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Posts Tagged ‘Electoral Reforms’

Howsoever dark a cloud is, there is always a silver lining. For those of us in India who are in a mood of despondency these days and continue to be defensive about quite a few things under the sun, let me list out what is there to cheer about.

  • There has been a record reduction in poverty, but we do not wish to announce it to the world. One, we are still concerned about the ones still lagging behind in the economic growth rat race. Two, we are not too sure about our own numbers!
  • There has been a sustained increase in rural wages and incomes. Pretty soon, we shall find that the market is being propped up by rural demand, while our urban folks continue to be in a doom gloom phase. While FMCG honchos are busy designing packages specifically targeted at the semi-urban and rural hinterlands, we continue to be diffident on this front.
  • In five year’s time, we have set up one-fourth of our installed capacity for power generation.  We have also laid power lines to 4.6 lac villages. We can not claim this to be an achievement because we have failed to provide back-up linkages of fuel, leaving vast swathes of country reeling under a power shortage.
  • On the road to financial inclusion, we have created and rolled out a programme which gives each of us a unique identity. This is also likely to help us plug leakages of subsidies, making resources available for other social welfare measures. We are defensive about it, because we are not too sure it would eventually work out. Sure enough, for the un-entitled ones who have been enjoying subsidies so far, the cost of living is just going to go up.
  • We have laid fiber optic cables to 2,50,000 panchayats. The only plausible reason for our hesitation to energizing the same and converting our narrow band capabilities into genuinely broad band ones  could be our fear of a majority of our denizens being covered by snooping measures of some foreign intelligence agencies!
  • Our parallel economy continues to thrive. Our politicos and private sector do not appear to be in a mood to stifle the same any time soon. However, one does come across some  papers and articles which indicate that post-Lehman Brothers, India faced the effect of a meltdown much later, the insulation having been provided by our underground economy. So, may be, we are being smart, allowing black money to proliferate!
  • Our rural tele-density at the beginning of this millennium was close to 1. As of now, it is around 40. We are quite defensive when it comes to claiming this to be an achievement because of some scam ridden decisions which were taken by those at the helm of affairs in the interim.  The argument is not that corruption is acceptable; it is only to say that there is indeed a positive aspect  which needs to be kept in mind.
  • We have also orchestrated a structural transformation of the economy. With the ratio of those engaged in agriculture coming down below 50%, we appear to be on our way to get more industrialized. We feel shy of talking about this because we have not pro-actively addressed the issue of urban housing and reforms.

Forget the ‘Incredible India’ campaign. The credible India has much going for it – a thriving democracy, a robust corporate sector, a young population, a growing and aspirational middle class, increasing urbanization, to cite some of the long-term strengths.  Brand India is there to stay. The devil is in the details – a tendency towards jugaad or short-term fixes, a habit of claiming rights sans any feeling of responsibility, a poor track record in implementation of grandiose projects, and the like.

So, here is a glass which is half full. Admittedly, there are mighty challenges ahead.  Just  as in the case of individuals, nations can learn to manage better from crises. If 1991 brought us economic reforms, the current crisis could prod us into reforming our legislative, executive and judiciary. Bolder and structural reforms could improve the standard of living of millions of Indians in the days to come. Let us be self-confident and push ahead in these times of economic turbulence.

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