Our economic reforms must have a cohesive economic philosophy
The government machinery must act pro-actively to solve the many problems
We seem to be living through a very strange phase of our national life. We have leaders, in high offices and others as party leaders. Yet, we seem to be witnessing more routine attendance to offices, as if running the country is just one more bureaucratic existence! The President, Prime Minister and other leaders are of course discharging their duties. But it looks they do this without even bothering just to look outside their windows!
The Cabinet ministers downwards don’t even go around the country. Of course, we have learnt not to resign from our high offices on any moral ground, be it a railway accident or serious miscarriage of justice leads to a hue and cry in the media and after a retrial the same acquitted ones get life terms! Yet, no one seems to take responsibility why the criminal justice system is so mishandled. It is no secret that the judiciary is more and more is discharging what seem to be strictly an executive’s domain. The PM must be seen getting to grips with the government machinery. He must be seen devoting more time for internal administration, he must be engaged with the far-flund country, engaged with the District Collectors in videoconferencing periodically. So that the sort of mishaps like the latest farmer’s suicides don’t happen!
After the “tainted” minister in the Cabinet controversy, we saw Sibu Soren go down in ignominy, Lalu Yadav acquitted and the rest of the tainted names must be eased out. The Cabinet Ministers shouldn’t be seen pursuing their own personal agendas! Even a Deputy Prime Minister seems to be in order, considering the PM’s reluctance to devote time for governance. This would tone up administration. Considering the rather uneven performance of many crucial ministries and the short tenure left out for the next General elections and the coming Assembly elections, the common man is going to bear the brunt of negligence on the part of this government to attend to the efficient governance of the nation.
The most vulnerable section, even among the poor is the farming community, the sector hardly growing beyond 1.7 per cent as per the latest statistics.Even such tough knot like resolving the Mullaperiyar dam issue between the two contending states is left to the Supreme Court; it looks like, once again! Is this not the task of the Prime Minister to call for a face to face meeting of the two Chief Ministers, once the minister had finished his task? But not in India? Not under Dr.Singh.
There are more serious issues too that are left to be decided by persons and institutions that have no jurisdiction. The Indo-US nuclear deal is one instance. It looks Dr.Singh wants to go down in history that he and he alone had done the job and saved the country. The deal was an offshoot of what the predecessor government, the NDA, did much under Vajpayee and Jaswant Singh. Even now, the deal is not in its final form and it may be that the next government too has to grapple with it, the deal which, put it in ordinary man’s language, is that when the whole world would abide by the nuclear control regime to restrict the nuclear weapong making and proliferation risks, India alone would want to be an exception. That is, we would have access to nuclear fuel making inputs and yet we would retain the right to explode the nuclear device in future, if we want! This is a strange position for India to take, a country committed to peace and also to focus on controlling or contributing to controlling nuclear proliferation.
Anyway, there is still not a comprehensive debate, not by Parliament and approved and our nuclear scientists haven’t agreed unanimously on the deal and its outcome for the future of the country’s own security and energy demands. Such a complex and complicated deal is solely handled by a PM whose political legitimacy itself is questioned.
The point is that the PM doesn’t take the trouble to go about and explain and educate the public about what is good for India and how it is in the best traditions of our own past policies. The same type of half-heartedness can be seen in the sphere of economic policy making. It is simply impossible to find out what constitutes economic reforms in India. Or, who are the chief architects of the economic reforms today? Or, what are the core features of the economic reforms package.Is economic reforms just a series of administrative steps? Or, is it a whole new economic philosophy which impacts all our institutions and sectors? And what was our past track record, by those who now seem to be in the forefront, when they were also part of the Leftist-type State-controlled, command economy type of policies under the previous regimes, in the post-Nehru phase?
We don’t want to rattle the skeletons in the cupboard! Now, let us all agree and admit that we are all now economic reformers! Then, why we have not educated the people and created the momentum so that there is a sort of missionary drive and a missionary commitment by all states in adopting some common industrial and agricultural policies. In West Bengal we see the spectacle of a leading political leader undertaking a fast unto death to opposes the Tata motors project and yet neither the Prime Minister nor Sonia Gandhi or other major political leaders taking a stand and at least appealing to her to withdraw the fast! This is rather very strange, to say, the least.
We, in the pursuit if each one of our own narrow agenda, that is plain political survival seem to have become so cynical and insensitive to certain minimum standards of political decency and political decorum! So, all politics seems to day to have been reduced to electoral politics! So, Sonia Gandhi will campaign in UP and Dr.Singh will do the same in Punjab! Too much of low-down even for this sort of meaningless politics! Or, our meaningless existence!
Farmer’s suicides continue and the PM’s package is not obviously working. The latest event is heart-rending, as many have been so in the past too! The middle-aged farmer, Pundalik Mahadev Girsawale(45) in Yavatmal district of Vidarbha came to receive the government relief package, made several trips to the tehsil and he told his family that he was going to get his cheque that day and waited in the office till evening and in vain. So he consumed poison and died. The more tragic was the fact that a cheque for Rs.4,470 was found in his pocket and other farmers alleged that the cheque was put in the dead man’s pocket after he lost his life!
And yet, how many times we hear the smart talking ministers in Delhi, who all take the roles of economic reformers and take courage and say so many false things. There if no point in taking names but we know well that the government has no stomach or stamina to face the reality in the agri sector. There is so much cynicism on the part of politicians, the alliance partners to play their own survival roles rather than for the larger common good. Who is to be blamed? The leaders, the more educated, the ones with more expertise, the more ones claiming knowledge and image of selflessness, right? We seem to be still so bureaucracy-driven government.
Our governance norms haven’t changed and made any difference to our lives, either in the urban or in the rural areas. Our e-Governance plan is still on paper, it seems, it hasn’t yet taken off in any significant way. The PM seems to be totally unconcerned about the many implications for development by the IT industry revolution. The Central Government must spell out a new thrust programme to take forward the many details of the e-Governance plan for the states. The many delivery mechanisms are not working. Take the health insurance cover. One of the key ingredients of the economic reforms is the reforms in the insurance sector. Do we have any radical change in the rural coverage of the liberalisation of this sector?
The many private-initiatives as in Karnataka and later adopted by the Karnataka government is a good example of what can be done for the rest of the country.Also, the healthcare initiatives. The ISRO-driven telemedicine scheme has to be adopted in the entire country. So that our primary health centres are equipped to get the best medicare services for the rural population.
The Right to Information Act. It is still not taken seriously in various states, even in such advanced states like TN.So too the Public-Private Partnership concept. This is a revolutionary concept that can transform life across a wide range of sectors.Infrastructure in the 11th Plan is estimated to involve some massive 320 billion dollars, Rs.14,50,000 crore! PPP is promoting infrastructure development is a key component. A case of success story is telecom where the PPP has radicalised the very Indian telecom scenario. Yet we see gaps. The National Highway Authority of India(NHAI) could not award a single project under PPP-BOT basis! Why?
The NHAI had expressed displeasure at the land acquisition clause that is delaying the ward of projects. The road building sector had shown a negative growth rate of 37% during April-June 2006,as compared to a 9.4% growth rate for the same period last year. Something like 3,655 km road length is at stake. So too the port sector. Bureaucratic hassles are cited as the major obstacles.
Surely, there must be radical thinking and the involvement of new and fresh faces in the new Governance plans. E.\-Governance must ease the much rigidity, more so where the rural people come into contact with the government faces! There must be ways to change the pace of governance. The Government must invite Narayanamurthy and Premji and men like them in the new governance norms.