Out of my mind: Task ahead

It is just that even with the BJP/ NDA government, people would rather debate cow protection than ways of eradicating poverty.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Published:August 7, 2016 12:16 am
Narendra Modi, Modi, PM Modi, India first, MyGov, Indian diaspora, news, India news, national news, latest news Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (file photo)

Rahul Gandhi has said that the bullet train proposed by the Prime Minister is just for him and his suit-boot friends. I have a surprise for him. I just travelled from Beijing to Shanghai by bullet train. It was crowded with ordinary Chinese families, children and elderly people. There is a station dedicated to bullet trains, of which many operate in China. Indeed, half of Chinese rail passenger traffic takes the bullet train.

The bullet train remark illustrates a basic problem with development thinking in the Congress and generally in India. It is assumed that anything new and modern can only benefit the rich. This includes all reform which makes business easier or more profitable. Politicians begin with the assumption that growth has to be restrained to protect the less well-off. Workers may lose their jobs if productivity improves or a merger takes pace (as in the case of SBI consolidation). So protect the currently employed and discourage growth.

India wasted 30 years after Independence not pursuing growth but self-sufficiency, import substitution and an elite brand of socialism. China also wasted 30 years after 1949 while Mao indulged in his fantasy development policy. In the late Seventies, India and China had the same per capita income.

In China, luckily, Deng Xiaoping realised the transformative role of rapid growth and pursued it with a single-mindedness that made China the only country ever to enjoy three decades of sustained high growth. In 2008, China displayed its achievements at its Olympics, while also launching its bullet trains which span the vast country, ensuring fast travel.

India wasted the Eighties with liberalisation of imports but no structural reform. Too much borrowing crashed the economy in 1991. It was Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh who saved the country by undertaking drastic reforms. But they lost their élan before their term was over. Thereafter, reforms became halting, beleaguered and half-hearted. There was no reform of labour laws, no revival of manufacturing and no attempt to give farmers sustainable livelihoods away from land. During the UPA-II years, there was retrogression with environmental restraints throttling development. Then the Singur strategy of destroying manufacturing initiatives became policy in the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.

Now, at last, we have the GST on the law books. It has taken 15 years of futile debate to get it on the books. Is it safe to assume that this will now reinvigorate the growth trajectory of the Modi government? Even more, will the passage of GST convince the rest of the political parties that rapid growth is a win-win strategy and the only way India can move from mere entitlements to decent incomes?

The problem remains that politicians do not believe in growth. They prefer low growth which then allows them to grant reservations and subsidies. This is what the UPA-II did best.

It is not that China is a dictatorship and India a democracy. It is just that even with the BJP/ NDA government, people would rather debate cow protection than ways of eradicating poverty.

Much remains to be done. The Ganga has to be cleaned up. Swachh Bharat would boost health. The Railways have to be transformed with bullet trains carrying the poor.

Now is the time to get on with the job.

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  1. V
    Aug 7, 2016 at 8:22 am
    Why don't you make a temple of Modi and start chanting her her modi.Lord meghanand desai,you should worry about britain where u r a representative.
    1. S
      Aug 7, 2016 at 5:37 pm
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      1. K
        K SHESHU
        Aug 7, 2016 at 1:32 pm
        Ganga might flow with dirt and sewage for at least three years..
        1. A
          Aug 7, 2016 at 9:48 am
          What is your opinion?rightly said, now is the time to reform and take forward India
          1. K
            keshav singhal
            Aug 7, 2016 at 4:47 pm
            Lord desai has hit the nail on its head with surgical precision.
            1. A
              Aug 7, 2016 at 6:44 am
              Indian self-styled elite, pseudo secular-left-liberal along with media makes difficult for any liberal, wealth crating change in India in the name of Am admi. We do not have even "Minoo Masani" level liberal politician to dare the anti-development lobby! Fascinating and glorifying poverty, and slum life style with photo session during vote catching time. Modi is still scared of making so much reforms due to fear of this group, otherwise he could have used his mandate to break the governing system style. At least in Kerala, the AC buses are used by poor people than the wealthy middle cles, is an example how poor of people want fast changes in lt;br/gt;India.
              1. s
                sasidharan k.p
                Aug 7, 2016 at 3:40 am
                The slogan of any thing new and modern can only benefit the rich , is a well crafted product of Indian Communism .Congress left policy matters to the Communists , and kept the republic of bribery intact for their own selfish interest.
                1. S
                  S. Kumar
                  Aug 7, 2016 at 3:30 am
                  India will remain a perennial also ran. It is full of divisions and corrupt. Modi tries his best but people expect miracles without any positive effort on their own part.
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