People now expect action and a move forward

New Delhi, Oct. 5 (ANI): The lack of deliverables in its first year of power by the Modi Government in pushing ahead with its development agenda can be fairly and squarely blamed on the Congress and other opposition parties. Failing in the finer nuances of parliamentary democracy, the Congress Party went all out to stall every effort of the Narendra Modi Government in Parliament to get the necessary reforms and development plans through.

The Congress Party, in its hatred of Narendra Modi and the BJP, is prepared to risk the ire of India’s people against it for stalling the development plans of the country. India’s youth is crying for jobs and industries need investment and technology from abroad. All that can be only possible, if reforms are allowed to go through the Houses of Parliament. It is time that the government thought of alternate strategies to carry its development agenda forward.

Fabian socialist policies pursued by the Congress Party since independence introduced a Communist style economy in the country. As against what is enshrined in the Constitution of India, the Congress Party adopted a socialist pattern of society for India a euphemism for a controlled economy. This has led to entrenchment of vested interests in the bureaucratic control of India.

The Communist style economy took the nation towards virtual bankruptcy by 1990. The nation was forced to mortgage a part of its gold reserves to meet international commitments. The Narasimha Rao Government’s Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, who had earlier been responsible for mortgaging India’s gold, was now expected to reverse the economy and free it of controls.

Economic reforms were launched with a huge devaluation of the Indian rupee and a beginning made in lifting several controls on a regulated economy. Thus begins the story of the so called liberalisation of the Indian economy, though to many, it seemed a temporary ploy to save the “socialist pattern of society” economy. The Narasimha Rao Government at no point of time condemned the earlier economic policies that had led to near bankruptcy for India.

It is strange that a democratic country like India, with a most liberal Constitution, had faulted and defeated the economic growth of its people through misconceived socialist policies. At the other end, a Communist country like China adopted a capitalist economy and is today in a position to challenge the world’s number one economy and power, the United States.

The challenge now before the Modi Government is clear. It must fulfill its promise of development given to the people of India. There is no escape from the fact that time has come to get rid of all the vestiges of “socialist pattern of society” economy.

Winding up the Planning Commission, symbolic as it may have been, needs to be followed up by bold policies to undo the harm that has been done to the country and its people. Poverty in India has been perpetuated by the economic policies of the past.

The so called liberalisation of the Indian economy has been defeated by the mechanism of old economic policies – the bureaucratic controls being still very much intact. The taxation policies of India born during that era have been termed as “tax terrorism”.

The Indian taxation authorities were shaken to their bones when the Hon. Supreme Court delivered its judgement in the Vodafone case and overturned the heavy tax demand on that company. Then followed the retrospective tax amendment by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to defeat the judgement of the country’s highest court. If this is not state sponsored “tax terrorism” what else is this?

If India has to move ahead with speed and meet the goals set by the Prime Minister, it has to demolish all vestiges of a “socialist pattern of society”. The country needs to bring about changes that give a level playing field to all entrepreneurs, be they Indian or foreign, to create industries and jobs in India.

The Modi Government has launched several new policies to bring about a visible change to India and eradicate poverty. However, it needs to get rid of laws that create fear among investors, be they Indian or foreign. India should be trusted to honour the rule of the law? The retrospective tax law is one that needs to be scrapped altogether and assure the world that India respects the rule of law.

The management and running of tax collection departments is another area that needs immediate attention and reform. India’s revenue departments, be they income tax, customs or excise, are riddled with corruption. The worst hit is the honest tax payer, who must meet the extortionist demands of the tax assessing officers or else face expensive litigation against discretionary orders. There is a need to critically look at the huge discretionary powers that the assessing officers have.

Action with speed is needed on the promised ease of doing business in India. How long will the nation go on suffering the rule of inspectors, licences and rules that prohibit any growth or launch of a new business or industry? How long will India’s best brains have to go abroad and flourish there? Commiserating about the growth of the House of Tata’s, the late J R D Tata had once commented that they would never have been able to set up the industries they did if current laws had prevailed during the British era!

India today has a visionary leader. We have a promise of a new dawn. Prime Minister Modi has instilled a new confidence in the people of India. India’s poor are waiting for skills development to find job. They want a good education for their children. That is the only way that poverty can be fought.

India’s Diaspora has never been as proud of India as they have been since Modi took command of the nation. The Prime Minister himself is a witness to the great success story that India’s young have achieved for themselves in unknown foreign lands, in the midst of a different culture, different ethos.

Several young Indian start ups have done well here at home too. But, talk to any of them ‘off the record’, and they are full of terrible stories of having to deal with corrupt officialdom. “If you want to survive in India, then you must learn to live with them and deal with them,” they tell you. The system is here to stay and cannot be defeated, they say. This is something no foreign investor is prepared to accept or adapt itself to.

Do we want all the competent young of India to emigrate abroad to achieve their dreams? It can be done in India, if only the government ensures that the country is rid of bureaucratic hurdles, the legacy of a licence permit raj and the “socialistic pattern of society” is made a thing of dark past. There is need for a massive purge of the administrative machinery of India.

The beginning needs to be made in each and every ministry of the government. They need to look at the wasteful departments that work under them. Does the government really have to be that heavy and big?

Believe it or not, India is still saddled with a number of ‘temporary’ departments that the British created during the World War 2. All these cost a lot of money to the tax payer with no returns. Here is an example-the Films Division of the Government of India was set up during the war, shut down by Sardar Patel, and then recreated. What does it do in this age of television and instant information?

India is tired of slogans and promises made in the past – the great “garibi hatao”, the doles of MNREGA. What India’s young need is education, skills, opportunity and employment and a clean field to launch their enterprises? People now expect action and a move forward.

Mr. Prem Prakash is the Chairman of ANI Media (P) Limited. (ANI)

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