Thursday, March 16, 2006

Govt. help = Bribe ?

P. Sainath reports about the case of a farmer in Mahbubnagar, A.P., who tried to use the government helpline to secure a loan, was aked to pay a bribe and ended up trying to commit suicide and in jail.
Farm suicides: look to helpline, land in jail
Mr. Madhiletti's brush with the helpline — which saw a revenue inspector harass him for a bribe — convinced him that suicide was the only way out. The indebted farmer tried killing himself right at the Collectorate in Mahbubnagar. He failed and wound up paying thousands of rupees in hospital costs. And the man who had gone to the helpline for aid, languished in jail on the charge of attempted suicide until his hard-up village took out a collection and raised bail for him.
"All I wanted from the Government was help with a bank loan. My family has 12 acres, after all, and surely we should get a loan against that land? But we could not."
The villagers, though, have drawn a bleak lesson from this saga of a little farmer and the mighty apparatus of state. "From their point of view," says a local journalist, "none of this would have happened if he had paid that bribe of Rs.2,000. He would have had no problem." But Mr. Madhiletti has little time for reflection. He has to fulfil his contract with an unsparing seed company.

The government is talking about financial help, irrigation facilities etc. to help farmers, given all that is happening (which has its own caveats), what about the implementation of these policies? There might be a government helpline, but if getting help is not easy, is it of any help?


neil said...

We need a functional anticorruption bureau and we need to advertise it along with every helpline, at every police station, post office and so on. We might also need an anticorruption, anticorruption bureau in few years..

confused said...


That is why less of government and more of private sector. That is why the current policies treating agriculture as the holy cow must go. They have only served to keep the farmers poor just like the other idiotic polcies we followed for so many years.

Just one example, not charging farmers for the electricity they consume- Whats better? User charges for electricity and uninterrupted supply or free ''power'' for 6 hours?

Purushottam said...

confused---yeah I agree the appeasement and vote gathering policies are not the way to go! I have read cases where farmers are ready to pay bills regulalry, but for lack of proper/regular implementation!
Having said that, I am not qualified enough to make a generalized statement on privatization or state control. I think in their present incarnation both have potential risks and problems. Privatization has the risk of monopoly and loss of public voice in policy decisions. Today, people can vote out governments if they dont get the promised irrigation canal, but once water is privatized this may not be possible! The state control on the other hand is rift with corruption, red-tape and outdated---a solution is to make it efficient and accountable---a difficult task nevertheless. Private participation may definitely increase competition and keep the government services on their toes and fill in the gaps where govt. sector cannot cover all expenses---a possible example might be the telecom sector, BSNL being as competetive as other private players!
A negative example (i can't think of one in India) is the water privatization effort oin Bolivia---where Bechtel declared that drawing water from wells belonging to individuals was illegal and increased the water charges to three-fold---they were eventually driven out through a people's movement, which is an interesting story. My point being, privatization is not the elixir for all problems!

Purushottam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Purushottam said...

neil---whatever it takes ACB or AACB, we need it pretty badly!

confused said...

I had followed the story in Bolvia, but you must understand that in a lot of these cases, its not privatization, it's building a monopoly-crony capitalism.

If there is competition and a free exercise then I think a lot of problems can be tackled.

On the other hand crony capitalism is even worse than socialsm because as you correctly pointed out-the people have no voice.


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