The continuous smog pollution which has enveloped Delhi — India’s showpiece national capital — for the past month since Diwali (October 27) and several cities of north India, is the natural outcome of post-independence India’s ill-advised adoption of the Soviet-inspired Centrally planned economic development model over half a century ago.
At the time of independence, agriculture had pride of place in India’s economy with 80 percent of the citizenry engaged in this sector, contributing 52 percent of GDP. Instead of according priority to agriculture and rural development as advised by Mahatma Gandhi, after his assassination in 1948 and the demise of Sardar Patel two years later, under prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the country undertook a great leap leftward to implement the Soviet-style heavy industry-led economic development model. Worse, the abrupt transformation of the largely agricultural Indian economy was spearheaded by newly established public sector enterprises (PSEs) led by business illiterate bureaucrats. The PSEs consumed mountains of resources to produce negligible if any, surpluses for investment in rural development, public education and health.
Post-independence India’s captains of private industry such as G.D. Birla, JRD Tata, Walchand Hirachand, Lala Shri Ram, Ambalal Sarabhai and Kasturbhai Lalbhai among others, who had established successful business conglomerates in the teeth of British opposition (and funded the freedom struggle) and could have generated re-investible surpluses and huge tax revenues for the Central and state governments, were demonised, vilified and bound up in red tape of Nehruvian licence-permit-quota raj. As a result, rural infrastructure was never built, the terms of trade between urban and rural India became increasingly adverse, and hundreds of millions of farmers remained mired in illiteracy and deep poverty.
In the circumstances, rural India’s ill-educated, historically neglected and financially stressed farming community whose archaic stubble-burning practices are contributing heavily to air pollution in metropolitan Delhi, have no time or sympathy for the suffering of residents of Delhi and other urban habitats because of air pollution.
Unsurprisingly, the Central and state governments of Punjab and Haryana which lavishly spend up to 20 percent of revenue on establishment expenses, and another 20-30 percent on unwarranted subsidies for the middle class, can’t afford to massively import specialised tractors which could be leased to farmers to convert farm stubble into fertiliser or marketable produce.
The pollution crisis of urban India is the natural outcome of the continuous neglect of rural India and establishment of hundreds of non-performing PSEs (including coal-fired thermal power plants) which have created a mutually antagonistic divide between urban India and rural Bharat.