Discussions are continuing on the rate of growth becoming slower than 9 per cent last year. Though the growth figure is important what is more important is the content of the growth. In 1991 we were promised that economic reforms will increase the growth rate and bring prosperity which will trickle down and over time poverty would go away. Twenty years have passed and poverty not only remains but it appears that the glittering prosperity at the top has become even more and failed to trickle down.
Last year, there was much concern that the growth rate may come down to 7.2 per cent. At the same time, the Planning Commission had said anybody earning up to 32 rupees per day is not poor! While figures can vary we didn’t need an economist to tell us that 32 rupees is dismally low for a day-to-day living. What is required now is restructuring the economy so as to include the lower strata. In rural areas there are farmers at one end and landless labour on the other. In urban areas it is the pavement dwellers and part of the slum dwellers which have to bear the brunt. The disparity between the rich and poor has grown. In the system prior to 1991, the growth rate was lower but the disparities were not so glaring.
The Government shies away from certain figures. One of the big concerns is the total lack of investment in the agriculture sector. If rethinking is not done we will have a terrible food shortage after ten years. Though some of the recent figures of production are welcome, we cannot sit smug that we have surpassed past records. If agricultural produce has become highest till today so has the population. There is anger within those who are excluded from the present market system and are not able to buy the glittering objects advertised by the electronic media. There is an urgent need to focus on employment so that educated youth do not get frustrated for lack of employment opportunities.
At the other end of the spectrum the corporate sector goes on to achieve higher and higher turnover and profit. In this system there is competition. The more intense the competition, the more the propensity to use any method to beat the rival. These methods bring to the fore corruption. The 2G spectrum was only one example of how far the corporate sector can go to beat each other. Unless the corporate sector is reined in, top level corruption cannot be controlled.