The on-going Covid-19 crisis apart, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is facing a tough task of reviving the country’s sagging economy at all levels of governance. We have of late been expressing grave concern about the coronavirus-struck sickness of the polity. In the absence of a dynamic futuristic roadmap, we have been witnessing a state of drift in the prevailing complex situation.
To say this is not to suggest the lack of seriousness on the part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to find solutions to harsh ground realities. Of course, there cannot be readymade solutions to the country’s manifold and complicated Covid-19 related issues. More than theoretical solutions, what is required is a proper understanding of changing ground realities and the people’s new problems.
It is also necessary for the authorities to fully grasp widening social and economic divisions as a result of the pandemic. A self-reinforcing cycle that experts want to tackle poverty, inequality and health care is not all that easy.
It is equally vital for central and state leaders to understand that neglecting or playing down the needs of migrant workers, who play a crucial role in supporting society’s needs, could very well start another kind of affliction. I am sorry to say that the Modi establishment has been slow in responding to wishes and needs of the country’s millions of migrant workers, who form the backbone of our small and medium sized industries.
The migrant workers’ worries concern not just the heavy cost of their undesirable delay in undertaking a journey back to their villages, but also the prospect of losing their jobs once things begin to look up. The authorities need to constantly keep in mind their problems while working out revival of the economy. They also have to keep in mind that even before the coronavirus crisis, India was very much in the grip of rising unemployment and declining growth.
According to noted economist and BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, India needs a Rs 8 trillion stimulus package by Prime Minister Modi to fully revive the economy. He has spelt this out in The Sunday Guardian of May 9, 2020. He is of the view that “a national relief package exclusive for the poor is necessary''. I agree with him, though the data for the number of Indians below the poverty line could vary from 27 crore (22 per cent of the population) to 30 crore which works out to be 26 per cent of the population.
Subramanian Swamy is right in saying that “we must get out of traditional FinMin mentality”, moaning and groaning about how much “do we have, using the financial accounting measures of a shopkeeper”. Instead, he says, “We must think like macro-economic analysts, that is, we must think in terms of how much we need to kickstart the economy and then where to go to find it”.
A brilliant mind, I often wonder why Prime Minister Modi has not utilized Subramanian Swamy’s services in economic and financial areas in which he excels. It is a pity that PM Modi does not give an honourable place to talented persons like him in governance of complex areas of the economy and finance. The Prime Minister ought to realize that a centralized system of governance with a set of average persons in decision-making is no good. He has to find a way to hire talented specialists and delegate authority to them to deliver what is required for the betterment of the nation. After all, the task ahead is one of reviving the economy for the good of millions of the people.
The challenge before us is to translate our socio-economic goals into reality. There should be no politics in this task to restore and recreate the fabric of an integrated and forward-looking national society like ours.
What the country needs on a priority basis is evolution of a futuristic strategy for health care, food intake, nutrition value of what we eat and a livelihood security both in rural and urban sectors. We have to work out a multi-dimensional approach to the varied challenges facing the people and the economy. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) suggests that the country’s high performing economic districts (100 to 150) should be allowed to play by different rules in the third phase of the lockdown. This is fine. I hope the Modi government would look into the CII’s suggestions for reviving the country’s industrial activity which can help us on the job front.
A new socio-economic strategy apart, what the country badly needs is a new “management accountability” at all levels. The quality of administrative management holds the key to economic revival, whether it is a state enterprise or a private venture.
Therefore, the answer to India’s post covid-19 manifold problems lies in evolving new concepts which ought to be liberal and forward-looking and yet firmly committed to the task of uplifting the poor and the under-privileged sections of society in the shortest possible time. Viewed in a broader perspective, India needs to evolve new policies and strategies for agriculture, small and medium-sized industries.
We ought to remember that whatever changes we initiate at this juncture will come to naught unless we keep in mind what ordinary people want. Indeed, the exercise of formulating a new deal is massive. We can work it out if our leaders remember the simple fact of what is good for the people. A distorted set of priorities will only shatter the common people’s dream for basic things of life! Over to Prime Minister Modi.