There was something refreshingly unadulterated about Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s speech at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi on Friday. It was an honest, calibrated opinion unclouded by rhetoric. So when Mr Singh stated that “the India of tomorrow cannot be built from New Delhi alone,” we clearly heard what he was saying: there is an unquestionable urgency for expansive and inclusive democracy. His projection of a 9-10 per cent growth rate is stitched on to this ‘one India’ premise
Policies and politics that have perpetuated the split-level arrangement of the Great Indian Success Story cohabiting with ‘Real India’ need to be refitted. When Mr Singh reiterated that “we need to push forward reforms,” the message could have been interpreted by those listening to suit what they define as ‘reforms’. But the PM’s assertion that reforms have “many dimensions” that must include increased rural infrastructure-building and the creation of an atmosphere conducive for rural development along with the more traditional forms of economic reforms underlined the need to demolish the Cartesian divide between Surging India and Left Behind Bharat. If the PM linked economic growth to social stability, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spelt things out further. Three factors, Mr Mukherjee said, will determine India’s economic prowess: an institutional higher growth trajectory, fiscal consolidation and inclusive growth. And for all these three to click and trot, not only does the global economic climate have to improve and permanent structures for reforms be put in place, but India’s security environment must also improve.
That the government is not pushing every security challenge under the carpet of ‘external aggression’ was made evident by both speakers talking about the challenges of “internal disturbances”. If growth has been hit by a 2 per cent dip in agriculture fuelled by the twin terrors of drought and floods, the rumblings from India’s have-nots need to be tackled. It is the promise made by the Prime Minister and his colleague in the Finance Ministry of doing just that — tackling this socio-economic problem at its source as well as quelling its consequences — that should make the nation at large believe that something right is being done and allow us to invest our trust in plainspeaking.