Much ado about nothing?

Unchanging ground level realities!

Economic growth is not just a rate of growth of some dry statistics.  Not what P.Chidambaram or Ahluwalia or even by the PM’s own exposition itself! Economic growth is peoples’ growth; that is what the nation-builders told us.

Prime Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh seems to have become  more wiser and calmer as the days ran into months and  now the two years over and he is in the second half of the  hopefully five year term as Prime Minister. He, in these days doesn’t  seem to talk as much as before. He has become a man of few words and that too just to keep the “show going”. Lately, he has become more circumspect on more and more complicated matters (employment guarantee scheme (which is said to be kept in suspense till Dec. just to make a review. Also, the much-hyped Right to Information Act seems to have been kept in a sort of suspended animation with more States are unwilling to oblige the so-called citizens). Also, we don’t hear much of the basic schemes, be it health or urban plans, as more ministers are into pursuing their own goals.

All this has to be taken for those who have no other choice, no mind of their own! For those who have some brains there would be several questions nagging. Is it all so simple? This 8% to 10% growth? No one seems to be asking! May be the PM in his wisdom might have thought that such casual remarks are routine. One more item in the diary of the Prime Minister and by the time anyone thinks of asking any questions, the PM might have moved on to other subjects!

It was in this context, the much-talked about Cabinet reshuffle came about. What is great about this reshuffle? Nothing, except the PM would be without a crucial portfolio which kept him traveling a lot, he was away on foreign soil for about 25 days in three months and to that extent he kept himself away from the troubling issues, be it farmers’ suicides or other pressures like Naxalites of North East or even such sensitive issues like Telengana demand and so on. In so many ways the PM is a very lucky person indeed.

He needn’t trouble himself with party issues, no elections, his own “election” to the Raja Saba had expired long ago, and a Public Interest Litigation is pending in the apex court about his continuation as the Prime Minister. Also, he needn’t bother about doing any campaigning for the party nor he is allowed to do so, as it is being told in some quarters. His brief is clear, it seems. He has to keep the show going. The rest is handled elsewhere. It is in this context we have to see what benefit the country would derive by keeping the Dr. in the high office when we see the dire situation in which the country finds itself with the unprecedented import of wheat  and also the farmers suicides running unabated and the Prime Minister just harps on the theme of raising agriculture growth from 2% to 4% in the 11th Plan.

Not a word from the PM even when he deplores the lack of growth in the agri sector, he thinks it fit to mention the farmer’s tight situation! Nor he seems to be sharing his true feelings when deaths claim such a toll in the dengue and other diseases that are stalking the country. The true feelings of  Prime Minister have not to be kept hidden from public view or can they be shared and the burden of the people lightened a bit. We used to have such a soothing touch under the leadership of the older generation, be it Gandhiji and Nehruji. They used to share their minds, they used to unburden their minds and that is how they were able to galvanise the people into action.
 
Pandit Nehru used to visit Santiniketan every year in the late Fifties when I was a student there. In one public meeting he addressed in Bolpur, outside Santiniketan campus, I heard his stirring words. He said: “The outside world asks us “how will you, Indians, will develop India. You don’t have resources.. “ Then, Nehruji said with a firm voice “I tell all of these sceptics: We have a Five Year Plan! So, we will develop the country!”  Such were his stirring words. The world lived to see India emerge as a self-sufficient nation in food and in critical technologies, space, atomic energy etc.

Today, what we see? A sad thought indeed. We see the plight of India not to have leaders elected by the people. We see routine people, bureaucrats, and small men pretending to be leaders. We are being misled by a captive media to believe matters we know not true!
 
Yes, it is nation-building that is real and sustainable development of the country, its resources. The country must believe in what our current crop of leaders tell us. Let us not fool the people for long.  We need real action. Real strategy for growth. In the PM’s favourite phrase, inclusive growth.  In the UK in a different context in the cozy group of the rich and famous where none would bother to ask any uncomfortable questions, the PM held forth! The PM chose to use more colorful language.
 
Like Vajpayee before him, he spoke of  “India a shining miracle.”  “India as a country where unprecedented economic growth, combined with a massive programmed of  social justice,” he (the PM)set the tone for what he described as the “most far-reaching revolution of this century”. Sure, this was too much to stomach back in India! He knows well the very economic truth was propounding is just the reverse. The poverty declines just by 0.9 per cent since 1993, there are still, some 300 million below poverty. Agriculture continues to trouble with no real action in it with no interest from this government. So, the coming Assembly elections in some of the crucial States might reflect the rather poor performance of this government.
 
May be the needed policy changes might come with a new government. After all, the Vajpayee  government did achieve some credible progress, be it agri exports, building national highways and also raising India’s profile in the external world, including first just starting cultivating the US.

So, in a larger democracy of India’s stature, surely changes, one has to hope, would bring in the needed economic policy reforms. That is a nice way to conclude this rather gloomy column!

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