Madhya Pradesh polls: Why neither Congress nor BJP is talking about the real issues
The two principal political parties are silent on the plight of the ordinary citizens.
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In the run-up to the Assembly elections, there is hardly any discussion around a number of important issues that have affected the general populace of Madhya Pradesh.
What could be more ironical that the state, which has won the Union government's prestigious Krishi Karman Award for five years in a row, today has very few farmers who want their children to take up farming. In case you are wondering why, this is due to the huge regional disparity in agricultural production.
The farm crisis
Out of the 52 districts in Madhya Pradesh, 15 from the prosperous Malwa region contribute over 50 per cent of output. Many marginal farmers in Bundelkhand, Chambal-Gwalior and Vindhya regions are losing their land, turning into labourers. In fact, outmigration has increased in these areas.
The farmers’ unrest roiled Madhya Pradesh so much so that eight farmers were killed in a police firing in June 2017. Most farmers' organisations and leaders have been demanding loan waivers and government guarantees for higher crop prices.
Most farmers' organisations and leaders have been demanding loan waivers and government guarantees for higher crop prices. (Credit: PTI file)
As per a survey by the National Sample Survey Organisation, over 32 lakh farmers are in debt in Madhya Pradesh. As per one estimate, on an average, each farmer in the state is under a debt of Rs 14,128. In 2017, bumper crops saw the prices of tomato, onion and potato falling down, leading to distress sale. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, however, opposed any loan-waiver scheme and opted for a 'Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana' for making good to farmers the shortfall between price paid and the declared MSP, especially in soyabean and wheat.
Chouhan had to request the Union government to bail him out with funds to the tune of Rs 1,900 crore that he had spent on the 'Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana'. Many small and marginal farmers in Madhya Pradesh continue to grapple with loss-making prices for their farm produce, mounting loans [high interest rates on private loans], high costs of inputs, exploitative middle men, high mandi taxes, high cost of labour, lack of market linkages, lack of de-centralised storage capacity, cold storages and a range of related issues.
Madhya Pradesh is staring at a very high rate of unemployment, simply because a vast workforce that is engaged in agriculture cannot be absorbed in industrial and tertiary sector without human development. As per Madhya Pradesh state Assembly records, on an average, 17,600 jobs have been created every year in the state since the BJP came to power in the state in December 2003. The Economic Survey presented in 2017 admitted that the number of educated unemployed stood at 11.24 lakh by the end of 2016. The Chouhan government has drawn flak for raising the retirement age of its employees to 62 from 60 years as it will reduce employment opportunities for unemployed youths. As per the data tabled in Madhya Pradesh Assembly, 2,46,612 jobs were generated in the state between 2004 and 2017. Of these, 2,27,386 jobs came from the private sector.
Berozgar Sena, a voluntary outfit fighting unemployment in Madhya Pradesh, claims that unemployment has gone up by 53 per cent and unemployment-related suicides have surged 20 times between 2005 and 2015.
Unemployed Graduates protesting against unemployment in Bhopal. (Credit: Twitter)
Human resource development
Despite the state's proximity to the national capital region, skill development has remained ignored for many years both in terms of industrial development and new age IT industry.
Madhya Pradesh’s Bundelkhand region has witnessed unpredictable weather conditions, resulting in severe drinking water scarcity. In the Gwalior-Chambal region, man-animal and animal-animal conflicts during summer months have become common due to water scarcity.
A study conducted by IIM-Ahmadabad has indicated that the frequency of severe, extreme and exceptional droughts has increased in Madhya Pradesh. Droughts in the recent years were severe and widespread. The number of hot days has increased significantly in the state. These developments are posing enormous pressure on agriculture, water resources, infrastructure, tourism, and energy sectors. To effectively manage the detrimental impacts of climate change, local-level policies are required to check adverse impact of climate change on these sectors.
Major cities of Madhya Pradesh have not taken off like other states. Cities are the engines of growth but Indore and Bhopal are struggling to compete with towns like Jaipur, Vadodara, Lucknow or Nagpur. Indore was once considered an automobile hub, but there has been lot of stagnation over the years.
According to Sushil Sureka, general secretary, Ahilya Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), two big economic reforms measures — demonetisation and the Good and Services Tax (GST) — have hurt Indore’s business badly. "As per his assessment, Madhya Pradesh has witnessed a dip of 40 per cent to 50 per cent in businesses and 15 per cent to 20 per cent in unemployment. Hundreds of small business shops have been shut or are in the verge of shutting down,” Sureka said in a recent interview.
A study says the frequency of severe, extreme and exceptional droughts has increased in Madhya Pradesh. (Credit: Reuters/representational)
The Chouhan government held five investor summits between 2007 and 2016, but the move failed to bring the much-needed investment. As per one estimate, of the 2,357 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) signed, only 92 projects have been commissioned while more than 1,728 are at early stages of implementation. The rest 537 have been cancelled.
In the Global Investor Summit 2016, the government claimed that there has been an intend or interest to the tune of Rs 5,62, 887 crore from 2,630 companies, but till date, there has been no visible manifestation of it.
A study by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry in India (ASSOCHAM) titled, ‘Analysis of Madhya Pradesh: Economy, Infrastructure & Investment’, observes that poor physical and social infrastructure development has demotivated private sector participation and has led to a dismal show in the state’s performance.
There are several states sharing borders with Madhya Pradesh, but the central Indian state has not made major gains in either mining or cement clusters.
Both BJP and Congress are silent on the plight of the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy. (Source: India Today)
Bhopal Gas and other 'tragedies'
Both the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh are fighting the polls on development plank, offering a slew of populist measures. But the two principal political parties are silent on issue of providing relief to Bhopal gas tragedy victims, Narmada dam oustees and other marginalised sections of society. They are silent on plight of survivors of Bhopal gas tragedy who continue to suffer in silence for 34 long years after the world’s worst industrial disaster.
In three Assembly constituencies of Bhopal that were worst affected by the disaster, survivors say the affects are still felt in the form of protracted illness and stillborn babies. There are large piles of toxic waste in and around of what used to be the pesticide plant of Union Carbide India. The ground water contamination is also reported to be high, yet the elected representatives and those vying for elections have no words of concern for the gas tragedy survivors.
Nearly 5,70,000 survivors are still suffering due to an indifferent government, a callous health service and meagre compensation.
In official records, it is said that over 3,000 people were killed on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984, when over 40 tonnes of poisonous methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the storage tanks of the Bhopal-based Union Carbide India Ltd (UCIL). But many campaigners working with gas survivors insist that the killer gas caused more than 25,000 fatalities besides leaving 5,50,000 others injured and disabled.
The horrific effects of the gas tragedy continue to ruin lives, but successive Congress and BJP governments have been indifferent towards their plight.