The Planning Commission has given way to National Institution for Transforming India Aayog or NITI Aayog in Modi's India. Some are happy, and many are angry. One is ambivalent, but if NITI Aayog does one thing that will transform India, I may still turn favourable towards this government.
From the early 60s to mid 70s—one does not know about before or after that—students of class 3 onward had a chapter on India's Five Year Plans as part of social studies. And the overenthusiastic students did some reference work in the school library, and read up actual parts of the plan documents. In the chapter on agriculture in the First Five Year Plan, there was a phrase that described it thus: “Indian agriculture is a gambol in the monsoon”. The reference took me to the OED, for, while I know what gamble was, gambol was a new word. It was such an apt word. It means frolicking in the rains—dancing, jumping and hopping—when monsoon showers end a humid spell and make for floating paper boats in streams of water outside. It was, in fact, the word that made the students understand that agriculture was like playing in the rains. Fun. Occasional. In younger days, monsoon was not really about garam chai and crisp pakodas. So, Indian agriculture was, then, not a serious economic activity, though ours was an agrarian nation and India was indeed Bharat—a rural country.
Then came the chapter on agriculture in the Second Five Year Plan. “Indian agriculture is a gambol in the monsoon”. Happy to have found a flaw, I made a mental note, to point this out to the teacher. It was the same when I read up the Third Five Year Plan. The teacher was happy, I had noticed it, but she explained that it was not a writing or printing mistake. For the condition of Indian agriculture was not dependent on monsoons, that it was just like playing in brief, seasonal rains.
Somewhere along the line, there was news that the government was planning a “garland canal”, also called Ganga Kaveri link. There were suggestions that the regular floods along the mighty Brahmaputra could be fought by channelling the excess waters into canals, making for water for the dry areas. T.A. Pai, a minister of the yore, had even suggested that it was easily doable, with every Indian having to pay no more than a rupee.
We still have floods and droughts crazily upsetting lives, playing havoc with agriculture and economy. The prime minister counts a good monsoon as a matter of luck. A bad one is seen as the curse of Indra. Inter-state water disputes are not uncommon. That fabulous scheme of canals criss-crossing the entire country is not even talked about. Just as well five year plans are gone, for they will not say that Indian agriculture is a gambol in the monsoons.
Rate cut will depend on the rains. That is what the RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan said a day after Baisakhi—the harvest festival. Clearly, Yojana Bhavan may become NITI Aayog Bhawan, but some things about our economy will remain unchanged.