Vantage point

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A Rare Good Piece About Vidarbha

Most of the media coverage as well as blogging about Vidarbha makes me sick. It is usually an example of someone going there, talking to the cash strapped families, asking about the suicide, looking very shocked and saddened, and taking some sort of a moral high ground to make urban India feel sorry for its prosperity. The most idiotic story I saw had NDTV's Srinivasan Jain going to a Barista in Nagpur and asking people there how they feel about spending so much money on coffee while farmers commit suicide in the countryside.

So when you read or hear about Vidarbha, it is usually post-modernistic babble, drawing shallow interpretations, and blaming the easiest targets - globalisation and multinationals. And very rarely does a good piece come along where the writer actually understands and talks about what went wrong, rather than indulging in sophisticated breast-beating.

Naveen mailed me an article by Sanjeev Nayyar - Killing With Kindness.

Cotton procurement in Maharashtra is a prime example of the havoc wrought by good intentions.

Cotton farmers commit suicide in Maharashtra but prosper in Gujarat. The prime minister visits Vidharbha and announces sops, yet the suicides continue. Both states accounted for roughly the same proportion of the country’s production in 1991-92 (Gujarat was 12.7 per cent and Maharashtra was 10.5 per cent). While Maharashra’s share has increased only marginally in the period since, to 14.8 per cent in 2005-06, Gujarat’s share is up three times, to 36.5 per cent; Maharashtra’s area under cotton has grown just marginally, Gujarat’s has nearly doubled; and Gujarat’s yield is more than three times that of Maharashtra.

What went wrong is a classic story of how sops do little but bankrupt the exchequer and, at the same time, make the beneficiary so weak, he/she becomes uncompetitive.

Do read the whole thing.

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