Raghav’s Take: Chance for PM-Farmer Thaw; Politics Mimics Internet

The Quint’s Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on recent pertinent developments.

4 min read
From the Government increasing MSP for Kharif Paddy crop to how Indian politics is now mimicking the Internet, The Quint’s Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on some recent, and pertinent, developments.

From the government increasing MSP for Kharif paddy crop to how Indian politics is now mimicking the Internet, The Quint's Editor-in-Chief Raghav Bahl shares his views on some recent pertinent developments.

Govt Increases MSP for Kharif Paddy Crop: Chance for PM to Reach Out to Farmers?

The Modi government has increased the MSP for the Kharif paddy crop by a reasonably attractive Rs 72/quintal, which in percentage terms is higher than what was done last year.

While the logic of agricultural economics must have dictated this, I am sure the government has also done an “embedded” political outreach to protesting farmers.

This is a welcome initiative, especially after the direct payment of mandi sales into farmers’ bank accounts in Punjab and Haryana, bypassing the “arthiyas”. Farmers are known to have been pleased with the prompt and hassle-free direct payment model, although the ferocity of their anti-farm-laws agitation overrode any visible expression of gratitude. But what it could have done is created a tiny bit of goodwill where earlier there was implacable hostility.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must seize the initiative now, and reach out directly to protesting farmers saying “look, I’ve increased MSP, made procedural improvements, and also offered to put the laws in abeyance for 3 years. Please trust me now when I assure you that our talks will be held without pre-conditions and with an open mind. So do suspend your protest, evacuate the morchas, and come to the table. I will personally monitor the progress of your discussions”.

I am sure there will be a thaw – PROVIDED the message goes directly from the PM and not any other functionary.


‘Network Effect’: How Indian Politics is Mimicking the Internet

Indian politics is now mimicking the Internet. How? Both are subject to the “network effect” and concentration of resources in the hands of “the winner who takes it all”.

Yes, you’ve guessed it right. I am talking about the astonishing amounts of money raised by political parties.

The BJP has outpointed the Congress over 5 to 1, raising Rs 750 crore versus Rs 139 crore by Congress. If I were to toss an objective criteria at you, the BJP’s national vote share, at 38 percent, is twice Congress’s at 19 percent – so, even if allowance is made for the benefit that comes from “being more in power than your principal opponent”, a ratio of 3:1 would be understandable.

But 5:1, when the anonymous electoral bonds, which go almost 90 percent towards the BJP, are yet to be counted, means the BJP is enjoying the “network effects” that Google, Facebook, Amazon, and AirBnB have championed on the Internet, ie obliterate your opponents and “take it all”.

But there is one curious “exception” that perhaps proves the rule – Sharad Pawar’s NCP. This tiny political outfit has raised nearly half the cash the “relatively mighty” Congress has. Remarkable. In Internet terminology, the NCP is akin to a digital guerrilla, say Snapchat!

But, Hey, Why Are Educational Institutions Making Donations to BJP?

Staying with these political donations, I found something utterly distasteful, even ugly, in the data.

Several educational institutions have made political donations to the BJP. Why, pray, should Mewar University give Rs 2 crore to a political party? Shouldn’t it be instituting scholarships for socially/economically disadvantaged students instead? Even GD Goenka International School and Little Hearts Convent – why, WHY, has money that should be spent on students been diverted to paint questionable slogans/graffiti?

Frankly, I would expect the RSS bosses to advise the BJP leadership to return this money to these educational institutions, instructing them to set up a scholarship fund with it.


Is the Govt Trying to Get Vaccines Cheap With a 'Paisa Wise, Rupee Foolish' Policy?

An unusual monopolist-vs-monopolist price negotiation is going on, where the Government of India is trying to extract the best price for vaccine purchases from SII and Bharat Biotech.

Under ordinary circumstances, there would perhaps be no need for regulatory oversight, since both parties at the table have equal monopoly power. But in this instance, the government can use coercive power created by the pandemic to make it an unequal negotiation.

From various accounts, the government could be trying to suppress prices unconscionably, trying to buy really cheap, perhaps at Rs 150/dose, which the suppliers had given as a one-time, opening concession. But this could be a “paisa wise, rupee foolish” policy.

Unless the vaccine producers are making a viable return on their investment, they will not scale up production, which would be tragic. So, the government must give up the temptation to squeeze prices so low that it can play to the gallery saying “see, we’ve really tamped down these bu@@ers”. Instead of such crowing, India would be better served if the manufacturers can multiply production manifold even as the government pays a tad more for vaccines.

Centre Should Give Kejriwal's ‘Doorstep’ Ration Delivery Idea a Shot

Unfortunately, the face-offs between the central and Kejriwal governments have always had a “spy vs spy” nastiness about them.

The latest is about Kejriwal’s desire to supply ration food grain directly to the doorsteps of beneficiaries (a la Big Basket, Reliance Fresh, or Amazon) while the central government wants to stay with the traditional distribution channel of fair price shops. Both are trying to score unnecessary brownie points.

The fact is that it’s an interesting “experiment”, which should be tried out on a pilot scale. If it fails, fine, it was worth an attempt. If it succeeds, it could radically improve the design of our welfare programs. So it’s time to give up the tu-tu-main-main in favour of our poor people and move forward with the pilot program under professional oversight.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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