Trust Vote – finale : “Singh is King” – at what price my lord?

Posted on July 23, 2008. Filed under: India, Nuclear, Politics |

UPA survives by 19 votes and Dr. Manmohan Singh smiles widely at the camera. The outcomes and consequences of this voting have been discussed before in this blog. For the moment let us turn our attention to the man who symbolically took up Left’s challenge.

The Prime Minister of India’s debate speech has been put up on his website His speech contains some very interesting points (but it’s a pity that this self-acknowledged “Oxonian” [his acceptance speech at Oxford] had to prepare his speech in a hurry leaving some strange expressions in the body of the text). Let us analyze these points :

For Dr. Singh, the “priority areas of national concern are” :

(i) “Tackling the imported inflation caused by steep increase in oil prices. Our effort is to control inflation without hurting the rate of growth and employment.” Coming from an economist of the “Oxon” school, this is a bit of a surprise. The link between inflation and growth and employment is a highly debated one from the time of Keynes. It strongly depends on the particular historical trajectory of the economy concerned.

(ii) “To revitalize agriculture. We have decisively reversed the declining trend of investment and resource flow in agriculture[…] We have achieved a record foodgrain production of 231 million tones.” That sounds excellent, but does not quite tally with persistent droughts, the need to import the second of the staples of the country, wheat, the sever pressure on grain growers to undersell to the government and hence their abandonment of grain production, endemic suicide of farmers in several regions, and persistent famine like conditions in others.

(iii) “To improve the effectiveness of our flagship pro poor programmes such as National Rural Employment Programme, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Nation-wide Mid day meal programme, Bharat Nirman to improve the quality of rural infrastructure of roads, electricity, safe drinking water, sanitation, irrigation, National Rural Health Mission and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. These programmes are yielding solid results.” We are yet to see any significant public sector urban development, (the major de-slum-ization programmes such as in Mumbai are being financed by private capital), and it is unlikely that the other programmes mentioned have had any significant real impact given the endemic apathy, insincerity and corruption of the implementors at various levels of the government. If the schemes were actually working thousands of NGO’s funded internally and internationally would have gone completely out of business.

(iv) “We have initiated a major thrust in expanding higher education. The objective is to expand the gross enrolment ratio in higher education from 11.6 per cent to 15 per cent by the end of the 11th Plan and to 21% by the end of 12th Plan. To meet these goals, we have an ambitious programme which seeks to create 30 new universities, of which 14 will be world class, 8 new IITs, 7 new IIMs, 20 new IIITs, 5 new IISERs, 2 Schools of planning and Architecture, 10 NITs, 373 new degree colleges and 1000 new polytechnics. And these are not just plans. Three new IISERs are already operational and the remaining two will become operational from the 2008-09 academic session. Two SPAs will be starting this year. Six of the new IITs start their classes this year. The establishment of the new universities is at an advanced stage of planning.” This is all most promising, but is looking at the apex of the educational pyramid. To successfully utilize such higher education opportunities, kids first have to have a solid primary and secondary education and almost surely a good grounding in the English language. Can the PM give any details of the state of the primary and secondary sector, state of English language education, and the state of education and opportunities given to 50% of the population – girls? Even now parents send the boys to better schools and the girls even if more talented will have to be satisfied with non-English medium or non-science education.

(v) “A nation wide Skill Development Programme and the enactment of the Right to Education Act,” Ambitious, ambitious indeed, and perhaps too vague to be ever reasonably implemented.

(vi) “Approval by Parliament of the new Rehabilitation and Resettlement policy and enactment of legislation to provide social security benefits to workers in the unorganized sector.” Social security benefits to a population without regular identification papers, without the minimum modern education required to successfully use documentation, without any permanent home, without any safety net at all – ambitious indeed!

(vii) “The new 15 Point Programme for Minorities, the effective implementation of empowerment programmes for the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes, paying particular emphasis on implementation of Land Rights for the tribals.” Most of these are beyond any dispute, as they are needed. But retaining and acknowledging sectarian or ethnic identities and linking economic or political empowerment based on such identities almost always simply reinforces them in the most negative way and is a potential for future trauma and tragedy as revealed in Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

(viii) “Equally important is the effective implementation of the Right to Information Act to impart utmost transparency to processes of governance. The Administrative Reforms Commission has made valuable suggestions to streamline the functioning of our public administration.” There is no doubt about the positive impact of this particular one.

(ix) “To deal firmly with terrorist elements, left wing extremism and communal elements that are attempting to undermine the security and stability of the country. We have been and will continue to vigorously pursue investigations in the major terrorist incidents that have taken place. Charge-sheets have been filed in almost all the cases. […]We will take all possible steps to streamline their functioning and strengthen their effectiveness.” This is an administrative solution, Mr. PM. No terrorist containment programme is effective without a co-current socio-economic programme, and the possible need to publicly undermine the ideological basis of terror. Can you ever take such steps, (as has been undertaken over the decades to deconstruct Hinduism in an attempt to show that it never existed), say in deconstructing extremist interpretations of Islam or Sikhism?

“In 1991, while presenting the Budget for 1991-92, as Finance Minister, I[…] outlined a far reaching programme of economic reform[…]Both the Left and the BJP had then opposed the reform. Both had said we had mortgaged the economy to America and that we would bring back the East India Company. Subsequently both these parties have had a hand at running the Government. None of these parties have reversed the direction of economic policy laid down by the Congress Party in 1991.” Not clear Mr. P.M. The left had no hand in running the government at the centre. If you mean their state governments, then they have had a mixed and quite confused policy.

“India needs to grow at the rate of at least ten per cent per annum to get rid of chronic poverty, ignorance and disease which still afflict millions of our people[…]The generation of electricity has to grow at an annual rate of 8 to 10 per cent[…]We have large reserves of coal but even these are inadequate to meet all our needs by 2050. But more use of coal will have an adverse impact on pollution and climate. We can develop hydro-power and we must. But many of these projects hurt the environment and displace large number of people. We must develop renewable sources of energy particularly solar energy. But we must also make full use of atomic energy which is a clean environment friendly source of energy.” Environmental and social impact of conventional sources are well known, and India has faced huge opposition in its bid to develop super hydel projects (“Save” Narmada movement). But nuclear power as environmentally safe? Mr. PM, that definitely is highly debated and contested claim!

“The essence of the matter is that the agreements that we negotiate with USA, Russia, France and other nuclear countries will enable us to enter into international trade for civilian use without any interference with our strategic nuclear programme. The strategic programme will continue to be developed at an autonomous pace determined solely by our own security perceptions. We have not and we will not accept any outside interference or monitoring or supervision of our strategic programme. Our strategic autonomy will never be compromised. We are willing to look at possible amendments to our Atomic Energy Act to reinforce our solemn commitment that our strategic autonomy will never be compromised. I confirm that there is nothing in these agreements which prevents us from further nuclear tests if warranted by our national security concerns. All that we are committed to is a voluntary moratorium on further testing. Thus the nuclear agreements will not in any way affect our strategic autonomy. The cooperation that the international community is now willing to extend to us for trade in nuclear materials, technologies and equipment for civilian use will be available to us without signing the NPT or the CTBT.” That appears not to be clearly supported in the published draft 123 agreements. Especially conducting tests could be delayed by at least 1 year from the time India conveys it’s wish to do so.

“The world wants India to succeed. The obstacles we face are at home, particularly in our processes of domestic governance. I wish to remind the House that in 1998 when the Pokharan II tests were undertaken, the Group of Eight leading developed countries had passed a harsh resolution condemning India and called upon India to sign the NPT and CTBT. Today, at the Hokkaido meeting of the G-8 held recently in Japan, the Chairman’s summary has welcomed cooperation in civilian nuclear energy between India and the international community. This is a measure of the sea change in the perceptions of the international community our[! what are you talking about here Mr. PM?] trading with India for civilian nuclear energy purposes that has come about in less than ten years.” That is being too optimistic. There are many countries and forces in the world who would not like India to succeed – some from religious perceptions, some from territorial ambitions, some from even concepts of race, and many have openly and fervently hoped or declared or tried to ensure that India is an “artificial nation” that “naturally disintegrates”.

This is where our doubts creep in Honbl. Prime Minister – where we are reminded of your Oxford acceptance speech, and we begin to have grave doubts about how far and how deep goes your understanding of Indian history and which culture you really do identify with!


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2 Responses to “Trust Vote – finale : “Singh is King” – at what price my lord?”

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[…] dikgaj wrote an interesting post today on Trust Vote – finale : “Singh is King” – at what price my lord?. Here’s a quick excerpt: […]

The problem is tht what PM is saying is not worse or better than the speeces of other politicians including disappointing speech by the leader of opposition. There is clear lack of gappling the issues in critical and topical areas. god bless them lso far we are living in the sea of papis (not poppies).

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