( This is a conversation between Kisaan (a farmer) & Bhagwan (the God) captured from CCTV cameras in a secret operation)
Kisaan: Our Budget is fast approaching. What do you think will be our headlines? How will my life change? I am really excited.
Bhagwan: Doubling farmers income by 2022… ENam to revolutionise agri markets… Crop insurance for all farmers… Don’t these make such great headlines? Did they really change your life in the past? We have abundant headlines. They bring in positive vibe into our thoughts and environment.
But a lot of political headlines don’t answer the question “How well do we implement them”?
Kisaan: With 2019 elections in mind, will the Budget 2018 not have ‘Baap of buzz words’ that make news for a long time?
Bhagwan: It is unwise if we don’t expect that from our Prime Minister who is a master at dream selling.
With electoral loss in rural Gujarat, farmers can expect more headlines. The question today is will they just make news or will they really change ground realities?
Kisaan: I wanted to ask you questions expecting answers from you. You seem to be in questioning mode, Bhagwan!
Bhagwan: Aah… that’s true. Staying close to the farmers’ lives in their heart, I can confidently say that none of the so-called ‘farmer focused schemes’ really changed their lives substantially. On paper, they are life-changing ideas and technologies. The problem is in translating those dreams into realities. The need of the hour is a dramatically new way to ensure implementation of budget plans and give an account of the real progress to people of the country using a transparent mechanism.
Unfortunately, this is not as romantic as a headline, but this is THE NEED OF THE HOUR. Big picture vision is good, but India historically suffered from poor implementation of plans. I am tired of seeing this.
Kisaan: Why do our plans not become realities with close to one lakh field extension teams?
Bhagwan: Farmer should be at the heart of such implementation plans.
But, where are we today? Most of the government plans are implemented by extension department.
Generally, these resources are used for training, data collection, scheme distribution, awareness and a host of other government works.
Fundamentally, they do not have focus and sense of urgency, given their multiple priorities.
Secondly, while quantitative data about implementation may be available with moderate accuracy, qualitative aspects such as timeliness and effectiveness are not available.
Kisaan: But isn’t having electronic markets and Fasal Bhima Yojana great? I haven’t seen them working yet, but what are other farmers saying about that?
Bhagwan: ENam is another great example of life-changing idea with ineffective implementation. Audacious goal should be backed by implementation rigour. It benefits traders more than farmers. On Fasal Bhima, you need data collection for insurance. A government extension worker may have minimal motivation to do it right and fast because her salary check is not dependent on her work.
On the other hand, if there is a private enterprise, whose only work is insurance extension, then more focused work can happen and farmers can be indemnified for their loss.
Similarly, for distributing information regarding government schemes and plan, there is a high probability that the influential members in the village get to know about it before others.
Democratisation of such information is mandatory! Private sector can plan a lead role even here. We need to learn from Africa focused organisations like One Acre Fund, MyAgro and Pula.
Kisaan: Got it. How can they be fixed? Can farmers like me ever see a better day?
Bhagwan: This Budget should acknowledge and welcome greater participation of private sector. Also, lateral hiring of private sector professionals in government is valuable.
We saw the magic of private sector role in infrastructure, aviation, telecommunications etc.
This by no means is to down play the work of government officials. They can now act more like facilitators.
Kisaan: Reliance Jio is an example of great idea + decent implementation.. what say?
Bhagwan: Absolutely! Good ideas coupled with great implementation can do the magic. We saw that in Jio. GST is a great example of a good idea with poor and inconvenient implementation.
Bad implementation of good ideas hurts people more than good implementation of bad ideas.
The writer is the cofounder of Kheyti and CosmosGreen, farmer focussed companies. He is an Acumen fellow & AspenNewVoicesFellow