India's economic slump is not only worrying investors but also the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological mentor of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The concern is primarily rural spending that has contracted and it wants the Narendra Modi government to spend more on rural sectors in the months to come. As a consequence, if the government pays heed to it, the next Budget will be rural heavy.
Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to take the current $2.8 trillion economy to $5 trillion, the biggest impediment appears to be the rural economy.
In a research paper for the Niti Aayog, economist Ramesh Chand said that since 2004-05, many farmers have quit agriculture. His research shows, between 1993-94 and 2004-05, "growth in agricultural sector decelerated to 1.87 per cent". It not only slowed agricultural growth but many are left jobless as the urban economy too is not in a boom.
Government data showed gross domestic product rose 5 percent in the June quarter from a year ago, the slowest in six years. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Citigroup Inc. too lowered their growth projections.
Hence, India faces a situation where its agri growth is hampered as well as many farmer-turned-urban job seekers left without a job in the market, adding to its concern.
The RSS with its massive ecosystem right up to the grassroots comes into picture with a series of suggestions to the government to incentivise rural economy that not only brings agri growth back on track but allows people in the rural sector to spend more.
Ashwini Mahajan of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Sangh's economic wing that spearheaded the anti-RCEP campaign, told IANS, "We have always been for job creation in the rural sector. It’s also important to incentivise those in the rural economy who can employ themselves."
A UP-based Sangh functionary told IANS that the feedback from ground wasn't an afterthought but a time consuming exercise that went on for months. He suggests, it was started immediately after the new government came back to power in May end. However, one of the key suggestions of the RSS has been against loan waivers — a populist measure of many government including that of the BJP in UP.
Another key recommendation has been to give a thrust to Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Micro Irrigation Fund (MIF). Few in Sangh believes, the MIF isn't working properly.
The Modi government had approved a dedicated Rs 5,000 crore fund for this project which would increase agri production. The Sangh wants the government to focus on these two which will not only ensure increase of produce but the proper implementation will also stop migration to urban areas.
A think tank report says, most of the farmers who head to cities end up working in the real estate sector, which itself is facing slowdown as many projects are hanging in uncertainty. That avenue too is closed for farmers and it's best for them to keep them where they belong, believes the RSS.
If the government listens to the RSS, the next budget will see huge tilt towards rural spending. Some of the projects like Micro Irrigation Fund requires a chunk, which will eventually mean that the Finance Minister will have to walk a tightrope, with financial constraint, to keep its urban middle class — BJP's core vote base, in good spirit.
First Published: IST