The country is passing through an economic crisis which has many dimensions. However, the Government response is very slow, it is a case of too little too late. The Finance Minister increased the import duty on gold and put some restrictions on sending money abroad. But this will not solve the problem. What is required is a merciless compression of imports. Gold import should be totally banned for a limited period, let us say up to 31 March 2014. Also unnecessary electronic goods like cell phones are eating away a large part of the foreign exchange and this should be also banned till 31 March 2014. If these steps are taken, by March the current account deficit will come absolutely under control and what we are seeing today the sliding of the rupee everyday and the panic and chaos in the market, all that will come under control.
Of course it would mean there will be protests from the WTO and the IMF but I think when a country itself is in crisis an exception should be made instead of allowing the situation to drift. I don’t know who the advisers of the Finance Minister are and he himself is always of the neo-liberal policy mind but he also understands the gravity of the situation. You can’t allow your currency to collapse. I hope he takes stern measures and takes them fast. Secondly, Parliament had at last started functioning which was good news. The Food Security Bill has been passed. Of course it is an onerous responsibility. The kind of food grains promised to 67 per cent of the population, whether we can even get those many food grains, whether we can handle them, whether we can store them, whether we can distribute them are big question marks. And the money required, the estimate ranges from 1 lakh 25 thousand crores to three lakh crores. Of course all this will come into play after a few years. But whatever the Government tries to do, it must keep a close check to monitor exactly how this is being implemented. Already the PDS does not work all right in many States. While in certain States like Tamilnadu and Chhattisgarh the food schemes are better than what the Food Security Bill provides. The Government needs to create a new machinery now to closely monitor and see that things are effectively implemented.
As usual, before the Food Security Bill came up, Parliament was held up because coal files were found missing. This is an euphemism for files deliberately being misplaced. Everybody knows that the coal allotments have been made without any procedures, without any tendering, without any regard to norms, so if the files are found it will be very embarrassing for various Ministers, ex-Ministers, various crony capitalists who have taken advantage of it. There is one company I am told who was never in coal and took a coal block allocation and on the basis of that allocation itself it has borrowed thousand of crores from nationalised banks. Now if this is the situation, how can the banks ever get their money back? But since this matter is with the Supreme Court and the CBI, it is essential to try to re-construct the files from the papers of whichever department they are available. CAG people have said they have got all the papers but nobody has asked them for the papers. Again, I can only implore the Prime Minister just because he was a Minister in charge at that period does not mean anything. The Prime Minister cannot see every file but he must come out with the truth, and whoever the Minister of State under him or the secretaries under him who have tried to do these procedural lapses which have resulted in thousand of crores of rupees being pilfered should be brought to book.
The Prime Minister initially avoided making a statement in Parliament, I don’t know why. It was good see Manmohan Singh breaking his silence. The Prime Minister spoke in both the Houses and made his point. He is a very polite, sober and respected person. He needs to do it more often. I think more transparency will help the Congress party itself and the Prime Minister himself.