By Ranjan Solomon
Facts about the Indian economy are often fudged or exaggerated by the current BJP dispensation. BJP’s spokespersons are often heard releasing statistics that inflate the levels of achievement of their government. Simultaneously, they seek to discredit the previous UPA regime for what are presented as misdeeds and mismanagement.
Where does the truth lie?
It lies in the hard facts of social exclusion and dispossession that accompany what are projected as healthy growth rates in the economy. These growth rates are almost always expressed in terms of percentage points! It is as if the people, the ‘Aam logon’, are a mere statistic.
Flourishing figures which suggest that India is on top of the list of emerging economies is plain camouflage. Comparisons are superfluous. For, what does material difference does it make if India is doing better than X, Y, or Z country? In the final analysis, a country’s success can only be determined by development indicators which prove that it has recorded growth and just distribution of the fruits of development.
Even a cursory glance at India’s achievement over the last two years is telling. The Indian economy is lagging behind when it comes to effectual achievements in sectors that indicate that balanced growth is happening. These include health, education, nutrition, basic amenities, environmental protection, and social equity, among others.
The economic pundits of this government are under obligation to satisfy their corporate masters. The latter are the real political bosses of the day. Democracy means nothing to this capital-wielding-blood- sucking clan. Their instructions to the government are to exert the economy on just one front – economic growth. Distribution towards social equity, they argue, will follow as a logical conclusion. And this, after years of witnessing the abysmal failure of trickledown economics.
Trickledown protagonists know it does not work. That they still hold it up as a possibility waiting to happen does not spell out their hope. It, rather, exposes their vile intent to make sure the rich can persist with getting richer while the poor are forced to decay in eternal poverty and deprivation and to be squeezed out by a system designed to propagate economic apartheid. They have a pliant media that trots out facts and figures to buttress the sham claims made by government. Economic growth minus distribution towards social justice is a model that will ultimately lead to social strains and a burst of rebellion from the margins. The question is when and how.
The strategy of a single-agenda economic growth model stems from the compulsions forced by the corporates. They are solely geared to assist big business. The emphasis on enhancing the investment climate is now core to government policy making. In their bid to garner sympathy for some supposed social goals, the government is adopting a week-kneed pretence of promoting social goals through business. Social thinkers reject this approach and say it will not suffice. How does one trust social development as an accompaniment to capitalist interests? The rich do not have any clue about economics coupled with justice. It is not in the DNA of capitalists to serve justice.
Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) is a new mantra now being used as a pretext to undermine social reality. Indeed, CSR is another business strategy of business houses to retain control and authority at the nerve centres of power. It is an apology for just distribution. A poor one at that!
Health care, education social security, public transport, improved circumstances for the urban poor, eliminating rural poverty, indigenous rights, dalit exclusion, environmental protection, gender equity, workers rights cannot be dealt with through a business-based approach. Hence, it becomes clear that government-speak on social policy with its business constituency pressing on it at every stage is sheer deceit. Business is the be-all and end-all of its goals. Profits are everything and people matter little or nothing until the next chance to vote arises.
Meanwhile, corporates, for all their acumen in business, miss a trick or two in social development. In their greed for profits and riches, they are unwilling to see that social rebellion is already with us. With such business oriented economic strategies, can we actually expect the Naxalite movement, for example, to slow down and lose steam or will the reverse become true? Or, for that matter, can the many protests of social movements around the country for justice be subdued unless justice is done? Will not the poor and dispossessed resort to methods that may seem violent but, in fact, are ones that seek to reverse the acute patterns of disadvantage and marginalization they face – the violence of the system that kills, maims thousands each day?
In its blind and mad rush to increase infrastructure – a government priority being implemented at the behest of foreign capital and Indian corporates- the government has chosen to prioritize the spaces of the rich for such development. Also, jobs generated from contracts for infrastructural development will be lucrative and will firmly remain in the hands of the private sector. One suspects that the inducements that invariably accompany major business deals will flow. Big business and government will now form a mutual back scratching society. Discussion on issues such water, public toilets, rural electricity, urban housing for them poor, roads in rural areas, sanitation and sewages – in short core issues for the larger sections of the population – are not seen under the purview of what government is thinking and planning. Social spending is virtually off the table. This begs the real question: Is the NDA development thrust effectively an anti-development agenda?
Economist, Jean Dreze questions government’s obsession with business-driven growth and palpable failure on the social policy front. He says: “Indeed, there are vast possibilities for more extensive and effective social policies in India. If India’s GDP continues to grow at around 7.5 per cent per year or so for another twenty years, and if the share of social spending in GDP rises by 50 per cent over the same period, there will be five times as much money for the social sector in twenty years’ time as there is today, in real per-capita terms”.
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Too many people in India face survival issues. At the risk of being polemic, one could say India faces a humanitarian tragedy and the government is scarcely bothered. Worse, it digresses from the questions being posed on its failures to grasp the content of the social challenges. It is blinded by the brute control of corporate powers and is engaged in the cozy connect that that control has established. And hence, it pursues digressions such as beef, renaming roads, foreign jaunts for ministers led by the PM himself, Pakistan, and anything which throws the attention away from facts. In this, the government is propped up by a pliant media- also corporate-backed. The media has moved from its function of being watchdog to being a hound dog. It leaves the nation just one choice – to forge and nurture alliances between civil society components who want progressive action, in concert with social movements, protest-groups, and the political left who work with non-party political formations to advance radical change.