The clock has turned full circle: rural distress is climbing once again.
Let us rewind to the year 2004. The National Democratic Alliance surprisingly lost the national election. The new alliance that took power that year was led by a rejuvenated Congress. The party believed it had won because the previous government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had ignored the rural areas. Manmohan Singh became the new prime minister. His speech to the nation on 15 August 2004 mentioned the need of a New Deal for rural India. The focus would be investments in irrigation, rural roads, electricity, primary education and agricultural infrastructure.
The actual strategy of his government over the next 10 years was quite different from what had been suggested initially. The United Progressive Alliance focused on policies that do not seem to have done much to free Indian farmers from the unending cycle of distress. Here are some elements of that failed strategy:a