Thursday, 22 October 2015

Independence : Why The Shameful Controversy?

Today is Dussehra : The day we commemorate the victory of good over bad, of good over evil; in keeping with the spirit of this Holy Day, let me revisit that period when we Indians won over the Evil Raj; our own modern Victory of Good over Evil. Let me try once again to deal with the rising anti-Gandhi diatribe on social media, and place before my readers a record of why The Mahatma has primacy over most others; at the same time, let me acknowledge that it is not my contention that The Mahatma is the only reason, as will be evident from my article below.

It  is sad to see such questions; this is more a reflection of the abysmal state of history education in our schools than a comment on the people at large. While But this is one question that requires a proper, informed and relatively unbiased answer, based not on internet  articles or opinion, but on solid verifiable historical evidence taken from standard and pedigreed books. This article  is basis some 28+ books on Indian History that I have studied as a hobby, some of which  have not been reviewed - like Sengupta's Bengal Divided, as they are on my t0-review list; some will not see a review, for the reasons of content being religious in nature; and some others, like Jinnah, or India's Struggle for Independence or The Discovery of India are frankly hard to review properly, so vast is their scope.


Read this post : The Massacres of 1857...

This is what I call The Genocide of Indians in 1857 - 59 : This took place in 2 waves - and was planned at the topmost levels of the British Hierarchy. Village after village were targeted in a cold-blooded manner, and emptied of its citizens through murder - planned, brutal and cold-blooded murder. This was not an impassioned outrage {albeit fanned by vested interests}, nor was it done as a result of a conquerers victory in war.

What makes it mind-numbingly shocking and stunning is the simple fact that this was planned, and perpetrated as a vicious punishment, as a war strategy to take the war to civilian non-combatants with an intention of defeating the enemy - against a people who were fighting for independence, in their own country - and it was done by a people who had no business being here in the first place

For a fuller understanding, I recommend a full reading of the entire history from 1757 right till the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, a saga of unremitting bloodshed on a scale that stands as one of the most brutal in World History. This bloodshed is exceedingly well documented in a series of authentic books replete with period evidence

Why is this important? Because it helps us in understanding the world as it existed in the days of The Mahatma, the days when his views were being formed, as well the views of other Indians. It is easy to comment in hindsight; the most vital thing is to ask - what decisions and steps were doable in the environment as it then existed?

What fears, forces and realities were to confronted? For this reason, one has no option but to understand the world as it then existed. One cannot and should not comment in light of the modern world; the world of the 1800s and early 1900s was a very different place

It is in this light we need to examine two divergent but unimportant and yet rising tendencies : firstly, the concept of India; and secondly, the role of the more strident freedom fighters, like The Lokmanya, or Amar Shaheed. My reference to these legends by title rather than by name is proof of the high regard I have for them; but the rising tendency to downplay The Mahatma and push up the role of the others is sad, to say the least.

Fact of the matter is that Freedom required all players; and the aggressive methods of these players were an important and integral part of the Freedom Struggle; the fact is also plain and clear that independence was virtually impossible by their violent methods. Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream. Not everyone is moved by the same message; and that is why every method adopted has it own importance.

But we need to meet this rising tide of support for violent measures, and ask ourselves was independence possible by their methods? Was it possible to mount a large enough uprising to uproot the British? Was it possible for everyone to take such a decision? The answer to all of these is an unequivocal no. The reasons are underlined hereon :

First, 1857 was a fresh memory in the late 1890s and the first half of the 1900s. 1857 was never a mutiny, as period evidence and records prove beyond a shade of doubt; it was a massive popular armed uprising. And it was crushed with complete and remorseless brutality, with a genocide that is in all probability unmatched in World History. The details are enough to make you cry, so horrifying was the brutality. These would be in public memory. 1919 was also too recent, when even a mistaken hint of an uprising on a local scale led to wanton murder in Jallianwallah Bagh, wherein a peaceful gathering was butchered. Chances are that armed uprisings were certain to be crushed.

And do not forget that Indians were also helping the Raj; and that is a fact! Study detailed history.

This was to be proven in 1942 yet again, when Quit India was crushed in hours, and even before it started. Read this : Was The Quit India Movement A Failure?. There was an all-India underground leadership - Sucheta Kripalani, Aruna Asaf Ali, Ram Manohar Lohia. Biju Patnaik, RP Goenka, JP Narayan etc. There was a vast and coordinated attack cycle by the people. The movement got support from a vast variety of people; it was a national uprising. Students, teachers, labourers, business people, villagers, government officials, policemen, ladies - all took part in it.  And it failed. Reason? First, it did not account for British Brutality; and Second - Treason. Documented fact. Indians were helping The Raj. Rather than blame The Mahatma, I choose to look in a mirror; not with pride, but with abject shame.

Thus, there was no alternative to the path adopted by The Mahatma.

As I observed earlier, Their role lay more is kindling the light of Freedom in the mind and hearts of an enslaved population; their sacrifice was essential so that those among us who cooperated with the Raj or who couldnt care less, and be brought into the stream.. And for that, all India should be grateful to these - The Lokmanya and Amar Shaheed. But my point is different; why these alone? The full list of people who were murdered by the British in their quest to quell the rising tide of freedom is massive. Why do we moan over just these two or three names, why do we moan over just The Mahatma and The Sardar? Read this post : Do We Really Care? 

Well done, India.  This is how you value your freedom fighters, Keep it up. You cannot even spare a few minutes to visit such monuments {I have written another such memoir about a monument in Juhu Beach, Mumbai about a police officer}, even when you pass by it. How long does it take to stroll through such a building? These are the people who gave their lives, and their freedom so that we can have ours. And they lie forgotten.

Take a look at these photographs, at least... spare that much time for your saviours, people who gave their all for you!

{View snaps on the blog}

On one side, we pine for The Lokmanya, and Amar Shaheed, and The Sardar and more- and on the other, our monuments to them lie unvisited, in a shambles, forgotten and buried. {I tried to hunt for the residence of The Lokmanya in Pune on a visit, but couldnt find it. Took me a while to do so! Me, I would much rather pay homage at such holy sites as above than go to the beach or the mall of whatever - or argue on relative importance of each sacrifice} We dont even walk in when it would take us less than 2 minutes - like in Mahal, Nagpur - I saw this with my own eyes, not just there, but in many other places.

How would the names you value, whichever side of the debate you are on -The Mahatma, or The Lokmanya / The Sardar - feel if they could see such callousness? How would they feel if they could see us like this? You can logically say that visiting a monument is no stamp of approval; and you would be right. But does that mean that such monuments be forgotten? That local heroes and names be ignored? That such monuments which give a peek into history never be visited, especially since we can devote hours on other pointless pursuits?  I for one, believe that our forefathers and freedom fighters wouldn’t care whether or not we visited their monuments and places, and would rather we be good honest citizens, but that is another story...


This was what the Indian Freedom Struggle created; a feat that remains unparalleled in World History. No one has till date crafted a political union from a cultural union encompassing so many different sub-cultures, and so many divergent viewpoints. Bringing them together is a feat not matched in the History Of Planet Earth: high time we Indians learnt to accept the enormity of what our forefathers have achieved. Every single international commenter predicted that Pakistan would stay but India, with its divisions, would collapse. We have proved all of them wrong... a matter of considerable pride! And for that, The Mahatma was the driving force { The Concept Of India} ; although Independence required everyone from Lal Bal Pal to Gokhale, From Lokmanya to The Sardar, and from the unnamed to the Amar Shaheed. Everyone is to be thanked;

And it is for us to feel the shame of treason that Indians consistently have done during the Raj. Rather than argue on the relative contributions of each Freedom Fighter, I would rather look back with shame at how Indians cooperated willingly with The Raj, I would rather thank each freedom fighter, and not get embroiled in needless controversy; I would rather visit the haloed and holy shrines made in their names than wonder just what percent contribution is made by whom. A sacrifice is a sacrifice, and I would much rather pay homage to the sacrifices of all our Freedom Fighters... they gave their today for my today. Thank you, all of you...

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Caste, And Reservations : An Examination

We need reservations because of the history of inequality and injustice that has preceded our current generations, for at least the past 200 years, if not more. That requires some rebalancing. Further, there are some areas in India where discrimination was practiced; if some reports are to be believed, pockets still exist. Until our society grows out of this scourge, we have little choice.

The question is : why compromise on quality? Why cant we stress both reservation and quality, impractical though it may sound?

Note :
The earlier casteism was softer, and did not acquire its present shape then. It was entrenched in a system of hereditary vocations, with relevant skills for each vocation being passed from generation to generation. This built deep intra-caste relationships and inter-caste dependencies, based not on oppression but on a workable and eminently but brutally efficient methodology, that rivals and beats any and every modern system with a modicum of ease.
This is what ensured India's dominance for close on 9000 years - it built a system that was extraordinarily hard for anyone to break into. The proof of this is the presence of guilds that existed for centuries {Thapar, 2004/05 - will need to check precise year of her book}. Another proof comes in the writings of Sujan Rai from 1689 or 1696, who has described a flawless system of cash transfers that puts our modern IT hot-shots and western / eastern management geniuses to shame. {Habib, 2012}

* From my Blog : Casteism - A Fresh And Objective Analysis : Casteism - A Fresh And Objective Analysis

The above is another factor : the hardlined and clearly demarcated lines of no-crossing {which developed during colonial rule, but were based on increasing and steady hardening immediately preceding colonialsim}. This created a deep division, entrenched into stone. This also cultivated selective competencies in selective classes

{Prof. Vaidyanathan in India, Uninc has brought to the fore the relevance of these selective competencies even in modern Business in India : India, Uninc}

Thus, my contention is in support of reservation on demographic, historical, cultural, economic, Skill-sets, and competencies parameters. In order to create an equal society, we really do have no choice. That is what sets us apart as a nation : unlike others, we are at least trying to say sorry, to set things right.

On annihilation of caste - that is frankly, impossible. The term caste has a multitude of cultural connotations, and is a reality of the social landscape in India, It is not going anywhere anytime soon - and that is the truth.

The differences between cultural practices in castes, {even sub-castes} is unassailable, and unbridgeable - and range from practices related to religion, to even standard things like outlook towards life, and other traits. This is due to centuries of inbreeding. I myself can trace my family tree all the way to approximately the 1400s, in one single unbroken line of authentic succession. In my own caste, there are but 57 family trees, with exceedingly well documented histories and practices.

The cultural and other practical differences between castes are rock-solid, and hued into stone; centuries of deep inbreeding within castes has set in stone the practices, so much so that some traits are now almost genetic; and easily identifiable. Case in point being my own caste : Kokanasth, which is a very small caste of Chitpavan Brahman tree. You dont need to know the name to pick out one of us, most times. Those who live around us can tell us a mile away; and most Maharashtrians can tell even more easily! These have now been coded into Genetics, almost - and is not going away; not for centuries.

Caste isnt going anywhere! More to the point, it is the outlook of how we look to castes that needs to change.

Caste wont go away; the differences in various castes ensure that this is a concept that will stand the test of time in at least the next couple of centuries, The differences between even related castes are huge; boys and girls, even today, are known to prefer same-caste spouses by choice rather than parental force. The exception proves the rule.

Technology and modernity arent just equalising castes - they are also solidifying them. Case in point : I am a member of my Family Tree Whatsapp Group, constituting far-flung members of the extended Kale family tree. The same development that is breaking barriers is also fuelling easy connectivity between constituents of the same caste. I know several means of reaching my own caste members through technology. This is fueling a deeper connectivity within castes, which might just solidify rather than equalise. The same forces of change that are breaking barriers are also acting on the other side of the coin.

The same technology, for example, will enable a member of the Kale Family to check relationships with another Kokanasth and check back to how many generations ago a Kale had married,say, which Patwardhan and which Branch of which Patwardhan. Relations are till the 5th Generation; marriage is feasible thereafter. There exists documented and extensive family histories, well chronicled on the internet. I myself have accessed it!

A corollary can be found in the rapid rise of the vernacular film industry; far from Hindi becoming the lingua franca, there is actually a reverse trend of rapid technology driven rise of local languages everywhere across India. Remember : Technology and Development operate equally on all sides of a socio-cultural equation. That is why I state : Castes are here to stay.

Change your outlook towards castes. I see no issues in a Kokanasth marrying a Kokanasth; just as I see no issue in a Kokanasth marrying a Kshatriya or an OBC, or any other caste. I see no difference between a Brahman and a Vaishya or any other SC, ST or OBC. In fact, we should stop calling them SC, ST etc; the constituents have their own culture in their own castes, like we Kokanasth. Can’t we accept all castes as equals?

Change your outlook towards caste, and how you view it. But Caste will not go away. We can undo the damage to the caste system due to colonialism {Refer Maria Misra's monumental research on this topic} - but you cannot take way caste. Modern forces ensure that.

The root is the caste issue; that is the origin. Problem is we arent even trying to change our outlook towards caste, and are, as a people, beating around the bush, swinging like pendulum from one extreme to the other. At one extreme you have the dreams of remove caste from society brigade, and at the other you have the vociferous defenders of reservations and of the status quo. Given the ground realities, it is impossible to remove reservations, and neither is this recommended.

What is required is a sea-change in administrative delivery and capabilities, and a lot less chalta hai, which is harming India no end. That is the only real solution - good governance and deliverance of the results of governance to the people. That will help percolate good ideas and people development; and that is precisely what none among is even willing to contemplate. We need to remove the concept of discrimination from our society, and that requires education.

Even our sacred texts make the reality specific : I quote from The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Shri Bhagwaan Uvaach :


The Shrimad Bhagwad Geeta, Shlok 13, Adhyaay Chaturth,

This shlok explicitly tells that the caste system was based on "Guna" and "Karma"; these are Shri Bhagwaan Uvaach, the words of the Lord and Creator himself. Why cant all of us understand and accept this as a cornerstone of our thought process? That your status is a straight function of your own individual abilities? That would allow us to focus on and create a system wherein the intrinsic qualities of each individual come to the fore? Isnt this doable?

How far have we come from this shlok in our lives? The need of the hour is the education of the people, and enlghtenment; which isnt happening. Caste as a cultural concept is now irreplaceable, given the cultural practices and norms that are now almost genetically coded. But we need to stop viewing caste as anything other than a cultural realm and reality, and not as a status symbol, or as an achievement, or indeed a means to an end.

Crafting this is not going to be easy, and at this juncture sounds highly idealistic; that said, we as a people do not have any other option. Rather than question reservations, we would do well to look at the discrimination which does have a historical basis to it; we would do well to look at the demographics; we would do well to look at ground realities; we would do well to look at the full picture and modulate our response accordingly.

The current system isn’t perfect – that is beyond question. That the emphasis should be on quality is pretty much a given; that we should move to ensuring quality intake is also simple logic. But is this so simple to do? The question that we should, as a people, be asking is : how can we ensure that the discriminated castes {I dislike the terminology SC, ST, OBC} can get up to speed, and produce the same level of results like the others? What is stopping them?

I appreciate and accept the need for some sort of reservations, given the history of discrimination; but shouldn’t we be trying to develop their long-term capabilities by investing in proper education not at college level, but at Primary, Secondary school levels, so as to ensure capability development? Shouldnt we be focusing on channelling our energies at that question? Shouldnt we be asking what needs to be done that everyone, regatrdless of caste status, can meet the same bar, rather than lowering the bar, thus defining a new paradigm in the reservation system? Shouldn't we be examining if this is possible, as it would solve most problems, and trying to craft a course towards that ideal?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Make In India : A Need For Introspection

In the previous article {Make In India} , I introduced a look  at Make In India’s loopholes – not from the GOI, but from we the people.  Therein, I had concluded, We, the people, just don’t seem to care about these basics. Quite frankly, we just don’t care. While the chosen words are a bit strong, the fact remains that corruption - unless it is tackled, MII will remain a pipe dream. By the same token, unless administrative reforms are taken up, MII will remain a pipe dream.

Take a small example. I have consistently referred to RBI report on the states finances; the report of 13-14 clearly identifies good movements in state budgets, with increasing responsible states. But the very same report makes a  certain observation of off-budget expenses and their possibility of presence, as also highlights the laggard states and their irresponsible behaviour. The report of 14-15 once again clarifies the vast gulf between the various states. The differences in the state of finances in the document amply indicate the need for differential and targeted plans, as also the evidence of our own eyes as we traverse this Holy Land we call our Mother, our India

Now the central government has devolved a higher share of revenues to the states, and not touched or perhaps reduced in real terms expenses on Education, among others. Without a concurrent increase in state budgets allocations on education, there will be no improvement in the state of affairs; and without an improvement in the performance of government servants and their accountability, on-field situation will never improve. These administrative reforms are urgently required - are they happening?

On education, how can a poor uneducated person benefit from MII? What is in it for him? Hundreds of Millions of Indian live outside the top 200 urban agglomerations {around 86%. Not for me the artificial classification of urban-rural. Visit any city outside the top 100, let alone 200, and try and spot the similarities between rural India and them!}

How will they benefit? They arent educated and lack skills. And skill development cannot substitute for education, which opens the mind, develops its faculties, and broadens perspective. Short term few-days skill development is no comparison. The answer is education; it has to be a proper education for true development to percolate to all levels of the society. Even skill development requires a certain basic level of education or skills that can be honed. Even in low-level technical jobs, some basic education is a prerequisite.

What kind of job will these poor people get? Menial jobs and / or low-level jobs, most likely. What will these jobs pay? Some {hopefully most} will earn more than previously, but questions will remain. Will they earn enough to create enough wealth to ensure a far better future for their families? Further, how many people will benefit, in absolute numbers as well as in percentage terms? Is there a guarantee of the continuance of these wages for long, given that they are unskilled employees, and as such easily replaceable? Are we or are we not risking more migrant people drifting from place to place?  

And what about the impact on ancillaries and Small and Medium Sector units? These lack the capital to upgrade technology; and new world-class manufacturing facilities will require even ancillaries to upscale and upgrade. What about their capital requirements and problems? How will that be facilitated? What about skill levels in employees in these units, which  will require major upgradation? Is there a risk of job losses in Small and Medium units arising out of this? What about the rampant cash transactions that are prevalent in this segment? How will you push them towards cheque and other more modern methods of transactions? Even if it will eventually lead to greater monetary returns to India, what about the short-terms pains? Is there any plan to mitigate any pains that are certain to arise from the course of development?

These are all genuine questions, and not allegations or critical statements. And these questions will need to be met and answered for MII to be a true game-changer at all levels for society. As more and more facilities come up, it will require inputs, some of which will be taken from the local populace, like land.

The pressure will be on these new units to add back  to society in a demonstrable fashion so as to smoothen the introduction and facilitate their setup. Frankly, there is no choice:  these questions will have to be answered; we are a democracy.

And further, do we have the means to ensure corruption will not happen, and that these people will get their true wages? Or that the wages will be enough to provide for their families needs like education of children? Or that percentage of Cash transactions will go down? Or that land is acquired without corruption? That there is no cutting of legal corners in the entire process, and that all rules are adhered to? That there will be no revelation of scams thereby ensuring smooth operations? That everything operates above board, and that no bribes are paid? Or that, if bribes are paid, the same never comes to light?

We dont, and that is a fact. How then do we ensure that this will be implemented? We cant! The reason that this is a major stumbling block is simple : a revelation of the truth will lead to legal as well as social ramifications, stalling projects. It will also adversely impact efficiency as the entire system comes to a screeching halt with reference to that project, as any officer will be want to be extra careful lest he or she be found guilty!

This isn’t fault-finding; just a humble request for deep societal introspection. Please ask yourselves these questions, and look at what we have become as a people, what values we stand for and what values we are giving our children by our behaviour!

That  is the case of corruption. In the increased activism among the media, as well as the anti-corruption mood in combination with investigations, exposures and actions of law-enforcement and investigative agencies, scams are certain to come to light. That means a full and final grounding of any project that is scam tainted. Unless corruption is systematically reduced, questions relating to MII remain; and will need to be tackled and answered.

Furthermore, we all of us demand and ensure top education for our own children - we can afford it, by the grace of God. Then why dont we demand that the Government give education to those who cannot afford it, that education happens properly, and not the farce it is in some places? We give our family the best, because it is our family. We call India our mother, and then ignore the educational needs of the less fortunate among us!!!!! Why are we, as a people, so consistently ignoring education?

And we call India our mother?? Who will take care of our own brothers and sisters if we dont??

Monday, 5 October 2015

Make In India Explained, With Questions It Raises

Make In India is, and has been for a while now, the buzzword and the favourite of the Media and the educated public alike; little space has been shared for the realities, or what precisely MII entails. It almost sounds like a new dawn of manufacturing, with   the excitement and the euphoria this slogan has generated. That by itself is most welcome; if people in India are gung-ho about manufacturing, that is indeed welcome, and helps to seed entrepreneurial spirit. The problem is the word Euphoria; excitement is needed, and a catalyst, and perhaps what the Government desires.

The difficulty is the needless Euphoria around this term, which is almost a halo now. It almost sounds as if we have no manufacturing at all! We are ALREADY making in India, thank you very much. The challenge isnt Make In India : it is Create The Proper Conditions For Make Much More In India!

Take the Auto Compenents Sector, for example. It is dominated by the Small and Medium Companies, some - indeed most - hiring unskilled or semi-skilled labour of upto 10-20 people, producing end-products for some defined customers in a symbiotic relationship not only with other manufacturers, but also with traders and suppliers. In Mumbai alone I alone managed to find 1077 companies spanning auto components, springs, steel traders, kitchen appliances, bolts, nuts etc. More than 90% of these were small outfits, Isnt this Make in India?

In the Delhi - Ludhiana - Chandigarh - Haryana - Gurgaon corridoor I managed to locate some 736 companies making the above items. Ditto Hyderabad, Nashik, Chennai, Coimbatore, Pune, Nagpur. Most of them - nearly all - small companies. I visited one personally - a small company, well managed, but with less than 50 employees doing brisk business. Isnt this Make In India?

Make what In India, pray tell? Nuts? Bolts? Springs? Rack-and-Pinion arrangements? Wheels? Gears? Cars? ACs? Soaps? Biscuits? Curtains? Cloth? Shirts? Shoes? Motorcycles? Furniture? Make what? Dont we manufacture all these and more? And what happens to the current spring manufacturers and gear manufacturers, to take a small example? Not your large companies - I am referring to the multitude of small players that exist in the economy, in just about every industry – even soaps {Sanatan Soaps, for example}. And what of the current overcapacity? What happens to their product lines? Where are the specifics? Make in India for whom and which market?

Make In India wont just happen; you will have to deal with the issues. Companies are facing a credit crunch, with working capital loans hard to come by. There order books are ether stretched due to lack of timely raw material, as old outstanding to suppliers are not coming through due to supply chain issues further down the chain. Or their order books are vacant, as companies close down.

I myself have talked to several promoters who have closed their units, There are massive infrastructure issues, skill issues, access problems, market access issues, raw material issues, productivity and work habit issues that need sorting, to say nothing of the market and economic structure related points that we have inherited!

Where are the changes that enable lending to companies, for another small examples? Why is the credit offtake on a decline from the banks? Where are the measures dealing with these systemic challenges that will have to dealt with? Like the challenge at our filled-to-capacity container terminals at various ports? The roads and rail infrastructure that will carry the goods from one place to another? Make In India, when it takes days just to send material from one state to another, requiring documentation across states? When the vehicle takes 3 days just to traverse 400 kilometers, sometimes even lesser distances? These matters, and more, are known factors; that begets the question, what then, is Make In India about? When we have extensive manufacturing industrial units in India in every industry, what is this Make In India?

Primarily, MII is targeted at the Western Audience, not an internal audience, with two clear purposes in mind :

* Attraction of Foreign Direct Investment, as opposed to portfolio investments or Financial Institutional Investors. The budget does not have much fiscal space which can give the Government room to manoeuvre; so they seem to feel that this is an easy way out of the quandary. Every step the Government has taken is in line with this objective in mind. Whether or not this is actually the case : fiscal room - is another matter, and opens up a pandora's box; one which we will perforce have to open if we are to really understand the MII plan in its entirety.

* Build India as a major stop on the Global Supply Chain,with a secondary target of Job Creation, spurring investments and building economic growth

There it is, in a nutshell. If and when it succeeds – it has the potential to turn Indian fortunes.

The target of the Global Stop for India might be laudable - but is premature in the extreme, as Arvind Kejriwal has rightly been at pains to point out, as also any number of other critics of this plan. This cannot happen without giving proper education, and proper health facilities - for who will work in those nice new swank factories? Large numbers of the population automatically stand excluded due to this problem. I pointed this out last year in 3 separate articles, and am certainly not the only one to do so. What is being done to address the other, and far more important point of this MII Plan?

For the plan to spread inclusive growth, employment opportunities have to be shared by all sections of the population – and that can only happen with a focus on education. Do we have such a focus? Far too obviously, we don’t have even a tiny fraction of the focus on education on a national level {I am talking of you and me, not the government}. That is actually not in argument. There is no focus on Education  - not in our minds, not in our Media, which goes gaga over the smallest development related to Make in India, summarily ignoring the questions that emanate from this plan!

Point to be noted is that expenditure on education remains abysmally low; funds have been marked to the states, with increased devolution of central revenue. This has apparently happened without a clearly elucidated guideline to the states for proper utilization of these excess funds. Read the RBI status report on the finances of the states for more, both the good and the bad. If there is a guideline, it is not in my notice.

In the absence of such a guideline, there is no guarantee that these excess funds will go towards education and health, which are a pre-requisite for manufacturing. You need humans to work in your factories - and you need to ensure that benefits from industrialisation flow to the local population, so that resistance to other moves comes down. This is manifest in its absence, as is evident from the nationwide strident objection to the Land Bill.

You also need infrastructure - which means Land again. This wont happen fully without the above, and a reduction of corruption and increase in governance efficiency. The list of sordid tales arising out of Land Acquisition in India is long; and in vivid public memory. Unless these reforms are initiated, MII wont take off. Not for a long time. And, if it does, {which is quite possible, frankly} – the rate of spread of its benefits to all economic classes of society will be very slow, leading to further income disparities, increasing inequality in income alongwith all it entails.

And therein lies the problem.

This isn’t all; there is far more to it than meets the eye. Stop for a moment and think : you are introducing {or trying to} large facilities by directed planning, into an economy populated by Small and Marginal Manufacturers with distributed manufacturing facilities on a micro, small and medium scale, characterised by exceedingly complex holding patterns and ownerships meant to circumnavigate the complex historical laws governing the industrial sector.

Any industry requires ancillaries.This means investments by second and third tier manufacturers, who have serious issues accessing institutional credit, and do not have either the experience or the cash to do it on their own, or indeed the knowledge. Those who do have scale and money, cannot take advantage due to distributed ownership patterns and other reasons. The mode of large numbers of transactions remains cash. This also raises issues for security for employees, as one of the entry strategies is far too obviously JVs or take-overs of existing facilities.

Again, lack of clarity governs. This highlights the attendant reforms that are needed : corruption on a war footing, reform of the banking system. To be completely fair, some of these steps are either being contemplated, or are being started by Dr Rajan and the RBI. But that is limited to the Banking System, not corruption. Further, credit delivery and other things need both, not just one aspect.

Thus, in conclusion, while MII is an excellent plan, our India needs answers to the many questions it raises : namely Infrastructure, Corruption, Systemic Reform, Education, Health, Environment. While we Indians are euphoric about the the possibilities of this plan, the tragically comic aspect of this euphoria is the complete and utter neglect of the need for systemic reform required in the aspects noted above in the public imagination. The Government may or may not be doing anything : that is immaterial.

We, the people, just don’t seem to care about these basics. Quite frankly, we just don’t care. If we did, we would not be euphoric, but only cautiously optimistic, and be asking the Government to give more attention to Education, Health, Corruption Eradication, Environment etc. Judging from the amount of media and social media hype around MII, it seems a fair conclusion : we just don’t care...