History is full of epics where small armies had knocked down bigger forces due to their meticulous strategies. Whether we talk about the tale of Goliath and David (in Bible), the battle of Panipat (fought in 1526), the battle of Saragarhi (1897) or the battle of Longewala (1971), all these remind us how well thought-out planning helped the smaller armies to successfully confront bigger adversaries.
Looking into the battle of Longewala, it was a tiny army of 120 brave men which defeated Pakistan’s 1/51 Mobile Infantry Brigade, having 2000 soldiers and 50 tanks. Major Chandpuri on December 4, 1971 decided to hold on to the Longewala post till reinforcement came (the next morning) with a comprehensive defense arrangement. Running out of time, his men covered the post with barbed wire to deceive the opposition into believing that there are landmines implanted to tackle their tanks. Then taking advantage of the height of the sand dunes, the Indian army opened fire with a sole anti-tank gun and engaged Pakistan’s army till the next morning. This engagement ended the next morning when Indian air force jets crushed the Pakistani army.
Delhi’s development model
A tiny brigade of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal encountered and defeated the huge larmy of the BJP that conducted more than 6500 public meetings, road shows and rallies held by none less than the Indian Prime Minister and other important leaders. A focused strategy of Kejriwal weaved around free water, subsidised electricity, remodelled education in Delhi’s government schools and mohalla clinics overpowered the pseudo-nationalism and divisive politics of the BJP.
Understanding the local issues and problems that a common man confronts in Delhi, Kejriwal and his team smartly planned the allocation of resources. Team Kejriwal assessed that Delhi being a metropolitan city, unemployment and housing were not that big issues as compared to the national level. Generally, a person migrates to a metropolitan only when he is confident that he has a space to work and also to live. Hence, instead of drawing massive schemes with limited reach, they knitted their welfare schemes in such a way that they may directly render an increase in disposable incomes and savings. Further, to zero down the possibility of corruption pertaining to the selection of beneficiaries (through bureaucratic measures), they brought everyone under the direct ambit of targeted subsidies. This successful governance model has opened up a new dimension in Indian politics.
It’s not that direct payment of subsidies to the beneficiaries is a first attempt of its kind. Earlier too, state governments of Telangana and Odisha brought out schemes like Rythu Bandhu and Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) respectively, wherein unconditional cash transfers were made directly into the accounts of almost all native agricultural households. Even the PM-Kisan scheme has drawn heavily from these schemes. But these schemes are now failing owing to the financial crunch with which the governments are grappling. Since Delhi is not a full state, and its expenditures are also shared with the central government, its development model is sustaining properly.
Lessons for Punjab
Punjab, which is in a dire financial mess, needs to take a lesson from Delhi’s governance model. Instead of sticking around with the orthodox development pattern that hinges around free farm power, fake allocation of freebies to selected sections of the society with rampant corruption and half-hearted waiving of farm debts, the state government in its next budget(s) needs to come up with a self-sustaining innovative development plan. The central government has already shown its intentions of discontinuing minimum support price to the farmers. In light of this, supporting Punjab’s ailing agriculture through free power makes no logic. Where on one hand, power subsidy takes a toll on the exchequer (`9000 crore per year) on the other hand, it promotes the cultivation of water guzzling crops thereby depleting the underground water table.
A two-pronged strategy needs to be devised. The amount saved by withdrawing power subsidy should be spent on the development of agro-processing industries and on incentivising the farmers who move away from the cultivation of water guzzling crops. Development of agro-processing industries can help to offload the agricultural sector in terms of employment, and at the same time, it can offer better export prospects of processed agro-produce.
It was highlighted in the central Budget that horticulture produce is overtaking food crop production - but there is hardly any policy related to the handling of horticultural produce.
The Punjab government can take a lead in this area by framing a suitable policy that encourages growing, storing, marketing and exporting of selected horticultural crops grown in the state. Identification and development of districts capable of handling a particular horticultural crop should be carried out immediately. Further, under the phytosanitary measures adopted by the European countries in particular, such alternatives should be made that for each horticultural product, climate controlled silos/wagons of Kisan Rail are established that fortifies the possibility of export of even the unprocessed produce. By allocating more funds, the Punjab government can also take a lead in devising a policy related to the grading of food crops. So far, only the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India is entrusted with the task of framing regulations and establishing standards for the processed and packed food items.
The centre-state relations are expected to undergo turbulence in coming months owing to the non-fulfilment of financial obligations by the central government. Hence the state government needs to come out of complacency and develop a sustainable policy which may prove to be a win-win proposition for all.
Dr. Rajiv Khosla is Associate Professor, DAV Institute of Management, Chandigarh
[The views expressed here are personal and don’t reflect those of the government]