A couple of hours ago, I happened to watch our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, address the nation. Given the spate of criticism faced by the government in the wake of corruptions and controversial reforms, the public at large felt an address to the nation was long due. Even his self-proclaimed “khamoshi” (silence) that was meant to save the “aabroo” (dignity) of the corruption laden nexus of corporates and politicians, wasn’t successful at all.
In the end he says, “Please do not be misled by those who want to confuse you by spreading fear and false information”. Mr. Prime Minister, I will try my level best not to be influenced by your speech today and urge my readers to make an informed decision as well.
These are some of my observations from the PM’s address to the nation. Before you proceed, I would request you to either go through the text of the speech or the video so that we can have a more meaningful discussion.
Body Language: “A frail voice and an expressionless face”, is this what would lift the drooping shoulders of Indian economy or improve the lowering morale of the Indian “aam aadmi”? Given the low expectations, many still feel that at least he spoke but for me it was “too little, too late” and disparaging. A smile won’t mean failing in one’s duty as Prime Minister of this great country.
Interactivity: In this young India and the era of web 2.0, doesn’t the Indian population deserve a more interactive discussion rather than a one-way broadcast that confuses the audience by referring to topics as wide and varied as the 1991 reform, recent bandh, economic crisis, inflation or exchange rates. In my view, it could at least have an interviewer of repute (even if a foreigner as our PM neither gives interview to the Indian media neither reacts to their view but does read WSJ, Time going by our PMO’s reactions off-late) asking him “his” questions i.e. points that he wanted to clarify upon.
Content: “Money does not grow on trees” was for me a loose comment to begin with and that literally set the tone as the quality of argument kept touching new lows. Here are some of the major ones:
a. "Diesel prices have been increased as much of diesel is used by big cars and SUVs owned by the rich and by factories and businesses". Really! As the data from Kirit Parikh Committee Report (February 2010) below shows that industry and passengers cars only account for 25% of the consumption. Weren’t higher taxes on diesel cars and SUVs or diesel-consuming industries the better way out rather than creating this spiraling effect? Will you blame us if we say; the auto lobby was at play?
b. “We too have been affected by the economic crisis hence the worsening situation needs preventive steps”. Mr. Prime Minister, enough has been said even by your foreign media houses that the mess that India currently finds itself in; is self-created. When the government spends most of the time on countering corruption allegations and passing retrospective laws, governance would take a backseat and growth will slow down. That’s what happened else a country with minimal financial inclusion won’t find solace in isolation from financial crisis during 2008.
c. “On LPG, we put a cap of 6 subsidized cylinders per year to reduce the subsidy burden”. First of all the hollowness of the argument was exposed when congress-ruled states were asked to have the cap at 9 cylinders. But the major fallout would be even higher inflation as black marketing of LPG cylinders would now be rampant. In fact, just after the announcement, a few of my relatives informed me that the rates had gone higher in the grey market. In a country where fake i-cards are just too easy to get, LPG mafia would soon be a well-known term.
d. As far as the FDI in modern retail is concerned, I have already stated my concern in one of my earlier post. But just to add a few more, there has been FDI in wholesale for some time now, has the situation improved for the farmers? The likes of Big bazaar with close to 1000 stores; what’s their contribution to the backend infrastructure or for that matter, why not 30% sourcing mandatory from the small farmers as is the case with SMEs? Aren’t they who have been facing the brunt of the middlemen? Blame me this time if I say, the large farmers' lobby is at play.