At the recent fifth State of the States conclave of India Today, ten chief ministers, one deputy chief minister and ministers from three states debated the causes of rising inequality and the need to push inclusive growth. INDIA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie set the tone, “the good news is that there is growth but the bad news is that, far from being inclusive, it has increased inequality”. INDIA TODAY Editor Prabhu Chawla kicked off the debate. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, in his inaugural address, pointed out that “every square inch of India is ruled by states” and that the laws of economics would work in India, but all stakeholders must work together to find the country its place in the world. Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari delivered the magic mantra in his keynote speech by asking states to make “inclusive growth the sub text of all development.”
I have tried to pick up what the chief minister of the best state, Punjab and the deputy chief minister of the worst state, Bihar stated at the conclave. Punjab remains at the top and Bihar at the bottom of ‘India Today’s survey rankings for all the five years since the survey started. I find both have come out with two very important suggestions that may not be agreed upon but could have made a lot of difference.
Parkash Singh Badal: I would request Mr Purie and Mr Chawla to hold this meeting next time in a village, under a tree. We talk about these things in air-conditioned halls and even at the Planning Commission meetings. I have requested the members of the commission to stay for one day and one night in a village and then they will realize what is to be done. My suggestion is that the prices of foodgrains should be attached to a price index the same way employees now get enhanced pay packages.
I agree with Badal. Can the chief ministers of the states or the prime minister make the legislators spend the days the houses are not in session, in one or the other villages of the state? Can the professors and students of the institutions for agriculture sciences and engineering or rural management bee made to spend some nights in villages? I do also agree with Badal’s suggestion of getting the prices of minimum support prices of farm produces fixed on the basis of other essential consumer items that even farmers need to buy from the market.
Sushil Kumar Modi: I feel the Centre should suspend all the poverty alleviation schemes and deposit money in the accounts of the poor directly. There is so much of corruption and so much of leakage. The schemes have failed to uplift the poor.
Similar suggestions have come from many economists too. It would cut down the leakages that constitute the major portion of the allotment money spent on the programmes meant exclusively to help the poor. It requires a master list of the people below the poverty line. And this list must be available on websites as well as on the board outside every panchayat bhawan for verification by the aam aadmi and for a counterchecking by independent agencies.