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Citizen Kejriwal announced last week that he was not against capitalism but only against ‘crony capitalism’. This was so astounding a statement from a man who used his 15 minutes in office hounding private companies and flinging charges at major industrialists that I resolved to investigate further. This required careful analysis of the speech he made at the CII meeting in Delhi. The more I analysed, the more I heard the sound of music in my ears. Arvind Kejriwal in concise and clear terms espoused causes this column has espoused ever since I discovered more than 20 years ago that India’s biggest political problems were its economic failures. In this space I have stated ad nauseum that I believe India could still be the richest country in the world if we follow the right economic polices.
By ‘right’ I mean right ideologically as well because I think it has been proven that countries that have capitalism and democracy as their pillars do better than those that do not. I also believe that the Indian economy has been destroyed by Nehruvian socialism that invested unlimited power in the hands of officials. So it delighted me to hear Kejriwal declare that business is not the business of government and that the government’s business is only to create an atmosphere conducive for businessmen to do business efficiently.
It delighted me to hear him say that as chief minister of Delhi he visited industrial areas in the city and was appalled by the absence of basic infrastructure like roads and electricity. And my delight knew no bounds when he spoke out vehemently against the licence raj, adding that he totally disapproved of the inspectors that continue to terrorise businessmen big and small. It was an outrage, he said, that the smallest businesses were inspected by as many as 50 inspectors.
As someone who has often said that the worst victims of the inspector raj are India’s poorest citizens, I could hardly believe what I was hearing. No other politician in India has linked the importance of economic reforms to the rights of the poor. And the Sonia-Manmohan government has in its second term in office done the opposite by making economic reforms sound like the enemy of India’s poorest citizens for not being ‘inclusive’ enough. The truth is that nobody is more harassed by inspectors and licences than poor villagers who come to big cities to make a living by starting small businesses on the pavements of Delhi and Mumbai. When they are found not to have licences, their meagre goods are confiscated and trashed by inspectors regularly. The word ‘hafta’ comes from the mean streets of continued…