Samvaad: A Conversation
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Friday, May 07, 2004
In a comment to my last posting one reader disagreed with my prediction of a hung parliament. There is surely a chance that that precise scenario may not arise but the scenario that does will be one where the mandate of the eventual government will barely clear the majority mark. Technically that is sufficient. But the volatile nature of Indian politics will make it quite insufficient. As important as the need for political stability is I hope that some qualitative changes too be a focus of the citizenry and the representatives alike. A more holistic approach to social, economic and political issues will help India become a great nation. In my opinion India's potential is being contained by myopic approaches to development and other policy matters as well. This lack of understanding the interplay of various policy matters and their effect on the nation cannot be blamed on any one party. It is the collective failure of the political system. I am not ranting against the "system" but sharing with you some ideas as to how this situation of political apathy and incoherence can be improved.
I've already shifted to the policy side of things so might as well continue. I don't see much change in the economic policies of India after these elections results are known. Both the Congress and the BJP will continue the process of liberalization. One can, however, hope that this process is reviewed and modified to address some of the basic weaknesses of the Indian economy. The education system must be seen as an integral part of India's economic gameplan. Just yesterday there was a piece in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/06/international/asia/06indi.html?hp) that talked of how the IT boom had not led to any significant change in the employment scene. It remains a huge issue for millions of people in India. And as the social disparity will increase as service sector jobs, as lucrative as they may be, will not be able to keep pace with the number of graduates mass unemployment is NOT a distant possibility. It is a REAL situation with REAL social and political consequences too.
India's internal social situation too is on the line in some sense. The horrendous violence in Gujarat was an abberation. But its repitition elsewhere is not totally out of the question. The resurgence of separatist violence in the North-East is also a matter of serious concern. Let's not forget Kashmir. The Indian electorate fully realizes the sanctity of the secularism clause of its constitution. It is in sync with the ethos of the Indian nationhood. But that clause and that ethos is definitely under attack from the right-wing and opportunists elsewhere. All parties will have to be absolutely united in confronting this menace of communalism. Moderates within their parties will either have to weed out the extremists or lose moral credibility. There can be no two ways about it. Trying to fool the public with high-flying rhetoric based on "history" is cheating the nation of the time and energy it needs to invest in feeding and clothing millions. There are that many without it!
The election results will change the fortune of some in the political class but it will do little for the people of India if there is not a persistent effort to address some of the most fundamental problems. This does not require blind quotas and favors handed out BUT enabling people to help themselves. As long as government sees itself as a provider and thus master of the people NOTHING much will be achieved. Can the government of India move into the position of a facilitator is the real question.
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