Addressing the nation on the eve of the Republic Day, President Pranab Mukherjee articulated the almost universal concern in the country over the failure to meet people’s aspirations.
Stating that democracy is the "fundamental right of every citizen; for those in power, democracy is a sacred trust", he hinted at more when he said "…our democracy has never been betrayed by the people; its faultlines, where they exist, are the handiwork of those who have made power a gateway to greed."
And, "If we hear sometimes an anthem of despair from the street, it is because people feel that a sacred trust is being violated."
Stating that by the time he will address the nation once again, there will be a new government, he said that governments must deliver: "what they were elected to deliver; social and economic progress, not at a snail’s space, but with the speed of a racehorse".
In order to do this, he suggested, "Give them (our youth) a chance and you will marvel at the India they can create".
A week earlier, the BJP’s PM aspirant unveiled a so-called economic vision for a prosperous India. This, we have been told, will build "Brand India through five Ts — talent, tradition, trade, tourism and technology".
This is supposed to be achieved through the building of 100 smart cities and bullet trains to all four corners of the country, creating more IITs, IIMs and AIIMSs, etc. These are to be accompanied by a mix of social welfare schemes. Does this sound any different from the UPA’s objectives of Bharat Nirman along with inclusive growth?
The moot point is that how all this is going to be achieved. How and from where/whom are the resources going to be mobilised? What are the mechanisms and vehicles that are available or will be created to achieve this? None, obviously with reason, talks of the fine print.
Hence, such proclamations remain mere declarations of intent — unrealisable unless accompanied by a blueprint of an action programme. This remains unaddressed.
India Inc, by and large, applauds the BJP’s ‘vision’ as being projected by ‘a messiah of big business and believer of neo-liberal prescriptions on development and growth’ and ‘did much to instil confidence and hope’.
This is based on its understanding that instead of expending public money on providing some relief to the people through provisions of rural employment, farm loan waiver, food security, right to education, etc, however inadequate they may be, such expenditures from governmental revenue should have been instead put at the disposal of private capital, both domestic and foreign, for their profit maximisation.
They seek to conceal their naked desire for profit maximisation by advancing the logic that making available such resources to private corporates at cheap costs would lead to greater investments generating both growth and employment and, thus, putting India back on a high growth trajectory.
Similar efforts by the UPA have only led to the consolidation of the creation of two Indias that began by the Vajpayee-led NDA government’s ‘shining India’, ‘feel good’ factor earlier.
The BJP, notwithstanding its illusions of forming the government in 2014, is seeking to further cement the growing divide between the two Indias — the rich and the poor. Such a trajectory is sought to be pursued in India when during the last six years of global crisis, the top 1% of the US population garnered 22% of the nation’s income and the top 0.1% took home a staggering 11%.
At home, a global wealth and investment report showed India recorded the second highest increase of high net worth individuals (HNI) in the world. The HNI population grew by 22.2% in 2012 while their wealth grew by 23.4%. These 1,53,000 HNIs together hold assets worth $589 billion — 0.001275% of our population holding assets between a third-and-a-half of our GDP.
Prior to the just-concluded World Economic Forum’s annual meet at Davos, described by the London mayor as "a constellation of egos and an orgy of adulation", Oxfam presented a paper showing that 85 richest billionaires in the world "own the wealth of half the world’s population".
Such growing inequality helps "the richest undermine democratic processes and drive policies that promote their interests at the expense of everyone else".
Does this not sound chillingly familiar to all of us in India? Who, honourable president, is then violating the ‘sacred trust’ of Indian democracy?
At Davos, none of the world’s leaders suggested any new regulations to check such obscene profit maximisation and, thus, strengthened the ground for a continued global economic slowdown and crisis.
Such widening inequalities feeding recurrent crisis and economic slowdown multiplying people’s miseries can be prevented in India, insulating us from the impending extended global crisis only by an alternative economic vision — alternative to both the Congress and the BJP.
A vision where the resources available in the country are prevented from being looted through mega corruption scams, or, being doled out to the rich as massive tax concessions and, instead, are mobilised for massive public investments to build our much-needed infrastructure.
This would generate substantial additional employment, significantly enhance the purchasing power in the hands of our people, laying the basis for a sustainable and more equitable economic growth trajectory.
President Mukherjee concluded his address by saying, "1950 saw the birth of our Republic. I am sure that 2014 will be the year of resurgence".
Such resurgence, eminently feasible, can only happen, honourable president, when 2014 will ensure that such an alternative policy trajectory is put into practice. This can necessarily happen only with a secular democratic political alternative sans the Congress and the BJP.
Sitaram Yechury is CPI(M) Politburo member and Rajya Sabha MP
The views expressed by the author are personal