The New Year has come and it is time for the Government and the Opposition to set a broad agenda if not specific targets on what they intend to do in 2015. As far as the Government is concerned they are really lucky that the international oil prices have gone down and in spite of a little deficient monsoon the food stocks are satisfactory. This gives the Finance Minister a relatively good leeway to take some risks in order to revive the economy. Too much has been written in newspapers about the Reserve Bank not agreeing to reduction of interest rates. I don’t think that is so important, RBI has its own norms on inflation etc., and I think they should be left alone. The Finance Minister has promised that he is going to announce measures to restart the economy in the Budget to be presented in February 2015. The problem there is, the Government has to go with the bureaucracy and it is not usually possible for bureaucrats to give bold new proposals. They would like to carry on the same formula with little changes. It is the Finance Minister himself, like we had V.P Singh in 1985, pushing bold measures where there is a risk there may be revenue loss but if carried on properly ultimately there will be no revenue loss. In fact taxation will become simpler and revenue will also go up. What the Finance Minister needs to do is to sit down with experts, either retired income tax people or others who can give new ideas, modern ideas on how to collect tax with least paperwork and least complexities. We will have to wait and see because the Budget is the Budget.
Other than the Budget what the Prime Minister needs to do is to set up a social agenda. There are unnecessary tensions being created by organisations paternal to the BJP. The BJP may not be directly responsible for them but they are only spoiling the atmosphere and making the task of the Prime Minister difficult. Nothing will be gained by carrying on this jingoism of conversion. The moment it comes, we start seeing a forcible conversion law. Even the existing law prohibits forcible conversion. Not that its the point, the point is society. Government cannot build society, society must evolve and nothing will be gained by intimidating the minorities in this country, whether Muslims or Christians or others, by talking about Hinduisation of the society. Everybody knows more that 80 per cent people in the country are Hindus but that should not mean that religion should become a part of the State’s business. We are a secular country by choice, and secular means the State has no religion. Each individual has a religion, no one is saying he should lay off your religion. Hindus can carry on their religion, can carry on whatever they want to do but why do they want to interfere with other people of other faiths? Creating insecurity among minorities is the surest way to undo whatever has been achieved in these last 64 years of this Constitution. The Constitution has worked well. We have not gone the way of Pakistan and other countries only because our institutions are sound and this kind of attitude only weakens our Constitution, does not strengthen it. Not directly linked but the same thing applies to Article 370 in Kashmir. The day Article 370 has to be changed the Kashmiris have to take the lead and do it, not the people from Delhi. To start a debate in rest of the country is again to create insecurity among Kashmiris. I think the Prime Minister should be well advised that to become a good leader you have to remove insecurities from the hearts of the people. To make them insecure and rule over them is the style of some of these organisations which unfortunately are associated with the BJP. By removing the Babri Masjid forcibly, what has been achieved? We have only got more bitterness in the minority community which used to trust us till 1992 that nothing will be done without authority or law but we have proved that brute majority can crush their feelings and their sentiments and even their places of worship and structures. This is not good for a country, unless the whole attitude is that we want to convert India into a Hindu version of Pakistan. It will a sad day that we will be flattering Pakistan, we want to bring down Pakistan’s maneuvers in trying to create border trouble or trouble in Kashmir or whatever, at the same time you want to copy them. Don’t flatter them, Pakistan is not a State to be copied. If you want to copy somebody you must copy States that have achieved better than us. A composite society like ours with a large heart and a broad and deep vision, in keeping it together we must give confidence to the smallest minority that exists in this country. The same thing applies to the Dalits, other backward castes — that there is a Constitutional provision we give them tickets etc., but what are we trying to do? Do you know since the economic reforms of 1991, in the last 23 years what is the total number of employment rate in the organised sector, public and private – 32 lakhs of people and these are Government statistics. 22 lakhs people and we have given thousand of crores of rupees to the public sector banks in this sector. This was not the aim either of Dr Manmohan Singh who did the reform or of people who want to copy the American model or the European model. Unless you create employment which this Prime Minister also keeps saying, there is no salvation. On the other hand there are 5.8 crores entrepreneurs in this country in the micro, small and medium sector. Go to Agra and Kanpur and you will see there entrepreneurs from other backward classes — not from the Brahmins or the baniyas or the traditional business class. They have created employment. The main employment is now being created in the micro, small and medium sectors, what the Chinese call Town and Village Enterprise (TVE). Since the arrival of Xi Jinping in China the entire dependence has been on the TVEs in the country and their success story lies with the TVEs. Unless India also looks within and we start encouraging our small and medium sectors but unfortunately we are depending for finance on money lenders. Banks don’t lend them money. Banks are only busy lending money to business houses, then there is NPA, and then they talk of writing it off. The small people they pay back every rupee that they borrow, they create employment, they are keeping the economy going and there is no certainty for them. There is a Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises headed by Kalraj Mishra, I think he needs to support or the Finance Ministry. The real sector which can create employment is the micro, small and medium sector. I am not saying we should not have large public power plants, cement plants, we need them though it is not a strategy for employment. Even China has large enterprises but the employment comes from the town and village enterprise in China.
The Prime Minister’s aim and intention in this New Year should be to create the maximum institutional framework for the growth and development of small and medium enterprises so that they can create employment which will give stability. After all if you can’t give employment, all this rhetoric in one year will begin to change. People are already harassed by inflation and now if they don’t get employment then it is in the rural countryside that the disenchantment will pick up very fast. The Prime Minister needs to guard against this.