New Vision 2040
By Shivaji Sarkar
India has stepped into a new decade, like the rest of the world. It needs a new vision 2040 to propel the country – its politics and economics and junk the present system.
At the year-end, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman unfolded the Rs 102 lakh crore NIP – national infrastructure pipeline – a good effort but with limited aim. The Narendra Modi government has given a call for $5 trillion economy – robust aim. Now the nation needs to rethink how it can be made broad-based. The NDA thinks in terms of reaching the last man – antyodaya. A review is needed whether the policies are percolating down to him or not or if GDP – rising or plummeting – has a meaning for him.
A vision 2040 document could offer a model to the rest of the world that at present is in awe of the lone super power, the US and is forced into submission before its bullying tactics. America is having the world’s largest army for perpetuating jingoism and keeping the Asian countries in awe. On flimsy grounds it has waged wars since the attempt to subjugate Vietnam to the present destruction of the Middle East from Libya to Iran. The recent threats to Iran and killing of Gen Qasem Soleimani do not bode well for India.
The US is the largest economy but it has millions in utter penury. An average American is struggling to eke out a living. It led the global sub-prime collapse. It cannot be an ideal for India. It exemplifies that large does not mean an efficient pro-people economy.
India rooted in panchsheel and ideals of sarve bahavantu sukhinah cannot emulate the US. So despite the vision of a capable army in the Vision 2020, India did not envisage a predatory army despite a rogue and belligerent neighbour in its West. Prudently it countered that with removal of Article 370 and 35A.
Still a nation has to relook at why most political parties are losing vibrancy, why ideologies have failed – and if these had any strength, why violence is becoming culture in some States like West Bengal or Kerala, why different States have different economic growth pattern, why two Chief Ministers should speak in similar vein on the deaths of children in hospitals or why Mamata Banerjee is insensitive to Park Street rape victim or she and Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala keep mum on political killings. Is politics getting too ghettoized?
Or is it the result of a sagging economy? Should the budgetary process be altered? Else how could 25 per cent cut in department allocations, about Rs 40,000 crore, be justified in fag end of the financial year?
India is conquering space but faltering in managing mundane agriculture or rising prices or profiteering motives of governments or privatising public assets or treating private education as pariah or heaping innumerable tolls and fees or disallowing the poor through high fares, uses of rail, metro or bus. Has not its market ideology heaped with it problems in every sector –education and health to industry to deciding its priorities?
As India progresses it has to find out whether the neo-rich getting into the portals of power are becoming insensitive. Are not they misguiding governance through trade bodies, bureaucratic functioning and making every bit of service beyond the reach of the people?
The Constitution guarantees barrier free travel. Why should atrociously high toll or fee hinder it? The roads are built on public land. It needs to be explained how a private body can be given its zamindari. A villager or a farmer travelling across the tolls are levied an unnecessary cost. The Vision needs to find out how it is making living expensive and increasing prices — that too after multiple tolls, cess and road taxes. Education cess is not making education affordable.
The NIP has yet to look into why a new parliament building or central vista is needed instead of pride in continuity in a heritage building. Or why road allocations are made for the same set of roads – in the name of refurbishing, redesigning or and adding lanes.
The people want a white paper on IL&FS collapse after doling out Rs 91000 crore to the toll roads and not getting repayment despite toll collections. It is essential for preventing a new proposed Central funding body meeting the same fate.
More power 619 GW is to be produced. Why? The country is unable to utilize 356 GW present production and power tariffs are bleeding every sector.
For the sake of private, Air India was annihilated, MTNL-BSNL is sent to sick bed, hosts of other sold to competitors, bank coffers are opened up. It has led to enormous losses to public financial institutions – UTI (losing Rs 64,000 crore shut), LIC, GIC and almost all banks. These have lost about Rs 50 lakh crore since 1992 Harshad Mehta scam. Still the private sector is dependent on the government. Is it not slowing down the economy?
More so, wages are not keeping pace with the rising prices. The price indices have been modified in 2011 so as to reflect reduced impact of the rises. Even the modified index reflects 19.5 per cent inflation, may be actually 30 per cent as per the old matrix. India is becoming expensive for its residents whose income is low and being eroded by high 42 per cent income-tax (I-T) and plethora of indirect taxes estimated at 40 per cent, including profession tax in many States, despite GST.
Yes, an Indian pays over 70 per cent in taxes. Innovative bureaucrats despite that go on increasing the prices of fuel, rail fares, bus fares, freight and consequently jacking up prices of commodities. It is affecting nutrition, as people are unable to take proper meals, consumption and GDP growth.
The bankisation of the society has created new middle men in payment portals. It has made dealings expensive. The note-ban alone turned at least 15 per cent more black money. The people of West, Australia and Japan are protesting to come out of the clutches of banks. Why should not India go back to no-cost cash transaction?
The list is long. Wider review of the past’s follies and road map for the future has to be drawn. For the new vision, the country has to review its past mistakes so that the future generation does not have to go through the same trials and tribulations as this one has encountered.—INFA