Why the UPAs defence of its record rings hollow
Imagining the silence? Really? Pawan Kheras (Imagining a silence,missing the point,IE,July 19) rejoinder to Pratap Bhanu Mehtas exquisitely crafted article,While we were silent (IE,July 11),displays how political sycophancy can distort perception enough to see a glass half-full when it is actually empty. It is unremarkable that Congress party members fall over each other to show loyalty. This is the Indira Gandhi blueprint in practice here. Indubitably,these articles are not written to convince the reader. They are written to ensure their status in the party.
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Shashi Tharoors Note to UPA-bashers (IE,July 24) is even worse. Chanting statistics showing utter obliviousness to the reality on the hazards of implementation,Congress vassals see every article as a personal attack. Neither Mehta,nor Shekhar Gupta in The deformists (National Interest,IE,July 20) hold any loyalty to the opposition or any political party. Both were refuted by Tharoor. Spokespersons for the Congress spout statistics showing successful programmes,which they so gullibly believe exist because they ordered them. This,of course,ignores reports that very few are implemented.
Tharoor claims,They have apparently failed to notice that todays India boasts a thriving,entrepreneurial and globalised economy,with a dynamic and creative business culture. Oh! So India is shining yet again? Sadly,around the world,it is repeated that the India story is over.
Tharoor adds,To this over-the-top indictment,Gupta adds his own: the UPAs welfarism has betrayed the promise of reform and created a doctrine of povertarianism,which condemns Indians to perpetual poverty. Over the top? Mr Tharoor,there are enough economists who believe handouts without the dignity of work destroy individuals and society (including your prime minister). Tharoor adds: When the UPA promotes food security,it is emboldened by its own efforts to strengthen agriculture,which have led to record production of food grain. Good logic. If you feed someone for not working,the grain grows by itself,stupid.
Lets look at some real statistics. The new Census 2011 data reveal a shrinking farmer population. That is around 46 farmers suicides each day,on average. Or nearly one every half-hour since 2001. (P. Sainath,The Hindu,May 18)
In a brilliant sleight-of-hand in the craft of writing,Mehta takes us through every area of incompetence,miscalculation,bad economic decisions,insensitive responses,bull-headed stupidity,self-serving vote-seeking policies and romancing of the poor to their disgust,exposing how the UPA has crushed 15 crucial vertebrae of the spine of India. What Mehta did not include was the final one: they are succeeding in crushing the spirit of India. Young people are facing unemployment for the first time in a decade. Businessmen and industrialists are moving their capital abroad and shoring up their NRI status. There are daily newsbreaks of companies firing hundreds of their employees. Even a company like Mahindra laid off 500 employees last week and has suspended production for eight days this month to cut inventory pile up. Maruti asked about 400 workers to go on leave. Tata Motors cut production of the Nano by over 80 per cent this year. Media companies are not only firing employees,but also cutting programming because advertising is at its lowest. According to a Reuters report: Indias economic gloom deepened… with a surprise drop in industrial output. A global sell-off has made the rupee the worst-performing emerging Asian currency so far this year.
Khera calls Mehtas article hypnotic pamphleteering. Yet,Kheras gems include the romanticising of the food security bill,for which there was no allocation in the Budget: No one with any experience of seeing a poor man eat will oppose this scheme. How will you pay for it? Ironically,when the Supreme Court (September 9,2010) ordered the government to distribute grains (that were rotting in FCI and government godowns) for free to families living below the poverty line,PM Manmohan Singh rebuked the SC,saying it should not interfere in policy issues. The PM argued that he was against the idea of giving away food for free,saying it would kill farmers incentive to produce.
And Kheras piece de resistance is this: Never before has any government faced the kind of assertion that the UPA did. When was the last time anyone saw protesters laying siege to Rashtrapati Bhawan? Swati,the girl who entered Rashtrapati Bhawan,is not behind bars for entering a high security area,because the government understood the anger of the people. No,you did not understand the anger. You were too afraid to touch Swati because you knew the anger would spiral into violent fury. Never before have people been so furious at the governments inaction,ineptitude and corruption. This was not mere assertion,but the desperate outrage of a deeply despairing public. It is arrogance to assert that it was the government who gave the people a voice that could be heard. It is like saying: When I beat my wife,she screamed at me to stop. See,she is free and has a voice. She has freedom.
Kheras rather petty remarks about Neemrana intellectuals do him no favours. In all the 15 points made by Mehta,in each of them there is a segment of India that you have destroyed,and we bristle against you for doing it. Yet Khera pats the ruling party on the back with: The last four years of Indias democracy have been promising an exciting chapter where citizens and the state have been locked in a loud and healthy debate. Debate? Water cannons and lathi charges constitute a debate? Where was Khera? In Neemrana?
It is clear that the Congress party has taken Mahatma Gandhis three monkeys proverb literally,yet partially. They have shut their eyes. They have shut their ears. Now,if only they would shut their mouths.
Trehan is editor-in-chief,www.newslaundry.com