Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Where is the economy, stupid?

64 years of a sporadic democracy, having seen the times of deep troughs and periods of neutral lacklustre performance, we still stand at the edge of the tower that has been leaning since that eventful midnight which brought freedom to this sub-continent. While our neighbouring Pakistan has since then seen different sides of the pendulum that has swung, within no time, between the so called generous civilian rule and the notorious military rule, India has, by means of the innovation it is best known for, political jugaad, survived the times of turmoil and instability. Indian politicians, of course, owing to their own selfish interest, have not let the tower fall down even once, even though they have been withdrawing enough from its basement to erect their lavish mansions, of brick and mortar, of blood and life, of poor and helpless, of caste and religion!

Having fought fifteen general elections for the union and much more for the state legislatures, we have, in the eyes of the world, matured and developed as a quintessential democracy, at least on the eastern side of the globe stretching from the Arab dictators to a communist China covering chaotic Nepal, dictatorial Myanmar and unstable Pakistan. The predictions of political pundits trained and civilized in the western schools of political thought, took a humiliating setback as India, against all the odds, evolved her into an institution of democratic teaching.

Though, this is no less a milestone in itself, we have reached a position wherein we should break the shackles of slumber in which majority of us have been living since long and step ahead to further the success of Indian democracy. Of all the elections that have taken place in India till date, none, and that is not an exaggeration, have been fought on the agenda which could be identified beyond votebank politics-a niche subsidy of real politics, that is only hinged around issues of caste, religion, region, colour et al. The 2011 census claims India’s literacy to be a little over 75% which is a huge number if seen in absolute terms. But, we should not let this figure deceive us as literacy is spectacularly different from education. Hardly 15% -20% of Indian students reach high school and assuming the figures to be correct, the percentage of ‘educated’ Indians would be in a wide range of 7.5-10% as 50% of the Indian population is below the age of 25. This figure is close to the ‘literacy’ rate of India at the time of independence (i.e. 10-12%) which indeed is a magical figure as it was enough to defy the cynicism of the world towards India. If we could establish a democracy with 10% of literacy, we can definitely mature our nation and its institutions with the same percentage of educated Indians.

The next Lok Sabha elections should and need to be fought on the real issues which have a wide domain to be discussed here. The most important, as I, being a centrist inclined towards the right, see is the economics. The globe is in a period of economic stagnation and changing energy needs which are bound to steer the driving factors of economy. Being at the peak of environmental concerns and depth of economic downfall simultaneously, we have been resting at a very sensitive point susceptible to a tilt either way. In such volatile situations, we need our public to stand up and force the politicians on the issue of economics because it is the fuel for everything –from honesty to corruption. We, as voters, and politicians, as voted, need to mature so that the governments are made or marred on real issues which we can indentify with our progress. The 15th general elections, which brought Dr. Manmohan Singh, an economist, back at the helm, too were, despite being in the period of economic churn, fought on political brownies like loan waiver and subsidy enhancement which according to a section of economists is no less than an economic suicide. If an economist thinks it unwise and detrimental to fight his political war on the subject he specializes in and in the subject that was of utmost importance to the nation and the globe during that phase of history, we, according to the school of political science, have not significantly evolved. The hopes on upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states regarding such an evolution in the agendas of political clash have wiped out, but, I most optimistically and probably highly unrealistically hope that 2014 or 2019 (assuming 5 year terms of coalition governments) elections at the centre assume greater role and responsibility in its political manifestos. The role for the educated youth shall not be confined to wearing ‘I am Anna’ caps and arresting the daily economic activities. We need to make sure, that if a person is standing against the establishment, it better not be for another political score, but for a fruitful result. Throwing our weights behind Bhatta Parsaul and Nandigram (which are political battlegrounds in the name of poor and helpless) only will (or have) change(d) the rulers, not the rules of the political gimmick. Real issues, like the economy, need to surface and unless we push those gentlemen in white kurta pyjamas and Nehru jackets to do so, we would keep spiralling around the issues that plagued us in the previous century. To be a superpower, 2020 is only a dream now, but to be one by 2050, we need to consider and ponder over economic issues way too seriously as the economic models of any other country won’t be the best fit for any other country. It is all about comparative administration that has the tweaks requisite to the local climate. These coming years, I wish to see them talking and talking economics!

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