By Kamal Morarka
The farmer’s agitation is taking a turn which causes great concern not only to people who are involved in politics or in public life, but even to the average reader of newspapers. Not that this was unexpected because Mr. Narendra Modi in his elections speeches has promised that farmer will be given a minimum support price of their cost plus 50 percent. After taking over he realized that it was not possible, government has not that much money. Also after taking over he has announced that farmer’s income will be doubled in six years. I don’t know who his advisors are? He is not an economist. But these are the promises that cannot be fulfilled, and in India the good thing is the common man, farmer and workers are prepared to work within the limits of possibility. However, government has its own compulsion, which I can understand in 2014 he wanted to win elections, but why should he carry on this year to year. Naturally it will create disenchantment, disappointment and unrest, which will spread.
The way loan waiver was given to Uttar Pradesh has created another problem. Every state now is clamoring. The Reserve Bank of India Governor has said that loan waver may go out of hand. These are serious economic issues. It has to be given the credit of earlier Congress governments of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi who were not unaware that these are the populist schemes and they can garner votes, but they were responsible leaders who knew that there is the limit to what can be achieved and they did not raise the hope to the level that create unrest. Even now the Prime Minister should have an all party meeting or at least a meeting with his chief ministers and come with a formula which is workable. Just trying to ignore the opposition as they are doing in Maharashtra or even with their alliance partner Shiv Sena will not achieve any result. And if agitation goes on people in cities like Mumbai, Pune, etc. will find going tough because the vegetable prices will soar up because of shortage and farmers will further distress because their produce will rot. Of course, you can blame the farmers but blaming does not solve the problem. People have elected the government to govern and if they did not govern then it is a very sad situation. Earlier the government addresses the problems of agricultural sector, better it is.
Then comes the question of the economy in general. Demonetization is unnecessarily praised by the ruling party as if it is the path-breaking event and it will take the economy to new heights. In fact it was an eventless event; it was a needless decision. Nothing would have happened, but both sides have taken it to the extreme. The opposition said the economy is destroyed, this that and the other. The fact of the matter is the government calculation – I don’t know who is responsible for the calculation – was all wrong. There was not so of black money in the economy. All the money has come back. Finance Minister is feeling shy to give the figures. But now it is pretty obvious the demonetization has not achieved the three reasons which the Prime Minister has laid out: One black money, two counterfeit currency and three terrorism. Nothing, it has not made an iota or very little negligible difference to all these three items. So it was the step which need not have been taken.
Of course political fallout is for the Prime Minister. He thinks that demonetization has won him Uttar Pradesh election. I don’t think so. But even if it has, it has a very high cost for the country to pay for one ruling party to win a state. Naturally this quarter’s figures show that the GDP has gone down compare to one year ago and naturally ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is an economist and who understand these things told the Congress Working Committee that the economy in the bad shape, growth has come to a standstill. The growth figures are for normal working. This is India’s natural process. What the government is thinking on the economy, we don’t know. Arvind Subramanian is a good Chief economic advisor. The government will do well to listen to him rather than to other officials or Reserve Bank. If they follow Arvind Subramanian there will definitely be a positive outcome in the years to come.
Thirdly the political situation. Poor Yogi Aditya Nath has got a hot potato on his hands. Uttar Pradesh as it is a difficult state to govern. He is not able to manage it. His being the Thakur, the upper castes are feeling encouraged. They want to show Dalits their place. It is not a happy situation. What happened in Saharanpur has shown an example, it will happen in every city in Uttar Pradesh. The New DGP is a very good man, who has given a grave injustice by the previous government. So it is the correction. But what can he do. The whole machinery – police and administrate – has become so loose that even a good man cannot function. The entire police up to the thana-level are caste-ridden and in any clash between upper castes and Dalits the police also get divided. It is a very difficult thing. Yogi must call a meeting of people who understand things and try to retrieve the situation before Uttar Pradesh becomes ungovernable. Unfortunately, we are going to a stage where the country will be become ungovernable and the economy unmanageable. Two years are still to go for the Elections. Mr. Modi should do something about it. That brings me to the last point.
If more damage is done before the next elections then nothing will be done. The next election is as it is tilted in favour of Mr Modi because the opposition is weak. So he does not have to really damage the country to win elections. He can win elections even without damaging the country any further. So, being so-called innovative and doing things which do not work will be detrimental to the country in the long-term. Even if he wins one term, what will happen after that? Mrs. Gandhi saw that in 1970s. She came to the power with slogan of Gareebi Hatao and Bangladesh war and all that, but in three years the economy flounder so much that she has to declare Emergency to stay in power. History can teach all those things. This government needs to have some think tank which can study the contemporary politics of last 30-40 years and back the government correctly.
By Kamal Morarka