Aam aadmi! Political rhetoric or hat-trick?
Monsoon might play havoc and so spend more on agriculture!
Agriculture is the critical issue!
Yet, how many in the government know this? Or, you know who are all, in the government, sensitive to agriculture issues?

What new hopes for a new generation economic reforms? Pranab Mukerjee has played out his sleight of hand by announcing unbelievable spending spree as it were and being and becoming a reformer with not specifying anything.

So, where do the old-time reformers, namely, Prime Minister, P.Chidambaram and Montek Ahluwalia come in?  They are of course back in business. But then, some issues and questions, we dare say, are not business as usual, right?

To talk the rate of growth in the global meltdown looks a bit silly. May be that is one reason everyone is keeping mum. But then whoever advised Sonia Gandhi, she has no clue and she wanted to score a point and she wrote to the PM to provide food for everyone!
What an irony!

You talk of aam aadmi, you talk of inclusive growth and yet you all don’t bother to listen to what the aam aadmi has got to say of your governance.

The PM taking the cue, from the finance minister(who came along, as you know, in spite of the PM preferring Mr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia) wrote or let be known through the PMO publicly the FM must give a budget for the aam aadmi.

So, all these persons and individuals were playing to the gallery and they want to be seen by the public as the saviours of the common man!

Fine! No quarrel! But where is the common man in your scheme of things?
All the new young leaders, the young MPs from the Congress party are from the dynastic families and upper class and privileged backgrounds.

All these privileged youngsters are only inducted into the ministry. While the one or two from the ordinary social and economic background are pushed to the backbenches only.
While you have to see what Mr.Rajanath Singh, the BJP President, has said to the BJP young MPs?”You may not come from privileged backgrounds like those in the Congress, and yet you don’t worry, your time will come”!

This was rather moving, though Rajnath Singh doesn’t speak English or look pretentious!
PM, Sonia don’t receive visitors or reply to letters!

The Prime Minister doesn’t show any interest in interacting with the common man; the common people don’t seem to be in his radar.

He neither receives the ordinary citizens nor replies to their letters.
At least, the PM’s new media advisor must take note of this public visage and the perceptions of the PM and see some PR letters are at least gets written and publicised.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi too, they don’t seem to attend office. Nor they too seem reply to the letters from the party workers or even the party leaders from far and wide.
So, what sort of aam aadmi government this one is?

The senior Congress leaders, the traditional Congress families are sidelined and the new comers are everywhere, as ministers, busybodies, cricketers turned politicians, contractors-turned MPs and what not.
The PCCs are as good as non-functional. What sort of mass party is the Indian National Congress?

Now Mr.Mukerjee wants to put so much money in the hands of the aam aadmi and there have been criticisms in the media as to the wisdom and the viability of the spending spree.
This is populism running wild, unless checked in time.

Direct transfer of funds to the aam aadmi is never possible in India and for the valid reasons.
You must have the institutions and you must have vision and also commitment.

The Prime Minister and Mr.Ahluwalia are two economic experts. They must be knowing only too well that any big spending, as promised by the FM, would only lead to high consumption, wasteful expenditure and heavy leakages.

The first 100 days announcements seem to become a damp squib, considering the sudden silence that has descended on the ministries lately!

We thought the young turks, the young MPs who got the ministerial portfolios, would put Delhi and Yamuna on fire! No, they don’t seem to be any revolutionaries at all.

They seem to be very old type bourgeois characters. Much more dampening is the scene; they all seem to be standing behind the coat tails of the senior ministers!
Agriculture is the critical area where you can spend as much as you can.

You have to seriously revamp the rural co-op credit system. Vaidyanatham committee made some sensible recommendations. But you routed the debt waiver directly through the PSU banks. The results haven’t been altogether happy. Please learn from past mistakes.
Make agriculture viable!

Ask us, we will tell you how to go about it.
Don’t beat the bush; you need actual feedback from the rural hinterland.

There are IT tools and you can devise ways and monitor investments in irrigation, rural roads, rural housing and people would be encouraged to live and invest in farming and farm related economic activities.

Monsoon uncertainties needn’t trouble much. India has enough stocks and food security would be taken care of. Only you have to reward the farmers who have done us all proud.
Now, do you the real aaam aadmi? They are none else but the farmers and the farm hands.
So, reward them openly and in a transparent manner! Jai Hind!

Panchayat raj, urban municipal councils, metro cities councils are all feeling the pressures of economic development and urbanisation and migration of people.
So, you have to become more sensitive to complex issues.

The cosy relationship that seem to existing New Delhi, seems to us, very illusory and deceitful.
No democratic politics is sustained in this way. There has to be accountability on the part of everyone, from the top leaders to the ranks down the line.

There are so many morally unjustified arbitrary exercises of power and authority in the present system. No popular mandate without adhering to norms and transparent exercise of authority, with no fear or favour, is the way ahead.

Politics   never standstill. You don’t know what happens tomorrow.
So, please do your work, dont skirt your day’s duty!

You have to build another seven new Mumbai’s by the next 12 years!

There is a new urgency and a confidence among the ministers of the Prime Minister’s team. Every minister is supposed to announce their favourite targets.

The first to come and the first to withdraw   were Veerappa Moily and Kapil Sibal. The gay rights won partially from a high court verdict and Moily quietly withdrew. The new law will now come after deliberations and getting a consensus opinion. Kapil Sibal, the Sibal the sweet, smooth and smiling, also did the same, he announced the 10th exam as an option and once voices of dissent came from the states he fell silent.

As for the other ministers, it is Pranab Mukerjee who won the day, it seems. His all-populist, all-spending, no  investment and no reforms budget first invited acclaim as on cue from the supposed corporate faces and later, slowly now ,there seems skepticism seems setting in.
After all, how can a government can budget without taxes or investment strategies.
What Mukerjee has got by way of disinvestment and FDI on which his predecessors, the growth-mania men after all  rested on their laurels.

Now, you say everything will be worked out by consulting the stake-holders.
Who are the stake-holders, the biggest and the largest, except the poor, the farmers and the mass of villagers who just can’t live on your daily wages you have promised through your rural employment schemes.

You see, the supposed wiseman, that you need some plans, institutions and the road map to put your money. You can’t just stand in the open and throw away the funds, right?
You see the major schemes announced before and see what progress we have made.
The urban renewal mission, the JNNURM.

Simply, you are not able to spend the money! What an irony!

Kamalnath, the new minister for national highways wants to build 20 km of national highways everyday. What a fantastic target! It would be a miracle if he just achieves half the target.
Likewise other big ticket schemes.

Urban mission is  the real mission in all the big vision schemes, it seems.
You have to budget for an urban expansion the scale of which is mind-boggling.
India’s urban population is projected to go up by around 100 million in the next 12 years. That means what you know?

You have to build and create urban space and urban infrastructure facilities equivalent to at least seven new Mumbais! Is this possible at all?
That is the projections anyway.

Now, the allocations under the JNNURM the funds utilisation is a dismal record. Four of the seven years has run its course. Just about a third of the central funds are utilised. For instance, AP was allotted 2014.93 crores and yet on date AP had utilised only Rs.876.56 crores.Maharashtra:Rs.5048.65 crores, utilisation Rs.2214.58 crores. And so on.
After three years when the schemes seem to end ,only 32 out of 463 projects seem to likely to be completed.

There is a separate urban development ministry and the burden of making the ministry a success rests with a host of agencies and individuals.

JNNURM was started on Dec.3,2005,for seven years. With a total planned investment of Rs.one lakh crores.50 per cent of the funds is from the Centre, the states and the local bodies are to share the rest.

It is here we come up with the lack of knowledge and the vision needed to conceptualise and execute such a gigantic projects.

Under the UPA, be it I or II, there is complete lack of any imagination to lead the country on a systematic vision.

You are not leaders capable of taking your responsibilities seriously and with great sense of a mission.

You just have to visit the ministries, meet the ministers concerned, all smooth, silken-like environment, so many of the ideal heads nod everywhere you turn, you wait for more than a day in New Delhi(nobody bothers to take into the cost of living in the capital, after travelling, mostly by flight and put up on star-like hotel or guest houses)and these worthies make you take your job lightly.

Then, when the big worthy, the minister actually materialises before you, you just see all smiles and courtesies, the minister doesn’t even have the power to call the secretary or secretaries. There is a  well-understood and well-observed hierarchies within hierarchies and after the usual rounds, you return home and you have to forget to hear from the capital city!

There is(when the previous UPA was in office)bribe-giving and bribe taking ceremonies too!
If you are not a high corporate lobby man, it is small mercy if you can manage to passion the small sums quietly and come the next day to collect your signed papers!

So, what impressions you get from the Manmohan Sing II regime?

Radical change in the mindset because of the mandate? Or, the more strengthened hands of the bureaucrats? And for god’s sake, you also started giving extensions to the retired hands you have hired.

There is no fire and energy left out in the old hands.

The new government might have got the mandate of the people.

But what the mandate means unless you feel within your own inner conscience the reward came to you by the mercy of you being the humble servant of the court!

So, there is every reason to believe that most projects, be they the mega infrastructure or the small ones, all need to be driven through some well-structured institutions and there is always the PPP model, as far as we are concerned.

The local bodies, the panchayat raj and the states are not all the same.
There are good states, well-governened states and the ill-governed states.

After all, politics has become the big business, and to recall our Kamalnath, he realised that eh needs some 80 or odd very good contractors to execute his ambitious  schemes. But he finds there are only 28 such contractors and among them 12 are in fact the new MPs among them.
So Nath wonders: whether it helps the MPs to become contractors or being high profile contractors helps them to become MPs.

So, there is one more dimension to our MPs!
We have to of course identify and nurture and train and deploy high quality  contractors.
As we write the two major accidents at the Delhi Metro Railway has caused great dismay and the one contractor’s name that came up for adverse comment in the Delhi and the hyderabad, mishapes caused further dismay.

And to abolish the urban slums in the next five years?
That is another gigantic task, almost near-impossible task indeed.

One way to ease the pressure on the metros is to build and development more new cities and towns.

Yes, all great ideas are old ideas only.
We once talked of the satellite towns.

Why, even the rural housing schemes are as good as any and they cry for attention.
Every village, major and minor ones need extensions and new colonies. Rural roads are no less urgent and they too need good contractors. We see in some states the rural roads are quality-built ,in others the  quality id dismal.

When the roads and communications links are developed  half the development of rural India is achieved.

There is a great deal of new thinking on building urban infrastructure, running the urban management  councils and in a city like Bangalore many new innovative approaches were tried. The World Bank too came there and studied the urban governing councils and yes, there is the fund of knowledge and inputs from the World Bank how to go about the urban development  issues, urban transport, sanitation, waste disposal and pollution control etc.

It is all about leadership, vision and determination and motivation.

Let us hope the new ministers demonstrate their skills and show us the way forward.

Image Source : commons.wikimedia.org

A sweet revenge against his boss and rivals?
Is there any hidden agenda?

A hidden agenda could mean many things. It could be a hidden economic agenda or it could well be a political agenda as well.

However you interpret the agenda, the hidden meanings could take different hue and meanings and messages.

One thing you can’t miss about Pranab babu is that he is the veteran of the current government team. He is also the most consummately skilled politician around. More than anything else he is perhaps the greatest survivor.

He had come back to the finance ministry after 25 long years gap.
And remember how much he had been bruised and burnt out, how much humiliation he had undergone. Not anyone in his place would have shown his anger and disgust.
But Pranab babu’s rarest of the rare skills are the man is unflappable. He can’t be found out!

That is why he survived this minefield of Indian politics.

So, we can see that this time at least, soon after the elections results were  out when the Congress found itself on firmer  ground, when the party got near majority, we saw how real power plays out. Old friends were discarded, old enemies too were shown the doors, the Left became pariahs, Lalu dumped in the cold, even within the party itself we saw some strange ambitions showing their heads.

The Prime Minister became a bold bolder and asked for his man, Montek Ahluwalia, to be sent to his side as the new finance minister. This was a bit surprising to those in the inner circles. Who took courage one doesn’t know but for sure it was evident Mukerjee got his men around to rally  for him and the demand to make a politician the new finance minister became suddenly vocal. Even Sonia Gandhi had to fall in line and she became also vocal to state that no more non-politicians as ministers!

That is how Mukerjee found himself in the saddle and  this was his last bid for getting his due place in the hierarchy and though it was not the ultimate prize, the office of the Prime Ministership, given his new found clout in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee triumphed and the powerful Left humbled and along with this transformation of West Bengal as the new field for the coming  political  battle, Mukerjee must have been the natural successor to the Prime Ministership but that was not to be.

Was it Sonia’s renewed fear once more about the likely turnout or her otherwise lackluster advisers and confidants?

Anyway, Sonia opted for the duller face and though Manmohan Singh was given the job, it was Mukerjee in his new found legitimacy, to seek for a renewed path to new glory.

The budget in India has always been taken very seriously by the high and mighty, more so the corporate heavyweights and the media that Mukerjee finally decided, it looks from hindsight, that he must take some revenge.

Against his populist boss and rivals. Who the boss and who the rivals?
That should remain for now a mystery!
Mukerjee certainly took a bold gamble.

He gave up all norms and restrains one would normally associate with a many of his temperament and this time he decided to go down in history as the most populist of the populist leaders.

He didn’t care for Congress ideology. There is no ideology to be found in the budget. There is no economic ideology. Mukerjee chose to leave out what are economic reforms for the Congress party in the second avatar. Nor he cares for the budget making exercise norms. The highest deficit,6.8 per cent, the highest in the last two decades and also the lack of clarity, nay, no mention at all about the much-talked about high profile jargon about disinvestment or FDI or other reforms that were talked about for long and this time they were conspicuous by their absence from the budget speech.

And pray, what is his budget all about. Spend, spend more and continue to spend more!

Borrow, borrow and continue to borrow more, as much as a staggering Rs.4, 00,000 crores Borrow as much as a staggering from the market!

This is, to say the least, is very uncharacteristic of an experienced minister and a former finance minister and a senior leader as well.

And who need to be taught economics? Certainly not for a leader of his stature.
You can understand and take it or dismiss it, if it were persons like Manmohan Singh or P.Chidambaram presenting the budget. We know their mindset, their personality and traits.

Not Mukerjee.

He knows well or he must be the first person to know well that we are passing through a global melt down.USA is in deep crisis.

The US President Obama’s own economic adviser, on the very day when Mukerjee was interacting with the corporate leaders, was speaking in Singapore and she (Laura D’Andrea Tyson) said that the US, the world’s biggest and the most powerful economy, got a very heavy bailout, as much as 787 billion dollar stimulus package and yet it didn’t pull through and the US economy once again looks like a second possible prop up the economy. The US is losing jobs heavily and the American economy, says the US President’s adviser,” is in a far worse shape that the administration had estimated”. The US deficit is also ballooning, projected to 10% of the GDP.

Now, how wise we in India are as to believe, believe the Prime Minister of the Finance Minister as to stimulating growth of the economy by just spending the money on consumer items, rural wages on rural development works etc.

Unless the world economic situation improves and America comes round and stimulate the world economy, by boosting demand and thus helping us, India and other countries, to export and thus sustain our growth, how on earth, the Indian leaders, mostly the Congress leaders who in their euphoria of electoral success, just imagine that they have got the key to future economic growth roadmap.

Yes, the roadmap, the exact word the FM used to describe his forthcoming and as yet unspecified roadmap of economic reforms is yet to be discussed and debated.
Certainly, there would be differences of opinion within the party as well as outside in the country what the exact shape of the economic and political ideology the party would like to project itself before the expectant public.

It is here, perhaps, in the confusion that is the current nature of the Congress politics that Mukerjee might like to score a point or two, as the most populist of the populism-seeking Sonia or Singh!

Yes, in the future, immediately or longer after, a time may come when various parties, allies and enemies take their positions, Murkerjee might even then might look like the most radical of the politician, the more agreeable aam aadmi face of the Congress hierarchy.

Any politician’s secret desire is to capture the top post. How and why do we expect Mukerjee to be different, why you seek a martyr or a saint in him?

After all, Dr.Singh shown his tenacious hold on the post even after so much that has been said about his inappropriateness, his amorality in declaring he is from Assam etc.
So, in what way we expect Mukerjee to be different?

After all Sonia Gandhi might not be left with much choice in the future, in the near or mid-term. She might have to opt for Mukerjee when the chips are down, so to say.

So, beware that this time Mukerjee has the last laugh. He gave us the most populist, please-all aam aadmi budget. Thank you the finance minister!

Photo Courtesy : www.arf-asia.org

Deepak Parekh must be made the Planning commission chairman!
Narayanamurthy or Nandan Nilekani must reform the electoral system!

Deepak Parekh

Yes, the Manmohan Singh team is in place. That doesn’t mean that everything with the economy or the polity will go smooth.

Already we see the consonance and the dissonance!
The Presidential address to Parliament was full of the Women’ Bill. But the Prime Minister conveniently left out the topic.

Why?

There is resistance, no, differences in principles and vision, have cropped up among the prominent leaders of the Bihar and UP states. So too, very likely, the BJP might come out with its own analysis and opinion on the bill.

You see the women’s reservation is not a great issue anymore, given the healthy development that the new house has enough number of women MPs, rather very brilliantly representing the parties and the age groups. Wisdom demands that we give this natural progression a chance. There is the youngest 28 year old Ms Sangma giving the new age a great new dimension altogether.

It is the younger and the educated women group that holds good for the shape of the role of women in our society and polity.

This is for the polity. The CBI’s new activism in the NCP and the CPI (M) politicians’ cases smacks of bad timing and also gives rise to mental blocks being built before there is some articulation and crystalisation of the larger trends in politics being studied and absorbed by the major political parties.

Certainly, the timing is not right and the implication is that the government, read Dr.Singh and Sonia, is not as mature as one would have expected. It is advisable they go slow on issues that prick the opponents’ injured feelings and the bad results in the elections.
One hope better wisdom prevails and the duo, Dr.Singh and Sonia, don’t take the election results too seriously and start run around, so to say.

As for the economy, the PM is of course is a bit becoming more confident, his visage in parliament shows him a more confident man and he claims to take his second innings seriously. But to speak in per centages so quickly and that too in dissonent manner, one day he says it is 5-6 per cent growth, the next day he claims he is confident of even though 8-9 per cent growth.

Shall we call for a halt for this sort of academic jargon when people like to see some tangible and easy language of a leader or leaders?

We need a more detailed blueprint for the vital sectors. Industry, core and infrastructure industries, agriculture, education and the social sector.

This is not as easy as it looks.

While the all India voting pattern is for a faster economic growth, stronger India and a secular India, the BJP won in seven states, right?

So too the well-governance states too were voted back to power. Particularly, the success in Karnataka, Orissa and Bihar must be giving lots of thoughts and introspection for the Congress party.

Now, the allies in the new government, DMK and the Trinamul, are not going to lie low and they have already started making noises and it won’t be long before they really become nuisances as well!

So, certain crucial areas like disinvestment and other aam aadmi schemes are likely to be hijacked by other parties, regional parties and BJP ruled states.

Now, as for the economic reforms, we really need a new set of priorities and a new set of performers, implementors.

To have Montek Singh Ahluwalia as the deputy chairman is a bit of a disappointment.
The PM obviously has his own blinkers, if we can say so.

First, the PM wanted Ahluwalia as the FM. This was shot down by the party. The PM swallowed his pride and he yet chose to retain his friend in the planning commission.
Now speaking of the commission, it has now becoming a dumping ground for really useless people!

The previous commission amply demonstrated this dictum.

Now, again, what is the point of retaining tired people in the same jobs?
So, we need to bring some really refreshing new face.

As we write the news comes that the Satyam Computers had been pulled back to health and a healthy profit of Rs.181 crore net for the December 2008 quarter had cheered all the people concerned.

The man behind this fast pull-back is none other than the quiet genius, yes, he is a financial genius and wizard and he had done his assignment given by the government so well and so creditably and brought India a great name for reliability and sustainability and great credibility.
This much, Mr.Parekh said so in his interview on the NTDV Profit not long ago.
“I took up this assignment just to create the confidence in India for the investors abroad. I took up this assignment just to save India, save the IT sector which has emerged as the greatest earner of foreign exchange and as a greatest exporter.”

Further he said:” I and my team toiled hard for three months, I lost 90 days of my life in this endeavour just to demonstrate that Indians can do it and thus we have restored the confidence of the investors abroad”.

“I was in Netherlands recently and there and in Sweden and elsewhere they are keen to invest their pension funds and other funds only in India for them, the outside world believed that the future is in India!”

“India is a young country, they say, India has the largest 30 year age group, and I would say that India has everything for the younger generation and there is so much opportunity here for anyone to prosper”

“There is so much value hidden in the PSU companies, just NTPC, Oil India and the one or two top PSU companies can unlease their value in the market, their market cap is so huge that all the funds we want for financing our plan targets, the 11th Plan, can be found by a wise disinvestment process, without losing control over the same PSUs with 51 per cent of equity in those companies”.

I was inspired and I wanted to stand up and cheer this man, wise and spacious and highly committed to India and so selfless and not seeking any self publicity or other such temptations, temptations for which we ordinary mortals, the politicians and the bureaucrats in Delhi die for!

Yes, I would urge the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi to call this great genius, to head the planning commission and mobilise the funds in such large sums so that the economic reforms take off so smoothly and not talking the mumbo-jumbo of bureaucratise and the academic jargon-ridden numbers and phrases.

Please look for new faces.

Even the Electoral Reforms call for devising new IT tools so that people would be encouraged to vote from the comfort of their homes. The 41 per cent voter turns out in South Mumbai such a disgrace. Don’t blame the hapless voters. Reform the voting system. Call Narayanamurty or Nandan Nilekani to give advice.

Image Source: connect.in.com

What is his karma?
He can help electoral reforms? Help judicial reforms? Can help Parliamentary reforms?

Not the least help reform the Congress party!

There is much expectation from Rahul Gandhi after the recent elections which brought the Congress party to near absolute majority.

This happened after 20 years and at a time when Rahul Gandhi was entrusted to conduct the election campaign which he did wonderfully admirably.

So, the expectations from the younger Gandhi are too much.

There are also near unexpected challenges.

What expectations?

There is a great deal of frustration in the polity. In the administrative machinery.
One New Delhi-based columnist has recently listed the “India’s real problem or problems”. Here is the list.

One, “government machinery wholly ineffective”. Red tape tops the; list of reasons for this “comatose state” and is widely cited. The second reason is most extraordinary and appalling incompetence>the thrid, influence of business lobbies.

Then he goes into the details and we don’t want to cite all those details that are hard-hitting and at the same time a bit tiresome too!

One example the columnist cites is the website of the co-operative societies and the 64 items of information. He asks why sixty four only? He says that even the RBI site doesn’t have such number of information! And the site is not updated. Neither computer-savvy staff nor even computers. Joke?

No, this is serious business. This is how the Central government departments are functioning, the columnist points out!

As about competence, the very same knowledgeable columnist points out that wrong people get, stay there all their lives and also now, oh god, the PM has a tendency to give extensions, a whole lot of senior officials who must have been sent home, are retained!

Now, about the lobby power in Delhi, oh, a whole lot of new information can be dug out from Delhi corridors and from the five star hotels where these lobbies are headquartered!

The thinktanks, the lobbies are stationed in Delhi to enable the very obliging ministries to justify their decisions to help this corporate house or that!

One bureaucrat usually manages to get the usurpation of power!”Go to any one of them and you will find that all real power has been concentrated in the hands of just IAS officer!
“If he wants it, it gets done, if he doesn’t want it, some other officer insists that it be done, the fellow gets transferred, no matter how right he is”.

This is also when we went once to see a high profile minister who is now given a highly prestigious Cabinet minister again!

So, where do you turn? Where do you go from here? From this sort of official obduracy that is the name of a highly competent and of course very honest Prime Minister likes a man like Dr.Singh?

No way, no salvation whatever seems to be the helpless answer!

Then writes the same columnist:
“Our new Messiah, Rahul Gandhi is not likely to read this article. But may be if I mention something his father said, perhaps someone will send him a cutting. In 1986, Time magazine asked Rajiv Gandhi what he thought was the difference being a pilot and Prime Minister. Rajiv ruefully replied that when flying you pressed a button something happened, but in Government, you never knew what happened to your orders”.

The columnist concludes:
“He was wrong of course. We citizens know what happened. Someone takes a bribe. Does the job get done? May be, may be not. It depends on your karma”.
Let us hope Rahul Gandhi starts his long journey from here!

Image Source: newshopper.sulekha.com