Friday, March 13, 2009


After nearly five years of conspicuous confidence, the UPA govt’s focus on gloom and doom in the year ahead looks debatable. Five years ago, voters rejected the idea of “India Shining”, ushering in a govt that pronmised outcomes as well as a happy balance between high economic growth and social development. Now within kissing distance of yet another general election, it must be asked : has the “dream team” – P Chidambaram and Manmohan Singh really delivered on its promise of equitable development and good governance. I will broadly be covering my views under the following heads –
1. Social & economic sectors.
2. The defence sector.

Social and Economic sectors

India is foing through a most exciting transition. A confluence of good fortune on many fronts has created a range of opportunities for Indians to benefit from. There is a large and constantly increasing section of population of working age combined with low dependency. The monssons haven’t failed for many years running. An ongoing electronic comn and IT revolution is making it possible for individuals, firms & countries to respond rapidly to changing circumstances. Then there is the recognition internationally that India is an important market to invest in, export to and import from. And since the govt had started a process of openness a decade and a half back, many of the markets that were missing in the pre 1991 era are working efficiently enough. Given such conditions, how has this govt been?

Well, quite good on maintenance – and extremely poor on preparing, repairing and creating. As ‘inheritors’ of the “India shining” glory, the UPA govt did a great job of maintaining the sheen. The budget was (atleast initially) kept somewhat in check, macro economic mgmt was decent and minor tinkering continued. Partly because of decent maintenance, India continued to sparkle – tax revenues were looking up like never before, investment spiraled like never before, and it seemed everyone in the world wanted to be in India.

But did the govt build great infrastructure beyond what was already in motion? Did it provide relief for the highly strained environment? Did it do something about meeting the educated manpower shortage – and tackling the poor quality of education in govy schools and other institutions? It did none of this. Instead it set the stage such that all governments will have to give hundreds of thousands of crores in schemes that will not build anything of lasting consequence. Preparing for the future requires building infrastructure. The rural roads scheme was started during the NDA regime – an indubitable fact, for it was not named Rajiv or Indira or Jawaharlal. E-governance remained paper bound. Indian educational institutions cannot hire international faculty – and our doctoral pgmes are in a shambles.

On the environmental front, water levels continued to fall, we continue to discharge tonnes of sewage into our rivers and keepon building coal plants while natural gas lies unused. This govt talked a lot, high minded commissions were set up and provided very well thought out recommendations. But in the end, the govt did zilch. This society and its people need more than just assurances and money consuming programmes. It needs results and the statistics say the story. How is it that such a phenomenally talented group achieve so little? I for one have no answers.


The one million strong Indian Army needs change. And I’m not just referring to the equipment allotted. With the constantly changing war scenario and the fluid geo-political role India plays in the sub continent in particular and Asia in general, the Indian Army is in desperate need of a makeover which involves men, material and mindset. The govt has done little to empower the Defence forces with high quality weapons and equipment. We still continue to buy WW II vintage weapons from our “ally” – Russia. This govt did nothing to improve the situation. Millions of rupees were spent on setting up committee’s and enquiries into the security lapses the country witnessed with bombings in almost all parts of the country. Had that money been utilised to arm the jawans, the casualties could have been reduced.

Another grey area the govt failed miserably to tackle was Naxalism. It continued to breed in the backyards of those very politicians who assured us safety and well being during their political rallies. To add to the woes of the Army, the govt further explored the option of sending in the Army to fight off Naxalism. Already faced with a crunch of officers and few willing to step into the shoes of the aeging veterans, this came as a big setback. Still, it remains to be seen whether this option will be used in sctuals. My heart says, wisdom will prevail.

With volatile neighbours, the Indian Army has been stretched from the length and breadth of the country. The govt tried to lure the young generation by offering the Sixth Pay Commission in general and the MSP in particular. It failed to create a flutter in the college campuses. The serving jawans, NCO’s and JCO’s got a raw deal in the process. The increments did not commensurate to the professional hazard they faced. Discontent amongst the ranks and JCO’s prevails as they go about their job.

The govt yet again showed ‘spineless-ness’ when it failed to retaliate to the terror attacks in Mumbai. The political will was clearly lacking and resignations by the Home minister and Defence minister were dished out. But did it solve the problem? No it didn’t. The ‘economic meltdown’ and ‘international pressure’ were some of the reasons cited by the govt for not pursuing a military action. My question to the ‘wise men’ – Is there ever a perfect time to attack?

Had the same incident occurred in Israel, the outcome would have been more aggressive. Accepted the fact that military action meant bloodshed and economic pressure, but, then aren’t these the situations wherein the ‘sovereignty’ of the state has been attacked? If this isn’t then I’m not sure why we are still stuck up on Kashmir. We might as well gift wrap it and save ourselves some money and lives in the process.

The judiciary was mocked first, then ravaged and ransacked by the pseudo ‘human rights’ activists who defended Afzal Guru. The govt yet again took a backseat and failed to controlthe situation. Result- yet more disappointment for the Indian Army , police and other agencies involved in safe guarding the nation

The moderates(read govt) may view my opinions as illogical, unreasonable and chronic to the overall well being of the nation. My answer to them – If blood has to be shed, then why not let it flow on the battlefield rather than on the streets of Mumbai, Jaipur or Ahmedabad. If difficulties have to be borne then let it be through a war and not because of the constant terror strikes, bandhs and regional divides. But then, this Cong led UPA govt lacked the political will to take such tough decisions lest it affects their vote bank the next time. Isnt it time we realized the folly of our submissive attitude or is another terror strike on Mumbai required to wake the govt from their deep slumber. Food for thought – ‘coz I for one have no answers!

No comments: