Going broke for the NAC
Tavleen Singh Sun Jun 02 2013, 00:21 hrs
Ever since Sonia Gandhi set up her National Advisory Council (NAC) I have opposed it as a dangerously meddlesome extra-constitutional body. No country can be led by two prime ministers, no government can be led by two cabinets and it is India's bad luck that we have had both. In my ever humble opinion this is the reason why the Indian economy has gone from boom to bust in recent years. The economy is now growing at less than 5 per cent and for this I blame the NAC and its relentless efforts to impose the stamp of its leftist worldview on policy. If proof were needed, it came last week in the interviews that Aruna Roy gave after she resigned from the NAC. Ms Roy was possibly the most influential of the jholawala types that Sonia appointed as her advisors, which makes what she says a reflection of what our de facto prime minister thinks.
Let me put before you here a small sample of her economic worldview. In an interview to Mint, Ms Roy said, "...policy is strongly influenced by the hands of rich people whose clear targets are profit and money, in which social welfare and even the concern for others plays a very small role. So all these CSRs (corporate social responsibility obligations) are not really looking at raising the levels of living of the people."
Analyse this statement carefully and you will detect not just contempt for the private sector (which was directly responsible for the economic boom) but also the romantic fantasy that officials care more for the poor. What Ms Roy (and her ex-boss) appears not to have noticed is that the 300 million Indians who now constitute the Indian middle class are a direct product of the booming economy that was created by Indian corporations.
It was because of this boom that jobs got created outside government offices and moribund public sector companies. And, it was because of this boom that it was possible for the Prime Minister to accede over and over again to the demands made by the NAC for welfare programmes of uncertain merit. There is no indication that the MNREGA created more jobs in rural India, only that it acted as a kind of dole. There are no indications that the horrendously expensive food security Bill will end malnutrition in children, and yet Ms Roy and her colleagues are determined to shove it down India's throat. Luckily India is now so broke that we may never be able to afford it.
My primary objection to the NAC worldview is that it is based on the very flawed idea that the only people who 'care for the poor' are officials and jholawala NGO types. If there had been any truth in this, India would have been rid of poverty long, long ago. My second objection to the NAC worldview is because of its efforts to divide society into categories of good and evil. So the rich are bad and the poor are good. Private companies are evil looters because they dare to make 'profits' and companies run by officials are good because they make no money at all.
When Ms Roy charges private corporations with not caring about "raising the levels of living of the people" she clearly has not noticed that the best way to do this is by creating jobs. It is now a matter of public record that the Sonia-Manmohan government has created almost no new jobs in the past 10 years. And, because of the Prime Minister having reverted to licence raj policies, the private sector will not be able to create the 15 million new jobs we need every year. Luckily nor will it be able to generate enough spare money for the NAC's vast and very leaky welfare schemes. So it is a good time to leave Ms Roy, a very good time, but please spare us the platitudes.
The accidental side effect of Ms Roy's interviews and her pontifications is that we now know for sure that there were serious differences between Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister on economic policies. On his flight home last week the Prime Minister reiterated that there were no differences but this could have been because he did not know that he was being charged by a key member of Sonia's kitchen cabinet of blocking the NAC's grandiose welfare schemes. If only he had the courage to admit publicly that he had gone along with economic decisions that he knew were wrong.
The most important lesson we can learn from the NAC experiment is that never again should India allow it to happen. Power without accountability is a very dangerous thing and what the NAC has had is just that. Our tragedy is that our de facto prime minister made power without accountability so fashionable.
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