Let’s face it — most so called reforms do not mean anything to mango man

This BS op-ed sums up the dilemma for the govt. Even if there have been some reforms which have please the D-street, people are not sure.

The moot question most people on the Indian streets (not dalal or mint street) want to ask is what does all this one year tamasha mean to me? Both the government and experts tell me that one year has delivered big changes and more to come. But has it led to any changes in my life? It is not sure.

So even the govt is not sure.  Its recent ad of one year skips, the attention shifts to the rural poor:

Narendra Modi set out with characteristic energy to showcase his government’s first year in office. Much of what he has said in public rallies and interviews is on expected lines: corruptionhas been contained, sentiment has improved, this government is working unremittingly for India’s poor, there is hope instead of despair and so on. Much of this has been dismissed as atmospherics; and others, including his predecessor as prime minister, have claimed that many of the schemes for which he has taken credit – from rural employment to inclusive banking, provident fund reform andneem-coated fertiliser – are legacies of the United Progressive Alliance that Mr Modi’s government has accelerated or modified.

But Mr Modi’s chosen variations on the achche din theme are, in fact, easy to explain. It seems many of the real gains of his first year are issues he does not want tom-tommed at mass rallies. The fear is that they are “anti-poor” as defined by the conventional paradigms that inform the Indian political discourse, and so he will leave himself vulnerable to opposition evisceration (“suit-boot ki sarkar” being just one example). Many have remarked that his speech in Mathura on the anniversary of his assumption of power, while delivered in Mr Modi’s characteristic spellbinding style, had content that seemed to be a complete reversal of the growth-promising speeches on the campaign trail. In it, the prime minister was at pains to stress his “pro-poor” credentials – although, taken together, several of his government’s actions reflect political courage that has been notably absent in the past. For example, diesel and petrol decontrol have been allowed to take hold, allowing prices to rise so far with global oil prices. The government was also quick to take advantage of low prices to bolster its revenues by raising fuel duties. His oil minister has talked openly even about deregulating prices of kerosene. The Centre also sharply cracked down on the bonuses on the support prices offered by state governments, some of them ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party, another important step towards curbing subsidies. The fact that an adverse decision by the Bombay High Court in a transfer-pricing case against Vodafone was not appealed is a baby step in the direction of improving confidence in the government’s conduct of legal tax disputes. Yet many of these steps have been subsumed by the sloganeering of the early months – “Swachh Bharat”, “Make in India”, “Smart Cities” et al.

This, however, raises a deeply problematic question. It seems that even Mr Modi – a salesman par excellence and one of the few Indian politicians who is able to present economic decisions in a way that gets votes – is not willing to discuss even the limited amounts of economic reform he has carried out. So will India ever graduate from the “reform by stealth” paradigm to a more open and honest political economy?

I mean the edit should instead ask -do any of these reforms mean anything to people? Most reform list is only to please D-street and foreign investors. Very little attention is there on things that matter to people. As none of these people based reforms are so called big bang or newsworthy, they are hardly news and hype worthy.

This is the paradox faced by most Indian govts and none know it better than UPA and even NDA-I. NDA-I highlighted these reforms but lost elections in 2004. UPA despite having Dr MM Singh as PM and enjoying 9% plus growth in its first phase was more eager to do something for the rural poor. This strategy was fine in 2004-09 but backfired in its second phase.

So it is not as if it is reforms by stealth. It is just that when PM or MPs talk to the people, they know none of this really matters to them. In a country where basics are not there in most places what would talking about deregulating oil, selling PSUs etc mean? Especially from a PM who has made really tall claims of his pro-poor credentials.

Infact for people, BJP’s initials of Bijlee, Jal and Pyaaz matter more than anything else. It was used smartly by Congress to vote out BJP in 1990s (Bijlee Nahin, Jal Nahin and Pyaaz nahin). Now the challenge for this govt is we have enough of all these three and prices are low as well..

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