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Votes of Aspiration:REDRAFT ECONOMIC VISION, By Shivaji Sarkar, 27 May 2019 Print E-mail

Economic Highlight

New Delhi, 27 May 2019

Votes of Aspiration

REDRAFT ECONOMIC VISION

By Shivaji Sarkar

 

The BJP, rather Narendra Modi, has stunned the world. Resounding victory touching 352 plus is a rare feat in an election. The spread is all the more spectacular as the fortress West Bengal has collapsed. In fact, the surprise is not his victory. It is sheer poll management notwithstanding not so bright an economy in real terms.

 

Yes, Modi stressed on the populist measures that touched the poor -- Pradhan Matri housing, Ayushman health care, toilets in every house, job ruses of MUDRA or Skill India and about 431 other programmes. In the post-election scenario, these programmes look to have touched the hearts of millions. May be, as part of their gratitude, they voted Modi back to power with a thumping majority.

 

That may possibly explain a uniform phenomenon of the rout of caste-based parties such as of Mayawati’s BSP, with the support base among dalits; Ajit Singh’s RLD based on Jat support; Mulayam-Akhilesh’s SP a hardcore Yadav-OBC party; Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, a party of OBC and fringe castes but with a slightly wider base; Sharad Pawar’s NCP, strong Maratha sugar-lobby party or Laloo Yadav’s RLD, a Yadav party.

 

The economic packages lured the voters to vote for Modi, who sells dreams to the fringe classes, rather than the combine put together. This is possibly Modi’s new political economy. It does not serve the elite voters, who certainly no political party can trust for loyalty. A best instance is that of Modi’s one time Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramaniam. Modi could trust him but Subramaniam could not understand Modi and chose a different path.

 

Modi’s macro economy functioned different from his targeted-vote economy. Dole-based economy succeeded politically to break the caste arithmetic, a shrewd move indeed. But so far his macro economy has been a continuation of the hardcore Manmohan Singh’s principles called Manmohanomics. So Modi had to bear the brunt of criticism that had seen the ouster of Manmohan Singh.

 

This no doubt had put a spanner in the progress of the nation, and which led to joblessness, industrial slowdown, lack of demand, high bank NPAs, crisis in public sector like giants BSNL/MTNL, ONGC, petro companies and Maha Navaratnas.

 

But that was before the elections. What next? Would he now have a new policy? Modi did not promise much in concrete terms. But if he and his government continue the same policy, the nation would continue to go downhill, which would neither suit him nor the country.

 

It is not the public sector alone that faced the brunt. Hindustan Lever, the largest consumer goods producer, had the poorest show in 18 months in March 2019 of 7 per cent. And what was unnerving was its CEO Sanjiv Mehta’s statement: “Consumer essentials are recession resistant but not recession-proof”.

 

From car makers to toothpaste sellers and in fact every sector has had a lousy start this year. All eyes are now fixed on Modi’s new policies. Would he be breaking away from Manmohanomics to pave a super highway of growth or would his team continue to struggle in search for a policy.

 

India has to come out of this recession else the aspirational voters might behave in the most frustrated manner. During the past two years farmers’ distress has increased and they have had to march several times either to the country’s capital Delhi or the financial capital Mumbai. Mostly peaceful, but with extreme angst!

 

The new government is literally walking on the razor’s edge. The BJP’s popular Hindutva promises wonderful life as did the Marxism in Soviet Union. An aspirational voter believes in it because he feels he would have more than what he can actually see.

 

However, the BJP faces its toughest challenge now. Mere booth management does not win polls, and this it realised in the three State polls held last December. A correction today has paid seat dividends no doubt, but now the young voters want better industrial show, action and result that would ameliorate their lot.

 

Modi and team must accept that 2019 is an aspirational vote, a process of social synthesis. And the caste divide in Indian social system has been obliterated by a strong Modi. Poorer people, having got the basics of food, cash support, house and toilet, would be demanding more.

 

India is entering the middle income category of countries around $2,000 per capita income. Newly-emerging consuming classes are driven by aspiration rather than feudal style dole outs. Even less-demanding rural youth vie with the urban youth.

 

Economy needs a boost. The last five years have seen a benign environment where food prices recorded a modest increase. Now a global economic slowdown is visible. There are incipient signs of stress on the price front while global trade wars, may be even real wars, are breaking out. Brexit may change European economy and those dependent on it.

 

Modi has also to work in education, its funding and linking it to industry and manufacturing. He also has to work on a new short-duration syllabus that saves nation’s money and churns out skilled people faster. Public universities are in crisis and private ones in a morass. The youth is unhappy. The system needs cash and policy lubrication.

 

The tax system needs reform as the one-nation GST has hit many sectors such as education, NGOs, small traders and entrepreneurs. Income tax reduction is awaited. It is a tough task as people’s purchasing power has to be increased as also the government’s revenue. The stock market is in a thaw. Occasional boom is stated to be self-managed.

 

The economic vision has to be redrafted. The NITI Aayog has to be invigorated. It has to find out solutions to inflation, slowdown and joblessness. The Aayog has to function as a think tank but is unable to even suggest ways to come out of flip-flop policies on taxing fuel or high tolls or cost on working out tax component. Over 5 per cent of corporate expenses are on working out the taxes and satisfying tax raiders.

 

The nation and its people have reposed trust. They want to be paid back and cannot wait for another term to deliver. Till today, Indira Gandhi is ridiculed for the failure of her garibi hatao slogan. A lion of a Modi cannot repeat that. It would devastate the people. He has to function to invigorate the faith in leadership.

 

The aspirations today are more than what these were 2014. Indians believe Modi has the magic wand to solve the problems and make India the leading economy. And hope next five years would finally see ‘India shining’.—INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Modi-Shah Gathbandhan: ‘NEW INDIA’ ENGULFS OPPOSITION, By Insaf, 25 May 2019 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 25 May 2019

Modi-Shah Gathbandhan

‘NEW INDIA’ ENGULFS OPPOSITION

By Insaf

 

The BJP juggernaut is simply unstoppable. It’s ‘Phir ek baar Modi sarkar’ and ‘Ab ki baar 300 paar’ campaign slogans slaughtered Congress’ Chowkidar chor hai’, making the Lotus bloom like it never had. Yes, BJP under the Modi-Amit Shah team has undeniably had a historic victory. The biggest festival of democracy witnessed one man, Narendra Modi, taking on the 22-party Mahagatbandhan and demolishing it. The voter across the country, barring southern States of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, gave a resounding endorsement to one, BJP’s Hindutuva, national security (Balakot strike) and nationalism, two, Modi's popularity, three differentiated between national and State politics, four discarded misguided alliances and last but not the least was at a loss as there was no other alternate! Thus the Modi magic not only swept through the Hindi heartland rubbishing among others the absurd BSP-SP tie-up in Uttar Pradesh, which was a cause for worry given the 80 seats, but also made huge inroads into Odisha, West Bengal, and the North East.

 

Worse, the BJP’s spectacular victory has put a big question mark on the Congress leadership of Rahul Gandhi. His Chowkidar slogan clearly backfired, couldn’t gain confidence of the voter on his ‘leadership’ and got trapped in the rules of the game as set out by the BJP. Issues such as unemployment, farmers’ distress, poor state of economy etc didn’t get highlighted enough. Therefore, what he ended up was a pathetic increase in party’s tally-- from 44 to just 55 and he needs to thank his allies to have helped put the UPA at above 100 seats. Indeed, the saffron brigade hit him back hard and real hard. The Grand old party drew a big zero in 19 States and Union Territories, including Rajasthan, Harayana, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The acrimonious campaign and bitter tu-tu-mein-mein at the end made the public cringe and send a message across board of ‘not done’. In fact, for Rahul the defeat cannot be but humiliating as he lost his family stronghold seat of Amethi, where sister Priyanka factor failed miserably. Worse, the States which the Congress gained in December last—Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka my witness a turmoil. With the BJP winning majority of the Lok Sabha seats, the non-BJP Chief Ministers are in a tizzy over their government’s stability. The million dollar question is whether Modi, the Prime Minister, will have a conciliatory approach, as assured in his victory acceptance speech to the nation, or will he go for a further mauling spree?

*                                                           *                                               *                                       *

 

West Bengal Stormed

Orange rashogullas (sweets) being distributed in West Bengal by BJP cadres must leave a ghastly bitter taste among ruling TMC leadership. Indeed, the saffron flutter in Mamata’s bastion is a phenomenal victory for BJP President Amit Shah. Clearly, Didi’s hold is crumbling as not only did the BJP withstand the unprecedented violence and bullying, but sent a firm message that Hindutava vote can’t be ignored. Of the 42 seats BJP won a huge chunk of 18, cutting down TMC’s tally to just 22. An analysis suggests one, the restrictions on Durga Puja or chanting of Jai Sri Ram or the perennial wooing of the minority vote bank by the TMC was a factor with the aam janata and two that the Left vote seems to have gone the BJP way (not the Congress). Mamata, who has her next big challenge in 2021 with Assembly polls, will need not just to analyse but introspect how she can avoid the next big hit. Likewise, the Communists, who have been wiped out completely for the first time, will need to prepare a survival plan.  

*                                                           *                                               *                                      *

 

Andhra’s Young CM

It was now or never, for YS Jaganmohan Reddy. He not only bounced back but did so with a loud thump, getting his YRSCP to win 153 of the 175 Assembly seats across all 13 districts and grabbing all but three of the 25 Lok Sabha seats. The 46-year-old’s walkathon of over 3648 km now takes him to the Chief Minister’s chair, unseating TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu, who has resigned since. Indeed, it’s a big opportunity not only to revive his father, YS Rajashekhar Reddy’s era, but also ensure there is no looking back from now on. Naidu had to bite the dust with just 21 seats in Assembly, plus neither Congress, which had deserted Jagan, nor BJP could open an account. While Naidu could blame it on anti-incumbency, the big game changer is his failure to get Special Status for the State despite his being with the NDA long enough. His walking out of it was too little, too late. Now Jagan has to strategise how he achieves his goal. His answer is he would try to prevail on PM Modi. Whether Delhi will oblige and if so by when only time will tell.  

Odisha

*                                                           *                                               *                                       *

 

TN Out of Shadows

The other southern State which saw the ‘son’ rising was Tamil Nadu. It sees a glimmer of M K Stalin finally growing out of the shadow of his father M Karunanidhi. No doubt it will take Thalapathi, (commander) time to step into his shoes, but this victory for the party, after 2011, gives hope, as it has made rival AIADMK bite the dust, by winning 34 of the 38 seats with its Congress and Communist allies. What is critical is that this State too kept out the saffron surge. In fact AIADMK’s tie-up with the BJP at the Centre was a major factor for DMK’s spectacular win, given the Dravidian politics. While this is the first major victory Stalin has tasted, he may just be eyeing more. But he will need to wait for the Chief Minister’s post as even though the State had polling for 22 of the 234 seats too, Stalin couldn’t upset the apple cart. Palaniswami-led AIADMK government is safe, at least for the time being.    

*                                                           *                                               *                                       *

 

Wait For Delhi Home

Newly-elected MPs now need to find their right place in the heart of the Capital—a new home. The Lok Sabha secretariat is on the job of preparing accommodation, but sans past luxuries. The new members will no longer be put up in Five-star hotels as stop-gap arrangement. Instead, they better book themselves in their respective State guest houses or the spruced up Western Court. The directive is to cut costs for Urban Development Ministry’s Estate Dept, which in 2014 had to host 315 new MPs (highest since 1980) for a period ranging 15 days to 3 months. However, this time round the number of new entrants would be far less, and the challenge would be to get old timers to vacate their houses. A tough task, indeed! --- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Beyond Borders: NEW GOVT’S PRIORITIES, By Dr D.K. Giri, 24 May 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 24 May 2019

Beyond Borders

NEW GOVT’S PRIORITIES

By Dr D.K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

 

After two months of mind and body-wrenching electioneering in the biggest democracy in the world, the results are out. A new government will be in place. In a way, the entire world was watching India’s cacophonous, vibrant, yet, enervating election process, and was waiting for India to resume its international engagement. The new government will not have too much time to celebrate its victory as it has to right away plunge into action in world affairs.

 

Paradoxically, international issues and forces influencing a country’s internal affairs were not matters of debate in the parliamentary elections, except the surgical strike at Balakot and a narrative of nationalism built on it. In fact, the concept of nationalism emanating from a retaliatory strike against Pakistan was not successfully debated by the Opposition, which fell into BJP’s strategy and ended up copying their ‘frame’, claimed to have initiated the surgical strikes. The military actions, including surgical strikes, constitute security operations which do not define nationalism. Somehow, nationalism became the whole basis of India’s pride and policy in foreign affairs. A debate on nationalism is, however, beyond my brief here.

 

The first priority of the new government is to define the theoretical or conceptual foundation of India’s foreign policy. Of late, experts advise to invoke Kautiyla’s arthashastra as the basis of India’s foreign policy. Arthashastra deals with political statecraft, economic and social policies and military strategy. Indubitably, arthashastra is an original and authentic text that draws on Indian culture, practices and wisdom. Like, perhaps, the Chinese ace strategist Tsan Tsu’s ‘The art of war’, Kautilay’s arthashashtra is a unique treatise, although it is broader and more comprehensive than the former.

 

It is certainly advisable to refer to a classic like arthashastra, but to contextualise it, let us look at three frameworks New Delhi seems to be using. One, the Nehruvian approach, focusing on negotiation, aspiring for a multi-polar world, retaining geo-political autonomy etc.

 

Evidently, the BJP-government attempted to move away from Nehruvian approach, but for some inexplicable reason, it could not. It is perhaps the foreign policy mandarins schooled and trained in Nehruvinism which stalled the shift. It was seen in their dealing with China, a muddled up strategy weighed down by Nehruvian legacy of collaboration as well as confrontation.

 

Second is the neo-liberal perspective, i.e. making economy the measure of strength of the country, and the key determinant of foreign policy. Indian missions across the world were mandated to focus on building businesses for India, a clear shift from defence and security agenda to trade and commerce.

 

The third is the hyper-realist approach, which emphasises the military preparedness. This perspective privileges military strength over other determinants. That is how, for the last 10 years or so, as Indian economy grew, New Delhi went on a purchase-spree of defence equipments at a heavy cost to India’s development process.

 

There is a fourth approach, New Delhi is not adopting or is unaware of, is a progressive foreign policy, i.e. inclusive, and based on principles, mainly solidarity. The other principles enunciated by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, include pluralism, diversity, democracy and multiculturalism etc. These principles lend any country the power and scope for resilience not fragility. India leads the world in the concept of solidarity. The concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ meaning the ‘world is one family’ is uniquely Indian.

 

Further, way back in 1893, in the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, Swami Vivekananda addressed the gathering “sisters and brothers of America”, and surprised the world with such an intimate address and endeared himself to one and all. He cautioned, we should not mix security issues with a progressive approach. Security issues are temporary, emerging from time to time, die down once they are resolved, but progressivism is based on timeless values.

 

The second priority is to make foreign policy part of national planning and discourse. Although one can normatively delink foreign policy from domestic issues, a strong economy, stable politics, and sound society help a bolder foreign policy. As India is perceived to be emerging as a major power in the world, and it aspires to become a big power, Indian citizens will have to dare that dream and behave as a big power. While fighting the nefarious aggression of Pakistan, we need not behave like Pakistani leadership, duplicitous and double-crossing. The ‘urge to be great’ attitude will help build a better democracy at home.

 

The third priority is to take global responsibility, if India wishes to become a world power. India is fairly active in trans-national issues such as climate change, refugee crises, international terrorism, poverty alleviation etc. New Delhi has become the convener of international solar alliance, leading the charge against terrorism in international fora, dealing with its own heavy influx of refugees. But New Delhi does not take positions on violation of human rights, fights against authoritarian dictatorial regimes.

 

On the other hand, New Delhi has been on the wrong side, like in Myanmar, doing business with the military junta etc. New Delhi could justify it by invoking its national interest, which is the key driver for any country’s foreign policy. But when the values and national interests converge, that is the measure of a great power.

 

The fourth priority is to define its approach to China. Given the complicated, unending US-China trade war, and rivalry for supremacy, there is a great scope for India to sprint forward to replace China as a manufacturing hub of the world. Reportedly 150 CEOs of MNCs have expressed interest in moving their bases from China to India. Donald Trump is determined to isolate China economically, and build alternative sources to Chinese supply.

 

But sadly, New Delhi has been prevaricating on China. It is caught in conflicting dualism. Both Japan and India are wary of Beijing’s policy in Asia. Both countries’ economic stakes in China are high. But they have divergent approaches. Japan is economically withdrawing from China, expanding its links with ASEAN countries, and attempting to check China militarily with the help of Americans.

 

India is anxious about China’s territorial claims on India, its incursion into South Asia, but it wants to maintain stable relations with it. Such strategy is determined by two factors, India’s huge power asymmetry with China, and second, New Delhi’s misreading and miscalculation of Beijing’s designs.

 

The fifth priority will be to play to its real strength, i.e. the soft power, and alliance building. Joseph Nye, an international political theoretician suggests that culture-rich countries like India need to switch from hard power to soft power. Many countries in the world do not have military or economic power, but are influenced by soft power, health, education, social-capital and so on.

 

India is a bigger soft-power than China, and New Delhi must use it to counter China and build alliances in the world. New Delhi’s attitude to Israel and Islamic terrorism converge with America’s. There are many other areas of convergence with other big powers, which New Delhi should build on.

 

Finally, India should not try to overtake China in economic and military terms, at least in near future, although it should treat Beijing as number one adversary. It must build strategic and military alliances to counter China, which will reduce its own spending on military hardware, which can be used for deepening development.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

Politics of Labelling: A DANGEROUS GAME!, By Dr. S. Saraswathi, 23 May 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 23 May 2019

Politics of Labelling

A DANGEROUS GAME!

By Dr. S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi)

 

A primary lesson for all political speakers is to avoid controversial terms particularly to malign somebody or something.  Labels, names, and terms carry political significance and have played a significant role in the just-concluded General election. In fact because of our ignorance of historical events and background of organisations, and lack of ability to conduct sensible and orderly political discourses and decent election campaigns, several irrelevant issues came up during electioneering this year with the sole aim of denigrating rival candidates and parties.

 

Labelling and name calling candidates and parties took the place of issues and policies leading to unnecessary exchange of abuses. People were practically asked to choose between labels and names and not between policies and programmes. Voters were treated like ignorant illiterates.

 

A case in point is of the new face in the electoral theatre, Kamal Haasan, who ignited a fierce debate in the country over what is reported as his “Hindu terror” remark with reference to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi by Nathuram Godse. He was speaking in an election meeting in an Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu on behalf of his party candidate.

 

The highlight of his speech as reported in the media is his depiction of Godse – independent India’s first terrorist – as a Hindu. The connection between the assassin and his religion was not clarified.  He has also responded to critics with further assertion that, “If a historical fact I point out hurts you, then this wound will never heal”.

 

Haasan was booked under Sections 153 A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion) and 295 A (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion and religious beliefs) of the IPC.

 

Kamal insists he has used the Tamil word “theeviravadhi” meaning “extremist” and not “bayankaravadhi”, Tamil equivalent of  “terrorist”.  He applied for and obtained anticipatory bail to avoid arrest. This is not the first time he spoke of Hindu extremism as he himself admitted, but his earlier speeches did not receive this much attention. For some political personalities, proper usage of terms in their mother-tongue or another language is a problem.  Still, they are very vocal. 

 

Another leader defending Haasan, is reported to have welcomed his statement adding, “Godse was not only an extremist but also a terrorist …” This episode opens the need for understanding the use of labelling in politics as much as the meaning of terrorism or the character of Godse.

 

2019 election has no connection with Mahatma Gandhi or Godse or the tragic assassination of the Father of the Nation to be remembered in an election campaign for a by-election to State Assembly in Tamil Nadu. The reference is nothing but an attempt to denigrate the opponent by attributing to him a dangerous link in the past.

 

Labelling is describing someone or something in a word or short phrase. Its use for communication is unquestionable. It is mostly intended to highlight the fact that the label is a description coming from outside rather than from some intrinsic character of the labelled thing.   Thus, label is earned by creating perceptions consciously and unconsciously, or deliberately and incidentally. And label is used to perpetuate usually a negative image of a person or group. As such, it is a strong rhetorical tool.

 

The speciality of this election is that labels are coined by experts and poll advisors more than being earned by the labelled. A big industry has grown all over the world to collect raw data, separate positive and negative characteristics contained in the data, construct an edifice suitable to one’s purpose with the data, and run a machinery to propagate the image created. Its greatest use is in election period. Labelling and name calling form an important part of this industry. It is going on in full swing in India whereas in the West, it is on decline after its rapid rise.

 

Labelling in politics is intended to influence our perception, judgement, and behaviour and determines interaction between individuals and groups. Labels confirmed by endless repetitions block individual judgements and affect interaction with the labelled. They promote preconceived notions and presumptive assumptions. In the politics of labels, there is no use for knowledge and experience. It promotes divisive politics.

 

Name calling is explained as a form of ad hominem, meaning attacking opponents personally as opposed to attacking their policies. In this election, it is also done ad nausium, i.e. repeatedly any number of times. Name calling is a form of verbal abuse, and in politics, it is used as a substitute for rational, fact-based arguments against opponents or ideas.

 

Political parties conduct election campaigns like marketing and advertising companies, which aggressively push their products. They pick catchy labels and coin rhyming slogans and indulge in repetitions day in and day out. Crowd collection seems to be the object of campaigns conducted on filmy style and supported by audio-visual media.

 

Labels originated in politics several centuries ago. Perhaps, we never realised that Whig and Tory were terms of abuse introduced in 17th century applied respectively to opponents and supporters of hereditary right of King James; that “rightist” and “leftist” are terms for conservative and liberal groups respectively. Nazi labels, Hitler title, and fascist name have been commonly used in the West in political contests and have entered into India also. These are used as negative symbols. 

 

Between the two World Wars, an organisation called The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) took up a systematic study of “propaganda” – a political strategy adopted by Hitler. The analysis included “name calling” in its list of common rhetorical techniques. It was found that bad names have played a powerful role in the history of the world and in our own individual development.

 

Bad names have ruined reputations, and incite people to violence. These have been applied to “other” people, groups, tribes, political parties, institutions, neighbourhoods, States, sections of a country, nations, race and so on.

 

On the other hand, labels are necessary to introduce some order in the chaotic world. It helps categorisation and easy identification of what one wants from a heap of things. The function of putting identification mark of a product on its package is called “labelling”.

 

Labelling in sociology is the theory how the self-identity and behaviour of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It was developed in the 1960s. In these days, terrorist and insurgent are labels that carry worst negative connotation. When used in election speeches, public uproar is inevitable.

 

Incidentally, there is no consensus on the definition of “terrorism”. It is a value-laden term and its usage is prohibited in some places. There is also much controversy over the distinction between “extremism” and “terrorism”. To give any religious association to terrorism is bad politics aimed at dividing peace loving people.

 

Kamal Haasan’s speech has intensified the unwanted debate on terrorism and religion, which is already going on among forces wanting to reap political benefits from dividing the society.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Post-2019 Elections: WILL NEW GOVT FOCUS ON POOR?, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 22 May 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 22 May 2019

Post-2019 Elections

WILL NEW GOVT FOCUS ON POOR?

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

 

The campaigning and polling for 2019 General elections is over. Those who cast their vote would have done so in the hope for a better future, but those who didn’t may have a reason i.e. it hardly matters which coalition occupies the seat of power as their interest gets over shadowed by that of the rich and powerful. Unfortunately, India’s State machinery is influenced by the business houses, which have over the years managed to get their interests being taken care of. To put it a little bluntly, money power has and does play a critical role in manipulating politicians and bureaucrats by the corporate.

 

The pessimism about the future role of political parties stems from the deep political-business nexus that is well known in the country. This perhaps could be a major reason for a good section of the educated class dissociating itself from any political activity due to wrong policies or deep-rooted corruption or lack of moral values of our political parties. Over the years policies have by and large been seen as being framed to make life better for the rich and the upper middle class through increased investment in metros while neglecting rural areas.

 

And, it is not just the political parties alone but the top judiciary too may have lately become a victim. A bench led by Justice Arun Mishra recently expressed shock at how an order was altered against builder Amrapali, saying it indicated that some influential corporate houses had managed to penetrate the judiciary to manipulate the court staff. However, it is reassuring that the bench ordered a probe into the allegations that “fixers and middlemen” tried to manipulate judicial proceedings.    

 

This apart, an earlier order passed by a bench in Anil Ambani contempt case was reportedly changed after which two court staffers were sacked and a criminal case was lodged. Another example was a CJI bench expressing surprise as the Rafale judgment review not being listed as per schedule.

 

Clear pointers to the extent the rich and powerful are willing to go to? Worse, it’s the governments which fail to prioritise their goals, neglecting the aam janta (public). Take the case of the health sector, which subsequent governments have failed to heal. Though the meagre allocation for health has been highlighted by the undersigned as well as other commentators, a recent report reveals the warped priorities that authorities have. A study published in International Journal of Drug Policy, reveals that current alcohol consumption patterns cost the national economy more than what the government spends on health every year. It found that after adjusting tax receipts from alcohol sale, the economic loss from adverse effects of alcohol consumption would touch 1.45 per cent of the GDP. For comparison, the government’s annual expenditure on health is around 1.1 per cent of the GDP, which may have increased a little presently.

 

Thus, it comes out that the government has an eye on revenue generated from taxes of alcohol sale without bothering about its effects on health, particularly of the poorer sections. And the study estimated that the economic burden of alcohol-related health conditions by 2050 would be a staggering $3228 billion, more than India’s health budget in 2018.

 

Then again, let us take the case of manual scavengers, most of which belong to SC or ST groups. According to the 2011 census, there are over 26 lakhs dry latrines in India as opposed to toilets with flush, though these may have changed marginally with the ‘toilet revolution’ through Swachch Bharat. However, a recent manifesto of the Safai Karmachari Andolon, an organisation working for the rights of manual scavengers, demanded a Right to Life (RL-21) card to ensure free access to education, health care, dignified employment and livelihood and other benefits as per Fundamental Rights given to all citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution. It also demanded pension of Rs 6000 per month. But none of the major political parties considered it worthwhile to even speak of their demands in the course of their campaigning.

 

The two examples cited suggest that whoever comes to power would follow the same set of policies, with little concern for the under privileged. So if the government doesn’t deliver, do we start looking towards an increased private investment in the economy? Perhaps not, as the private sector, as is known, will increase investments only when it is assured of huge profits, directly or indirectly. The health sector for that matter has seen a growth in private hospitals, but these go beyond the reach of the common man.

 

It is feared that due to ongoing farm and rural distress the trend in Indian planning is bound to witness jobless growth and migration of rural populace to urban areas in search of better livelihood. A reorientation in planning strategy geared towards the rural sector and a sharp focus on the needs and demands of the masses is what should be the aim of the new political dispensation.  

 

It must address the question of how interests of the poor and economically weaker sections can be taken care of. Unless there is an understanding of ground realities and a political will, the much-needed shift in planning and development will elude the nation. Unless the leadership starts thinking in the true Gandhian spirit of working for the community with sincerity, dedication and honesty!  

 

The communists, who demonstrate the maximum community feeling, are nowhere in the new government that may be formed. While the NDA with BJP as the main partner has been perceived to be pro-business by many, the Congress is rethinking strategy of how to woo the masses with its ideas of minimum income guarantee, right to health and other basic amenities, which it should have done long ago.

 

However, the Congress’ suggestion for setting up a separate permanent National Commission on Agricultural Development & Planning is worth a look. It seeks to advise the government on how to make agriculture viable, competitive and remunerative while repealing the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act which regulates markets in States, and may have a favourable effect on the rural sector.

 

With a new government set to assume office within the next few days, the political parties are bound to make an analysis of went wrong or right for them. And while there is no dearth of analysts within the parties, the policies need a re-look to meet the economic and social challenges. Perhaps, a study of manifestoes of all put together could offer an outline of how to fill the developmental gap. More importantly, the violence and hatred that was manifest during the election campaign must be overcome and sincere efforts made to integrate the society to serve the interests of each and every community. Is it asking for too much? ---INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

 

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