Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Halfhearted Privatization in India: Making a Nation Stoop in Shame!

In a democratic country, if major policy changes are to be implemented it has to be done in such a way that it would stand vindicated before the people and before the accepted principles of justice. 

After independence for nearly over forty decades, India's political arena was more or less stable with one major political party determining its fate. The views taken by the leaders of this party in those days were to have India progress in a quasi socialistic pattern where the government was responsible for major economic stability and growth.

All key economic activities in production and services during those days were almost the sole responsibility of the government. There was no field of activity where the central and state governments were not involved. Education was almost fully government owned and it was offered almost free. The fees, even when levied were very negligible and affordable.

For example, I paid no fee for my entire education up to a post graduation in engineering as a general category student.

Personal income tax was not a major contributor to the government income. The Indian government also fought many wars during those days with its neighboring states. Yet all these used to be managed within the government's income. Of course, the government used to borrow a lot, both from the public and from other sources. Huge budget deficit used to be a common feature.

Then came the era of the minority governments and the governments directed by nominated economic wizards. The political leaders apparently lacked the wisdom of complex economics. They were guided by scores of economic wizards drawn from the so-called top intellectual circuits.  It was further fueled by some politico-economic groups of the West led by the UK and others. These groups pushed the globalization agenda to all nations to follow under what was called the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs or GATT.

The time was approaching for the so-called hard core socialists known as the communists too to accept the benefits of capitalism. Communist nations led by the erstwhile USSR began to collapse under pressures of globalization and privatization ideologies. Even hardcore communist China too diluted its policies and adopted capitalism under name sake communist leadership.

In India, as in the case with other nations, the professional politicians were failing to understand the complex nature of the international economic scene. They were forced to sign agreements drafted by international pressure groups, ably aided by a bureaucracy without having much competency  to understand the intricacies of the rules that would emerge in the near future.

The media and media professionals played the drums for these transition. Perhaps they did not have anything much to lose. They simply aimed for spicy news that either scared or titillate the literate public.

For the Indian governmental leadership, the stakes were too appealing to be ignored. They wanted to privatize India at the earliest. Some economic media men projected the great resources that India government would accrue when they sell the hitherto held shares of its public undertakings. They urged and supported the government to sell and divest

But the government did not have the much needed democratic majority. The political opposition was making hue and cries. Unfortunately, in the democratic politics, those in this profession some how consider opposition as opposing everything irrespective of it being good or bad. Many times the governments took shelter in the opposition views as an excuse for not making effective laws or implementing laws effectively even when they are passed. Many times the executive considered law abiding a problem area.

So the need for going in for halfhearted privatization without much transparency. 

Nearly two decades have passed now. India is still a mixed economy. To some extent a worst kind of mixed economy. You cannot make any rational laws without hurting any one, now. You cannot proceed without any one yelling a foul. Too many contradictory policies. Too many chances for arbitration. Too many opportunities for courts and law enforcement agencies to jump in. 

Where are we moving? It is sheer common sense to realize that you would make yourself shear apart if you stood on two vehicles moving at different paces.  Could your economy move forward on two different strategies or policies ? It is bound to shatter. It would take time for us to realize it. When a huge ship sinks, a good majority are perished. But some would also survive!

Now the governments of India have shed their responsibilities of giving affordable education or health care to its citizens. Affordable power or fuel are also not coming under their responsibility. Government is also out from giving any social security to its people. Nothing is done free of cost any more. Every thing is chargeable. That too dearly.

IITs and IIMs take millions now in fees, while they maintain the same old facilities or nothing much improved. Their teachers and faculty have not got comparable pay hikes as they had hiked the fees. Neither are there any assurance of these bright students getting any opportunities to use their skills and training for the benefit of their nation. Forget those who are picked up by the multinationals and eventually converted as non-Indians!

Incidentally, I met the father of a bright young management graduate from one of the reputed IIMs today. She together with another four from her institute was recruited by a South Indian company offering a pay pack of over a million rupees per year. That was through the campus selection process. Once inside, the company refused to pay them or give them any proper pay slips. The company was one among the few such fronts used by a clever Indian for doing dishonest business. His recruitment from the IIM again was just a show business. The girl and her classmates somehow managed to get out in a few months of 'captivity' in this company and its unscrupulous promoter. But what is surprising is the disturbing fact that the IIMs do not have any idea or research data regarding the companies and others who come to recruit from their campuses! The employment situation is not so rosy in emerging India now that it is not easy even for the IITians or the IIMans to get a decent job. Forget those millions who pass out as engineers and managers by paying hefty fees to fill the coffers of many family run 'educational and charitable societies'! There is no reliable data on this count in India. How could any one publish such disturbing information? What would happen to the education business that flourished in a clandestine manner in India post privatization if such information is known to the public ?

The uncertainties of economic policies and their lack of transparency in India have made several Indians to become overnight billionaires. Uncertainties and confusions are best suited for some to make a killing!

But what about those who do not have such a mind set? None can assume that all Indians are like that!

India is fast changing into a land of unscrupulous vested interests. Thing are okay so long as no one raises any voice of concern.

It is easy to govern a large country of divided  and ignorant people in the guise of democracy. But how long?

Is it the India that we are going to give to our children?

I am not against privatization. But halfhearted privatization is another thing. If the policy of the government is for privatization let it be that way. But then what is the responsibility of the government? Let them concentrate only on providing a level playing field in a justifiable and transparent manner to all. Let the public interest be the prime concern for the government when they make policies. Let them not make policies for making high profits and income alone just as a greedy private businessman. Let them concentrate on areas where private players are not able to start any sustainable activity and provide those with the necessary support. Let them make policies that are not changed every now and then. Let those in governance act like sane drivers and not as drunken drivers!

Whatever it is, we are going to be doomed when our fates are determined by dishonest public servants, whether they come through politics or through public selection processes .

It is high time that we put this country back on  the right tracks! Every citizen of this country with some right thinking mind should be concerned with it.

Would there be a day in the near future when India and Indians are not required to be ashamed of what they are !

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