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Thursday, 28 February 2013
Arvind Kejriwal - A Socialist? How?
An honest submission: I am a confirmed capitalist. Socialism holds no allure for me; it is a recipe for certain disaster. Let me spell it out right at the start, lest readers jump to the conclusion that I am a socialist sympathiser from the rest of the article. For that is my precise submission: Arvind Kejriwal's policies are nowhere near being socialist. In fact, the entire brouhaha around his policies points to a rather unfortunate selfishness of the Urban Indian Citizen. This article may hurt many readers of my blog, and perhaps drive some away; but I have always called it like I see it.
It is time for a reality check on our so-called tremendous growth from 1991. And one figure - only one figure is all I require to make my point. The per capita income of the bottom 20% of India's population has not changed (as a percentage share) since 1978. That means, the bottom 20% of our population has not benefited at all from our economic boom. This means rising inequality and skewed income patterns. From a society point of view, this reality is a sure recipe for disaster. You cannot have such a large section of the population being left out and hope to reach developed status. The trickle down effect does not seem to be working! This is also confirmed by consumption patterns: with the consumption by the bottom 20% of the population being static @ between 0 - 1%. While in the 1990s, India's Gini Coefficient was 0.32, it has now gone up to 0.38. The top 10% now make 12 time the bottom 10% - as opposed to 6 times in the 1990s.
The above is a cause of some serious concern. The development we have experienced so far has, by-and-large, left the underprivileged sections of our society by the wayside. This has serious long-term repercussions both on the economic side as well as on the social side. It points out that our development model is unsustainable, and not long-term. Unless we can get the entire population to benefit from development, we can never reach our goal of being a developed country. Not only that, the current situation will also, over the long term, lead to serious social unrest. This is not a price that we can afford to pay.
Another very serious cause of concern is our record on Human Development: we are ranked among the bottom in the list of HDI - 137. On most parameters like Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality, Education, Gender Inequality we lag behind even stalwarts like Sri Lanka. In an earlier article on my blog about an year ago, I had argued () : "What nonsense are we talking about? Gender Equality, Primary Schooling, Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality, Literacy are all basic indices that indicate quality of life and governance. And in each, B/R/C are ahead. We compare ourselves with China in terms of Freedom of Expression... good, that we should. But then we should also compare all the other parameters of pertinence. And why aren't we benchmarking ourselves against Brazil - a country similar in size and challenges? Even Sri Lanka is ahead of us
We look at economic indices and worry... perhaps it is high time that we looked at these basic indices - for the very simple economic reason that a healthy, literate, Well-schooled and taken care of population will be more productive. Dont believe me? Well, Per Capita Income of these countries is Russia 14561, Brazil 10162, China 7476, India 3468, and Sri Lanka 4943!
What is the quality of governance that we are giving our people? More to the point, how sustainable is our model of growth if the basic needs of the majority of the population are not addressed? This is indicative of a deeper problem within us: unless the changes initiated in the past 20 years are not drilled till the grass-roots levels, the figures are not going to be very different. We are creating an urban rural divide within us wherein the rural population will lag behind. And unless literacy levels go up & mortality goes down you cannot expect productivity to significantly improve"
If you look at Arvind Kejriwal's policies, it can be readily seen that this is the precise area that he is addressing. How does that make him a socialist? Has anyone else shown the foresight and the courage to come out with a plan to address this, the most important challenge that is facing India? Furthermore - considering that Arvind Kejriwal's support base is largely Urban, this is a bold move - one that shows his commitment to development. He is consciously abandoning his existing support base among the Urban youth of India by addressing this serious problem facing India.
The numbers show one thing with startling clarity: the fact that governance has totally failed to deliver in India. We have been unable to ensure even the most basic of facilities and supports to a very large segment of our population. It is high time someone tackled this reality head-on. How does empowering Gram Sabhas etc make him a socialist? That is being a hard-core democrat! Yes, some of policies need toning down - I have myself stated that in my analysis. But rejecting his policies outright as socialist is being excessively negative. Again, as I had observed last year, Let us take an example: farm productivity. It is among the lowest even in the developing world. Dont you think that an educated farmer will be more amenable to and willing to accept the advances in agriculture? Will he not be better aware? Will that not translate into a better output? We are talking about infrastructure... to my mind, these basic indices are equally important for development and need to tackled on a war footing. The evidence that they impact development is omnipresent. What is required is our will and effort.
The alternative is continue on the current road map. We are doing fairly well... 7 -9 % (now 5-6%) GDP growth isn't bad. But this top-heavy model of development will increase the Rich-Poor and Urban-Rural divide and create further wedges in our socio - economic fabric. Unless the advantages of growth trickle to all levels, the full benefits will not be realised. In short, it is simply not sustainable. For it to be sustainable, most critically, each strata of society should be in a position to take advantage of it.
This is not a communist viewpoint- I am talking pure economic sense. Unless basic indices are in place, the people will not benefit fully from any development simply because their awareness levels will not enable them to grab the opportunities that come. And, if they lag, the effects of their backwardness on the economic productivity of the nation are too worrisome to contemplate... at no point does Arvind Kejriwal advocate Government Ownership of productive assets. In fact, he advocates private enterprise; all he does - or is trying to do - is ensure that the people from whom the land is taken participate in development. He is increasing the bargaining power of the poorer sections of society. Why does that notion disturb us? It is a matter of documented record that the economically weaker sections are no better of today than in 1991 - if you consider any of the numbers above! The figures of BPL alone are not the only index to judge the well-being of a nation. Are we saying that if a person is not in BPL list, then he has participated in growth? What about these other factors pointed out above? Can we ignore them? High time Urban India wakes up to the ground realities.
Wake Up, India. We are not doing nearly as well as we think we are.... we need to get out act together.
In closing, I would like to re-iterate my earlier observation from my blog @
"Had real change been around the corner, the seriousness would have shown up in the educated classes, who currently rise only when it impacts them. It would have been evident in increased civic consciousness in society, in more number of proactive steps taken to tackle the issues. The continued absence of a national dialogue on all the major issues of importance on even social media, let alone the national news, is a cause of concern. It is leading me to wonder: Young / Educated India: A Myth or Reality? I wonder...'
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UPDATE: from http://www.quora.com/Tushar-Katira
"But looking at contemporary India from another angle, one could equally tell the following—more critical and more censorious—story: “The progress of living standards for common people, as opposed to a favoured minority, has been dreadfully slow—so slow that India’s social indicators are still abysmal.” For instance, according to World Bank data, only five countries outside Africa (Afghanistan, Bhutan, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Yemen) have a lower “youth female literacy rate” than India (World Development Indicators 2011, online). To take some other examples, only four countries (Afghanistan, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar and Pakistan) do worse than India in child mortality rate; only three have lower levels of “access to improved sanitation” (Bolivia, Cambodia and Haiti); and none (anywhere—not even in Africa) have a higher proportion of underweight children. Almost any composite index of these and related indicators of health, education and nutrition would place India very close to the bottom in a ranking of all countries outside Africa."\
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Aapas mein ghum baante jo ham phir naa rahe aise sitam kehane ko insaan hain woh insaniyat kahaan hai
Par Humnein Baatnaa seekhaa hi nahi... yeh numbers padh kar toh yehi lagtaa hai. Maaf karnaa agar baat buri lage...