Sadly, numbers like 7.8 or 9.1% are what many of us recall when we hear the above phrase. There has been so much growth in the political economy over the last couple of years that I can scarcely believe the amount of good news I'm seeing in newspapers everyday (bar the performance of Team India) !
Karnataka has been particularly lucky. We threw out a corrupt and stubborn Chief Minister with a classic application of checks-and-balances. I hope this sets a precedent, and we continue to sack more CM's, ministers and officials for far less. The nepotism at these levels has to be brought down by several orders of magnitude and that will require many such dismissals until the polity becomes progressively less tainted. For example, the new Lok Ayukta ought to be already working on a report on the current CM with the intention of ousting him in a year or two. Ditto for the Ministers.
The most significant piece of news in this whole saga is how the new CM got selected: via secret ballot among the 121 BJP MLA's. That's a paradigm shift, in my opinion.
The mining mafia is on its way to becoming history. Detailed reports and documentaries are finally being made on all that transpired. Though we haven't dragged the accused in front of a televised parliamentary committee and thrown pies at them, I'm confident justice will be done. Speaking of which, I was delighted by the news report of how the former IT Minister in the IT capital (Katta Subramanya Naidu) and close pal of the deposed CM is now lodged in a jail.
India's habitual blunders regarding "Land Acquisition" are being addressed. Jairam Ramesh the brave Environment Minister is now at the helm of Rural Development. One of his first acts was to redraft the Land Acquisition bill and put it up for public comments. Though our government continues to believe in outlandish ideas like eminent domain, it's reassuring to see that all those farmers who were robbed by the State in UP, Orissa, MH, Bengal etc did not fight in vain. Karnataka fares well again, with the government quickly deciding to drop land acquisition in Gadag district, for....POSCO, of all companies. Some farmers in Pune were not so lucky last week. When their government decides to build a pipeline, this video shows how it goes about it. Looks like a scene from Aamir Khan's Lagaan.
Narendra Modi's Godhra woes never end. His government is in a major scuffle with errant cops who are either genuine whistleblowers or are selling doctored tapes. We'll have to wait and see.
Coming to the biggest story of all, the well-intentioned but misguided Anna Hazare and friends have hogged the headlines in the lead up to August 15th. The leader of our own Tea Party is kicking off a fast instead of sinking teabags, and the government is trying hard to avoid a fiasco. For once, Independence Day is seeing a rise of anti-government sentiments instead of jingoism. Reminds me of a Thomas Jefferson quote, "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty". I'm starting to feel that our government is getting fearful of the people. Heck, they can't even cut a few trees anymore without civil society coming down on them like a pile of bricks.
I believe that the kind of political transformations we are seeing now constitute the real "growth story" of India. There are systemic changes afoot that will make the GDP numbers of the last two decades look a like a footnote in the overall scheme of things. Even from a purely market oriented perspective, there is only so much the government can do to boost a large, complex economy like ours, apart from largely getting out of the way. In the immediate future, we are going to gain much more by reform of the functioning of government itself than any particular policy on Telecom, or Oil, or Natural Gas.
The next time someone compares India to the West, and speaks about FDI and "2nd Generation Reforms" in the same breath, show them this video and ask if that's what they mean by the phrase.
The biggest downside is that the government (both Centre and State) still doesn't grasp the concept of protecting civil liberties. Aarakshan has been banned in UP, AP and Punjab because ostensibly the govt. can't maintain law and order. Meanwhile, we will be wasting an awful lot of money monitoring Facebook, Twitter for no practical benefit. These and so many other issues still demand a spirit of resistance and I hope Indians continue to show it.
P.S: If you want the regular spiel about how India is a poor, backward country with various failing schemes like NREGS, PDS, NRHM, JNNURM, RTE and so on, Harsh Mander and friends have a full page spread in the Hindu.
- The India Growth Story