The overarching dominance of the Planning Commission and then the NITI Aayog have blurred the focus on regional development

The change in nature of markets has created several universes within its fold, so as to almost require an interpreter to talk from one segment to another. Yet in a country like India, all marketing instrumentalities, from hawking to internet communication, seem relevant. Their pertinence in the social segment in which they operate determines the robustness of that economy. Each segment has its own significance and it determines to a large extent the prosperity of the region where it operates. This economic growth is central to the community’s welfare because livelihoods depend on that. However, there remains a catch-22 situation as each marketing method in a socio-economic segment can and does evolve. Leaving it frozen at a given level is unwise for the overall well-being of that division. Nature, being what it is, will induce change and its own evolution does not need a policy decision. But this progression may be slow and may be excluding migrant segments of that given economic division from returning to it for their livelihood and with a level of comfort. Thus it is that remaining migrant groups are reluctant to go back to where they originated from and settle down where they have moved to. Thereby they almost delink themselves from the base community from which they emerged. Marketing methods are a major determinant of this process.

Just as it is difficult to visualise a so-called avant-garde marketing method in a remote village cluster which does not even have proper amenities for food and shelter, so also the marketing methods have to be at peace with lifestyles and communities. The catch-22 referred to above, can be worked out by resolving this dilemma. Instruments of change have to carry out the upgradation of the affected communities without disrupting their livelihoods. This requires thought and proactive designs of intervention. Unfortunately this is a perspective which many social interventionists seem to miss altogether. The crescendo of modernisation does not help the case of graduated and gradual change. People often mistake the toolkit for substance. In the course of participation in many planning processes, it becomes evident that the interventionist paradigm of the leader, especially if he is a powerful one, gets smoother endorsement with the powers that actually control that segment. The result is many square pegs in round holes. In view of the competitiveness, India is often seen to adopt a method which appears prima-facie acceptable but undoable with immediate effect in many contexts in which it is attempted.

India is not the only country where periodically such interventions have been attempted in different pockets. Turkey, under Kemal Ataturk, attempted mediations which were not confined to economics and livelihood but also covered social engineering, where the national leader attempted to catapult the country into European social norms from the more conventional Middle Eastern ones. In many cases these intrusions did not take root and created a self-defeating environment where social practices lapsed into the original mould from where the political intervention had sought to leverage the community. In-built levels and echelons of hierarchy which were going to be affected by the changes, fought hard against them. It would be useful to remind ourselves that in a country as large as ours, it is possible and even desirable to have a certain degree of economic modeling, common at a pan-India level. At the same time, the economic diversities are so large that regional models of development will have to be crafted, evolved and practiced. Work in that direction is yet to begin in earnest. The overarching dominance of the Planning Commission and subsequently the NITI Aayog, coupled with the penchant of continuously highlighting emotive issues like caste, religion and language, have blurred the focus on regional development. It is difficult to conceive how a river valley culture of say West Bengal could be the receptacle of the same kind of economic philosophy which would work in the woodlands of Mizoram. The limited ability of economists to visualise a sociogram good enough for our agro-climatic realities and the wealth of soil and land, had high prices to pay. It is true that there are literally millions of people below the poverty line but the definition of poverty line alone reflects an overarching emphasis on the monetised version of economic development. There are substantial parts of India where forest produces are the primary resource of livelihood and where the money economy has still to make its entry in a significant enough manner to affect and create social interventions which result in positive change.

A window on the whole process can be created by extensive fieldwork in trying to understand what it is that moves livelihoods in a given agro-climatic zone. The first step towards the initial documentation of the ground realities is to smoothen and strengthen the conventional process in a manner in which wastage is reduced, longevity of the products is increased and the awareness of its availability is universalised in a relevant social segment where it can be bought. Socio-economic engineering based on the fulcrum of the local productivity process can move the world quicker. The lever has to be the intention and the will to give this alternate economics, rooted in local conditions, a chance to prove itself.