P Chidambaram is former Finance minister of India.
Not only was the country not prepared for a nationwide lockdown, even the Central government was unprepared. How can one otherwise explain the fact that the Economic Task Force announced by the PM on March 19 has not been constituted so far?
Given that scale of expenditure, it is possible to find, say, Rs 5,00,000 crore towards mitigating COVID-19 over the next 6 months. This is a moral and economic imperative and we must find the money and spend it.
The people and Parliament must demand that the names of borrowers (especially the big defaulting ones) be published and the individuals or committees that approved the loans be asked to explain.
India has cause to worry. As the Prime Minister said a few days ago, we must prepare, not panic. Very true, but how prepared is the country? More pertinently, how prepared is each state of the country?
There is growing suspicion that the BJP is working to a plan. The BJP is emboldened to pursue its partisan agenda owing to the massive majority it enjoys in the Lok Sabha and the fact that Lok Sabha elections are four years away.
The magic words are ‘national interest’. They do not signal correctness, they signal finality. Because the PM has declared that the decisions were taken in national interest, he expects that all criticism should cease and all debate should end.
There is nothing unusual or inherently wrong about a right-wing ideology. It is only when right-wing leaders politicise their religion and attempt to divide people on the ground of religion that the Constitution is violated and social harmony is disrupted. The BJP has done just that.
From demonetisation to GST, from Swachh Bharat Mission to electrification of homes, from Ujjwala Yojana to UDAY, every programme has serious shortcomings. Unfortunately, the government lives in an echo chamber and hears only adulatory responses.
The take-away from the Budget speech and the Budget numbers is that the BJP has given up on reviving the economy or accelerating the growth rate or promoting private investment or increasing efficiency or creating jobs or winning a greater share of world trade.
P Chidambaram writes: The economy is not the main concern of the BJP government; it is the Hindutva agenda. On the other hand, the people are concerned with issues tied to economic growth such as more jobs, better producer prices, wages and incomes, relative price stability, access to better education and health care, and improved infrastructure.
The SC judgment also gives hope to the seven million people of the Kashmir Valley that their freedoms will be restored — although there is no sign yet of that happening seven days later
The ferment that we witness in the campuses of Indian universities and colleges bears a striking resemblance to the events of 1968. Students and youth have sensed that something is ‘terribly wrong’ in the way the country is being governed.
When Nani Palkhivala propounded the theory of an unalterable and unamendable “basic structure” of Constitution, legal experts scoffed at the argument. How can the power of a sovereign Parliament to amend the Constitution (Article 368) be curtailed or subjected to a review by judges appointed by the Executive, they asked.
In the last two months, BJP was dented in Haryana, denied in Maharashtra and defeated in Jharkhand. This success can be taken forward if non-BJP parties rally around the strongest party in each state. That would mean Congress in Puducherry, Assam and Kerala; DMK in Tamil Nadu; and state-specific arrangements for Bihar and West Bengal.
Budget 2019-20 is unique. I know of no budget in recent memory where, after making the Budget, the Finance Minister consciously unmade the Budget.
Project Hindu Rashtra is gaining speed. The engine is the Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi; at the wheel is the Home Minister, Mr Amit Shah. The designer/engineer, the RSS, is watching with great interest.
Chidambaram writes: The government has acknowledged that the economy is in a slowdown, but denied that there were ‘structural’ issues that need to be addressed. The government has described the problems as ‘cyclical’. It is a small mercy that they did not identify the causes as ‘seasonal’!
The economy is one area where muscular nationalism will not work. On the contrary, it may work to the detriment of the economy.
If the precedent is followed, it is only a matter of time before Darjeeling will be carved out as a Union Territory out of West Bengal. The routine will be to ask the state Assembly to “express its views” or impose President’s rule and dissolve the Assembly.
The BJP government’s commitment to federalism can be gauged by the manner in which Bills are passed in the Rajya Sabha. The Lok Sabha is the House of the People while the Rajya Sabha is the Council of States.