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India story has been derailed: Remember ‘minimum government, maximum governance’? Forty months of NDA gave us the opposite

kapil sibal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised us a New India: sans corruption, business friendly, with a resurgent rupee, a great power that is recognised globally. His motto, ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ was to jettison the past and usher a resurgent India of the future. What we have witnessed in the last 40 months is just the opposite of what he promised.

Open corruption is brushed under the carpet. The biggest scam, waiting to be unearthed, is how institutional corruption led to conversion of black money into white with the banking system as a facilitator. Otherwise 99% of the cash economy relating to currency in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations could not have found itself legitimised by the banking system. No FIR yet and none will be registered.

Shell companies being sent notices is no answer. That may lead to income tax demands, the finalisation of which will take years. What is required to be investigated is how the money got converted. Which bankers were collaborating? Who were the high and mighty – businessmen, politicians and so on – involved? Who received commissions and to what extent? This will only surface if a criminal investigation is launched.

The off-the-shelf purchase of Rafale fighter aircraft from France does not seem kosher either. Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, got a lease of life in the process and India changed the structure of the deal. The agreement arrived at during the UPA tenure was to procure 126 aircraft at a cost of Rs 90,000 crore (approximately Rs 714 crore per aircraft) along with transfer of technology. NDA government’s decision to scrap the earlier deal – terming it as “economically unviable” – and instead deciding to procure 36 such aircraft in fly-away condition at a much higher price of Rs 59,000 crore (approximately Rs 1,638 crore per aircraft) without technology transfer, gives this deal a rotten smell.

In BJP governed states the situation is no less murky. Vyapam is the poster boy of corruption in Madhya Pradesh with the manipulation of admissions into medical institutions allegedly involving who’s who in government. That 50 people allegedly involved lost their lives is a scandal in itself.

CBI has proved to be a loyal ally of the establishment since students, parents and officials only are being prosecuted. The government in Chhattisgarh is allegedly tainted by the PDS scam, which too if properly investigated, is likely to make many heads roll. Modi has turned a blind eye to the serious allegations made and incriminating evidence unearthed.

The government is patting itself for jumping 30 positions in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ rankings. Instead, the government should be concerned about its recent decisions, which have in fact decimated businesses. Demonetisation followed by an ill-conceived multi-layered GST was a double whammy for the informal sector. Jobs were lost, lives destroyed.

Small and medium business enterprises, especially the informal sector ill-equipped to mobilise capital, did not have the capacity to pay GST upfront. The GSTN has been a nightmare for the transportation sector and small businesses. Such teething problems, as the government puts it, may be the death knell for some enterprises.

To unleash predatory taxmen and investigating agencies on ordinary businesses spreads terror and dampens the animal spirits this government wished to revive. Continuous decline in GDP growth for several consecutive quarters and the resultant prospect of the economy growing at only 6.7% for 2017-18 has derailed the India story. FIIs may stabilise the rupee, but impact exports adversely.

Our strategy for the rupee is also not clear. Our increasing current account deficit is worrisome. We can only achieve the status of a great power if we are economically strong. Then only will muscle flexing pay dividends.

Every other day we lose a brave son of India on the Pakistan border. Recent turbulent events in Kashmir have not earned us laurels internationally. The episode at Doklam will have repercussions. China views us with suspicion and our cosying up to the US has fallouts.

Yes, India is important to the world for two reasons. First, as a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic democracy. Second, with 1.3 billion people it has enormous market potential. Both China and the West wish our markets to open up further. That is why while politically our relationship with China will continue to be uneasy, the Chinese will flood our markets with their goods. And apart from selling us defence equipment, the US is keen to have us open up our agricultural sector.

In the last 40 months what have we leveraged both from China and the US to our advantage? Great powers take more than they give. We have from all accounts given more and very little has come our way. The position of primacy that we enjoyed with our neighbours has waned.

‘Minimum government, maximum governance’ has been turned on its head by Modi. The Hindutva brigade spreads terror. The state is intolerant. Freedom of speech is in jeopardy. Central investigating agencies do government’s bidding. If minimum government means government instead of discharging its responsibilities will concentrate on polluting the polity by polarising India, then Modi is succeeding.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath cares less about children dying in Gorakhpur and more about Ayodhya and love jihad. Modi spends more time criticising Congress than building India’s future. In the last 40 months Modi’s attempts at governance have paralysed India. He seeks to revive past RSS icons instead of creating an environment for our future icons.

DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.

Courtesy, This article is published in The Times Of India on 3rd November 2017.

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