rahul Gandhi is my leader. To me he symbolises the aspiration modern India. He is Bold. Confident. Empathetic and has the ability to remain connected to his roots. From whatever conversations I have got the chance to have with him his vision of India is extremely clear, He wants an India for and by the Indians. He is someone who is staunch believer in the ideals of Gandhi and Nehru, at the same has the ability to appreciate the role of Subash and Tilak in our freedom struggle. Thus Rahul Gandhi is something that India needs today and Congress is an inseparable part of India thus Rahul Gandhi is what Congress and all congressmen need. Without indulging into the political mudslinging all I can say is there is no leadership crisis in Congress. Congress is not a political machine to win elections, it is a family of equal striving to make India a better place. Thus congress don’t have cadre rather we have members.