Unprecedented farmer protests in India may cause political problems: UN

NEW DELHI: The unprecedented farmer protests recently seen in India may turn into a political problem, the United Nations warned in its latest World Social Report titled “Reconsidering Rural Development”.

“Several recent events have highlighted the importance of rethinking current rural development strategies. Unprecedented farmer protests, such as the one seen recently in India, and the resentment of rural populations towards national authorities, as seen in many other countries, show that rural neglect agricultural policy can widen the rural-urban divide into a political problem, ”the report says.

The report calls for a reconsideration of rural development in the era of the pandemic, aimed at ending the rural-urban divide and better protecting the health of the planet. It calls for renewed attention to “in situ urbanization” as a model of rural development that can both raise the standard of living of rural populations and alleviate urban problems. since the access of rural households is generally half that of urban areas.

Antonio Guterres, United Nations secretary general writing the report’s foreword, said the covid-19 pandemic has caused immense suffering around the world; and made it even more difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

“Through response and recovery efforts, however, there are opportunities to build a greener, more inclusive and resilient future. The pandemic experience has shown, for example, that where high quality internet connectivity is combined with flexible working arrangements, many jobs traditionally considered urban can also be done in rural areas, ”said Guterres. .

The report says that the experience of the Green Revolution in the 1960s in India and several other developing countries showed how agricultural productivity growth can play a self-sustaining and catalytic role in stimulating national development. “Rural development must therefore be seen as a central element of a sustainable development process, rather than as an appendage of urban industrial development,” he added.

The structure of the rural economy in India has changed dramatically over the past decades, with annual growth in rural non-farm employment outpacing growth in agricultural employment. The rural non-farm sector now accounts for 40% of all rural employment, increasing off-farm income opportunities and economic mobility. Yet agriculture remains the main sector of employment and India’s rural labor force remains predominantly active in agriculture.

The report says that although rural India is home to 65% of the country’s total population, it has experienced a steady decline in the percentage of people living in extreme poverty over the past two decades, the Gini coefficient of Rural income inequality has increased over the same period. period.

“Income inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient fell from 30.7 in 1983 to 42.7 in 2009 in the village. Caste-based income inequality plays a limited role in this increase. Instead, more than two-thirds of overall income inequality in 2009 can be attributed to the distribution of non-farm income. In other words, increasing off-farm income has reduced poverty and increased mobility, slowly removing long-standing barriers to mobility among poorer segments of rural society in India, but it has also increased income inequalities in the village, “he added.

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