In India, the poor are nearly half the population and even after 75 years of independence are lacking the essentials of a civilized existence- food, potable water, education, health and a dignified existence, writes former IAS officer V S Pandey
Keynes writing about the future in 1930, had presciently stated that “For at least another hundred years, we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not.” Keynes found his most ardent champion in governments across the globe, which irrespective of their variegated colors blindly followed his dictum. We also totally negated the moral imperative ,which was the foundational bedrock of our society and culture .The Gandhian talisman was also disavowed , ‘’ I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it ?Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny ?In other words, will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions.’’
We junked that and instead embarked on a vicious aggressive quest to flourish by exploiting and dominating the vulnerable. Our cultural heritage which emphasized that the very purpose of life is to recognize the essential oneness of existence, the higher aspect of the individual self ,known as the Atman, which is a part of everyone else’s self as well as the One Soul/Mind – which pervades all humanity was negated . Self enrichment ,fulfilment of ones own needs at any cost was adopted selfishly and blindly as our economic mantra . How then can we advance at the cost of our brethren, our own unified consciences, and follow a system whose economics is advocating the belligerently pursuing of our individual self-interest to ensure optimum outcomes.
Its failure was inevitable and disastrous. In India, the poor are nearly half the population and even after seventy five years of independence are lacking the essentials of a civilized existence -food ,potable water, education ,health and a dignified existence. Hence governments, who are still regarded as our maibaap sarkar – need to focus on first ameliorating their problems. But the economic policy followed in our country for decades seems loaded towards the haves. We are one of the most iniquitous nations on this planet and the gap between the rich and the poor is constantly increasing .
In a democracy, each one has only one vote and hence the rich and the poor are equal stakeholders. The have nots constitute the largest chunk of voters hence governance just cannot afford to ignore their interest any more. From the very beginning , we as a nation failed to come up with an economic policy suited to our ethos, our cultural traditions meshed with our rich tradition of contentment. We looked at the outside world and tried to import their alien economic traditions- first the socialist mode of centralized planned development, and after nineties we followed the privatization, globalization, liberalization mantra and began aping the capitalist culture. We are at the crossroads now. We were the sixth biggest economy in 1950 and currently also we rank sixth . Similarly in per capita income terms we are stagnating where we were in 1950. Unfortunately we are known as one of the most corrupt countries in the world where it is next to impossible to get rightful work done without sifarish or bribe. We still have crores and crores of people who are illiterate and unskilled and they toil hard on a daily basis somehow eking out a wretched existence.
We, as a nation failed to evolve a sustainable development model for ourselves and imitated others mindlessly- with catastrophic consequences. We must discharge our humungous responsibility to protect our environment- being one of the most populous nations. We have to change our trajectory.
Currently, the state of the Indian economy is worrisome. The Indian Rupee has fallen below 80 mark against the US dollar. On the unemployment front , we have not done enough and millions remain waiting for any worthwhile employment opportunities . Another major worry is Retail inflation, which continues to be above RBI’s tolerance band of 6%, increasing the unease of large sections of our population who are facing the brunt of the current crisis.
Although the governmental data released this week -painting a rosy picture by announcing GDP growth rate of 13.5% compared to the first quarter of the last fiscal year but it failed to highlight that in real terms it is near nothing. This data needs to be compared with the pre-Covid levels to arrive at the correct conclusion. A look at the GDP data at constant price will reveal that, country has seen little or no growth in past three years- which presents a gloomy picture. To compound this misery, major industries such as Mining and Quarrying ,Manufacturing, a heavy employment generator, has grown at a snail’s pace during this period. The job oriented construction industry has also shown negative trends during these years .
These are not encouraging numbers. Future prospects are grim unless puts together it’s talent to come up with inclusive economic model . We need to work out the path of our economic development in consonance with our cultural ethos .India has the moorings to show the path to the world. Any economic policy divorced from our ethical civilizational ethos will not benefit humanity. Unbridled greed has resulted in the over exploitation of our natural resources across the globe. The ill consequence of this excessive profiteering and over exploitation of nature is confronting us .Our very survival on this planet is threatened. India needs to take the lead in coming up with a new paradigm of development which is not only based on sustainable consumption in the long term but is devoid of greed , exploitation ,inequality and poverty .
(Vijay Shankar Pandey is former Secretary Government of India)