Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Manmohan's Economy

Some times, the most severe, and irreparable damage comes from most innocuous of acts. I am referring to how a single, gentle, educated, and seemingly reasonable and harmless person by the name of Manmohan Singh became visible on the national platform, then acceptable, and finally the leader of a potentially great democracy. He did this by a promise to deliver on an idea...and the damage this did to the potential of who we, the nation, could have become was irreparable, terminal.

And this is what he did. By 'opening' India's economy, he actually opened doors to that easy evil that slumbers within us all - he legitimised greed, promoted rampant consumerism, and in doing this promised us an Utopia with unprecedented national growth and prosperity for all. It was a seductive dream to buy...and the intelligentsia succumbed to this sales pitch readily, greedily. It was a panacea for national grief - while also appeased the conscience of those yielding to its marketable pleasures. The educated, middle class bought into this, by closing their faculty, shutting their eyes and plugging their ears to their own voices of reason.The new generation of adults were allowed, no..encouraged to shop more, buy more, consume more because we were told, these very hedonistic activities would somehow provide jobs, alleviate poverty, and take us into a glorious era for a truly independent, free and developed India.

We did not pause to question how much trickling down would be required from the consumers, and over what time scales, to alleviate the 70% or so of our BPL into a market economy of shopping for their own TVs or refrigerators...for that is what was implicitly promised, wasn't it? We just did not sit down to work out some basic numbers - and we still refuse to do it. We do not confront the sordid fact that no amount of IIT building or adding Business Schools, inviting MNCs to mine, manufacture or employ is ever going to fulfill, for all, the basic goals of food security, access to health, rise in literacy and such, that we need to define our real development.

The Manmohan paradigm has failed its lofty goals of inclusive development - and maybe it was naive to assume it was ever meant for the masses. It was a notion sold to that small fraction who were visible, vocal and in-charge of a majority share of our pyramid economy. Manmohan economy continues to attract the comfortable class, with international salaries, tax benefits, swanky shopping malls - all those who take pride in saying "now we can buy everything in India"

So what do we do with the most of the rest of the Indian nationals - who do not fit? Who build our roads, malls, homes, resorts? We vacuum them away under a cosmopolitan, secular, glitzy rug into slums, bastis, and beggar homes, eliminate them via Salwa Judums or operations Green Hunt or make them a part of our constantly displaced population - a fallout of our big dams, big mines, big projects, big Dreams of BIG People.

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