GOOD ECONOMIC NUMBERS
In the hurly-burly of divisive politics we are prone to lose sight of the positive changes taking place in the economy. Most facets of everyday life might yet remain untouched by the slow but certain economic turnaround, but hardnosed pundits have little reason to ignore that effectiveness of policy and implementation is beginning to bear fruit. It does take time for the trickle-down effect to be felt by the aam aadmi. But sooner than later, he too would gain.
Despite the impression created by the parliamentary logjam, there is plenty of good news on the economic front. This being neither the place nor the occasion for a year-ender, however, some developments are noteworthy. One, inflation is under check, despite an inexcusable rise in the prices of pulses. Mercifully, steps have been taken to prevent such an assault on the poor and the middle class incomes in the future.
Two, India is the fastest growing country, even ahead of China, which is now in the throes of a severe downturn. Manufacturing sector registered a healthy growth in the first six months of the current financial year. Indeed, in October, the last month for which the numbers are available, industrial sector grew at 9.8%. This may be due to the higher festival season demand, but there can be no denying that the factory output is looking up. Remarkably, even the farm sector has registered decent growth despite two droughts on the trot.
Good economic numbers are accompanied by clearances for big-ticket projects. The infrastructure sector is again up and running, with Nitin Gadkari reviving most road and highways projects in the PPP sector. It was nothing short of a scandal how the PPP model was abused to raid public financial institutions for unconscionably big loans that were later misused and mostly turned into non-performing assets. The NPAs scam is probably bigger than even the coal and 2-G scams put together. Doing deals with a relative of a senior UPA minister was enough to swing the loan your way, regardless of the worthiness of the project or the quality of the collateral. A newspaper is currently serialising the fraud under the please-all government that Manmohan Singh had run for the benefit of crony-capitalist friends of his bosses.
Also, notwithstanding the propaganda against the proposed bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, the expected expenditure of nearly Rs 1 lakh crore can only have a positive spin-off effect on the lives of ordinary people and contribute to the overall growth. The Japanese have undertaken to implement the project with their own money without charging any interest. Nobody now questions the huge expenditure incurred on expanding and modernising the Delhi airport.
There is other good news. As a well-informed newspaper columnist noted, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has just spent four most productive days in the US, paving the way for what she predicts could become the pivot of Indo-US ties. The American distrust on transfer of technologies has gone, especially when the French and the Israelis have enormously scaled up defence cooperation with India. In the changing security scenario, the Americans seem no longer unready to share proprietary technologies, especially given India’s track record as a responsible partner of the razor-sharp Israeli defence industry. Make-in-India in the defence sector is set to become a reality, but as they say, Rome was not built in a day, and it does take time for the people to notice the change.
Did one Principal Secretary’s arrest lead to raids on the other?
How can anyone ignore the AAP? After all, a party which owes its rise to power to the optimum use of the media must devise ever new stratagems to hog prime time on nightly television. Must concede, Arvind Kejriwal’s factotums — he brooks no colleagues or equals barring probably Manish Sisodia who is content to play an obedient number two — sent out daily to hail the Boss as a demi-god, and paint everyone else in the blackest of hues, do a reasonably good job. Neither fact nor reason is allowed to come in the way of the singular mission, which is to proclaim that “Arvind is the best”. The trumpeters will lose their perch in the AAP should they stray from the given task.
To be fair, the Boss too goes out of the way to find “jobs for the boys”. No other ruling party has burdened the state exchequer with the care and comfort of its members in the manner the AAP has in Delhi. It is a veritable case of a spoils system run amok. Clearly, Kejriwal believes that the only way he can bank on the continued loyalty of the flock is to dip into the public purse to keep the maximum number possible satisfied.
Anyway, be that as it may. But we believe that the AAP leadership may have bitten more than it can chew when in a moment of hubris it decided to tarnish the image of the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Throwing muck, recycled and totally worthless, only shows their own desperation. Nothing would stick because the target they have chosen is squeaky clean. Indeed, our problem is not that they have wilfully undertaken to blacken the name of Jaitley. No. The real threat is that such gutter-level tactics and sewerage language might dissuade other good people to join politics.
Incidentally, speaking in the Rajya Sabha the other day, senior JD(U) member K.C. Tyagi quoted the socialist legend Dr Lohia to the effect that to be successful in politics you require one of the three virtues, namely, bhasha, jaati aur poonji (articulation, caste and money). And then he went on to add, “The Leader of the House, Shri Jaitley, is fortunate to have all three… He has a lot of money earned honestly…” Tyagi, if Kejriwal and his megaphones should know, happens to be one of the more active and upright members of Nitish Kumar’s party.
But the holier-than-thou AAP leadership — by the way, it would be appropriate if it added another `P’ to its name, P for Pakhandi, to make it PAAP — would not pause to consider the harm it does to its own cause. By daily giving proof that it is no better than other parties it shatters the faith of millions who had voted for it. Collecting black money, harbouring paid-news warriors in its top echelons, resorting to daily confrontation with constitutional authorities, finger-pointing at all and sundry to hide its own lack of experience and gravitas in all matters concerning governance is bound to unravel the fledgling party.
Sooner than later, AAP — or, shall we make it PAAP? — would find itself exposed as another group of self-seekers. For clinching proof of its own perfidy go no further than the widely respected founder-members, Yogendra Yadav and Prashant Bhushan, who were mercilessly ejected out by Mr Devious who now has a vice-like grip over the fledgling party, which is already dreaming of conquering the rest of the country with its populist gimmicks of free water and power. Its record in Delhi would be a poor advertisement for growth — though it must be conceded it can genuinely take claim for having boosted manifold its own publicity budget from the public purse and thus keep many media outlets in its thrall.
As to the incidental matter of the raid on Rajender Kumar Gupta, an old friend of Kejriwal from their time at the IIT, Kharagpur, it might appear that the CBI got the timing all wrong. The Parliament was in session and already in the confrontation mode, why offer another issue on a platter for them to clobber you on the head? A genuine question. But investigating agencies operate on own logic, trying to ensure that no time is given for the destruction of clinching evidence.
Following the interrogation of S.P. Singh, another principal secretary of the Delhi government caught accepting lakhs in bribes, the CBI learnt about the alleged involvement of other highly-placed functionaries. Hence, the urgency to raid the Principal Secretary to the Delhi CM.
Remember not long ago Kejriwal had publicly lamented the drying up of party funds. But the question that is relevant is this : With one-third of his ministers out on corruption charges, with a number of senior bureaucrats under suspicion of wrong-doing, with a number of his MLAs facing charges of serious criminal nature, how can he go around saying that AAP is different from, say, BSP or SP? If you, dear reader, believe that you will believe anything. Such credulity is the enemy of good governance.