Dear Mr Prime Minister,
I am an average citizen. I belong to an average family, had an average education, live in an average town, hold an average job, and have average ambitions. I am aware that because I am the son of a school teacher, hold a bachelor’s degree (second class) and have a job, I may actually be above the average. It only shows how low the average is.
In the last week, my fellow citizens and I have been bombarded with editorials, columns, statements, interviews, blogs, tweets and what not, and I am quite confused. I thought your letter of May 26 that appeared in all newspapers would put things in perspective but, I am afraid, it left me more confused. So, please bear with me while I ask you a few questions.
Where are the Jobs?
My first question is, how is the economy doing? To me and my children, and to all families on our street, the most important concern is jobs. Will you please tell us the number of jobs that were created in the first year of your government? The numbers I have seen are a little over one lakh of jobs every quarter, so that makes a grand total of 4 to 5 lakh jobs in the whole year. I also read that there are 85 lakh persons registered with the employment exchanges in Tamil Nadu. If we extrapolate that number for the whole country, don’t you agree that the situation is alarming? So, please tell us the truth about jobs.
That takes me to the next question, who is creating the jobs? My neighbour who teaches economics in the local government college told me that no real new jobs can be created in farming. She thinks that only if more people start new businesses, and more large plants are built to produce power or steel or cars or mobile phones or anything, will there be more direct and indirect jobs. She said the key word is investment and encouraged me to ask you what were the amounts invested in the last year by the public sector enterprises and the private sector, what is the number of jobs they expect to add once the projects go into production, and when. By the way, why don’t we see advertisements of a bhumi puja or an inauguration of a big project costing a few thousand crore rupees as we used to do a few years ago?
Why is everyone concerned?
A relative of mine who runs a small business told me that banks are loath to give loans. Dr Rangarajan, in a recent article, said that hundreds of public and private projects are stalled. A journalist told me that electricity consumption in the country has remained flat in the last five months. Companies producing consumer goods say that “aggregate demand” is depressed, which I don’t understand, but I am sure you do. I heard a lawyer say on television that every major company in the power, coal, oil & gas, airport, road, telecommunication and pharmaceutical sectors is embroiled in litigation. If this is the actual situation, Mr Prime Minister, how do you expect a foreign investor, or for that matter an Indian investor, to invest in India?
The excuse of the Finance Minister is “these are legacy issues”, but, to my simple mind, that is the lot of every government. Every government will inherit a set of problems and must resolve them. Let me remind you that you were voted to power on the promise of replicating the Gujarat model (whatever that was, I don’t know) and the promise of achhe din. There is no room for excuses.
I am worried about the massive cuts in the funds allocated to health, education, mid-day meal scheme, drinking water, ICDS, RKVY and SC & ST welfare. I read that chief ministers have complained and now some of your ministers are complaining. I am told the consequences will be felt by the end of the year.
Other anecdotal evidence has put fear in the minds of people and eroded trust in the government. A graduate is denied a job and a working lady is evicted from her rented flat because they are Muslims. Mr Julio Ribeiro expresses his anguish at the rise of intolerance against minorities, NGOs, and civil society activists. BJP governments in states ban the sale or consumption of beef. Can you really ban anything in an open society and a connected world and, even if you can, how many things will you ban —meat, books, foreign travel, documentaries, swear words in films, NGOs?
Why is so much energy wasted on issues that are divisive and unproductive?
My last question is, what are you doing with the absolute majority that we gave your party in the elections? Some of your MPs are an embarrassment. (So was your statement on “sinning and being born Indian” that you made in Seoul.) I thought you will use your mandate to bring about a transformation in policies, programmes and implementation, but what I see is centralisation of authority in your hands and more talk than action. The Economist has described you as a One-Man Band who needs a new tune. I hope you will listen to your critics, who have the country’s welfare and progress at heart.
A concerned citizen