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Section 377 and Economic Survey

The Delhi High Court judgment on Section 377 and the Economic Survey surfaced on the same day.

Written by Bibek Debroy | New Delhi |
July 3, 2009 5:04:35 pm

The Delhi High Court judgment on Section 377 and the Economic Survey surfaced on the same day. But there is another parallel too.

First,on the Survey,the media has gone gaga about the big-bang reforms proposed. These reforms are unlikely. Also,one notices a lack of coherence in the Survey. Chapter 1 doesn’t go with the rest of the Survey. It is almost as if Chapter 1 was added on as an after-thought. Even if there had been no Chapter 1,the Survey would have read as a continuous whole,since Chapter 2 has an introductory section too.

The big-bang reforms people are talking about begin with Chapter 2,and are mostly (but not invariably) concentrated in that chapter. Chapter 1 is pedestrian run-of-the-mill stuff.

The Economic Survey is read by the Finance Minister before finalization. But which Finance Minister has the time to read all of the Survey? While things have clearly changed this year,and one can detect a single hand of continuity,the Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) earlier used to write Chapter 1 and other advisers wrote other chapters. That is,while the other chapters were vetted by the CEA,Chapter 1 was vetted by the FM. Did Pranab Mukherjee therefore read only the pedestrian Chapter 1 and was blissfully unaware of the big-bang reforms proposed elsewhere?

Essentially,reforms are about giving people the right to choose,limiting the role of state control in determining choice. But the political classes have a patronizing characteristic: ‘We can’t give people the right to choose. They are irresponsible. They don’t know what is good for them.’

It is an oddity that those who advocate private choice when they are ordinary citizens become patronizing the moment they become MPs or Ministers. This is true even of those described as the Youngistan in Parliament. Witness their reactions to the Section 377 judgment. There are questions about the territorial jurisdiction of this judgment,and the government will probably drop the hot potato of repeal. (We should repeal 377 and amend rape laws and those for minors.)

One can understand spokespersons of parties being guarded,though a treasurer of such a party was widely known to have such predilections. Ditto for religious leaders. But why are individual MPs (barring Supriya Sule) so hesitant to welcome private rights?

Oddly,the CPM is the only party that believes in private choice on 377,though not on economic matters. And if other parties don’t welcome private rights on 377,they never will on economic issues. Therefore,we will be stuck with Chapter 1 of the Survey.

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