Growth without empowering masses amounts to abortion

Growth without empowering masses amounts to abortion

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We Indians have an excellent style to look at the pressing issues. We are aggressive in pursuing the issues which suit us politically, socially and economically. We are least bothered about their overt or covert consequences for the masses. It is the rich and the educated people whose primary responsibility should be to empower the poor, first educationally and physically by ensuring that they have access to quality health and education facilities and then politically so that they have fair representation in government set up. And if some mismatch still exists, then our Constitution has the provision for affirmative measures like reservation to bridge the gap. Just pretending that a lot is being done for the masses does not serve any purpose if the impact of positive interventions is not felt. In the past 70 years India has achieved various milestones so far as growth is concerned and one of them is overwhelming increase in the assets and wealth of the rich, who decide the actual policies and principles of the parties in power and those in opposition and even that of other fringe players in our democratic system. Unfortunately, the masses and their woes do not figure anywhere in their larger scheme of things. ‘We The People’ are taken for a ride by none other than their own mentors in different parties, wearing the masks of different colours, castes and religions.

If the growth slows down, the creamy layer of the society reacts as if the sky were falling on us and we all are going to be buried. One must not feel happy if growth indicators are sluggish and should initiate corrective measures. However, we have never cried over the fact that benefits of growth are not percolating to the masses in rural and semi urban areas in the form of better school, health and road facilities. Only a few days back, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut down India’s growth rate to 6.7 per cent during the current financial year. It was 5.7 per cent during April-June quarter, a three-year low, lagging China for the second straight quarter as manufacturing had slowed ahead of the GST launch amid demonetisation effect. China clocked a record 6.9 per cent growth in January-March as well as April-June quarters.

China is China. India is India. Chinese companies rule over the global market. US is worried about growing Chinese clout in the international market. In China, one’s caste does not decide his level of nationalism. In India, one’s caste and religion are key determinants of his patriotic commitment. In China, trains rarely get late, while in India trains are rarely reach their destinations on time. In China, Army regiments are not named after any caste or religion, while in India we have Rajput Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Jat Regiment and so on. Chinese rarely go abroad for quality healthcare as the government sector healthcare is so good. In India, majority of government facilities in rural and semi-urban areas are without adequate basic facilities comprising doctors, para-medical staff and medicines. In China, services are audited without fail, while in India any demand for auditing of services is considered to be a bane.

It is, therefore, horrendous to draw a comparison between India and China. We have our own dynamics to deal with our problems. We fight against poverty so long as the poor do not ask for their rights to education, health and share in national resources and job opportunities. It is, therefore, absolutely correct to see the current Central government focussing on empowering the poor the way they want. The expansion in gross domestic product (GDP) was 6.1 per cent in the preceding quarter and 7.9 per cent in the same period last fiscal. The previous low of 4.6 per cent was recorded in January-March 2014. It is worth mentioning that Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government came to power in May 2014.

Gross value added (GVA) in the manufacturing sector fell sharply to 1.2 per cent, from 10.7 per cent year on year, as the businesses focussed more on clearing inventories rather than production ahead of the July 1 launch of GST. A separate set of official data showed that growth of eight core sectors had slowed to 2.4 per cent in July due to contraction in output of crude oil, refinery products, fertiliser and cement. Demonetisation of high-value currency notes in November last year had impacted economic activities in January-March quarter as GDP growth slipped to 6.1 per cent and further to 5.7 per cent in the three months to June. As companies have taken to the GST, inventory has returned to normal levels which will help revive growth. Ease of doing business is no longer an issue in India. The Centre is focussing on MSME sector in order to encourage setting up of more industries. Private investments are picking up. The Centre is trying to prop up fixed investments and address the unsolved problem of bank’s NPAs.

NITI Aayog chairman Amitabh Kant has rightly said that the country needs about ’10 champions of states’ to push growth rate to 10 per cent plus level. According to Kant, seven eastern states and 201 districts are holding India back. “It is not possible for the country to grow without improving quality of life in these states and districts. You need about 10 champions of states in India to grow at 10 per cent plus. You need to create a huge sense of competition among these states. If they grow then India grows very rapidly,” he had said during a panel discussion at the Economist Summit in New Delhi some time back. “You can’t grow with 19th century institutions in 21st century. So we need to restructure. Which is why we are working on restructuring institutions like the Medical Council of India (MCI), the University Grants Commission of India (UGC) and the AICTE,” he said. We must bear in mind that India cannot grow only on the back of domestic demand. What we get in the export market is 10 times over what we get in domestic market. We need to export more. India must believe in size and scale. Indian companies must increase, must enlarge. Ambition and hunger in private sector to capture global market just does not exist in India. In the future 80 per cent of GDP is likely to come from urban areas. In the next 50 years, India will see more urbanisation than seen in the last 5,000 years. Hence, time to be proactive and aggressive in our approach to economic and socio-political issues!

(The writer is an independent commentator on socio-economic and political issues. Views are his personal)

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