international-affairs, politics, uncategorized
DEVELOPMENT, JUSTICE, AND DEMOCRACY: SOME REFLECTIONS
As I am writing this essay on the Republic Day 2011, naturally my thoughts wended their way to the Constitution of India adopted on January 26, 1950. Till then King George VI was the head of state of India. India’s ambassadors till that day carried their letters of accreditation from the King. On that day, Dr. Rajendra Prasad took over as President. Therefore, January 26, 1950 completed India’s journey to political independence.
It is important to realize that what was gained in 1947-50 was only political independence. Economic independence was yet not there. Economic independence implies that all Indians can live with dignity, eat well, be literate, afford to send their children to schools where there are good and competent teachers, have access to good and affordable health care, have an adequate income , and, above all, hold their heads high without fear, and proud of their motherland and its position in the comity of nations. In the first half of the twentieth century India’s per capita income grew at 0.1% annually. We should note, en passant, that per capita income as such is a misleading indicator of the true state of the majority of the people. Yet, it is historically important to take note of the growth rate of income under the British Raj.
In 1950, India’s per capita income and level of industrialization were more or less the same as that of South Korea and China, to take only two countries. China had decades of civil war and also Japanese occupation in parts of the country. Compared to what China had gone through, the Partition and the attendant violence, destruction, and carnage that India experienced, horrendous as they were, was much less in its intensity and spread. China, later suffered under Mao, during the Cultural Revolution and the Great Famine. It has been estimated by scholars that about 40 to 70 million Chinese lost their lives under Mao. India had the good fortune to have Jawaharlal Nehru who built up the foundation for a strong, secular, just, and democratic India. Korea for years was under military rule even after Syngman Rhee’s autocracy ended in 1960 before it became a practicing democracy.
At present China’s per capita income is $4283 (ppp $7518) South Korea’s is $20300 (ppp $29791) and India’s is $ 1200 (ppp $3290). The poverty reduction in India has been much slower than in China. We should not hastily conclude that democracy is the villain.
The central question is: What happened? Why India did not develop as expected and dreamt by our forebears who fought and died for India’s freedom? Let us go back to our Constitution. The Preamble reads:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, have solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
and to promote among them all
FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
The Directive Principles of State Policy in Part 1V of the Constitution explain what is expected of the state in promoting justice and equality. For example, Article 39 reads:-
The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing-
(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means of livelihood;
(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to sub-serve the common good;
(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;
(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;
(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;
(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
Therefore, it follows that the Republic of India embarked on its journey over sixty years ago with the best of intentions, value systems, and a clear sense of direction. If we have not reached where we should have reached it follows that we have not been true to our Constitution.
Before we deal with what went wrong, let us figure out briefly what went right. India has preserved its democratic system and ethos; she remains secular in her values; the literacy rate has gone up from 12% in 1947 to 68% in 2007; life expectancy at birth has moved up from 28 years in 1950 to 65 years in 2005-10; there is a strong industrial base and India has made tremendous progress in engineering, space, atomic energy, pharmaceuticals, to mention only a few areas. India’s economic growth, especially after the 1990 reforms, has catapulted her into one of the ten leading economies.
Let us now look at the negative side of the ledger with objectivity and without inhibition. To face the truth requires courage. It is fashionable these days to dress up truth. The temptation to dress up truth should be resisted. The negative side can be summed up as follows:
According to findings of the Commission on the Unorganized Sector, headed by the late Professor Arjun Sengupta, 77% of Indians live on Rs.20 or less a day. As there are many who live on even less than 20 Rs a day, let us look at the table for the year 2004-05:
|Extremely poor (Rs.9 )
|Marginally poor (Rs 15)
Arjun Sengupta’s analysis given above is much sharper and much less inhibited than what official statistics give out. For example, for 2004-05, the official figure for the poor is 37.12%. In other words, to get a realistic figure the government figure has to be multiplied by two. It is important to mention here that there was certain dismay and discomfort in certain circles that the Commission had not bothered to dress up the facts. It appears that some seriously expected the Commission to apply cosmetics to its findings.
We need to demolish the myth about a growing, shining middle class in India. Some writers have estimated that that class contains about 350 million. In fact, technically speaking there is no middle class in India in terms of income. Let us define the middle class as those who spend $ 10 or more a day and do not belong to the top ten percent. The percentage of Indians that falls into that category works out to 5%. They are right at the top. Therefore, they are not the middle class.
That India has not given even primary education to all her children is a shame. China, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil, Thailand, and Indonesia universalized primary education years ago. Primary reasons for the dismal state of affairs are inadequate funding by the government, inefficient utilization of allotted funds, and general apathy on the part of government at various levels, political and bureaucratic.
In 1944 the then British Government came out with a plan, known as the Sergeant Scheme, to attain 100% literacy by 1984. Some of India’s leaders criticized the scheme arguing that India cannot wait for 40 years. By 2001 India had reached the 64% mark….The Kothari Commission in 1966 recommended spending 6% of GDP on education. The National Education Policy (1992) reiterated the recommendation. The highest so far has been 4% and by and large it has hovered around 3%. The more intelligent developing countries spend as high as 10%. We say “more intelligent” deliberately. Education is splendid investment from a purely, limited economic point of view. Of course, the state should take care of education whether it is an investment that gives monetary return or not. By denying education we are excluding a large number of our fellow citizens from living with human dignity. The person who has not had even elementary education is less likely to send his children to school, or to be able to be an intelligent and caring parent even if the child goes to a school, not to speak of being a responsible citizen. In 1947 India’s population was 270 million. According to the 2001 census the number of illiterates was 296 million.
There is much talk of ‘inclusion’ and the media have reported that the CII Confederation of Indian Industry) spent Rs. 40 crores in Davos to project an ‘inclusive’ India. It is obvious that if India were inclusive there would have been no need to spend money on such propaganda. Just because the assembled elite in Davos are convinced of our ‘inclusive ‘intentions, the number of children dying of hunger before reaching 5 years does not get reduced even by one.
Some economists, allergic to spending in the social sector, have argued that there is not enough money with the government and that the private sector has to come in. The argument is wrong. The Tapas Majumdar Committee estimated in 1999 that it will cost Rs.13,700 crores a year for ten years to universalize primary education. For ten years it comes to 137,000 crores, to be compared with the 176,000 crores of Rs the Government of India has lost in the G2 spectrum scam, as estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. Not intriguingly, it is the same economists who resent spending on education who have been votaries of reforms that have begotten such big scams. Even in terms of rate of return, investment in education pays back good returns. It is an important element in the building up of the human infrastructure, to modify the economist’s jargon. It will be interesting to do an economic analysis on the returns on investment calculated on a holistic basis from primary and secondary education on the one hand and in a special economic zone on the other. But, the moot point is that whatever be the returns, education is an absolute requirement for human beings to live with dignity. There is no question of any one’s arguing that there is no money for it. Nor is there any reason to be dogmatically opposed to private investment in education. But, to argue that Government can stop investing because the private sector will invest enough is to make a huge mistake and that is the intention of some who are pushing for private investment in education under the guise of ppp (private-public partnership). It is painful to see economists arguing for neglecting the social sector as they are supposed to advise the government how to make use of its resources in order to realize its goals as soon as possible. Those who talk of inter-generational justice and fairness when it comes to deficit, do forget that thousands are dying in the present.
India has 16% of the world population, but accounts for 30% of infant/child mortality. Life expectancy at birth is only 64 years as compared to 79 in developed countries. About half of children under three suffer from malnutrition.
The main reason for such a deplorable state is that not enough money is spent on health. “Public expenditure at 1% of GDP is one of the lowest among all the countries in the world.”1
Since the state does not spend enough the people have to spend more on health. In Norway and USA, state expenditure on health accounts for 83.5% and 44.8% of total expenditure for health. In India the state accounts for only 18% and in Sri Lanka it is 46.5%.2
There is wide variation among states and the state expenditure peaked in 1987 and started to decline with the onset of reforms.
The primary health centres are not delivering health care in the manner required. They often lack the multidisciplinary talents and laboratory facilities for correct and early diagnosis. The doctors and nurses are not punctual, to put it gently. In fact, many poor people avoid going to the primary health centre or the sub-centre.
A lot of good work is being done by NGOs. In New Delhi The India Foundation
runs a clinic treating about 1200 a month, at a monthly cost of Rs.50,000. Of course, the two retired civil servants who started it do not take any salary for themselves. The fact is that there are many like them and the government and civil society should support them. Elementary health care can be extended in a year or two to every one in our land.
There is another manner the NGOs can help. The Catholic Hospitals Association of India
took over the management of hundreds of primary centres and sub-centres in Andhra Pradesh and trained up the staff and with close monitoring and supervision improved considerably the performance of the centres. The government should hand over the management some of its hospitals and clinics to reputed NGOs.
12.8 million enter the labor market every year. Theoretically, they can enter the organized sector or the unorganized sector. Organized sector is defined as all public sector establishments and all private non-agricultural establishments employing ten or more workers. Starting from the 1980s growth of employment in the organized sector has stagnated. Since the commencement of reforms in early 1990s, the situation got aggravated, as will be seen from the following table:
Employment in the Organized Sector3
Mechanization is taking its toll on employment. Take the case of Tata Motors. The company reduced its workforce in Pune from 35,000 to 21,000, but increased production from of vehicles from 129,000 to 312,000 between 1999 and 2004.4
As the organized sector shrank, the unorganized sector expanded. It is useful to define the sector. The best definition is given in the Arjun Sengupta Commission’s Report. “The unorganized/informal sector consists of all unincorporated private enterprises owned by individuals or households engaged in the sale and production of goods and services operated on a proprietary or partnership basis and with less than ten workers.” The Commission has pointed out that not all unorganized sector workers work in the unorganized sector. “ The unorganized /informal sector workers consist of those working in the informal sector or households ,excluding regular workers with social security benefits provided by the employees, and the workers in the formal sector without any employment and social security benefits provided by the employers.
The table below brings home the point about the relative expansion of the unorganized sector:
Share of the Unorganized Sector in the Workforce6
The statistics on employment in India are less than scientific. For example, the NSS( National Sample Survey) has counted as employed a person who has worked for an hour during the reference week. The reason for such an approach is not the lack of statistical skills, but a general tendency among government circles to project that the situation is better than it is. Just as the WHO has started working out years of healthy life, we need to work out the figures of those who are appropriately employed as against those who might have worked an hour or two in a week.
On the one hand, the young cannot find jobs. On the other, the employer cannot find enough employable young persons. We have mentioned that 12.8 million enter the labor market a year. There are only 30,000 skills training centres and their combined capacity works out to only 3.1 million trainees. It goes without saying that we should not assume that all the centres are working to their full capacity. We all know how difficult it is to get hold of a plumber or electrician.
Urban population has been growing at 2.7 to 3.8% per annum during the last five decades. The shortage in housing, according to the Planning Commission, was of the order of 26 million in 2009. On the other hand, the World Bank has estimated a shortage of 70 million.7
The difference in the estimates has to do with the quality of housing. The World Bank has in mind better quality. It also attaches particular importance to purchasing power. Out of the 70 million, about half can afford to buy housing through credit.
To what extent has had the Government schemes have delivered, it is difficult to say. This is mainly because, the government presentations on the net or elsewhere project what is planned and not what was delivered.
Nutritional Security and State of Agriculture
It is customary to speak of food security. But, we need a more holistic concept. Hence, we speak of nutritional security. No society that cannot take care of its children’s health can consider itself healthy. Children cannot be healthy if their mothers are underfed and anaemic. If the mother is not healthy, the baby is underweight. One out of four babies in India are underweight. One third of the malnourished children on the globe are in India. As we have noted India accounts only for 16% of the world population. Infant mortality was 58 out of 1000 in 2006 and further progress has been slow.
The state of agriculture is sad. Farmers have been killing themselves in thousands every year. For 2009, the total is 17368. In fact, since we started keeping records, the number of farmers committing suicide has steadily increased despite all the money, thousands of crores of rupees, that the Government has pumped in. P Sainath has done commendable work in this area. According to him, during the period 1997-2003, 16267 farmers killed themselves a year. During the period 2003-2009, that figure went up to 17105. This works out to 47 a day, or one farmer every 30 minutes.8
We shall not go into the reasons for the sad state of agriculture in India, except to say that neglect on the part of the government is the principal cause. The neglect has been two-fold: Declining investment and inability to give knowledge support to the farmer.
Public investment in agriculture, in real terms, had witnessed a steady decline from the Sixth Five-Year Plan onwards. With the exception of the Tenth Plan, public investment has consistently declined in real terms (at 1999-2000 prices) from Rs 64,012 crore during the Sixth Plan (1980-85) to Rs 52,107 crore during the Seventh Plan (1985-90) , Rs 45,565 crore during the Eighth Plan (1992-97) and Rs 42,226 crore during Ninth Plan (1997-2002).It was stipulated in the Eighth Plan that the level of investment in agriculture should be raised to at least 18.7 per cent of total national investment basket. However, while the total public investment has increased dramatically over the last decade, the share of investment in agriculture has varied from 8 to 10 per cent with a maximum of 11 per cent during 2001-02.9
The agricultural extension services were built up as a follow up to THE GROW MORE FOOD CAMPAIGN
during World War 2. Historically, the idea of extension had its origins in US in the beginning of the 20th century. In 1952-53 under the Community Development Projects, agricultural extension got reinforced. Conventionally understood, Agricultural Extension comprises the entire set of organizations that support people engaged in agricultural production and facilitate their efforts to solve problems; link to markets and other players in the agricultural value chain; and obtain information, skills, and technologies to improve their livelihood.10
The sad fact of the matter is that agricultural extension was of no use when the farmers committed suicide in thousands.
There is much poverty of clarity of thinking in India on poverty. Obviously, the rich elite that have not experienced poverty and hunger would find it difficult to figure out poverty often discussed by them over a seven-course meal. In 19th century England as industrialization was making progress there was much debate among factory owners about how much they should spend on wages. There was no consensus as such, but there was much support for the view that the workers should get just enough to keep body and soul together so that they can come and work. There was no recognition of the need and entitlement to lead a life of dignity.
One might have expected independent India to be more sensitive than the 19th century English capitalist. Let us look at some key dates:
Dadabhai Naoroji in his Poverty and UnBritish Rule
studied the food required by coolies on voyage in “a state of quietitude” and concluded that the income required for food alone was Rs.16 to 35 per person per annum at 1867-68 prices. Naoroji was sensitive enough to point out that he had not included any money for “little businesses, social or religious wants, expense on occasions of joy and sorrow.” In other words, Naoroji implied that man does not live by food alone.
K T Shah, Secretary, National Planning Commission arrived at a figure of Rs.15 to 20 Rs. a month for an “irreducible standard of living.”
As part of the Bombay Plan
Thakurdas proposed a poverty line that was less adequate than the two previous ones.
The Planning Commission arrived at a figure of Rs. 20 a day for rural and 25 for urban taking into account food and housing. No allowance was made for health and education as the state was supposed to provide for the same.
The income figure was much less than the 1939 one.
Dandekar and Rath based on NSS data for 1960-61 arrived at a figure enough to buy food for 2250 kcals a day.
We should leave the story here, noting that the retreat begun in 1944 has not stopped. As we saw earlier, Arjun Sengupta’s 77% is a cogent, logical assessment. All the disputatious rounds that go on endlessly among scholars only expose the lack of real concern on the part of the non-poor. Incidentally, as early as 1939, K T Shah had advocated “rapid and inclusive “growth. At times one gets the impression that ‘inclusive growth’ is a recent discovery. There is a proliferation of debate among economists on the theme “growth versus social spending”
illustrating our point that those who have not experienced hunger and poverty do find it difficult to figure it out. A food-based poverty line should be renamed starvation line
out of consideration to avoid cruelty to the English language.
Let us go back to the question: What went wrong?
Mahatma Gandhi, the day before he was assassinated came out with his ideas for the nation’s future. “Though split into two, India having attained political independence through means devised by the Indian National Congress, the Congress in its present shape and form, i.e., as a propaganda vehicle and parliamentary machine, has outlived its use. India has still to' attain social, moral and economic independence in terms of its seven hundred thousand villages as distinguished from its cities and towns. The struggle for the ascendency of 'civil over military power is bound to take place in India's progress towards its democratic goat It must be kept out of unhealthy competition with political parties and communal bodies. For these and other similar reasons, the A. I. C. C. resolves to disband the existing Congress organization and flower into a Lok Sevak Sangh under the following rules with power to alter them as occasion may demand.
Every panchayat of five adult men or women being villagers or village-minded shall form a unit.
Two such contiguous panchayats shall form a working party under a leader elected from among them. When there are one hundred such panchayats, the fifty first grade leaders shall elect from among themselves a second 'grade leader and so on, the first grade leaders meanwhile working under the second grade leader. Parallel groups of two hundred panchayats shall continue to be formed till they cover the whole of India, each succeeding group of panchayats electing a second grade leader after the manner of the first. All second grade leaders shall serve jointly for the whole of India and severally for their respective areas. The second grade leader may elect, whenever they deem necessary, from among them- selves a chief who will, during pleasure, regulate and command all the groups.
(As the final formation of provinces or districts is still in state of flux, no attempt has been made to divide this group of servants into provincial or District Councils, and jurisdiction over the whole of India has been vested in the group or groups that may have been formed at any time. It should be noted that this body of servants derive their authority or power from service ungrudgingly and wisely done to their master, the whole of India).
1. Every worker shall be a habitual wearer of khadi made from self-spun yarn or certified by the A.l.S.A. and must be a teetotaller. If a Hindu, he must have abjured untouchability in any shape or form in his own person or in his family and must be a believer in the ideal of inter-communal unity, equal respect and regard for all religions and equality of opportunity and status for all irrespective of race, creed or sex.
2. He shall come in personal contact with every villager, within his jurisdiction.
3. He shall enroll and train workers from amongst the villagers and keep a register of all these.
4. He shall keep a record of his work from day to day.
5. He shall organize the villages so as to make them self-contained and self-supporting through their agriculture and handicrafts.'
6. He shall educate the village folk in sanitation and hygiene. and take all measures for prevention of ill-health and disease among them.
7. He shall organize the education of the village folk from birth to death along the lines of Nai Talim, in accordance with the policy laid down by the Hindustani Talimi Sangh.
8. He shall see that those whose names are missing on the statutory voters rolls are duly entered therein.
9. He shall encourage those who have not yet acquired the legal qualification, to acquire it for getting the right of franchise.'
10. For the above purposes and others to be added from time to time, he shall train and fit himself in accordance with the rules laid down by the Sangh for the due performance of duty.
The Sangh shall affiliate the following autonomous bodies:
1. A.I.S.A. (All-India Spinners Association)
2. A.I.V.I.A. (All-India Village Industries Association)
3. Hindustani Talimi Sangh (Society for Basic Education)
4. Harijan Sevak Sangh (Society for service' of "untouchables")
5. Goseva Sangh (Society for Cow-protection and Improvement)
The Sangh shall raise finances for the fulfillment of its mission, from among the villagers and others, special stress being laid on collection of the poor man's pice.
- Harijan, 15-2.1948
It is easy to dismiss the Father of the Nation’s advice as the empty unrealizable dreams of a utopian out of touch with hard realities. Let us recall to ourselves that when Gandhi electrified the masses, transformed the Indian National Congress into a national body of fighters for freedom from a meek, timid, petition-submitting body that met around Christmas time for a few days and then went into hibernation, and demanded independence for India, many dismissed him as a hopeless utopian. In the 1930s there was a learned professor in the Cambridge University who believed in three immortalities: Immortal God, immortal soul, and the immortal Cambridge University.
It is not that Gandhi imagined in a fit of idealism that India could do without political parties. He knew that corruptible political parties will be formed to capture power for advancing partisan interests and to steal from the public. But, as a counter weight to that he wanted a few of his Congressmen and women whom he had transformed from the lead of selfishness to the gold of self-sacrifice for the good of the nation to organize themselves into a big NGO and work for the progress of India. Gandhi was realistic enough to foresee that government run by power seekers will fail to deliver justice and development and that inevitably democracy will move towards elitocracy, a government of, for, and by the elite.
Gandhi gave a talisman to those who are holding public office:
“I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man [woman] whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him [her]. Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] to a control over his [her] own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away."11
It has been proved that those who hold political power in India do not wish to make much use of Gandhi’s talisman, with a few exceptions.
Therefore, we conclude that one of the main reasons for India’s lack of progress in eradicating poverty, hunger, and injustice is that we expected and depended on the government to deliver development. The government cannot deliver for the reason that it is infiltrated by a rising number of criminals at the political level—according to the current Chief Vigilance Commissioner more than 28% of the Lok Sabha MPs have criminal charges pending against them. As regards the bureaucracy, a certain number of them join the service in order to make money. There was a time when if it was said that A was an IAS officer it implied that he was honest and incorruptible. Is it the case now? The Utter Pradesh IAS Officers Association comes out with the list of the corrupt among their colleagues.
Apart from corruption or rather corruptibility, there is an in- built inefficiency and lack of accountability about the bureaucracy barring honorable, but alas, few and far in between, exceptions.
The nature and limitations of government as a delivery vehicle is the first and major cause of India’s slow development. The second major reason is that our prevailing economic philosophy is deeply flawed. We adore GDP growth as the Jews did adore, for a while, the golden calf abandoning the Lord who delivered them from Egypt. The story is in The Exodus
. As Moses took longer than expected to return from Mount Sinai where the Lord was giving him the Ten Commandments, some people persuaded Aaron to make a golden calf.
Before applying our mind to a critical scrutiny of globalization that is the dominant trend in our times, it will be useful to remind ourselves of the four classes of idols that Francis Bacon has identified in his book The New Organon
published in 1620. There are idols of the Tribe, of the Cave, of the Market Place, and of the Theatre. We need to deal only with the last two for our purposes. The idols of the market place are the fallacies caused by the obscuring of the intellect by words. The idols of the theatre are false systems of philosophy and perverted rules of demonstration established, like stage plays, without much regard to reality.
Take the case of GDP growth. Gross Domestic Growth is indeed gross. It does not make any difference whether money is made by selling poison or bread. It does not matter who or what is growing, whether it is the wealth of the majority of the people, especially of the poor or that of the rich. The combined wealth of the Indian billionaires increased from US$ 106 to 170 billion in the single year 2006-07. The increase in wealth was 60%. How was it possible? It was possible because land was transferred to the corporations for mining, industrialization, and for establishing special economic zones. All such transaction was made in the name of ‘public purpose.’12
Let us examine the idea that it makes sense to make a single market of the whole world. Does it make sense to get broiler chicken from Brazil for us in India even if it works out cheaper? Should not a country of India’s size and climatic variety be reasonably self-sufficient in basic food items? Let us compare the European Union with its population of 500 million and India with its population of 1150 million. The purpose of the European Union is to have a single market for itself. In fact, the foreign trade of European Union is much less than its internal trade. The trend of an expanding internal trade and a relatively shrinking external trade in the Union has been well established. Would it not make more sense for India to emulate the good example of European Union rather than open up India to imports from all over, especially China?
Currently, India exports goods worth US$ 20 billion a year to China, mainly raw material, and imports from there machinery worth US$ 40 billion. Is it good for India? Further, is globalization as it is occurring sustainable? At this rate over time China will be making all the tv screens and shoes, to mention only two of the many articles of daily use, and exporting the same to the rest of the world. What about the job losses in the importing countries?
This consideration about disappearing jobs brings to our mind one of the serious flaws in the prevailing philosophy for which the best acronym is LPG(Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization). If an export-led growth is aimed at it is necessary to be price-competitive in the global market. To be price-competitive it is necessary to out-source, to increase mechanization, and to casualize labor, and, in general to increase productivity per worker so that the workforce can be reduced even as production increases as we saw in the case of the Pune plant of the Tatas. There is need for job-creation oriented growth. Mechanization and other means for increasing productivity per worker is good for the company, but not necessarily for the society. Hence, we have to strike a just balance between what is good for the society as a whole and what brings profit to the company.
The next point we want to mention is that unless the government seeks out good NGOs and work with them India’s progress towards social justice, social harmony, and the eradication of poverty and illiteracy will remain slow. It was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
A word about the quality of governance in the development sector: In a recent article on food grains policy, Kaushik Basu, Economic Advisor to the Finance Minister has made some cogent points: “The simultaneous occurrence of high food inflation and large food grain stocks in our granaries has been a matter of concern. The aim of this paper is to understand the fundamentals of our food grain market and policy that lead to this situation and to suggest policies for rectifying this. The central argument of the paper is that it is imperative that we look at the entire system of food production, food procurement and the release and distribution of food. Trying to correct one segment of this complicated system is likely to end in failure. The paper argues that there are two different motives for food grain procurement by the state – to provide food security to the vulnerable and to even out food grain price fluctuations from one year to another. Further, how we procure the food has an impact on how we release the food, and vice versa. Inspired by the sight of food grain going waste, it is often made out to be that our central problem is that of poor food grain storage. This paper disagrees with this popular view. While we no doubt should improve our storage facilities, it is important to be clear that this in itself will not lower the price of food. To achieve that we need to redesign the mechanics of how we acquire and release food on the market.”
The crucial point made by Basu is that the decision to off load stock into the market should be automatically taken based on an agreed formula, and not as a Cabinet decision. The government has failed to offload into the market the right quantity at the right time. Basu is right. But ,is it not strange that a senior advisor to the Government should be saying decades after we introduced the system of public distribution that “it is imperative that we look at the entire system of food production, food procurement and the release and distribution of food…..” Where is the intelligence in government? The individuals in the government are ,no doubt, intelligent, and often, well intentioned. But, what about the system? That is the challenge before us as a people and therein lies the fundamental question of the quality of governance. I do not believe that it is beyond the intelligence of the Indian people to make their government more responsible, more responsive, and smarter.
It is indeed sad to witness the disputatious debate between the National Advisory Council and the Prime Minister’s Panel about the number of people to be covered under Food Security and the quantity of food grains to be given and the price to be charged.. At times the debate is mediated by the media. As so many human beings are hungry and some of them die every day, will it note make sense for the two sides to meet over coffee and sort it out? Why do we as a nation want to score debating points over each other?
(This article was written by Ambassador KP Fabian on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of IGSSS of which he is the President.)
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Are Farmers’ Information Needs Being Met?
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February 14th, 2011 | category:international-affairs, politics, uncategorized |