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By SANGRAM PANDA, Bhubaneswar, Odisha

The announcement made by the chief minister does not qualify as packages. Labelling reform/policy change as packages to kick start the rural economy may get accolades but may not deliver the desired result. There is re-packaging too.

On the occasion of first anniversary of Naveen Patnaik’s fifth term in office, the chief minister announced a Rs.17000 crores package to provide employment and income generation opportunities to the worst affected sections, including the migrant workers, farmers, weavers, artisans and others. The package to kick start the rural economy is named as “special livelihood intervention plan”

The pandemic lockdown period has been a terrible time for Odisha. And for Naveen Patnaik, this has been the worst time of his long political career.

The factors are believed to be responsible for the economy to be in a deep negative pit — firstly it is the growth slipped, secondly fiscal deficit climbed and lastly core sector growth contracted under full lockdown.

Analysts, commentators and economists have looked at the stimulus package announced by the chief minister and debated whether the stimulus will have any impact on demand or growth. A dominant belief is that the package announced by the chief minister is a supply side intervention and even if it were to have an effect on demand it will be only after a considerable lag. Some are even opening that, this is neither supply nor demand side intervention but instead a “gift to the babudom”. The district administration decides who will be benefited and who will be not. The real beneficiaries will be the deprived ones. Because there is no agency to identify the real beneficiaries, the district authority is the only agency who decides. Our past experiences say the beauracarats always adopt a daily-dally procedure. What business houses /think tanks believe that what is needed to revive the demand is long term structural reforms. By definition, structural reforms mean policies that have not been in place, to date.

The decision of the state government to provide land for tourism and hotel project from IDCO’s land bank is important, even crucial but it is not a package. But to level the availability of a land bank is stretching the term.

All packages announced starting from agriculture, tourism, MGNREGS, skill development, handloom & handicrafts have their place their importance. Some are needed and some desperately. In a bid to bring the rural economy to track which is good. But as far as packages are announced, the state government to rethink its economic architecture, even ideology from first principles upwards.

The package for live and livelihood is more about packaging and repackaging  

Shelter is universally recognised as basic human need next only to food and clothing. Investment in housing accelerates the pace of development and has a high multiplier effect on income and employment. The “BIJU PAKA GHARA YOJANA” did not adequately address the specific concern of the rural area. This scheme is mere provision of four walls and roof but lacks the other essential elements of a productive society. A rural housing and habitat policy which is the head of the hour has been ignored.

Strengthening the Utkalika and Boyanika is good but what about the handicraft artisans. No clear spell out.

Aggressive steps should be taken to preserve the perishables like fruits and vegetables in a packaged form. Civil Society members, NGOs , residents welfare associations , religious organisations should be roped in for orderly and safe distribution of food which definitely will expand the demand base. Efforts should be made of compensating poultry cotton and maize farmers. PPP mode needs to be encouraged. Krushi Vigyan Kendra should be involved in strengthening the agriculture sector. Effort for better infrastructure, agrimarkets, godowns will help for revive agriculture and enhance rural economy. Building better chains for food supply will enhance the export competitiveness of agriculture and ensure a higher share for farmers.

The government has surely shown a willingness to walk the right path and deserves compliment. But before one celebrates it, let us wait for the fine point to come.

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