India – Where are you headed
Mirror mirror on the wall, what thou shall be if the wall hath a fall
Democracy they say is to the people by the people for the people. We the people of India must take a break from our fast lives and halt for a while just to look back and forward asking few questions. Where are the people who were with us at the start of the walk that we set forward for after the tryst with destiny? Have we not walked these 65 years systematically leaving a lot many brethren behind, limping their way forward seeking help?
Certain scholars today study intergeneration occupational mobility and try to see how amidst the phenomenal economic growth of our country, things have changed for the newer generations. Are they living in a better or different India? Are their occupations different from their fathers’ and fore-fathers’? Though there is a lack of data also making such studies for the women is difficult as in our society after marriage women start to live with the family of the husband, the scholars could present a trend that gives an approximate picture. The results of such studies show, that in rural areas the mobility is very poor and the sons of laborers end up as laborers, that of farmers end up as farmers and so on. In urban set ups since there are a variety of occupations available, the trend is slightly different. But the underlaying tone of all such studies is that – the rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Education is the major catalyst for change. Sadly, its penetration in our society has been superficial and whatever education reaches the rural areas is not quality education by any standards. The GDP share allocated for education and health has been abysmally low since independence, contrary to that set aside for defense.
Such trends are definitely not a good sign for the health of our democracy. If a vast section of the society is getting too less of the growth then, as it has already started showing up, with passing time the growth itself will get de-railed.
Walking under the US Hegemony
Recently we have seen our top leadership taking stringent and fast steps to clear the log jam in the economy by proposing to open up the market for FDI in single brand retail, insurance, cap LPG, hike in diesel prices etc. All done to improve the investor sentiments and wooing the sovereign rating firms who have the mandate to provide the investment whether report card of countries. Though such steps are important – or have become important in current scenario – one may ask how autonomous are we? Who decides our policies for us? Are the people happy with the decisions of their representatives? If not whose democracy is this?
Some argue that referendum can be a solution. Which again has its own limitations. Let say a policy decision is to be taken, then a panel of citizen society members can be made to draft the outline, float the draft for voting among a lakh or 2 lakh people. If they get majority votes in favor, then a country wide voting can be made thereby coming up with a policy that will suit all and the democratic values will get strengthened with every citizen feeling that he/ she is a part of the country’s decision making process. There are certain issues though. This might give rise to the problem of majoritism. Also voting can be made on Yes-No questions. Who shall make the questions? For example a 'yes' vote to the question “Do we need Foreign Exchange reserves?” cannot be taken as a ‘yes’ for FDI in retail. Then there will be campaigns to educate the people before voting. Who will jump into these campaigns? Definitely, deep pocketed corporate houses with vested interests. Such a model can easily fail as voting process in a 1.2 billion strong nation can be very tedious and a lot of tax-payers’ money will get spent just to know whether there is a general acceptance over an issue. Forget about the implementation part.
The fact that we are contemplating on such solutions is sad, as it points to the failure of our representatives in gaining public support beyond the election votes they get. Had they been successful in presenting themselves as true representatives, there would have not been such a situation of mistrust. It is getting reflected in the outlook of our leaders, that corporate giants have a great say in policy making and we are not walking straight with our head held high, we are tilted towards the US today. From Nehruvian socialism, to Indira’s authoritative regime, we gently slipped into neo-liberalism which can easily make us enter the era of neo-imperialism.
Let’s be limited to Delhi approach
The government is pushing forward Direct Cash Transfer scheme. Earlier it allowed civil society groups to come up, not to forget NGOs and SHOs and micro finance groups as well. Slowly and steadily the government has been taking a back seat allowing inclusion through participation. Now, a question arises is this an acceptance of the failure of the State in doing what it is ought to do and brushing aside responsibilities, asking others to come forward and fight the social mores and conflicts? Well, we can’t be against the government on this front. In a big country like India, participation of the people in their growth is very important. It is very crucial that the people are made empowered to fight their poverty.
Technology, Aadhar cards, ICT and bank accounts put together do show rays of hope. We can overcome the problem of leakage of funds midway and minimize the corruption in the delivery channels. But let say a poor person has cash in his account, where will he go for health checkup or for education? Are their sufficient number of quality hospitals and medical practitioners and schools? How will he spend that money cannot be determined. In such a scenario, will Delhi have the knob in its hand through which it will be able to regulate the direction of our growth? Will it not happen that a group of people will grow towards prosperity and the rest left of their own with no responsible government to address their woes? Is the society today, with a great many people living a poor life and illiterate, ready for such a change? May be that is the situation already in place.
All the cynicism presented above may be an anxiety that resists change. It might not be all that bad. Such changes might bring a new wave of all round development. But no one can deny that we have not developed our infrastructure considerably. We rely on foreign investments and technology too heavily. We have not been able to harvest solar energy, also, technology for cost effective exploitation of our vast thorium reserves for energy needs is not in sight. Sovereignty can be safeguarded only if we make ourselves strong in all domains of development and energy sufficient. We have sailed through the economic crisis of 2008 safely, but might not always and that would mean starvation of millions of poor in absence of State sponsored schemes which will have to be brought down in the name of austerity. We need a health checkup and promptly address to the basic problems instead of just making patches for the torn rags of governance. To solve a problem, the problem must be accepted first. Just analyzing current crisis and working on its solution may lead us no where we need a long term goal and a long term vision to take us there. Above all, we need to know what our leaders have in their mind so that this atmosphere of mistrust fades away.