Mukherjee the new Santa Claus–First citizen speaks for the poor
29 Jul. 2012 11:24 PM IST
It is official now. Even President Pranab Mukherjee has given a call to his government to abandon the theory of trickle down – enunciated in 1991. It is based on the theory that crumbs thrown by the rich would remove poverty.
Mukherjee as a minister in the government had a close look at everything. As finance minister he has seen how economic theories are propounded and how they do not work. As First Citizen he empathises with the plight of the common citizen.
Economic equity, he says, has to be the basis of governance. He also by his selection of not so soft words told the nation and his government that equity does not come by throwing crumbs to the poor. What he implied that such theories hurt the dignity of the poor.
Mukherjee after his almost four-decade-long association with governance was candid. “Trickle down theories do not address the legitimate aspirations of the poor. We must lift those at the bottom so that poverty is erased from the dictionary of modern India”. Having seen the poor very closely in his own constituency of Jangipur in West Bengal, his word of wisdom needs to be heard.
One may question him as to why he had remained silent for so long. The answers may be found in the multiple interviews he has given before he was formally elected. He has indicated that as a part of the government he had to abide by the enforced discipline.
This also raises another question that hurts the sentiment of a common citizen. Are ministers not free to express their views even in their internal meetings? Had he had been able to express himself freely, possibly the pattern of governance could have been changed earlier. Since a government is not obligated to follow the advice of president, even now it is not necessary that his words would be taken seriously.
Does that mean theories propounded by the rich –that is what seemingly happened in 1991 – would continue to dominate? If we go by the recent swell, as per various statistics of different survey organisations, the number billionaires have increased exponentially in the Indian society. There are many more who have salaries of over half a million rupees a month.
The reserves of companies have swelled by hundreds of billions of rupees. The profits, despite economic slowdown, remains in the range of 15 to 40 per cent.
On the other hand workers, forming the multitude of poor, continue to have stagnated wages, deprived of statutory dues. As disparity increases unrest spreads. The incident at the Manesar (Haryana) plant of Maruti Suzuki is indicative of a malaise that is afflicting the nation – the worker is being mistreated.
This calls for an end to the theory of globalised theory of labour reforms – meaning hire and fire has to be the rule. The rich wants legal powers to deprive the under-privileged. If Mukherjee is to be heard the nation would need stricter implementation of the labour laws enacted in early 1950s. All those laws were enacted by the egalitarian Jawaharlal Nehru government to ensure equity.
The violent protests against land acquisition at Nandigram (West Bengal), Posco (Orissa), Noida (UP) and elsewhere speaks of the fear of losing livelihood. Under the new dispensation, concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals or corporate is becoming the rule. The investor – meaning the few who have tons of money – can claim that nation belongs to them.
It is increasing deprivation and leading to discrimination. Rising incidents of violence be it at Kokrajhar in Assam or the jungles of Jharkhand, West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra are a testimony of the anguish.
It is a negation of the theory that at a compounded about 30 per cent inflation during the last three years, those earning Rs 32 a day are in the category of rich as per definition of the Planning Commission chairman.
While newspapers give wide space to concern of rating agency CRISIL research that capital expenditure by the corporate India will dip by 14 per cent in 2012-13, the current financial year, it has not given a thought to the plight of the people who even at earnings of over Rs 10,000 a month are finding it difficult to feed their families.
Tears are shed on Indian airports becoming expensive (it should not be). But no word of consolation is there for the large number of poor and now even middle class who cannot admit their wards in universities and colleges for want of money. Education is becoming excruciatingly expensive. Children of the poor are forced to drop out. An artificial shortage of seats is created so that management quota could be sold to the highest bidder. It is happening everywhere, including the colleges and institution affiliated to state universities of Delhi government. Is education becoming the preserve of the rich?
It is the rich and privileged government servants, particularly in public dealing departments, who are perpetrating corruption. Mukherjee laments it without saying it in so many words, “Corruption is an evil that can depress the mood of the nation”. In a scathing remark he adds, “We cannot allow our progress to be hijacked by the greed of a few”. His choice of word –progress - is careful. It is different from development. Progress is for all. Development may not be encompassing all.
It is true nothing trickles down. Had it been so today after 20 years of “liberalisation” there would have been plenty of jobs. Instead jobs are shrinking; wages are stagnating and more and more are succumbing to penury. The recent government’s Labour Bureau survey confirms that only lower category jobs; called ABCD – orderly, bearer, chaprasi and driver; are available and higher the education one remains out of job. That is not progress as Mukherjee may like to see.
Mukherjee has given a food for thought for the entire political class – in government and opposition. The nation would keenly watch their moves. The people needs freedom from exploitation. The last citizen only hopes that it can happen.