HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Minimising the inequalities

Mohd Muzammil, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, January 05, 2011
First Published: 14:29 IST(5/1/2011) | Last Updated: 15:32 IST(5/1/2011)

A Chinese proverb runs like this: "If you are planning for a year, grow crops; if you are planning for twentyfive years, plant trees; and if you are planning for a century, start teaching." So that every next generation must know how to produce food!


Planning for a year with economic reforms in a state like Uttar Pradesh is, therefore, a different proposal that may not be gauged by the usual targets of increase in the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), reducing unemployment or correcting the fiscal deficit. Aggregates often paint a rosy picture concealing the dark spots. National or state level economic averages distort even the best available distributional indicators.

Poverty removal has been high on agenda for all these years. What new can be done in one year? Local household level income and expenditure information can help spotlight the plight of the poor in a village or in a mohalla in towns.

Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) in rural and urban areas can be entrusted with this new task which they can accomplish within a couple of months!

There are great inequalities within households. We need not have a Five Year Plan to remove that! A firm resolve today and the spread of that awareness can help reduce intra-household inequality in the state!  The usual way of converting household data by dividing it by the size of household can give a per capita measure of household income and expenditure. But in poor households there can be great inequalities within households with women and children receiving a much smaller share of total household consumption than men! Eradication of this micro inequality does not need enormous resources or long gestation period!

While it may require huge investment and a long gestation period to make improvements in infrastructure, it takes only minutes to change the human behaviours and see the massive change in the outcome. One year is a long period to accomplish great deeds. Even twenty-four hours is an effective time unit to help uplift the condition of the down trodden in a society where the number of affluent is nothing less than the number of the poor!  Families living in reasonable comport can spare a person’s food daily and that is enough to eradicate extreme hunger from the state of UP which will enable the State to fulfill nothing less that the first of the target spelt out in the Millennium Development Goals!

Among the sectors of the economy, agriculture holds the key and the support of the State can be ensured to deliver timely inputs to farmers who are capable to doing miracles even with meager means! Let there be a commitment to do that.

The procedural delay in clearing the industrial proposals is the biggest hurdle in blocking the industrial reform. Tackling this also does not require a long period. Changes can be effected overnight, if there is a will. Liberlisation of industrial development has not worked in Uttar Pradesh for more than two decades now mainly for this reason.

Services rule the roost in the present state of economic development. Human factors are perhaps relatively most important here than in the other two sectors of the economy.

From taxi to telephone and from elementary education to electricity, from waste disposal to water tax billing, if we change our behaviour today, results will be written on walls tomorrow. It was the state controlled economy that was freed to be brought under market. But they (the state and the market) do not work automatically. If there were ills in the state controlled system, all is not well in the market driven mechanism either. Both are based on the principle of how honestly they are run! If the government did not respond to the consumers well, the market lords have not failed to contrive against consumers! The crisis of corruption has great economic underpinning and that can be eradicated quickly if the people resolve to do away with it.

Maintaining honest surveillance and transparency is the prime duty of the state and the rest will follow. There is no place for corrupt governance if we are looking ahead tomorrow with the hope of development which now extends beyond the measure of GDP and includes dimensions like human rights and freedom! Long journeys are started with a step. But the right step decides the direction!

Achievable Reforms in services
# Improve and make transparent house tax and water tax billing and collection
# Arrange for cheque payments and computerized receipts for all local charges
# Ensure ambulance services to hospitals/enroll NGOs for this task
# Instruct private nursing homes not to refuse admitting patients
# Keep a watch on exorbitant tuition fee and other charges in educational institutions
# Motivate teachers and ensure enabling environment in educational institutions
# Check  absenteeism in schools, hospitals and offices and reduce unnecessary judicial intervention
# Impose penalty for undue delays in discharging duties by officials in public sector
# Ensure consumer friendly behaviour by govt employees.

Achievable Reforms in Industry
# Reduce bureaucratic interventions with rude behaviour
#  Ensure friendly treatment to investors
# Expedite clearance of proposals and avoid delays
#  Recruit locals in industrial units to create conducive environment
# Check unauthorised extortions on highways and in cities from carriers.

Achievable Reforms in Agri
# Make fertilizers available to farmers on demand
# Make available seeds and other inputs on time
# Ensure regular water supply in canals, and good maintenance of state tubewells

About the author
Professor of Economics at the university of Lucknow, writer is a recipient of 'Shikshak Shri Samman 2009' conferred on him by the UP government for his contribution in the field of Economics. He is a visiting fellow of Oxford University and a member research programme consortium of Cambridge University. Dr Muzammil has authored six books and has penned 100 articles that have appeared in national and international journals. Other awards that he received include career award for young social scientist, UGC, New Delhi in 1989 and Govind Ballav Pant Economics award 2000.

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