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Snehwan – Placing Community Above Self

Published October 9, 2017 by vishalvkale

The location was not a place where you expect to learn a life lesson – it was the SILC Center in Pune, at the Learning & Development Rendezvous, an event of the L&D Global Pune Chapter, on the 8thof October; on the menu was an eclectic mix of a Power Negotiation Panel Discussion and a Leadership Masterclass; these are not things that lead to such esoteric things as Life Lessons – nonetheless, the surprise item floored me, and touched my heart… The Meeting With the founder of Snehvan


A SOFTWARE ENGINEER ON A DIFFERENT PATH
What do you do when you are a software engineer? Especially if you are from village? You go to the rarified environs of a Software company, and earn money and create a better material future for yourself and your family; even going abroad in a few cases, perhaps leaving India for good in some cases. These are stories you have read ad-nauseum in the news; you have read of the CEOs of American companies who left India, plastered all over the media, almost daily. Well, above them all, ahead of all us, stands tall and proud one man I met, or rather, I had the fortune of meeting – Mr Ashok Deshmane, who happens to be the founder of Snehvan


INTRODUCING SNEHWAN…
On a routine visit to his village, he saw something that changed his life… in his own words as reported in Sakal Times, “I visited the village for celebrating Diwali. The drought situation was at its peak, and many peope didn’t have any reason for celebration. I visited the places of farmers who commit suicide. Children of farmers had to leave their education due to extreme poverty. Some people were leaving villages and going to big cities in search of livelihood. In that process the children had to quit their education”
Now this is something some of us do note – But do nothing about it. The difference is that Mr Deshmane, and his friend Anil Kothe, decided to do something about it. Not meaningless words – and not just the sporadic donation; they decided to start a project called Snehvan. Again, going back to his reported words, “We decided to bring home the children from the families of farmers as well as labourers who were forced to migrate and children forced to leave education. Kothe has provided a 5-room house without rent for the project


Their website – I strongly suggest you visit and spend some time on it, and introspect – also forcefully makes this point; Scorching heat, lack of rain, drought is eating up the land and the result, giver of food, health and nutrition are giving up their lives. Hope against hope has given way to dire desperation. These are our farmers and their families, who have been plunged into a darkness and lack the basic needs of life. Nobody extends any respite for the poor families who are fighting a losing battle against the whim of nature. But what about their kids? Do they really deserve to be a part of this tragedy? Aren’t we able to give them a hand of care, love, safety, education and everything they deserve?     
Snehwan not just an initiation but a hand of स्नेह, Love and care for these destitute children. Its an oath which is taken to give a new ray of hope to those kids who belong from poor family or lost their parents in this drought. These kids are at a risk of being exposed to many threats and dangers like child labour, child trafficking, sexual abuse, extreme poverty, physical & mental abuse and homelessness. Its an initiative for those children who are not getting the light of learning due to growing turbulence in the surrounding environment. Snehwan endeavours to bring into the consciousness of the children their hidden potential and seeks deeper level of social transformation in them.
He himself experienced the hardships as a child, faced due to the poor economic conditions of family. He knows how it feels to live with the fear of losing his family, not having food for a day and selling off books for just few meals. He started working night shifts at his company so that he can dedicate his day time to work for the drought affected kids. He rescued 20 kids and given them shelter in Pune, but he realised just rescuing them is not enough. They deserve a better- life of dignity, a home filled with care and love, along with health, nutrition, education and vocational training facilities to fulfil their dreams.
PLACING COMMUNITY ABOVE SELF – LESSON FOR US ALL
There are some people in this world still present, who place community above self; Mr Ashok Deshmane, who is one such, actually quit his job and has dedicated his entire life to taking care of the education of the children of farmers who have been hit by tragedy; he is supported wholeheartedly in this life project by his wife and his parents, and his friend. I had the great fortune of spending some time with Mr Deshmane, and intend to visit his place, where he now takes care of 25 children. This software engineer, who could have had the material world at his feet – decided to do something about an issue  rather than watch from afar.
CURRENT DREAM
His current dream is to take this project even further… if you, the reader,  are interested, you can donate – links are present on the site {Disclaimer – I am not connected in any way to Snehwan, neither have they asked me to advertise, this is done just on the basis of the deep impression this man’s sacrifice has left on me. I have done what due diligence is feasible for me as of now, and am giving the results of my due diligence below, in the Bibliography}
IN CONCLUSION
In conclusion – I can only say here is a man who is actually contributing to the society in a practical way, sacrificing his time – or should I say, gifting them his and his family’s time, and is actually enjoying himself. In the process, he is also gifting back to society, and in a small way, is helping to make it a better place – especially the farmering segment, which – as my previous and ongoing series on profitability in agriculture reveals, needs all the help it can get. Finally, Mr Media, we read regularly of the people who have left India – how about treating us to such real stories of people in India who are helping to make India a much better place? Don’t they deserve much higher Media presence?  

 BIBLIOGRAPHY AND EXTERNAL LINKS:

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Farm Gate Prices And Urban Apathy…

Published June 16, 2016 by vishalvkale

Today’s Indian Express carries an interesting article on the rural landscape of India, bringing to the fore a superbly balanced presentation of the farm gate prices issue: should farmers be able to sell as per their choice, and not just through the APMC-demarcated regulated market   yards and auctions. This raises many questions, as we shall see. But first, the article in question:



APMCs were originally established with a view to prevent exploitation of farmers by intermediaries, who compelled them to dispose of their produce at the farmgate at very low prices. By mandating all farm produce to be brought to regulated market yards and sold through auctions, the APMC mechanism was meant to ensure fair prices to farmers. But in many cases, these bodies have themselves become dens for cartelisation by traders, who control prices and charge hefty commission fees on produce transactions.

An extreme case that surfaced recently was of Devidas Maruti Parbhane. This farmer from Vadgaon Rasai, a village in Pune district’s Shirur taluka, supplied one tonne of onions early this month at the local market yard under the Pune APMC’s jurisdiction. The price he got — a little more than Rs 1.5 per kg — was itself very low. But adding insult to injury was the various “cuts” imposed on top of this.

A scrutiny of Parbhane’s patti (trade slip) by The Indian Express revealed his total revenues from the sale of one tonne of onions at Rs 1,523.20. The total cuts even on this meagre amount added up to Rs 1,522.20. That included commission fees of Rs 91.30, hamali or labour charges of Rs 59, bharai or filling-in-bags charges of Rs 18.55, tolai or loading charges of Rs 33.30, and transport charges of Rs 1,320 (as the kutcha patti issued in Shirur was billed for delivery at Pune). Parbhane, at the end of it, was left with a net earning of Re 1: “When after the auction, the trader handed me a Re 1 coin, I was flabbergasted. Maybe, he should not have taken the trouble to pay me even that!”

Traders, however, dismiss these as one-off incidents, while claiming that delisting of F&V would ultimately hurt even farmers. “The produce brought by farmers is not uniform, which is what processors want. The APMCs are tuned to handle variety. Here, we have 50-55 varieties of vegetables and 25-30 varieties of fruits arriving on a daily basis. Such variety will disappear once delisting happens. Moreover, instead of a centralised marketplace, you’ll have small and medium vehicles carrying farm produce and creating traffic mayhem in Mumbai,” warned Rajendra Shelke, a leading onion and potato commission agent at the Vashi APMC.

Besides, the APMC system guarantees that the farmer is paid for his produce, which wouldn’t be the case if he were to sell directly? “The proposed reform looks good on paper, but it will only spell doom for the farmer and end up completely destroying the agrarian economy,” he added.

Sanjay Pansare, who represents traders at the Vashi APMC’s fruit market, justified the high commission rates on grounds that the goods being handled here were perishable and prone to quality deterioration. Only around a quarter of the produce brought to the market is eventually of the best quality; the rest falls between medium and bad. The losses borne by b on this count have to, therefore, be made up through higher commission fees. Since 2002, the Maharashtra government has been issuing marketing licenses to various entities for procuring directly from the farmgate. Besides, 34 private markets have been allowed to be set up. But despite this, an estimated 75 per cent of annual arrivals of F&V in the state still take place in APMCs. The proportions are lower at 46 per cent for cotton and 25-30 per cent in oilseeds and foodgrains.


The good part of the article is for the first time in my reading at least, has someone tried to place the other side – the benefits from traders to farmers; for too long, we have been treated to articles that focus on the low farm gate prices prevalent in India. Such an approach suffers from one major disadvantage: the bulk of purchasing happens through these regulated markets; these are an intermediary reality that cannot be wished away; they form an ecosystem within the economy, have large dependencies of families as well as business connected to them.

Any change process can only be successful when both sides of the coin are taken care of; the concerns of the traders need to be met head-on and dealt with, as, regardless of the question of compensation to farmers, they currently fulfil a market function. This is where a slow and planned change can bear results – as seen in the example above, wherein the procurement for cotton and oilseeds, foodgrains are at much lower percentages. Full marks to the Maharashtra state Government for crafting a graded transition to the newer system!

It is heartening to see Maharashtra and Delhi take the first tentative steps towards making a fair and balanced system for all; this is something needs to be taken forward in all states. Therein lies the major issue- it nationwide implementation. Sadly, I have not come across more coverage, or at least focused and concerted coverage in the media on this vital aspect. While Foreign Policy, Political brouhaha, Make In India etc find coverage and deep, informed, threadbare analysis – this is all but absent in this matter. As a net result, sporadic articles spring up in the media, and the public remains mute, unconcerned and uncaring regarding this matter. While the other initiatives will impact Urban India immediately, and Rural India through the trickle down effect over time – this will have a  much faster and potent impact, given that more than 2/3rd of India is Rural…

This is a systemic change, deep and layered; it does not have the dramatic, esoteric and visual impact of  Make In India, or Digital India or the other steps of the Government; and yet, it is equally, and in some ways more effective in ensuring the development of our nation; it is also something that the internet generation, social media, mainstream media and Urban India just do not have an interest in, which is truly sad.  Frankly, this state of affairs is a brutal indictment of Urban India

The shocking example above exposes the state of affairs – that the farmer is not getting anywhere near enough; other data and proof in the for of articles can be provided; let us take Onions as an example. How much do we pay in retail? 20/- a Kg – 30/- a Kg? At times, 40/- a Kg? How much of this should the farmer take home? Prices to farmers have even gone as low as 20 Paisa a Kg. We hear a massive hue and cry when prices shoot up – so why are the people and the media silent now? Why is there total silence on such a vital matter? Because it doesn’t impact Urban India?


The bumper harvest this year, however, has left farmers in tears with reports suggesting that prices have fallen to an all-time-low of Rs. 30 paise per kg at Madhya Pradesh’s mandi in Neemuch district. “There has been surplus onion production across the country this time, and the demand is relatively low. The farmers are badly hit as they spend at least Rs. 12 per kg in the entire process of producing the crop, excluding their labour cost,” said Rajender Sharma, member of Azadpur, Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC).

In Delhi, which primarily relies on these two States among a few others for onions, the situation is equally grim. At the Azadpur Mandi, the kitchen essential is being sold at Rs. 7.86 per kilo on an average. The best-quality onions are being sold at a wholesale rate of Rs. 10.5 per kg, whereas the poor-quality and the smaller ones are being bought by traders at Rs. 4.5 per kilo. The retail prices in the city range between Rs. 18 per kilo and Rs. 20 per kilo.

Did we read much of this in  the Media? And do note the difference between retail and wholesale prices; and ask yourselves some questions on tis state of affairs. Also do ask yourself is it fair that these matters take backstage to the much more visual steps that directly impact Urban India – and also ask yourself how can we change the state of affairs?

Comprehensive Vs Bottom Up : A Tale Of Two Economic Ideologies

Published March 6, 2016 by vishalvkale

This is a conversation I had online with a college senior, and a person working extensively in a consultative position with SME companies at a senior level, with a pedigreed work experience at senior management levels. This conversation is between two people of completely varied economic ideologies, and I hope will provide a glimpse of an alternative path of development. This is a slightly different approach I am adopting, and hope that people can connect, as in my opinion it gives an interesting insight into diverse viewpoints; I know I learned a lot from this conversation, and hope others can also glean a lot…
The conversation links onward from my previous article wherein I had compared and analysed the Middle Class, wherein I had stated : “The cities may not like it, but there is nothing they can do about it. They are outnumbered 5.5 – 1 in Rural Urban Split, or perhaps nearer aproximately {from memory, could be off target} 9-to-1 in terms of income..” Excerpts from the conversation are given below : interested people can look up the full conversation on our open LinkedIn group Th!nking Indian :

THE CONVERSATION

Mr Amitabh D Sinha {Expert Service Culture, Business Strategy} : Vishal, as I had said right at the start, some much needed direction and I stand by that, but I also feel there isn’t enough substance for the euphoria.  I am also especially annoyed by your comment that the ‘the cities may not like it, but there is nothing they can do about it’. Let us understand we are talking about a single country, there isn’t and should not be a competition between urban and rural India – for god’s sake we have split this country into enough segments and sub-segments already, let’s not add another us Vs. them dimension needlessly.
Given the way this country needs massive urbanization if it is to survive and grow, I also think sentiments of comparison between the rural drive, MII and Digital India are irresponsible – none of them singly, can do what they can do collectively.
Me : This nation does not neet massive urbanisation; not yet anyway – and not for the next decade at least. It needs decent facilities in the villages, make them liveable it needs good primary schools, secondary schools in villages and talukas with good colleges in the Tehsils. It needs good road connectivity. It needs Primary Health Centers in each village, it needs functioning anganwaadis in each vilage, it needs seamless dependable connectivity with tehsil and districty headquarters at each village level. That is the first priority.
The cities, by comparison, have way more than enough, and are in paradise by comparison. Those smart cities, those bullet trains can wait for another ten years, maybe 15. We dont need them, we dont want them – and to be exceedingly blunt, we dont deserve them either. Agreed on MSME; that has to be the second pillar of the nation’s growth : as well as home grown organisations, purely Indian of whatever size as the third pillar. But, in order that benefits get to the innermost regions of India – the first pillar simply has to be agriculture.
This is good news for the cities as well; as industry after industry reaches saturation point in the cities, the new business can only come from the hinterlands and the villages. For that, they have to grow. If they do – the cities benefit in auto mode, as they produce the products that will be purchased by the increasing disposable income.
As regards allocation of resources, a 25% increase in layout to Agriculture is nothing to sneeze at; this is after accounting for the 15K Cr reallocation. This is a hefty incease, in addition to the increase in MNREGS, which gives clear signals for the direction the Governmnt is taking. They have no choice – either they cater to wherever the voters are, or they get tossed out in 2019. The writing is on the wall for them, sad to state.
I am not a socialist, neither am I advocating redistribution of wealth. I am just saying count the blessings we have rather than crying for what could have been. We – most of us – have the blessing of a splendid education {because our parents could AFFORD to send us there}. We should enjoy what we have – sure; that is our right as we have {most of us at any rate} worked hard for it.
But that is where I draw the line; while enjoying our success, let us not forget that not 5 feet away from our enjoyment is a destitute for whom our momentary pleasure is one month’s food. Keep a thought somewhere in our hearts for them.
Mr ADS : You’re not listening. No one is arguing for the trickle down effect theory – the less said about it the better. You’re right, we have finite resources. That’s where the rub is, NOT in how we distribute them, but how we plan to raise more. I am sick and tired of this ‘limited resource’ excuse, simply because I see NO effort to raise income, except through routes that are conventional, low yield and burdened.
You say, let’s face facts, Indian Urban & Rural are competing, my response is then we are doomed, because it’ll be a cold day in hell when either one alone will be able to drive this country’s progress – growth of one at the cost of the other is something we’ve seesawed at interminably, both in theory & policy and look where we are.
We need new thinking hats. We’re coming off almost 5 continuous years of crippled policy making (3 from UPA & 2 from NDA), we need to start solutioning, not merely ideating. I know there are elections ahead, but let’s ensure we have a nation first
We don’t need massive urbanization yet, not for another decade”. False. We need massive urbanization to start NOW, but not by increasing the urban slums around our 200 odd urban centres. We DO NOT need the Mumbai’s and Delhi’s to become bigger, we need to create smaller self-sustaining, contributing, urban and semi-urban centres. Let’s face it Vishal, if agriculture is ever to become a monetarily worthwhile occupation for the farmer, we NEED to solve the land parcel issue. The current population and possible productivity dynamic is unsupportable. It’s great to talk of doubling farmer income in 4 years, how about increasing farming income? I know you will understand what i mean by that.
That cannot be done unless rural youth migrates to NEW urban concentrations where they are NOT designated as unskilled labour, but as people whose skills are built and used to create wealth for them as well as the nation. That will take manufacturing – there is no other wealth creator is there?
Me : That solution you suggest is certainly doable; but not just yet. We only differ in the time scale. You say now, I say 5-10 years. The rural youth to qualify for jobs in the manufacturing sector will need to be educated, that isnt happening. As I look at later in my budget analysis tonight, that is the one sector that remains a cause of deep concern, one where I can see no action happening anywhere. We will first have to invest in education at village and taluka level – note my points made above, before we embark on the path you and others are suggesting.
As regards size of land holding – certainly I understand. At 1.39 Ha average land size and upwards of 76% Small and Marginal Farmers, with 90% {I think} holding less than 2Ha, that is a concern – true. Yet, strangely, these small and micro farms are more productive than larger holdings.
Agriculture requires Seeds, Water, Land Quality, Water Quality, Credit, Market Access, Post Harvest Technology, on a priority…
Mr ADS : There comes a time Vishal to ignore percentages and go after hard numbers. So when you tell me a guy who earns less than 40,000 per annum as usable income is going to have it doubled in 4 years, my mind tracks that against expected consumer price rises @ 10-12% p.a. and the fact that his minimal need for some level of security is more than 1,00,000 today, I am less than ecstatic.
Similarly when you say, a 25% hike in rural outlay is nothing to sneeze at, all I can say is, percentages are for reports. Let’s talk hard numbers in terms of what sells for how much and therefore how far will the money go. My simple submission is that if looks as if it will not go as far as we need to, we can’t throw up our hands in despair and whine ‘but this is all we have’, nor can we sneak a piece from one plate and drop it on another and pat ourselves on the back for a good job well done. We have to find ways to earn more. & We have to find them NOW
Me : Sure size of holding is a concern – but not a priority. Right now priority is education and the issues I list above. The NSDC, {http://www.skilldevelopment.gov.in/aboutus.html} which is a landmark initiative, will take time to make its impact. We have no choce other than to wait in the interim
In order that farmer and farming income increase, you have to tackle irrigation first – the most visible and immediate impact {to the tune of upto 100-300% depending on other factors} is by irrigation. But that leads to other issues, thus you also have to simultaneously tackle water and land quality, seeds, pests, credit and market issues as well. Most of these are now being looked at, which is what makes me euphoric.
I think the solutions are being implemented in the now – except education, which is a deep and lasting worry flashpoint. With inreasing incomes in Rural Sector, deepening connectivity, dismantling of APMC {or rather, changes to APMC}, Credit on the board – the income should rise in the next few years, and that is welcome.
But without education, there is only so far we can go…
Mr ADS : Why must government wait to do everything itself? Push for a larger manufacturing base and let small industry take care of vocational education that creates jobs for the rural youth as well as paths for aspiration. It is industry that needs the skilled resources, free up some breathing space for industry, stimulate growth factors and industry will create jobs because that will become a bottleneck they can solve.
Please remember that SME in India has grown despite a hostile, inhospitable terrain wherein they have at best been ignored and usually exploited worse than slaves. That SME has still grown is a testament to solution finding ability – partnering them makes sense, pushing them into corners and creating a paradigm where they have no incentive for growth is not only ridiculous, but downright suicidal.
Agriculture requires Seeds, Water, Land Quality, Water Quality, Credit, Market Access, Post Harvest Technology, on a priority… Agreed on every single point. What agriculture DOES NOT need is bottlenecks created by governments trying to do everything by themselves. The government needs to become aggregator rather than sole executor and facilitator rather than regulator. Market access, PHT, Seed quality and Irrigation are definitely areas where the government can invite and leverage non-government players both for knowhow and financial capability.
Credit is the bugbear I agree, yet credit policy is virtually ignored in budget after succeeding budget, citing Basle and various other reasons. Why is Indian bank lending still operating on principles and practices that may have been contemporary 35 years ago, but certainly never any time since?
You said this budget was ideation, unfortunately you’re right, 3 chances gone, 2 to go, we’re still awaiting a gameplan….
Me : Amitji, your take on taxation is fully warranted and accurate; lower taxes make sense for everyone. But is that currently doable? With the taxation returns being around 3 Million, large – majority, in fact – are currently not paying direct taxes. Therein lies the rub. We first need to broaded the tax net, and bring in all people in it. Then we can look at further rationalisation.
As it is, the current situation is far better than what it used to be, that I am sure you will agree with. One of the biggest challenges our country faces is the spectre of black money, and the attendant challenges this poses. With the direct tax net being so narrowly defined, how is any other course feasible? Arent we all to blame – as per turn our eyes the other way on this issue?
On the aspect of the MSME, I would be the last person to argue with you; having had practical work experience in small companies, and a wide-spectrum exposure to the MSME in one particular industry in North and West India. MSME is a segment that needs support. I am always reminded of an outstanding I had with an SME that had its production lines shut due to lack of credit and the attendant inability to pay for raw material from Vendors like me.
Honestly, I did not spot anything too exciting on the MSME front, although I could be wrong as I focussed more on rural sector. I will go through the precise recommendations as I write my Budget review on that segment.  That said, MSME segment also needs to look at its own self in a mirror and reform itself from within if they are to attract talent and retain them. One of the biggest challenges for them is the inability to attract and enthuse mainstream people from organised industry and use their organisational skills and talent…
The Government has rolled out credit targets for the priority sector, and that is a ray of hope, but I do not recall much else in that realm. I could be wrong, but that is what I currently recall.

CONCLUSION :

I have edited large parts of the conversation, which is rather long; the full conversation can be found on the featured post of Th!nking Indian. I would especially love it if people can focus on the highlighted and bold points raised by Mr ADS, which are indeed thought provoking. He consistently has been at centre point, and arguing for increased focus on several parameters where focus is required : SMEs, Raising internal resources, no need for raising rural – urban divide issue; the comments also highlight two diametrically opposite ideologies : Rural and Bottom up from my side versus Comprehensive from Mr ADS… Is the comprehensive doable? Further conversation with him should give a better idea… stay connected

Budget 2016 : Middle Class Perspective Analysed

Published March 4, 2016 by vishalvkale

The recent budget presented by the FM Mr Jaitley took quite a few people by surprise, with especially the middle class – some members at any rate- feeling short changed. Despite that, I personally rate this budget as being among the best to come since 1991; sure there are negatives. Let me take the bull by the horns : Middle Class, you say. Let me be blunt : The Middle Class got nothing, which exactly what it deserved. No more, no less. And yet, in this nothing lies the true benefit to this class from this budget.  
This Middle Class represents those educated people {should / dare I say barely literate? Education implies much more than degrees}; Those literate and degreed people who you can spot spitting on the roads, peeing on the roadside, paying bribes, ignoring accident victims. migrating from India… these people are in a position to do something about such ugliness – and CHOOSE to do nothing. Do they really deserve more than their fair share? Call me an idealist – but I don’t think so.

THE BUDGET : PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES OF THE NDA2

This budget is more of  an ideation session, a set of ideas and promises that can transform ALL India in a very short time – like MII and Digital India never can. India lives not in the cities, but in the rural areas, with 84% residing outside top 200 agglomerations {let alone cities!}. That is why the budget -any budget – should be only for these, the majority. Kudos to the BJP for doing it. It is noteworthy that they are attempting to reform agriculture and develop it, not give doles – which is what is needed.
Note that I focus not on numbers, but on ideas. Ideas lead to numbers each and every time; I have never ever seen numbers leading to ideas…
Also note that all three major national level forces are now concentrated on Rural India {or the poorer classes} – BJP, The Congress, and the Up-and-coming AAP. The cities may not like it, but there is nothing they can do about it. They are outnumbered 5.5 – 1 in Rural Urban Split, or perhaps nearer aproximately {from memory, could be off target} 9-to-1 in terms of income..
First this is the 3rd Budget of this Government. The initial approach was giving a mistaken impression of Suit Boot Ki Sarkar, with their Urban focussed approach; the previous budget and years contained premature moves like Make In India, Digital India, Smart Cities, Bullet Trains, none of which we require. I say mistaken for the reason that some of their other steps have very likely not been advertised, as the third article in this series brings out – which lays open the feasibility that they have done more than they are advertising.
We dont have the existing systems and the overall ecosystem to support even one of the above initiatives. Take Make In India, for example – in an atmosphere of 58% MSME contribution to GDP, how can any such initiative succeed without sorting out ecosystem issues? There are capacity, credit constraints in that sector to name just two; there are the issues relating to inverted duty structures, skill related problems, outdated technology issues and market access issues that need attending to.
You cannot dismantle inverted duty structures overnight, to consider just one small parameter; it impacts internal equilibrium, erodes profitability over the short term {another ex – Telecom; cant say more as am from same trade. Read latest news please}, and creates a churn. It requires a carefully calibrated approach and a defined plan to execute a successful turnaround. The beginning has been made, but a lot more needs to be done, as industry pundits have been at pains to point out.
You cannot rush in and change everything; the impression the Government was giving was, to me at least, is that it was in a rush to do too much, leading to premature steps. If you have to encourage manufacturing, it is true that you have to make finished products costlier to import – using the exchange rate, duties and other mechanisms to create a favourable internal atmosphere. But you also have to create the internal systems, structures that can enable investment in capacity building, which requires time and a host of changes in quite a few parameters.

BENEFITS OF FOCUSSING ON RURAL INDIA

While constraints are being sorted our – another sector is begging for attention, which also holds the promise of relief for all. Focussing on Rural India makes sense- it will increase rural consumption in line with increasing disposable rural incomes, which will eventually effect positively the business cycle in the economy as well as Urban Indians, as Manufacturing and Services both will grow, which are largely Middle Class driven. The population behind it is so large, that the impact will be much larger than a mere-Urban growth hoping for trickle down {which – trickle down – is highly debatable, if you consider consumption data from 1978}
Thus, the point is moot; the strategy is for the benefit of all. Everyone stands to gain if Rural Incomes improve, that is a fact.
Where are the products manufactured that Rural India consumes? Who works in those factories? Either Urban Indians, or Middle Classes. Thus, what benefits Rural India benefits all India. GIven the scale- 9-1 and 5.5-1, the impact will be proportionately larger and of a much wider breadth. Given the finite resources a their command, the Government has to make some hard choices. The point of taxing the Uber Rich and the creamy layer, while attractive at first sight, is both difficult to implement, as well as being a dodby strategem to resort to, as past history of the Global Economy shows. Thus, some compromises have to be made.

A WORD ON THE MIDDLE CLASS – AGAIN

As far the emotional aspect of the matter is concerned, the middle class being overlooked  – what middle class are we talking about? The one who doesnt even bat an eyelid from the comfy AC interiors of their cars as beggars in tattered clothes beg for the right to survive, as a Nirbhay lies naked, bleeding and dying in the bitter Delhi winter?  The ones who take a bribe from smugglers, with little concern for the health and safety of their countrymen and women? {Read S Hussain Zaidi for stomach turning proof of the integrity of our oh-so-great Middle Class}! The ones who do untold damage to the nation by giving and asking bribes, using substandard raw materials in their output? The ones who throw litter on the roads?
Or perhaps the ones who use every benefit the nation gives them, study till the best levels, and then promptly run away from the country, raising nonsense like the country did not care for me, my skills? It was the same country that gave them those skills, by the way. The same country people find unliveabe – other Indians find good enough to lay their lives for. They are all the people with the benefit of an education. Makes me wonder at our education system!
The fact that educated and uneducated alike show the same behaviour pattern is hardly exculpatory, otherwise, what is the whole point of an education? There has to be some improvement if you manage to get an education, isn’t it? For the Middle Class to ask their rights, collectively we the educated, the Middle Class need to justify the nation’s investment in us. This we collectively are not doing. Sad part is, in the bargain, those of us who are doing our bit have to pay a little bit extra.

Participative Growth – The Need For A 3-Pronged Approach

Published February 14, 2016 by vishalvkale

It has been stated that Industry level growth is the key, the answer to India’s many woes, that industrialisation and its attendant advantages will ensure growth eventually percolates to all levels of society. The caveat in that line of thought is “Eventually” : just how long is eventually supposed to mean? How many lives and generations will have to suffer the pangs of poverty till that eventuality transpires? And, what do we do in the interim?
These people are equal to us, the privileged class – the ones with education and great {or good or even average} well paying jobs. They are our equals in every single way; they have the same rights as us, they have the same dreams and desires as us. The luck of birth, and the chance of education that has been provided us has ensured we live well, by the grace of God. Granted that some among the poorer classes do manage to break the shackles and grow out of poverty; but does that mean we forget the rest of them?
There is a tendency, a rather unfortunate tendency, among the educated classes to equate GDP growth and Industrialisation with the concept of solutions to poverty. That is unfortunate; granted that it is one of the factors that lead to resolution – but this path does not take the full picture into consideration. That Industrialisation is needed is a given; again, a correct observation. I dont differentiate between manufacturing or service here – the creation of options that can be filled by educated people is a needed reality, one which is not upto to speed in the current economy. But who will benefit from this Industrialisation?
The educated people – that is who. The ones with a professional college degree will get the best jobs; the ones with some basic college degree will land jobs and careers that ensures a stable decent life for them and their families; the high-schoolers will get the next level of vacancies; the rest will make do with poorly paid menial jobs and temporary jobs. Some will take advantage of become entrepreneurs, unlocking further jobs and careers for people – but entrepreneurship also generally requires education and a defined skill-set, although service sector entrepreneurship is a different ball-game altogether.
The problem is that the current generation of the poorest segments just cannot afford education for their children; so the question of them benefiting immensely {beyond labour jobs, often poorly paid} does not arise. It only increases the gap; this does not mean we dont industrialise; this does create jobs – even though they are poorly paid ones at the bottom of the pyramid. The key is get out of this vicious circle of poverty. That can only happen throughthe enabler of education, nothing else.
Industrialisation in such an atmosphere does create jobs at all skill levels, but the better jobs that can ensure a proper life are reserved for the educated, as these require certain skills. So how do the poorest and the poor break the barrier? It is manifestly infeasible. There have been jobs created – Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Professionals, even Clerical Jobs, Service jobs – a whole new paradigm of change has happened with economic growth. That is beyond debate.  Poverty has also reduced; people have gotten better off, No one can argue with that; the evidence is there for all to see. But we cannot rest on our laurels; not when you see the remaining poor all around you.
Menial jobs for the uneducated and low clerical jobs for the less educated {upto 5-10 years schooling} have been created; these just dont pay enough to ensure a full education to the children often enough. The pace of creation of jobs has also not kept up with the demand, So how to get out of this? Change is happening; but the pace of change is slow; almost too slow. That is the main point of concern for us as a people. We need to increase the pace of change, the pace of growth – as well as ensure that it percolates to the most hapless people in our midst. Like us, they are equal citizens, and we should do far more to ensure they grow.
How do you ensure that jobs lead to development at all levels, without education? How do you ensure that education without jobs will lead to happiness? Both are recipes for trouble; that said, it is true that the latter – education without jobs – can be more harmful as it has the potential to unleash frustration among the educated unemployed. But does that mean we forget the benefits education brings, and place education on a back burner, and not on centre-stage, as the cynosure of all our efforts to modernise our nation and our economy?
What is needed is a balanced approach  – one that caters to Industrialisation, as well as a full scale war-like approach towards education. While the former is happening, the latter is not yet in the public imagination, or Government policy, judging from media space as well as action on Start-ups, Economy, FDI, GDP, Industrialisation etc. Even this two-pronged approach has its disadvantage – it leaves out all of the Agricultural sector from its ambit, where the farmers and the labourers just aren’t earning enough to ensure anything other than a basic life.
And the Rural community, where the farmers and the landless labourers are concentrated, form the bulk of India. We, the Urban Indians, are the exceptions; they are representative – as they are in a majority. High time that we Urban Indians faced upto that hard reality!
And that is yet another reason why Agriculture and its problems need to be defined properly, and solved at the earliest; that can unlock earning potential faster than any other avenue or venture available to us as a people. That will also tend to reverse the trendline we saw in my previous article – with rising imports increasingly becoming a reality

We need to enable the government to allocate more attention to the development of Agriculture than it currently does; that can only happen if the voice of the people reaches the government in a democratic fashion, in Media articles, through people’s letters, small {tiny} forums like this blog and its readers and so on and so forth. Urban India needs to realise and understand that improving Agriculture will lead to improvement of the Urban scenario as well, that it is far more important to elevate our villages than it is to build Urban Infrastructure, given the paucity of resources we have! What these initiatives can be forms the next part of this series on participative growth…

Rural India : How Can We Ensure Participative Growth?

Published February 7, 2016 by vishalvkale

Continuing the series of thoughts on farming, let us  look at some real examples of human tragedy – not suicide, but examples of poverty in farming and rural India to put things in perspective, and look at the scale of the problems facing us as a nation. We in Urban India wax eloquent on industry, technology developments; the question is how to give amelioration in the rural tracts of the country? How can we ensure participative growth? I am not looking at the economic argument of trickle down versus inclusive growth; I am looking at the human side of things – which, in my opinion, is the only way to look at things.

That is a question that requires an understanding of the scale and nature of the problem confronting us. In a previous article, I had listed the problems facing agriculture; and had also analysed profitability from farming Wheat and Paddy for a period of seven years. Those articles list a series of research reports that provide hard data on the abysmal status of the farming community as a general statement;  specifically the Small and Marginal Farmers {and the landless}

To quote from that article : “Now take a look at the absolute numbers of profit that are coming out. It is ranging from a loss of 1400 Rs per crop, to a profit of 9700 approximately per crop. What can a family do in that meagre amount? “ That is one aspect of the problem; the second aspect is the number of Small and Marginal Farmers in India, with holdings of less than 2Ha {avg holding size is 1.41Ha approximately, from memory} – these number more than 70% of total farm holdings, which are in the region of 116 Million, and might even be 80%+ of holdings. We are looking at a huge number:  90 Million Families. Add to that landless agricultural labour, and the reality stares at you in its stark and naked truth : We are talking of 100s of Millions of people.

You might state – with some degree of accuracy – that industrial development will create opportunities and jobs, that slow change will trickle down to all levels. There are two major objections to this from a human perspective. The first challenge is how will uneducated people, people with limited skills outside farming take true advantage of industrial growth? And are the opportunity creations in the rural areas – or are they in the cities? Are we capable of dealing with increasing inward migration and pressure on the cities, or are we creating urban slums? Will the displaced labour get an improved life?

Second level of the problem in this approach is, trickle down takes place over a period of time; that it is effective in eradicating poverty over time is not in debate, under the proper set of conditions. What happens to the people in the meantime? That is why a large level of intervention and help is required by these people from the State as well as the Haves of society. This is so that they can live a decent life, and enable to them to provide health and education to their children. These are the “proper set of circumstances” I am referring to – are we, as a people, truly and really focussing on education and on health?

How can people move from Farming to jobs without a decent education and a functioning and delivering health scenario? Without access to affordable health services of a standard, and access to affordable schooling of a proper education standard that helps in developing the demographic dividend we are so fond of extolling? Thus, if you have focus on Urban India, on Infrastructure {which also benefits rural India}, without an adequate focus on education and health – where is the guarantee that development will percolate faster than what is the current rate?

Given the vagaries of farming in India as a profession and its attendant challenges {my post}, it is a requirement that a helping hand be extended to the farming community for us as a people; Urban Indians would do well to understand that rural India and farmers in particular are facing a series of challenges that have led to serious problems and losses for them as a community, especially in the immediately preceding few years, as covered in my previous article.

The challenge is misunderstood to be one of creating jobs and opportunities – it is also one of creating the right conditions that will enable the rural community to actively partake in developmental opportunities cutting across income lines. That means education & a decent livelihood for their current status that can enable them to attend school. With the terrifyingly low income levels that we have seen, how can a father ensure a decent education and health to his children  and his family?

Are we, as a nation, giving adequate attention to education and to health? Ask that question of yourselves…

To understand,  read this hard hitting article with live examples of the reality of Rural India : http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/bundelkhand-this-year-nothing-has-been-sown/

AKASH, 12
Akash says he stayed back because he did not want to miss school. “I don’t want to be a labourer. I want to get a government job,” he smiles. But for the Class VI student, life has changed. His grandfather is 65, and the 12-year-old must sweep the floor, prepare the hearth in the kitchen with cowdung cakes, and often make chapatis before he leaves for school at 8 am. “I know how to knead atta,” he says. “Today there were no vegetables, so we made chutney.” Chaudhary Sundar Singh Inter-College where he studies is about 10 km away, and he cycles there. When he returns at 4 pm, the chapatis from the morning serve as meal. “This year nothing has been sown, increasing the migration to other states,” says pradhan Raju Dixit, adding that many in Mahoba have also disowned their cattle…

JAVITRI, 18
Just before Diwali last year, trucks queued up outside Chichara village on NH 86, just like the past few years. Among the villagers who left on it for brick kilns of Rajasthan were parents of 18-year-old Javitri. Last year the crops on their one-bigha land were damaged by rains, and this time, the fields were not sown because of lack of water. Village pradhan Narendra says nearly 30 per cent of the residents of Chichara, that has a population of about 3,500, have left in search of work. Villagers say earlier only the poor migrated, now even landowning communities do. “Even Thakurs and Brahmins have left,” says Dinesh Dwivedi.  Javitri, who dropped out of school in 2014 after Class XI as her family couldn’t afford her studies, lives alone in the family’s two-room home now. Her aunt and uncle live next door…
DHALCHAND PATEL, 46
Dhalchand Patel’s father Chaturbhuj had taken a loan of Rs 2 lakh using his Kisan credit card four years ago. The Patels own 10 acres in Ghutai village of Mahoba. Chaturbhuj died in summer last year, leaving behind a family of six and the unpaid loan. On December 21, Dhalchand, 46, was found dead on a railway track nearby. His family members say he had got a notice to attend a Lok Adalat in connection with the loan. “The night before his death, he spoke to me about the loan. He was worried,” says Pratap Singh, Dhalchand’s uncle and the village pradhan

RAM BABU UPADHYAY, 40
In Kalipahadi village near Mahoba town, Ram Babu Upadhyay, 40, had been struggling to irrigate his eight bigha land, on which he had sown wheat. On January 21, while discussing his problem, Upadhyay fainted, and died before reaching hospital. “The wheat crop is our only hope,” says his widow Pinki, holding their two-year-old son Manav. Most of the tubewells have dried up here, with handpumps only providing enough water for drinking. Most of the seven rivers in Mahoba are also dry. The biggest irrigation project, Arjun Sahayak Pariyojana, inaugurated in 2009, is still not complete. The budget was recently doubled to around Rs 1,600 crore. The Rs 7,266-crore Bundelkhand Package, also announced in 2009, kept aside Rs 3,506 crore for the UP districts. It has proved ineffectual in this round of droughts

RAMESHWAR PRASAD RAJPUT , 59
Wearing a torn shirt and trousers, Rajput says his condition has only worsened since. “Both my sons work as labourers. I work as a security guard in Surat. My daughter-in-law’s two deliveries cost me Rs 80,000, and I had to pawn my four bighas..

Each case a testament of the status of Rural India, although these cases are from Bundelkhand, They, each of them, give an indication of the apathy in our society, of societal ills, of lack of access to education, and of distress. The cases tell of societal pressure, of failure of crops, of migration, of deep distress… how can these people or their wards partake in development that we are so fond of extolling? That is why, these people need a helping hand, and that is why Governments regardless of party lines give that helping hand. They need it, they need our help…


Not everything in life can be a simple profit-and-loss statement. Some things are beyond that, the call of humanity. Rather than question the aid given to them without suggesting alternative solutions, let us introspect as to how can we turn around the situation? How can we ensure participative growth? It is easy to state that curtail this and that; rather than do that,  the question should be, is and remains : how can we ensure skills, education, a decent life to our fellow citizens? 

Farming : Profitability of farming Wheat and Paddy over 7 years

Published June 28, 2015 by vishalvkale


In the previous articles on the farming scene in India, we saw the basics of farming, and a look at the economics of Paddy in a few states in India. In this article, I shall go deeper, and add another crop : Wheat, as usual with data. The assumptions remain the same as they were in the previous article on the subject, which can be found here : INDIAN FARMERS : A LOOK AT ROUGH ESTIMATES OF PROFITS



In the previous article, we looked at the returns from paddy; let me present another view from the same data set : 

The chart above is average earning from Paddy crop calculated on C2 Cost Concept. The C2 Cost concept includes cost of seeds, fertilizers, manure, human labour including family and hired labour, animal labour, machine labour both hired and owned, insecticides, irrigation charges, interest on working capital, rental value of owned land, rent paid for leaded-in land, land revenue cess and taxes, depreciation and interest on fixed capital. 
This is called the c2 concept; there is another concept – the c3 concept which includes value of managerial input of the farmer. These costs have not been accounted for. It can be straightaway seen that if you add 10% to the costs, profitability of the Farm as a business enterprise takes a nose dive. And also note the states for which the data is being collated, and the returns from the less developed states. 
Furthermore, now I ask all of you to compare with a  running business enterprise, and try and identify expenses that we incur while running the business which are allowed as deductibles. This last bit may not be acceptable anywhere, but you cannot deny that a business enterprise is allowed deductibles on several and sundry items as costs incurred in running the business apart from the expenses listed above; it is easy to note that these costs are not accounted for here; it is also a given that other costs would perforce be incurred. Lastly note that the trendline pf the average on all states in both cases over 7-8 years from 1996-97 is either flat, or decreasing; in one chart I have presented the trendline – that for Paddy. 
Now please remember these are numbers collated for the entire farming universe, which includes Small, Medium and Large farmers. So it is also a given that these returns, such as they are, will not be enjoyed by every farmer, and will be skewed in one side or the other. Small farmers and Medium farmers will have a different calculation, the numbers for which are not readily available. Having said that, there are other indicators from which we can draw a parallel – like the per hour costs on various items, or the various reports on several aspects of SM Farmers in India which give several pointers and more. But more on that later. 

Now take a look at the absolute numbers of profit that are coming out. It is ranging from a loss of 1400 Rs per crop, to a profit of 9700 approximately per crop. What can a family do in that meagre amount? Take a look at other constituent data, like wages charged. The wages for AP for Paddy ranged from 2491 – 3097 per crop. Another 7000-9000 was rental value or rent paid per crop. These numbers are per hectare, and are similar across all states I have taken in the calculation. 

What can a family do in 12000 – 20000 per 4 or 5 months, even if we consider gross receipts, and not account for other expenses? Does making profit simply mean cash flow profit, and can we then jump to the conclusion that all is well with farming given they register a net cash flow? What about standard of living? Look at the wages being charged to account, and think of what you charge to accounts in business? Or just take a look at it from a simple living perspective and family needs perspective! Are these people not entitled to improvement and growth? We in business pay our employees handsome salaries, give perks, all comforts, expenses; we register a net profit after deduction of a whole list of expenses which are chargeable to running a business. Can we say the same for the farming community of India basis the data presented? 


And remember this is data from all farm sizes. The question then arises what is the dimension of the farming landscape in India? These people stay on the farm or near it; Agriculture forms a principal part of their business; they are people with no other skill sets. Even in the best case scenario, the state of the small and marginal farmer is evident from these hard numbers, which are based on national averages, including returns from large holdings, which will perforce be different. Lastly, this data is from 2003-2004; we shall subsequently tabulate data from 2014, and examine- or try to get a rough estimate, of the progress in the past 10 years – this will give us a rough and ready estimate of the development of farming scenario in the past decade
This is the reality of farming in India… and the moment we start delving into the number even deeper, further and more serious issues begin to emerge. Given that I have taken data from 1996-2004, let us examine land holdings in India from the same period, and establish a bird’s-eye view of the Indian Agricultural scenario, before we move into the policy and political realm for a further analysis.
For this, we can refer the report “A Special Programme For Small And Marginal Farmers  – National Commission For Enterprises In The Unorganised Sector“; the pie chart  I have created for easy readability. These give you a precise idea of who is representative of the farming scene in India : the small and marginal farmer, or the large farmer?


In the next article, we shall look at these farmers in more detail : what constitutes this segment, what do they grow, what do they earn, what are the challenges they face, what is their economic output and contribution to the nation, what is their awareness level on various aspects, what are their earnings and what are their requirements.