Flawed Economic Plan
By Dhurjati Mukherjee
Shortage of millions of jobs, staggering real incomes of farmers, virtual collapse of the manufacturing sector, destruction of small businesses and paralysis of the banking sector very recently has come to the forefront. Though there are accusations by both the BJP and the Congress, the former has no answer to the problems. In fact, there is frustration all around.
One may refer to the Congress resolution last month which noted: “The economy is in the hands of ignorant and incompetent policy makers who have derailed economic growth through reckless and bizarre policies such as demonetisation and a hasty imposition of a flawed GST.” In view of the serious condition in agriculture, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had stated: “Modiji himself said that farmers’ income will double in six years time. If you have to double farmers’ income in six years, you need a growth rate of 12 per cent per annum and that is unthinkable”.
Even former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, referred to the decline in agriculture growth, leading in increase in farmers’ suicides and the recent march of farmers in Maharashtra, demanding remunerative price for crops as stated by the National Commission on Farmers, which the State government was forced to agree on the main demands.
Outlining the poor performance of banks, Chidambaram informed that they have written off four times more loans in the last three years than in the entire 10 years of UPA. Rs 4.5 lakh corporate loans have been restructured by banks in just three years. These hard facts cannot be doubted and the government has possibly no answer.
What is specially significant in the Congress resolution is the suggestion for creation of a “nationalist poverty alleviation fund” and impose a 5 per cent cess on the one per cent richest Indians. This is aimed at providing education scholarships to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and other BPL families. The promise, spelt out in the last paragraph of the perty resolution on agriculture, employment and poverty alleviation, said the fund created would be used directly for the benefit of the deprived sections.
This is expected to draw attention of political analysts who would definitely hail such a proposal. But there is also the question of ensuring good governance to ensure plans and programmes are carried out in such a manner that the beneficiaries are really benefitted. Presently most schemes and programmes, which are normally announced with much hype, are not implemented as per schedule.
Take the case of Swaach Bharat Abhiyan where we hear about targets of toilets being built. But most of the toilets built do not have access to water and, even those that have, are not being used by the beneficiaries. There is no awareness programme at the grass-root level to tell people about the need to stop open defecation and control water borne diseases.
Another programme, is the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for urban areas, which promises ‘housing for all’ by 2022 but barely 8 per cent or 3 lakh of the 40.6 lakh targeted so far have been constructed. The situation in the rural segment is a little better but even there only 30 per cent or 28.8 lakh houses have been completed against the target of 95.4 targeted.
On the other hand, the billionaire boom in the country is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system. Those working hard are struggling to fund their child’s education, buy medicines and manage two meals a day. “The growing divide undermines democracy all over the world and even in India and promotes corruption and cronyism”.
The situation is, no doubt, quite severe and calls for serious introspection. The government has virtually no answer to the impending crisis and independent experts are quite frustrated with the poor performance and inept governance of the government.
The BJP has found itself cornered due to its anti-poor policies, on the one hand, and the urge to expand the RSS’s vision of ‘One Nation, One People, One Culture’, on the other. Most of the Opposition parties have joined hands in defeating the secular image of the country and the ruling party’s endeavour of transforming the country into a Hindu rashtra. However it needs to be pointed out that though there is much talk against communalism, any concerted movement is not quite manifest. On the other hand, civil society and human rights activists, new Dalit and student groups have come out more forcefully in the battle for a secular, plural and egalitarian nation.
While the government should have focussed attention on alleviating the conditions of the poorer sections, the ruling establishment has done very little in this regard. The crony capitalist approach or to put it in simple terms, the consumerist approach has landed not just the poor but even small entrepreneurs in a crisis due to GST, which has not been planned properly. The returns from government are being delayed which has been causing hardships to small businessmen running micro units.
There is nothing to believe that ‘ache din’ (good days) have come as rural India is in a crisis situation. Only roads development has been above mark but only developing physical infrastructure does not help the process of economic growth.
Meanwhile, the concentration of power at the Centre has created problems. ‘Save Federalism’ seems to be the new rallying point of State based parties as they explore options for mounting a joint front against the BJP’s homogenising juggernaut. Most parties like the BJD, the Trinamool Congress, the Telegu Desam, the Telengana Rashtra Samithi and the like are totally dissatisfied with the reduced financial allocation to various schemes like the MGNRES. The cry is to give more financial resources to the States to carry out their development programmes which, most experts believe, is necessary to ensure economic decentralisation what Mahatma Gandhi had advocated long back.
The Modi government was expected to carry the Vajpayee economic philosophy forward though administrative accountability, judicial reforms, reducing unaccounted money in the economy, labour reforms to enable labour intensive manufacturing at the micro level on a larger scale to generate adequate employment opportunities, single window and time bound government clearances in a transparent manner and increasing minimum support prices so that the farmers’ can make reasonable profits but most of these have remained unfilled.
The challenge before the government to take heed of the present crisis and plan accordingly to win the confidence of the poorer sections, specially farmers, those employed in the non- formal sector and small entrepreneurs. The focus has to be on the rural sector and the villages have to be envisaged as engines of growth.
In fact, one needs to mention here that agrarian crisis that is facing the country today has to be reversed and the answer lies not just in modernising agriculture but also educating farmers to go in for value-added crops that could give them higher returns along with dryland farming, wherever possible. Moreover, it has to be ensured that the recently announced MSP has to reach the small farmers so that minimum profits are assured to them. Sooner the better. — INFA