“Comment is free.....but facts are sacred”.
- C P Scott, 1921, Editor, The Guardian
In a previous blog I have spoken how India needs to travel quite a distance to take out the country’s economy from the stage it is in. We have also examined how the financial years 2014-15 and 2015-16 could give some healing touch to the economy – that was left almost bleeding by illustrious Dr Manmohan Singh’s “progressive” regime.
But on the eve of the Budget session of Parliament every year a lot of speculation goes down the lane, so early days of February 2016 is no exception either.
The Modi government - notwithstanding its pledge of playing a harbinger of ‘good days’—acchey din - in effect had inherited an economy whose GDP had grown by sub 5% for two years in a row. Mining and quarrying sectors had gained a negative growth trend while the general negative sentiment against a perceived corrupt and ‘indecisive’ regime of Congress-led UPA had affected all key sectors -manufacturing trade, tourism, transport, agriculture and hotel.
A white paper from the National Highway Authority of India in July-August 2014 had only presented a gloomy picture of road scene — the basic infrastructures requirement.
"It will not be incorrect to say that the actions of Dept of Financial Services and ministry of Environment and Forests brought the entire road sector to its knees,” the White Paper has said. Worst of all was the cascading impact on the job market.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted aide and the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley thus has a job cut out.
To be Finance Minister of India – that too under Modi whom people want to deliver but would create as many hurdles as possible - is similar to crossing a flood-hit river standing on a crocodile’s back.
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Things have become more complex from the government point of view because FM Jaitley is a cool, calculative and hence a status-quoist customer. He wants to play safe and also ambitious. Will it be wrong to presume Jaitley harbours further career growth in his life?
Thus on such backdrop can someone like Jaitley take a few risks to correct the economy?
Notwithstanding the impression being created by anti-Modi brigade that nothing has worked in India ever since Sonia-Rahul duo lost “power”, things have happened positively and foreign investors had taken optimistic notes of the same.
“When Modi assumed office in 2014, one of his first acts was to axe the planning commission, which was in the midst of designing India’s 12th five-year plan (2012-2017). He replaced it with the National Institute for Transforming India, by first co-opting state governments to join the “re-imagining India” process. But its (Modi government’s) most remarkable innovation was to rethink development as a bottom-up drive for changing India through innovation and entrepreneurship,” writes Andrew Sheng in ‘South China Morning Post’.
Here lies a few catch about Indians and the state of Indian economy.
We Indians have inherent abhorrence of ‘innovation’ or out-of-box approach! Some Indian communities are given to preferring ‘business’ and entrepreneurship (like Marwaris in Rajasthan and Gujaratis of Narendra Modi) but my own people like Bengalis and the people I grew with – the northeastern people – have dislike for hard work. Worse for us, among Bengalis, the word ‘Byabsha (business)’ has a negative connotation.
In general India is a country of service sector and assured jobs – preferably government and PSUs – where DA and increment is not linked to performance – where excuses to go for tea-breaks is equivalent to EFFICIENCY.
As a result we want the country to progress where our and our kin’s contribution is minimum. Safe and assured government jobs and extra perks like railway travel concessions and free health check up facilities (from government exchequer) are considered a higher stage of civilization. Therefore, we want the economy to boom and regimes like Modi to deliver --- whereas any corruption charge against a particular dynasty will be linked to communal agenda of the Hindutva forces.
Now coming to the economics per se! It’s not a hard science and therefore a mathematical model of 2-plus-2 may not work. Economy is to be understood by linking it to people.
It was well understood even during the freedom struggle. It goes to the credit of illustrious Dadabhai Naoroji who first linked country’s economy and poverty to freedom struggle and a special subject of his life.
He was not alone. They interpreted – and did so quite convincingly – that the essence of British imperialism was in the “subordination” of Indian economy. According to highly acclaimed ‘India’s struggle for Independence’ (edited among others by Bipan Chandra), India’s freedom fighters “advocated the severance of India’s economic subservience to Britain in every sphere of life” to leading the country towards independence.
Surendranath Banerjea, the founder of Indian National Association (which later became Indian National Congress and was hijacked by the next generation leaders), had gone to extent of describing commercial and industrial activity in the country (those days) as “a bond of very strong union and mighty factor in the formation of great Indian nation”.
Bring the clock back to circa 2016. If we Indians want development and our economy take a north bound graph, we need to understand certain essential facts.
First, an elected government in office deserves time and cooperation of the political system and political parties. The role of political cooperation would be more relevant in our parliamentary system where the Modi government does not have requisite numbers in Rajya Sabha.
But needless to add, the “pious dynasty” and the Congress party are not interested in national interest and hence look for excuses to sabotage parliament sessions. This is a gamble and hopefully people of India would do well to pay off the Congress party.
Apparently the ‘vocal tolerance brigade’ of India is selfishly ignoring Pakistan’s ‘intolerance’. The “patriot Khan-bros of Bollywood” are now on corrective course – perhaps - looking for opportunities to correct their statements about ‘intolerant India’.
One Khan has said he no longer wishes to run away from India – for more than 15 days!! Have his films flopped post the sickular-statement?
For a change, Rahul Gandhi can take a few lessons of realizing the mistakes from the ‘3 Idiots’ hero! Better late than never, as they put it.