result of our determined exertions to remain backward, the central government has been forced to give us Rs. 12,000 crore. Yes, I know that is less than the Rs. 20,000 crore I had asked for. But that just shows we are still not backward enough and must redouble our efforts to extract even larger sums.
I must warn you though that the road ahead is not going to be easy. Competition is hotting up. Everybody wants to be backward these days. Our neighbour to the east, West Bengal, has banned the taking over of land for industry, in a desperate effort to remain backward. We may have staved off industrialisation, but they have an excellent record of successfully de-industrialising. Beating them will be tough. I am told that in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav is such a huge champion of backwardness that he runs backwards during his morning jog.
Every state now groans about being poor and oppressed. We must groan harder than them. And every state that aspires to be backward is busy lowering its growth numbers, inflating the number of malnourished people and over-reporting the number of people below the poverty line. This is unfair competition and I intend to bring these unsavoury practices to the notice of the Competition Commission of India immediately.
We also have another problem: all the moolah we get from the Centre is pushing up our growth rates. If our economy continues to grow at our current double digit rates, we may no longer remain backward. And where will the cash come from then? It's a tricky conundrum, but our best economists are hard at work trying to solve it. I understand an economist called John Maynard Keynes suggested digging holes and filling them, which would increase the gross domestic product, but not affect backwardness. Truly a great man. What was that? No, I don't know his caste. Also very prescient was management guru CK Prahalad, who spoke of the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. He must have been thinking of this Rs. 12,000 crore.
In order to inspire you, starting from next Republic Day, we will inaugurate the Backward Bhushan, the Backside Vibhushan and, for those who have through hard work reached the very bottom of the pyramid, the Bottom Ratna awards. I also recommend reading 'Backward Ho', by Charles Kingsley, Anna Sewell's 'Back Booty' and my own autobiography, 'Drawkcab', which of course is backward spelt backwards.
Please remember, though, that for us to remain backward, some states have to go forward. They are the geese that lay our golden eggs. And don't forget the developed nations, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank are all easy touches. I read somewhere that 97% of Ethiopia's budget comes from foreign aid. We must emulate its shining example.
Back home, I am trying to cobble together an alliance of backward states to contest the next elections, but calling it the Backward Front may be too confusing. And even if I don't become PM, I would like to go back to the railway ministry, just to see the trains run backwards.
Manas Chakravarty, Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal