As electioneering process unfolds- the Agenda for ‘Change’ sold by the dream merchants representing major political parties seems to give way to ‘No Change’ in political landscape. Usual inner party bickering, the absurd theater of ticket distribution with Aya Rams and Gaya Rams, safe seat swapping and name calling rather than serious debate on issues dominate the headlines and prime time view.
All the players have made winnability the be-all and end-all of all political awakening and discourses. And in this Vote ke liye kuch bhi karega race, the only common thread is appealing to Lowest Common Denominator and base instincts of a gullible electorate Electioneering is moving ahead with eyes focused on rear mirror. In 2014, we have retros of 2002, 1984, 1962 etc and yes. last sixty years.
That is unfortunate. Cannot we have party that speaks of 2020, 2050..or may be this whole century itself- Its vision and mission and how it proposes to give India the pride of place that it deserves in the comity of nations.
Revisionism and reactions to historical realities cannot be wished away, but then what next? To start with, It is high time there is an well thought Alternative Governance model that addressees inclusive growth and aspirations of an emerging middle class.
Let us analyse it in proper perspective. We are a country of 1.22 billion people with median age of 26.5 years. Yes we are a Young nation. In 2013, our GDP has moved upto 3rd ranking, after US and China and surpassing traditional Asian financial Powerhouse Japan. However, this is no cheer for an average Indian. More than 250 million live below the poverty line, out of which 110 million are at the bottom of this segment and lack basic necessities of life – enough to eat or have a hutment dwelling. There are additional 450 million more people who are ‘vulnerable’ to poverty, because one shock to the system, an illness in family or an accident or loss of job can push them back to poverty line. So there are 800 million people who live on the edges. It is estimated that a basic package of food, drinking, water, sanitation, health care, schooling, energy and housing can be delivered to the poor for about Rs. 6100 per household per month.
(Data Source- Reimaging India- Five ideas for inclusive growth by Rajat Gupta Edited by Global Consultant Mckinsey & Compnay).
The above amount is not beyond the reach of world’s third largest economy. We spend almost corresponding amount in plethora of schemes and subsidies. It is pertinent to recall the statement of a former Prime Minister who lamented that out of Rs 100 spent, thanks to a web of middle men/inept delivery system the intended beneficiary gets only Rs.15.
Now the challenge- can we improve the delivery apparatus, rely more on Direct Benefit Transfer and have clarity on what we propose to do for inclusive growth. Unfortunately, these 800 million are widely dispersed, do not form a block, is not seen as a vote bank and hence can safely be sidelined. Indian election now is more about symbol than substance and hence such substantive issues are never in the race.
India is a land of contrasts. We have Antilia- the world’s most expensive residence in Mumbai by Mukesh Ambani at a cost of US$2 billion (Forbes Magazine) – about Rs 12,000 crore. And in the same Mumbai, we have millions who do not have even an authorized slum dwelling. India may be growing- but does the growth percolate down to the bottom of pyramid. It must be remembered that, poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere. Hope prospective parliamentarians and policy makers are listening and have an answer for the gigantic inequality and eternal deprivations for large majority of the Indians instead of brainstorming on how to get the next additional vote by hook or crook- mostly crook.
Image Source: Ambani Residence Antilla