615 farmers have committed suicide in Vidarbha, Maharashtra since June 2005 and with 7 more farmers committing suicide in the last 2 days, the situation does not seem to improve. Though the Prime Ministers announcement of 3750 crore fund may be welcomed by some, Kaustabh Devale, economist with Greenearth Consulting, who recently went on a padayatra through the interiors of rural Maharashtra, says, such packages are not going to help as they do not address the core issues — timely credit, absence of irrigation and good quality inputs or the debt trap. There has been so much of pressure to do something, so the government wants to be seen to be doing something. The conditions of farmers of a country which has 65% of its citizens employed in agriculture is a direct indication of the condition of the majority of people. A direct consequence of this has been the growing number of naxalites and the widening of the rural-urban economic divide which results in threat to internal security and ultimately a threat to the sovereignity of the country. The problem cannot be solved by allocation of funds as is being done presently, but by understanding the major problems like short reach of institutional credit, poor irrigation faccilities, infrastruture, middlemen which finally add up to increase the cost of agriculture.
The solution to most of these problems could be the introduction of e-chaupal and e-governance, which may remove middlemen, bring trasparency, automatically icorporate the right to information, bring speed and be a massive threat to red tapism and result in far better rural conditions. The billions of dollars worth software industry should look towards the rural sector for their next target problems. It pains to say that as the contribution of the over all knowledge led businesses to the GDP has grown, their contribution towards making a common mans life easier has been not too noteworthy. I can recall reading about Sam Ptroda and his phenomenal work of setting up the telecom network but besides that there has not been even any hint of a technical revolution. Of course for talk sake, one can consider the work of ITC in e-chapual but that is as I said only for mentioning sake. Only some of the academias of this country are giving some considerations to commence research in these fields. The work of the Tenet group by Dr Ashok Jhunjhunwala IIT-M and the national innovation foundation and Sristi by Dr Anil K Gupta IIM -A come to mind.
IT minister Maran unveiled 26 projects in e govenance in mid June which would cost the government some thousands of crores Rs. What the government should understand is that these academias are the mammoth sources of making a major contribution to this country. The government can tap the talent early (before it realises its talent and the country loses this talent) by offering them such projects and in turn also saving huge tax payers money. It would be great to see the youth of this country working to solve the problems that this country actually faces rather than fixing bugs in security and databases of other companies. The future is a knowledge led society and if we think we can get to it by utilizing Web 2.0 for creating innovative ways to share pictures, we are missing the aim by a mile.