By Sanjay Jha
( The debate on India’s economic growth model between Prof Amartya Sen and Prof Jagdisn Bhagwati has assumed a ludicrous status with BJP playing its archetypal politics).
GB Shaw famously quipped that even if all economists were laid end to end they would not reach a conclusion. But what has made the acerbic public exchange between two world-famous economists, Prof Amartya Sen and Prof Jagdish Bhagwati intriguing is its political complexion. Stung bitterly by Prof Sen’s repudiation of Narendra Modi’s disruptive politics, the BJP has mounted a vitriolic campaign against him. But facts don’t cease to exist because we ignore them.
Modi’s Gujarat model is the ultimate intellectual ruse; what exactly is it anyway ? Astronomical corporate freebies to big business at the expense of the ordinary tax-payer of Gujarat, or the abysmal social and human development indicators like adverse male-female gender ratio, low literacy levels, child malnourishment, rising hunger index et al ? Modi’s “ governance” pitch is embarrassingly shambolic given that when Gujarat was burning he was evidently comatose. The fact that Modi is mobilizing massive lobbying to get a US visa is symptomatic of the scathing human rights violations stigma on his sullied persona. So how is Prof Sen unreasonable in expressing his grave apprehensions about BJP’s controversial poster-boy and his dark, dubious track-record? Why is Dr Chandan Mitra so deeply perturbed that he wants Prof Sen’s prestigious Bharat Ratna ( conferred on him by the BJP-led NDA) to be returned for questioning Modi’s credentials to be a national leader? What cardinal sin has Prof Sen perpetrated for this public mortification ? Clearly , Mitra is severely infiltrated with saffron colors, resulting in permanent damage and a myopic vision.
We have seen a spectacular metamorphosis in post-1991 India, despite intrinsic contradictions. For instance, behind those towering glitzy malls displaying Times Square-kind advertising in Gurgaon , there lies a grim tale. In the same state of Haryana and at close proximity a peculiar assembly of feudal village lords run their own private legal system, called the Khap panchayat. Primitive justice co-existing with the Gurgaon real estate gold-rush is indeed the grotesque face of a two-faced India battling its own socio-economic legacies, which Rahul Gandhi often classifies as the Bharat and India dilemma . Even as India fast-tracks its growth engine through industrial hubs and software parks, golf residences with Wi-Fi connections and super sleek highways, Prof Sen correctly diagnoses that the India story will remain a fictional fairy-tale if it fails to uplift it’s teeming millions from abject poverty. We have over 56 US dollar denominated billionaires and the fastest growing millionaires club, but also more than 56000 slums. Truth is, India is like the proverbial mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Are Maoists just a violent agrarian army out to capture political power or a result of years of gross neglect of our tribal population? Can India risk it’s stealthy expansion into the urban space? If anyone believes that a free market mechanism in the hands of unregulated capital will alleviate poverty through efficient allocation he must be congratulated for being an incorrigible optimist or a faithful student of Adam Smith. Post the Lehman Brothers meltdown, we have seen the return of state capitalism and it has not strangulated private enterprise. China and India are succeeding because of this judicious mix of hybrid capitalism.
Under UPA, India has attained an impressive average GDP growth of over 8% . UPA is pro-growth with equity; it’s liberalization policies has created the great Indian middle class, and the universe of mobiles, malls, multiplexes, metros and migration. There are several manifestations of far-reaching structural changes brought by UPA; MNREGA, RTE, NRHM, Aadhaar, Direct Benefits Transfer, FDI in multi-brand retail, RTI and the Food Security Bill. Once we were so steadfastly opaque, now transparency is being enforced into our earlier impenetrable edifice, affecting primarily all our key institutional organs; politics, bureaucracy, judiciary, civil society, media and business.
Winston Churchill once called India a geographical expression. He was wrong. India is one fascinating story unfolding after a circumspect beginning, a period of self-doubt and obliteration of xenophobia , and then getting into a feverish pace for the finish line with cool aplomb. At purchasing power parity, India is already the world’s third largest economy, and under UPA it has lowered poverty by an extraordinary 15% in just 8 years, lifting 139 million people above the threshold line.
Modi ‘s ploy of India First is woefully myopic. Actually, Mr Modi, it must be Indians First, irrespective of caste, color, creed or religion; it is this quintessential inclusiveness that manifests the true ethos of a secular India.
Working diligently through the chaotic growth and frenetic transformation of India is Rahul Gandhi, remarkably perceptive and an unassuming, quiet revolutionary. Watching him, I am often reminded of a popular advertisement during my college days; “ Above the noise of trumpet blowers comes the silent roar of a born winner” . Prof Amartya Sen will indeed soon discover the leader in the man he instantly liked in Trinity College.
( The author is National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress. The views are personal).