Road map to revive rural economy

Embarking on a brand newfangled path, ‘Standpoint’ aid the voices of the voiceless and assist in empowering citizens’ to tell their stories, as they see it, encouraging citizen journalism. Standpoint also addresses the visions, ideas, aspirations, emotions, adventures, and adversities of youth in Assam. The column provides an inclusive space reflecting the social, political, and cultural milieu of the younger generation which comprises a large section of the society. These young Indians’ scientific temper and rational voices, narratives, and significant insights will help humankind to contemplate and act for a better future.

If one asks about what comes to my mind when someone says ‘Corona’, well I would reply, a vaccine and the economy. We will leave the first to doctors and scientists and focus on the latter. It is needless to mention the extent to which the economy has suffered due to the ongoing COVID -19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown which has brought the economy to a grinding halt.

The initial growth projections for India by financial institutions and brokerages for 2020-21 were at around 5-6.5 percent but with the Covid-19 pandemic, these numbers have seen a constant downward since India announced a lockdown beginning 25 March and subsequently extended it.  Credit rating agency Moody’s forecast that the Indian economy will grow at zero percent in 2020-21 pointing out that growth concerns will weigh until the second half of 2020-21. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that India’s growth estimate for FY21 to 1.9% from 5.8% estimated in January, warning that the “worst recession since the Great Depression” will dwarf the economic damage caused by the global financial crisis a decade back. With such predictions, it is now time to buckle up and restructure and redraw the path of the economy for a post-Corona world.

Call it an irony or a misfortune but the fact is that Assam represents a unique example of poverty amidst plenty of natural resources. Assam’s economy is fundamentally based on agriculture. It accounts for more than a third of Assam’s income, even as 69% of the population is engaged in agriculture for their livelihood. However, there is considerable potential for agricultural growth in the State. A study shows that there is a further scope to increase agriculture in Assam by 146% in terms of production.

There is no repudiating the fact that for increasing Agricultural production, the provision of irrigation is a vital need. Irrigation potentiality created in the state is far less than required, especially during summer paddy and Rabi season and the position needs to be substantially improved.  While the gross cropped area and the net cropped area are 4075871ha and 2817500ha respectively, the total irrigated area is 748530ha which is merely 40% of the total net cropped area.  Again the total crop water demand stands at 29065MCM while the existing water potential is at 9008MCM which means that there is a need to create an additional potential of 20371MCM.

In order to assure area under irrigation by an additional 2.0-lakh hectare, the Agriculture Department proposes to install, total 1,01000 nos. of Shallow Tube Well (STW) (60,000 nos. of Diesel, 30,000 nos. of  Electrical and 11,000 nos. of Solar ). However as we discuss this scenario in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic with the economy at stake, a time-bound action plan should be implemented.

Another issue that is widely discussed is the issue of returning migrant labourers. What finds space in the media is the concern regarding their return to the home state. But that’s only one side of the coin. What awaits on the other face is even more troublesome: their rehabilitation. There is also a growing realisation that the absence of livelihood could cause further distress to migrant workers. There’s a way that could help the situation and that is “skill mapping”. The Central Government has an initiative, the Skilled Workers Arrival Database for Employment Support (SWADES) to conduct a skill mapping exercise of the citizens returning to India under the Vande Bharat Mission. There is an urgent need to launch a similar program for returning migrant workers too.

There is no denying that the pandemic has served us with some rare opportunities, that come once in a lifetime. Discussions are often overshadowed by the darker side of the pandemic but if we do not seize these opportunities, then there will be more trouble. The age-long idea of nourishing the rural economy finds its space now. Jyotiprasad Agarwala once said – “ওপজিছেই আমি এডৰা মাটি পাওঁ”. Now is the time to return to that piece of native land and start crafting our dreams and planning into reality.

Snehangshu Bhattacharjya is an undergraduate student of History at Zakir Hussain Delhi College, Delhi University.

The Sadin – Pratidin Group’s leading publication, have been concentrating on news from across the world. The portal now has started an initiative that will open up news/article submission for all, through citizen journalism.  Being a conscious citizen, you as an individual or as a stakeholder of an organization or educational institution, your voices are of utmost significance. The Pratidin Times ENGLISH web portal, www.pratidintime.com welcomes credible and verified local news stories reported from any citizen journalist.

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