I STILL remember the time when mobile phones first arrived in India. A bulky Sony Ericsson phone costing around Rs 10,000 was a popular cellphone choice. A decade later you could own a mobile phone by just spending Rs 500. Compare this to the prices of food items - flour costs around Rs 15 per kg and normal rice around Rs 20 per kg. Mind you these are essential commodities. The Rs 20 threshold for poverty (Below Poverty Line, BPL) in urban India looks like a joke under these circumstances. What will the poor eat if only the Planning Commission can tell!
The quality of Indian middle-class (the largest block) is improving thanks to globalization and technology. All this has come at a price though. Rapid urbanization is reducing the cultivable land in India. The land owners see easy and big money by selling land to property developers than earning through agriculture. The poor farmers are the worst sufferers. With no land most turn to other professions in order to feed their families.
Agriculture, which employs the maximum Indians, continues to depend on both mother nature and powerful land owners. No wonder the farmers are flocking bigger cities for better livelihood. Weak government policies also contribute to farmers seeking better future elsewhere for their kids.
One one hand the population is exploding and on the other hand agricultural land is shrinking. Farmer suicides is an outcome of all this imbalance. In Bundelkhand alone, some 519 farmers committed suicide during the last five months. Although the centre announced a generous Rs 7000 crore package to end this but the money rarely reaches them in full and on time.
The farmers are fighting a losing battle today. Unless we as responsible citizens of India back their cause, the future looks grim for all of us. I won't be surprised if in a few years the cost of owning a mobile phone is cheaper than a kilogram of rice. That alone should serve as an eye opener.