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Economic Survey 2021: No fresh ideas for the livelihood or income growth

Perhaps the most radical prescription in the Survey is a call for a “paradigm shift” in how agriculture is viewed – as a modern business enterprise rather than as a rural livelihood sector.

January 29, 2021 / 08:38 PM IST
Representative image: AP

Representative image: AP

If one expected fresh ideas or new thinking from the Economic Survey on how income levels of people at the bottom of the pyramid can be improved, there weren’t any. People at the bottom of the pyramid in both rural and urban areas were most hurt by the lockdown. They suffered income losses, used up savings for basic expenditure, ran up debt and even suffered homelessness.

Perhaps the most radical prescription in the Survey was a call for a “paradigm shift” in how agriculture is viewed – as a modern business enterprise rather than as a rural livelihood sector.

The Survey expected the government to continue with its fiscal expansionary stance, implying that enhanced spending announced in 2020-21 will be maintained for several schemes and programmes in the next year. This will include spending on education, healthcare, employment generation and other such programmes in the social sector, all of which are necessary to sustain growth in the medium term. The economy is projected to expand 11 percent in the next fiscal after the 7.7 percent contraction in the current one.

The Survey has mostly reiterated the measures that are widely recognised as essential to lift the rural economy, expand production and productivity and increase incomes of almost 50 percent of the country’s workforce that live in villages and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihood but no new ideas were given for increasing incomes of the poor.

While calling for agriculture to be viewed as a modern business enterprise, the Survey has said investments are required in farm-gate infrastructure to reduce post-harvest losses and increase farmers’ income. Measures recommended for the agriculture sector include setting up of village-level procurement centres, linkages between production and processing, development of rural markets dedicated freight corridors, upgradation of warehouses and the option to sell outside the APMC markets. “Adequate storage and remunerative markets for agricultural products should be the main focus of post-production management,” the Survey said.

Such investments are long overdue as it has a multiplier effect of farm incomes and reduces the need for mass migration to urban areas for low-paid unskilled work.

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Tina Edwin is a senior financial journalist based in New Delhi.
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