தமிழ்நாடு முதல்வர் மு.க.ஸ்டாலின் டெல்லியில் பிரதமரைச் சந்தித்துவிட்டு, சென்னை திரும்பியவுடன் கோட்டூர்புரத்தில் அமைந்துள்ள அண்ணா நூற்றாண்டு நூலகத்துக்கு மேற்கொண்ட ஆய்வுப் பயணமானது, தமிழ் வளர்ச்சியிலும் நூலக மேம்பாட்டிலும் அவர் காட்டிவரும் அக்கறையை எடுத்துரைப்பதாக அமைந்தது. அதற்கடுத்த இரண்டாவது நாளில், ஆளுநரின் உரையோடு சட்டமன்றக் கூட்டத்தொடர் தொடங்கவிருந்தது என்பது குறிப்பிடத்தக்கது. அண்ணா நூலகக் கட்டிடத்தில் நிரந்தரமாக இடம்பிடித்துவிட்டிருந்த கதண்டுகளின் கூடுகள், அங்கு செல்லும் வாசகர்களை நீண்ட காலமாகத் துன்புறுத்தியும் அச்சுறுத்தியும் வந்த நிலையில், முதல்வரின் ஆய்வுப் பயணத்துக்கு முன்பாக அவை இரவோடு இரவாக அகற்றப்பட்டன. வாசகர்களின் நீண்ட நாள் வேதனைக்கு ஒரே நாளில் முற்றுப்புள்ளி வைக்கப்பட்டுவிட்டது.
முன்னாள் முதல்வர் மு.கருணாநிதியின் பிறந்தநாளையொட்டி முதல்வர் அறிவித்தபடி, மதுரையில் ரூ.70 கோடி மதிப்பீட்டில் ஏழு தளங்களில் நவீன வசதிகளுடன் கலைஞர் நினைவு நூலகம் அமைப்பதற்கான இடத்தைத் தேர்ந்தெடுக்கும் பணிகளும் தீவிரமாக நடந்துவருகின்றன. மேலும், ஆண்டுதோறும் தமிழ் எழுத்தாளர்கள் மூவருக்கு இலக்கிய மாமணி விருதுகள், தேசிய அளவிலும் மாநில அளவிலும் இலக்கியத்துக்காக விருதுகள் பெற்ற எழுத்தாளர்களுக்கு அவர்கள் விரும்பும் மாவட்டங்களில் கனவு இல்லம் ஆகிய அறிவிப்புகளும் அதே நாளில் அறிவிக்கப்பட்டன.
இந்தச் சூழலில், தமிழ் வளர்ச்சித் துறையிடமிருந்து சமீபத்தில் வெளிவந்துள்ள இரண்டு அறிவிக்கைகள் முக்கியத்துவம் பெறுகின்றன. கடந்த ஆண்டு வெளிவந்த சிறந்த புத்தகங்களுக்கான பரிசுக்குப் புத்தகங்கள் அனுப்பக் கோருவது ஒன்று. அகவை முதிர்ந்த தமிழறிஞர்களிடம் ஓய்வூதியத்துக்கான விண்ணப்பங்கள் வேண்டுவது மற்றொன்று. 2016-ல் வெளிவந்த நூல்களுக்கான தமிழ் வளர்ச்சித் துறை பரிசுகளே 2020 டிசம்பரில்தான் வழங்கப்பட்டன. இடைப்பட்ட ஆண்டுகளுக்கான பரிசுகளும் விரைந்து அளிக்கப்பட வேண்டியது அவசியம். கடைசியாக ஓய்வூதியம் அறிவிக்கப்பட்ட தமிழறிஞர்களுக்கு நான்கு மாதங்களாகியும் இன்னும் அது கிடைக்கவில்லை என்பதும் கவனத்துக்குரியது.
மூத்த தமிழறிஞர்களுக்கான ஓய்வூதியம் என்பது மாதம் ரூ.3,500 என்பதாக நிர்ணயிக்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. ஆண்டு வருமானம் ரூ.72,000-க்குள் இருப்பவர்கள் மட்டுமே இந்த ஓய்வூதியத்தைப் பெறத் தகுதியானவர்கள். எழுத்தாளர்களுக்குக் கனவு இல்லம் போன்ற செலவு பிடிக்கும் திட்டங்களை அறிவிக்கும் தமிழ்நாடு அரசு, தமிழ் வளர்த்த அறிஞர்களுக்கான ஓய்வூதியத்தையும் வருமான வரம்பையும் இன்னும்கூட உயர்த்தலாம். தற்போது வழங்கப்பட்டுவரும் ஓய்வூதியமானது, அவர்களது அடிப்படைச் செலவுகளுக்கு உதவலாமே தவிர புத்தகங்கள், பத்திரிகைகள் வாங்கப் போதுமானதாக இருக்காது. குறைந்தபட்சம், அகவை முதிர்ந்த தமிழறிஞர்களுக்கான ஓய்வூதியத்தையும் மருத்துவப் படியையும் இருமடங்காக உயர்த்தலாம். வாழும் காலத்தில் மேலும் அவர்களிடமிருந்து தமிழுக்குக் கூடுதல் பங்களிப்புகள் கிடைக்கும். தமிழுக்கு மட்டுமின்றி முதல்வருக்கும் அது பெருமை சேர்க்கும்.--Source: hindutamil.in
கடந்த நிதியாண்டில் அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடு மிகப்பெரிய அளவில் இந்தியாவுக்குக் கிடைத்திருக்கிறது என்று வா்த்தக அமைச்சகத்தின் செய்திக்குறிப்பு தெரிவிக்கிறது. 2019 - 20 -ஐவிட 10% அதிகரித்த அளவில் 2020 - 21 - இல் 81.72 பில்லியன் டாலா் (சுமாா் ரூ. 6.07 லட்சம் கோடி) அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடு இந்தியாவுக்கு வந்திருக்கிறது. 2019 உடன் ஒப்பிடும்போது சா்வதேச அளவில் கடந்த நிதியாண்டுக்கான அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடுகள் 42% குறைந்திருக்கும் நிலையில், இந்தியாவுக்கு கிடைத்திருக்கும் அதிகரித்த முதலீடு உற்சாகமூட்டுவதாக இருப்பதை மறுப்பதற்கில்லை.
அதே நேரத்தில், 2020 - 21 நிதியாண்டின் முதல் மூன்று காலாண்டுகளுக்கான புள்ளிவிவரம் தெரிவிக்கும் தகவலையும் கருத்தில் கொள்ள வேண்டியிருக்கிறது. இந்தியாவுக்கு வந்த அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடுகளில் 86%, முதல் மூன்று காலாண்டுகளில்தான் பெறப்பட்டிருக்கிறது என்பதால் அந்தப் புள்ளிவிவரம் முக்கியத்துவம் பெறுகிறது.
முதல் மூன்று காலாண்டுகளில் இந்தியாவுக்கு வந்த அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடுகளில் 54.1% ரிலையன்ஸ் குழும நிறுவனங்களான ஜியோ பிளாட்பாா்ம், ரிலையன்ஸ் ரீடெய்ல் வென்சா்ஸ், ரிலையன்ஸ் விபி மொபிலிட்டி ஆகியவற்றிலான முதலீடுகள். இவை அல்லாமல் ஷின்டா் எலக்ட்ரிக் இந்தியா, பைஜூஸ், ஆா்செலாா் மிட்டல் இந்தியா, ஜிஎம்ஆா் ஏா்போா்ட்ஸ், அமேசான் செல்லா்ஸ் சா்வீஸஸ் ஆகியவையும் கணிசமான அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடுகளை 2020 - 21 -இல் பெற்றிருக்கின்றன.
மேலே குறிப்பிட்ட பெரு வணிக நிறுவனங்களை ஒதுக்கிவிட்டு பாா்த்தால், 2020 - 21-இல் இந்தியாவுக்குக் கிடைத்திருக்கும் அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடுகளின் அளவு முந்தைய ஆண்டில் கிடைத்ததில் மூன்றில் ஒரு பங்குதான் என்பதைத் தெரிந்துகொள்ள முடிகிறது. சேவைத்துறைதான் அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடுகளைப் பெற்றிருக்கின்றனவே தவிர, உற்பத்தித் துறைக்கான அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடு 2020 - 21-இல் 17.4% மட்டும்தான்.
இன்னொரு குறிப்பிடத்தக்க அம்சமும் காணப்படுகிறது. பெரும்பாலான அந்நிய முதலீடுகளும், ஏற்கெனவே இருக்கும் நிறுவனங்களை வாங்குவதற்காக பெறப்பட்டிருக்கின்றன என்பதுதான் அது. ஜிஎம்ஆா் ஏா்போா்ட்ஸ் நிறுவனத்தை பிரான்ஸ் அரசின் கட்டுப்பாட்டில் உள்ள குரூப் ஏடிபி நிறுவனம் முதலீட்டின் மூலம் தனது கட்டுப்பாட்டுக்குள் கொண்டுவந்திருக்கிறது. இந்தியாவின் விமான நிலைய கட்டமைப்பில் அந்நிய நாட்டின் நேரடி நிா்வாகத்தில் உள்ள நிறுவனம் பங்கு வகிக்க இருக்கிறது என்பது இதன் மூலம் தெரிய வருகிறது.
ஏற்கெனவே இருக்கும் நிறுவனங்களை கையகப்படுத்துவது அல்லாமல், உற்பத்தித் துறையிலான அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடு கடந்த ஐந்து ஆண்டுகளில் 2020 - 21-இல்தான் மிகவும் குறைந்து காணப்படுகிறது என்பதை ரிசா்வ் வங்கியின் அறிக்கை தெரிவிக்கிறது. 2016 - 17-இல் உற்பத்தித் துறையிலான நேரடி முதலீடு 12 பில்லியன் டாலா் (சுமாா் ரூ. 89,146 கோடி) என்றால், 2020 - 21-இல் அதுவே 6.7 பில்லியன் டாலராக (சுமாா் ரூ. 49,773 கோடி) குறைந்திருக்கிறது. 2019 - 20-இல் கூட 8.2 பில்லியன் டாலா் (சுமாா் ரூ. 60,916 கோடி) முதலீடு உற்பத்தித் துறைக்கு வந்திருப்பதை ரிசா்வ் வங்கியின் அறிக்கையின் மூலம் தெரிந்து கொள்ள முடிகிறது.
மத்திய நிதியமைச்சகம் அறிவித்திருக்கும் இந்தக் கடனுதவி திட்டம் எந்த அளவுக்கு உற்பத்தித் துறையை ஊக்குவிக்கும் என்று இப்போதே சொல்லிவிட முடியாது. ரூ.1.1 லட்சம் கோடியில் ரூ.50,000 கோடி அளவிலான கடனுதவி, மருத்துவமனைகளை அதிகரிக்கும் சுகாதாரக் கட்டமைப்புக்கு ஒதுக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிறது.
கடந்த ஆண்டில் ‘தற்சாா்பு இந்தியா’ திட்டத்தின் கீழ் ரூ.20 லட்சம் கோடி மதிப்பிலான அவசரகால கடனுதவித் திட்டம் அறிவிக்கப்பட்டது. சுகாதாரத்துறை கட்டமைப்புகளை மேம்படுத்த ரூ.50,000 கோடியும், பிற துறைகளுக்கு ரூ.60,000 கோடியும் 7.95% அதிகபட்ச வட்டியின் கீழ் இப்போது அறிவிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கிறது. இவை மருத்துவமனைகளை நிறுவுவதிலும், கட்டமைப்பு வசதிகளை மேம்படுத்துவதிலும் பெரும்பங்கு வகிக்கும் என்பதில் சந்தேகமில்லை. ஆனால், உற்பத்தித் துறைக்கு இதனால் எந்த அளவிலான ஊக்கம் கிடைக்கும் என்கிற கேள்வி எழுகிறது.
இப்போது அறிவிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் கடனுதவித் திட்டம், மருந்துகள் தயாரிப்பு, மருத்துவ உபகரணங்கள் தயாரிப்பு போன்றவற்றை ஊக்குவிப்பதாக அமைந்தால் அதன் மூலம் ஏற்றுமதிக்கான வாய்ப்புகள் அதிகரிக்கும். கொள்ளை நோய்த்தொற்றின் இரண்டாம் அலை காலத்தில் பிராணவாயுக்காக இந்தியாவின் பல பகுதிகளில் காணப்பட்ட தட்டுப்பாடு எல்லா மாநிலங்களிலும் பிராணவாயு உற்பத்திக்கு வழிகோலியிருக்கிறது என்பது எடுத்துக்காட்டு.
பிரதமரால் அறிவிக்கப்பட்டிருக்கும் ‘தற்சாா்பு இந்தியா’ திட்டத்தை முனைப்புடன் முன்னெடுத்துச் செல்வதன் மூலமே வேலைவாய்ப்பை அதிகரித்து பொருளாதாரம் சுறுசுறுப்படைவதை உறுதிப்படுத்த முடியும். மக்களிடம் செலவழிப்பதற்குப் பணம் இருந்தால் மட்டுமே வா்த்தகம் அதிகரித்து, உற்பத்தி பெருகி பொருளாதாரம் வேகம் பெறும். அந்நிய நேரடி முதலீடு என்கிற மாயையில் முழ்குவதாலோ, கடனுதவி அறிவிப்புகளாலோ பொருளாதாரம் ஊக்கமடைந்து விடாது.
விலைவாசி கட்டுக்கடங்காமல் அதிகரித்துச் செல்வதும், அரசின் நிா்வாகச் செலவினங்கள் பெருகி வருவதும் இந்தியப் பொருளாதாரத்துக்கு ஆரோக்கியமான அறிகுறிகள் அல்ல. காா்ப்பரேட் நிறுவனங்கள் மீதான கரிசனத்தைக் குறைத்துக் கொண்டு குறு, சிறு, நடுத்தரத் தொழில்துறைகளின் வளா்ச்சியை ஊக்குவிப்பதன் மூலம் மட்டும்தான், தளா்ந்து போயிருக்கும் பொருளாதாரத்தை நிமிா்த்த முடியும் என்பதை மத்திய நிதியமைச்சகம் புரிந்து செயல்படுவதுதான் இன்றைய தேவை. இலக்கை தவறவிட்டு வேறு திசையில் பயணிக்கிறது அரசு.--Source: dinamani.com
Citizens in China encapsulate the transformation of the country under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC) thus: under Mao Zedong, China ‘zhan qilai(stood up)’; under Deng Xiaoping, China ‘fu qilai(became rich)’ and under Xi Jinping, China is well on course to‘qiang qilai(becoming powerful)’. Inevitably, the organisation that has steered this ‘rise’ and its ability to ride out a succession of domestic and external crises and yet emerge stronger and more resilient has been the cynosure of intense debates.
The CPC’s longevity is due in large measure to its ability to sum up the lessons of history and change course quite drastically, if required. While the Mao, Deng and Xi periods are conventional markers to distinguish the shifts and departures over the past 70 years, it would be an error to assess China as if it was born in 1949. Thelongue dureeis something the Chinese communists take very seriously. This analysis seeks to identify five major lessons that have guided the CPC over the course of the past century.
The birth of a new China
The first major lesson was drawn from the colonial era, when China was “carved up like a melon”, and the humiliation heaped by the western colonial powers. The collapse of the Qing Empire in 1911 brought about the desired political revolution and China entered the comity of nations. The location of the CPC in the sensibilities and imagination of the Chinese people today cannot be understood without reference to what was actually accomplished by the victory of the CPC first over the Japanese and then the Kuomintang in 1949. The Communist Party was on the right side of history. It fused the people with a collective purpose — the rejuvenation of China — and gave them a ‘national’ identity. With its ideology and superb organisational skills and the assistance of a lean but highly disciplined People’s Liberation Army to power its sinews, the CPC combined the thousands of sparks that were simmering throughout the country into one big explosive social revolution, demolishing an entire social class. This was ‘liberation’ — not mere independence — and the birth of a new China, encapsulated in the popular post-1949 slogan, “mei you gongchangdang; mei you xin zhongguo(If there had been no Communist Party, there would not have been a new China)”. Such a comprehensive political, economic and social destruction, as it were, is unparalleled in the history of modern revolutions.
This historical experience underpinned Mao’s nationalist message on October 1, 1949: China had “stood up” and it would never let itself be humiliated again. It was not until well into the Deng period that the theme of humiliation was encountered less frequently, but the importance of standing up to external forces that seek to impose their ways has endured. Strong responses to any perceived attack on sovereignty (Tibet and Taiwan, for instance), the categorical rejection of anything that could be interpreted as a dilution of national interest or the determined pushback of attempts to impose or lecture about ‘western’ values are cases in point. The ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy in recent times can be seen against that backdrop — the authority and power of the ruling elite in China can under no circumstances be undermined in the eyes of its people.
The second signal lesson came out of the success of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. But Marxism had to be ‘Sinicised’ before it could be applied to the Chinese conditions. Mao took the revolution from the cities to the countryside and in the process, imparted to the Chinese revolution a populist character that the Bolshevik revolution did not have. The concept of ‘Sinicisation’ is essentially a tool for grounding any ‘foreign’ concept or idea in the Chinese conditions. It was seen in the post-1949 strategies of economic development and industrialisation when China rejected both the Soviet and the capitalist model. Over the years, the process of ‘Sinicisation’ has morphed into “socialism with Chinese characteristics”. It is in this vein that Mr. Xi speaks about the need to adapt Marxism to China’s modern requirements.
Lessons from Tiananmen
Political centralisation had inevitably come on the heels of the revolution, though the CPC under both Mao and Deng attempted to balance it with decentralisation. And then came the third historical lesson — out of the Tiananmen crisis of 1989. The simmering dissatisfaction stemming from the uneven impact of Deng’s reforms and the problem of corruption in the CPC since the mid-1980s burst out in massive demonstrations and more critically, from the CPC’s point of view, fostered a sense of solidarity among the students and workers. The demonstrations were crushed by a massive use of force. For Deng the lesson was that if China was to achieve its economic objectives, it “could not afford chaos”. Stability was accorded top priority and the nation’s energies channelised into “getting rich”, which has continued to be the chief plank of the CPC’s governance after Deng down to Mr. Xi. Inevitably, that translated into clamping down on political freedoms, and centralising tendencies gained the upper hand. As ideology declines, the dependence on the organisation in holding the country together increases and makes imperative the need for a strong leader who can ensure that stability. This has reached unprecedented levels with Mr. Xi ensuring that every unit of political, economic, social and cultural organisation in China is not only juxtaposed with the CPC but also functions within the parameters set by the party.
The fourth lesson stemmed from the defining structural transformation of the post-World War II international order — the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Socialist bloc in 1991. The rejection of the Stalinist period by the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev was highly problematic; as Deng told his comrades, you cannot and must not deny your history. Recall the official assessment: “Mao was 70% right and 30% wrong”. But more importantly, it underscored the necessity of a strong party-state and its firm control over the market forces. Over the years, this has only been affirmed with greater conviction.
Finally, we have a slew of lessons spilling out since China decided to dispense with its ‘low profile’ in foreign affairs. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) has donned the mantle of a great power with aplomb – it thinks like a great power and to that extent, it will follow the logic of power in its dealings with the world. The aftermath of the pandemic provided Mr. Xi with the opportunity to demonstrate that the PRC is a responsible major power. The world’s response and acceptance are mixed. The CPC would do well to reflect on the lessons that need to be drawn about the reactions to its assertiveness.
Costs of success
Bringing nearly 800 million people out of poverty is an amazing achievement, whichever way you see it, but it has come with huge domestic costs. China is one of the most unequal societies in the world today. Its unprecedented growth has created unparalleled environmental challenges spilling beyond its borders. Rapidly shrinking state welfare packages have made the increasing population of the elderly more vulnerable. And it is struggling with a disturbing gender imbalance. There are certainly many lessons here as Manoranjan Mohanty’s book,China’s Transformation: The Success Story and the Success Trap,points out, about how not to grow.
It is more important than ever to understand the nature and power of this organisation; its strengths and weaknesses; its ability to capture the imagination of the people — and interestingly, the youth. It has refuted prognostications of its demise with its capacity for reinventing, regenerating and renewing its compact with the people, strengthened, among other things, by its ability to continue learning from history. The world is dealing not merely with a nation state but with an authoritarian party-state that foregrounds its civilisational culture — and at its helm is an organisation that is steering the country towards its own tryst with destiny. It remains to be seen whether the CPC is still on the right side of history, but the party is by no means over.
Alka Acharya is Professor of Chinese Studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi. Views are personal
Can we remain silent when there is a proposal to muzzle our society’s voice of creativity and reflection? I have always believed in the power of cinema to transform society and I still do. The belief stems from my personal experiences as a film-maker and I have also seen first-hand what it is to defend one’s constitutional rights. The recent action of the Central government is one such. I am referring to the draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2021 for which the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has asked for opinions before presenting it to Parliament.
The draft Bill
My icon, M.K. Gandhi, failed to realise the full potential of cinema and so did E.V. Ramasamy. Imagine if righteous people like them had taken cognisance of this platform? The power of this medium has made me what I am today. Cinema is an auteur’s medium. But it is also the voice of the people and hence the voice of the institution of democracy. Now the Central government is keen to seize that voice of democracy by a single act of Parliament.
The draft Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill proposes to add a proviso to sub-section (1) of Section 6 of the Cinematograph Act to grant revisionary powers to the Central government to direct re-examination of films that have already been certified for public exhibition. This is done predominantly with a view to empower the government to interfere and influence the independence of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in certifying films and, more dangerously, to reopen records of already certified films.
It is pertinent that we understand the present scenario to clearly perceive the excess of the proposed amendment. While the current censorship rules are archaic and redundant and we have been crying ourselves hoarse to abolish the same, inviting artistes to be their own censors,the amendment to provide for revisionary powers to any government after certification is a step further back. This amendment comes close on the heels of the government’s decision, in April 2021, to abolish the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. Consequently, the only resort available now to any film-maker who is aggrieved by a decision of the CBFC is to approach the relevant High Court which would be too expensive and time-consuming for most film-makers.
Through this amendment, the Central government has sought to usurp powers that are held to be “unconstitutional” by the Supreme Court of India. Portions of Section 6(1) of the principal Act were held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court inUnion of India v. K. M. Shankarappa(2000). The Court held that “Section 6(1) is a travesty of the rule of law which is one of the basic structures of the Constitution”.
The impression that the Central government is trying to create now is that it is powerless to act against complaints received. I had the experience of a State government acting on a complaint and an imaginary scenario. I did showcase my film before its release to my brethren who expressed their apprehensions even after the Censor Board certified it. The imbroglio created over the film’s supposedly inflammatory nature led to the closing of doors of theatres in my own State, all due to political machinations. It is that avenue which this amendment opens out to any government to use its revisionary powers, which it anyway has.
The government is well empowered to act against complaints received, by submitting itself to judicial review against decisions of the CBFC granting certification, instead of trying to impose executive excess, which was the core principle laid down by the Supreme Court through its order. The Central government seems to have manipulated and manoeuvred this situation since the Tribunal has recently been struck down.
The draft Bill will only restrict freedom of speech and put a gag on the film fraternity, preventing film-makers from making films on bad governance, social evils, and so on. Further, any executive authority may be emboldened to ban films based on frivolous petitions of groups with vested interests or fringe groups.
In this age of the Internet, every person is more than a mere soapbox orator. The government is aiming to silence its people. All those who trust and are invested in liberty, equality and fraternity should voice their protest. If temporary myopia is the problem of certain sections of the media and other political parties, then the Makkal Needhi Maiam and I will become the torchbearer.
The time to rally is now, since the government has invited comments from the public till July 2 before the Bill is taken to Parliament. Acts once passed will affect generations to come.
Kamal Haasan is a film-maker and artiste and President of the Makkal Needhi Maiam
Three decades after India embarked upon the path of economic liberalisation,Montek Singh Ahluwalia, one of the key figures of the reform process, former Deputy Chairman of the erstwhile Planning Commission and currently Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Social and Economic Progress (CSEP), discusses in an interview withThe Hinduthe transition of the Indian economy, what remains to be done, and the road ahead after recovery from the slowdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Edited excerpts:
How would you describe the evolution of the economy since 1991?
The reforms were aimed at unleashing the energies of the private sector to accelerate economic growth and to do so in a manner that ensured an adequate flow of benefits to the poor. They certainly succeeded in this objective.
The full benefits took time to materialise because a gradualist approach was adopted — entirely understandable in a democracy — but the results are dramatic if we look at a longer time frame. The GDP growth averaged 7% in the 25 years from 1992 to 2017, compared with an average of 5% in the preceding ten years and 4% in the preceding 20! And as growth accelerated, poverty declined. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the last year for which official data on poverty are available, about 140 million people were pulled above the poverty line. This is not to say that there were no shortcomings. Some of the reforms begun in 1991, especially in the financial sector, have yet to be completed. We have not done as much as we should have in the health and education sectors; environmental concerns have not been adequately built into our development strategy.
In his book,Confessions of a Swadeshi Reformer, former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha has said that a lot of the blueprint for the liberalisation was already on the table when the Narasimha Rao government took charge. Could you give us a glimpse of that period and what were the key changes being worked out before the change of the regime?
I have written on this subject in my bookBackstage, but let me attempt a brief encapsulation. To get a glimpse of the period, one should consider the main features of the control system before the reforms and see how it restricted entrepreneurship.
The private sector was not allowed to invest in a number of sectors thought to be critical for development. The so-called “commanding heights” were reserved for the public sector despite its lacklustre performance. Where the private sector was allowed, it could invest only after getting an industrial licence, and that was especially hard to get for “large” industrial houses. Over 860 items were reserved exclusively for small-scale producers, including many that had very high export potential. Imports were more strictly controlled than in almost any other developing country because it was felt necessary to conserve scarce foreign exchange. Consumer goods simply could not be imported so domestic producers faced no import competition. Producers could import capital goods and intermediates needed for production, but this generally required an import licence. This was given only if the government was satisfied that the import was essential and domestic substitutes were not available. Finally, the import of technology was controlled and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was discouraged.
It was clearly not a system geared to encourage enterprise or innovation.I am reminded of George Santayana’s much-quoted words: “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.” Since most of the population today has no recollection of the control system we had earlier, I hope it will serve to ensure that we never slip back to these absurdities.
Efforts were made in the 1980s to liberalise the system but these were incremental changes. The system itself remained in place. By 1990, it was clear that drastic change was needed. I had the opportunity to prepare a paper outlining a core set of industrial and trade policy reforms, combined with exchange rate reform and reforms in the public sector. This paper, dubbed by the media as the ‘M Document’, generated a great deal of controversy, but several people supported the need for these reforms. Around that time, the Ministry of Industry under Ajit Singh (newly returned from the United States) proposed bold liberalisation of industrial licencing, but he was opposed by the Finance Ministry under Madhu Dandavate, and only a watered-down version was announced.
As Commerce Secretary in the Chandra Shekhar government, I started working on trade policy reforms along the lines suggested in the ‘M Document’, including bringing in Eximscrips, as a first step in moving to a flexible exchange rate. In April 1991, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who was then Adviser to Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, delivered the convocation address at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, where he outlined what he thought were the key reforms needed. It included many of the suggestions in the ‘M Document’ and went beyond them.
In other words, the ideas that finally went into the reforms were on the table before 1991. But they had not been approved politically. It was the P.V. Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh duo that implemented them in 1991. The fact that the economy was in a crisis helped, but their success is also due to the fact that there was a well-thought-out policy package to implement.
Even so, it was not easy. Both the Right and the Left opposed the reforms. The Congress party itself had many who were not convinced. Indian businesses were also conflicted. They liked domestic liberalisation, but were unhappy at the entry of foreign competition, both through imports and FDI.
Some pending factor market reforms, in areas such as labour and land, remain hanging. Are they not holding up investment?
Yes, these are key pending items. The need for labour market reforms was recognised, but it was thought that we should first get the industrial, trade and financial sector reforms to show positive results and take up labour market reforms later ... In a meeting with businessmen in 2006, PM Manmohan Singh was asked about labour market reforms. He said ... if we could get the economy to grow at 10%, it would be easier to persuade labour. We did grow at over 9% for a few years but persuading labour proved to be difficult.
On the land market, I must admit that it was not on our agenda. One reason is that land is a State subject and the Centre had enough on its plate. In the UPA [United Progressive Alliance] years, it did get involved in land acquisition because this was an area with a lot of agitation and allegations of heavy-handedness. Unfortunately, the resulting legislation introduced too many conditions, which could greatly delay the process.
India progressively lowered import tariffs from an estimated 57.5% in 1992 to 8.9% in 2008, but this trend has been reversed over the past few years. While this appears to be in line with rising protectionism globally, can India afford to do this if it wants to play a greater role in world trade?
I feel the reversal of a trend that was followed by several governments, including the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] government under former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is unfortunate. It will hamper our stated ambition to become part of global supply chains. Indian industry has legitimate complaints about poor infrastructure, poor logistics and time-consuming trade procedures, which reduce its competitiveness. But the solution lies in addressing these problems directly, not in raising import duties, which will only raise costs in the economy.
I also fear that once the government signals a willingness to raise duties to help individual products, it will encourage a flood of demands that will be difficult to resist. The government should engage with Indian industry and other experts to come to an agreement on what the average level of duties should be and how it should be reduced over time. The NITI Aayog under its first Vice-Chairman, Arvind Panagariya, had recommended that we should move to an average duty rate of about 7%, gradually narrowing the range of variation across products and eliminating duty reversals. This is the right approach.
Should we revisit our stance on the RCEP [Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership] even as we try to re- engage with markets such as the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union and Australia for free-trade pacts?
I was surprised by the Centre’s decision to stay out of the RCEP. It went against the Prime Minister’s earlier positive signal of moving from “Look East” to “Act East”. I assume that there was lobbying from those who fear that the Indian industry would not be able to compete against China, a member of the RCEP.
As I have already mentioned, the Indian industry has legitimate complaints about things that make India uncompetitive, and these must be addressed directly. The reduction in tariffs required under RCEP was to be accomplished over several years, giving ample time to take the steps needed to improve our competitiveness. As far as unfair competition from China is concerned, the solution lies in a faster method of imposing anti-dumping duties on China, not raising import duties across the board. We should note that geopolitics is forcing major countries to reduce dependence on China. India cannot expect to replace China, but it can reasonably expect to become a major player in non-China-dominated supply chains. RCEP membership would help as it will reassure partners that trade policy will not be arbitrarily changed.
As for Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the U.S., Europe and the U.K., we have traditionally preferred trade liberalisation in a multilateral forum, but major developed countries seem to be moving away from multilateral negotiations. Working on agreements with important groups bilaterally seems to be the only hope for assuring market access. However, such FTAs will involve more give and take, including on contentious issues such as intellectual property rights and bilateral investment protection, and we must be willing to accept that.
The spectre of jobless growth was a matter of great debate in the UPA years. Did the situation worsen post-UPA even before the pandemic, which of course has led to severe income and job losses?
Employment was a matter of concern during the UPA period, but it had some positive features. The period was the first time we saw a fall in employment in agriculture ... but it was accompanied by sufficient growth in total employment in non-agriculture sectors, so that the labour displaced from agriculture was absorbed in non- agriculture. Total employment actually increased...
The post-UPA period before the pandemic has been analysed in a recent study by Santosh Mehrotra and Jajati K. Parida. They find that the substantial slowdown in GDP growth after 2016-17 led to employment actually falling from 474 million in 2011-12 to 469 million in 2018-19. Employment in agriculture continued to decline, reflecting a normal structural change, but unlike the UPA years, non-agricultural employment grew much more slowly. So, open unemployment increased. The problem was most severe among the youth, who experienced unemployment of 18%.
The COVID-19 pandemic has of course triggered a collapse in employment. According to provisional National Income estimates, GDP contracted by 7.3% in 2020-21. Many analysts say this underestimates the contraction as the adverse impact on the informal sector is not captured. In any case, a sharp fall in the GDP is bound to lead to a contraction in total employment, and we are seeing that in the data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.
What do you think should be the priorities looking ahead?
The economy is clearly recovering from the contraction induced by the pandemic, but how quickly it will recover is uncertain. Much depends upon whether we are hit by a third wave, and more importantly on how severe it is. The priority now must be to get the vaccination coverage expanded as soon as possible. This will create conditions conducive to a return to normalcy.
However, recovery will only take us back to the 2019-20 level ... If we only go back to the pre-pandemic growth rate of around 4% to 5%, we will get little respite on the employment front or on reducing poverty. Past experience shows that we need to get back to 7% to 8% growth if we want to make progress on poverty reduction and provide enough jobs for our growing labour force.
Once the pandemic is brought under control and we are back to the 2019-20 level of production, the government would be well-advised to take a hard look at what caused the slowdown before the pandemic, and then come out with a clear statement of a set of mutually supportive policies that will counter these forces and lead to higher growth and higher employment. It should also come out with a target for post-pandemic growth.
(Read the full interview at https://bit.ly/MontekSingh)
The government’s decision to stay out of the RCEP went against the Prime Minister’s earlier positive signal of moving from “Look East” to “Act East”
For students, empowerment and acquisition of knowledge begin when they are properly evaluated in an appropriate examination system through a process that provides immediate results and success.
The online pattern of examination should not only judge intellectual development, as is prevalent in the present-day examination system, but it must also test the holistic development of students. It is the responsibility of every academician and authority to find the ways and means to conduct online examinations with reliable standards amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To successfully complete examinations during this period, constructive strategies, particularly in the online mode, should be employed, rather than calling for the cancellation of exams.
The Supreme Court had stated last year that students in higher education cannot be promoted without writing the final-year or terminal semester examinations, and a directive to the University Grants Commission (UGC) had said the States cannot promote students based on internal assessment or past performance. The court made it clear that the States could, under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, postpone final-year or final-semester exams, but they did not have the power to direct universities to promote students based on prior performance, as students’ assessment was the prerogative of the UGC. The UGC rules clearly stated that a degree cannot be granted without examinations.
It is now mandatory that final-year semester examinations should be conducted either online, offline, or a combination of both methods. Therefore, a new examination pattern should be crafted. It must include the assessment of educational objectives of understanding, critical and independent thinking, problem-solving ability, reflective thinking, skill development, and application of knowledge. In other words, a revised system should assess analytical and application skills, rather than mere knowledge in a given time slot. This would enhance the quality and competence of students.
To restrict copying, answer scripts may be assessed using plagiarism software. With technological tools, monitoring and supervision of students during online examinations is not a difficult task. Many of the world’s leading universities, some premier Indian institutes, and a few State universities conduct examinations online efficiently and fairly through suitable tools.
Looking for alternatives
An alternative approach may be open-book examinations — it allows students to refer to textbooks or other source material while answering questions. Students are provided with questions before sitting for the exam, and they can even complete the test at home. This will help counter rote learning, which pervades the current examination system, while also sensitising students to real learning and analytical and application skills. Open-book examination is a well-accepted concept in many countries around the world.
Last week, the Supreme Court directed States that have cancelled Class 12 examinations of their respective Boards to spell out their assessment plans. It has also cleared the evaluation criteria proposed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) for their Class 12 examinations.
Testing the knowledge gained and the presentation of that is the essence of education. As Jiddu Krishnamurti said, “It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education.” Criticism should be accepted constructively in order to frame an innovative examination system. It is the foremost responsibility of policymakers and educationists to tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. N. Arunachalam is Professor of Lifelong Learning, Journalism and Mass Communication at Alagappa University
The ICC Twenty20 World Cup’s shift from India to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was inevitable following recurrent waves of COVID-19 infections and the logistical difficulties of hosting an event featuring multiple squads. Over the last few weeks, the news first started as a source-based whisper before the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s top brass — President Sourav Ganguly and Secretary Jay Shah — spoke individually, clearly stating that India would host the championship in the UAE. Finally, the International Cricket Council issued a statement declaring that the tournament will be held from October 17 to November 14 with Oman stepping in as a co-host for the qualifiers. Once the BCCI scheduled the remainder of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in West Asia ahead of the T20 World Cup, it was no surprise that the premier championship too would follow suit. With its three grounds at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah being in close proximity, the UAE cuts out the need for air travel, and teams can adhere to bio-bubbles in their respective hotels, an essential requirement in these fraught times of a constantly mutating virus. India hosted England earlier this year and the IPL too commenced this summer, but the pandemic’s surge meant that the league had to be suspended while a second wind was sought in the desert sands prior to the T20 World Cup.
That for a year India paused its domestic cricket makes it all the more difficult for it to suddenly lend its weight to international fixtures at home. Now that the ambivalence has been shed, it is interesting to note the emergence of the UAE as a popular neutral venue. Fans of a certain vintage would recall past jousts at Sharjah lit up by the legendary exploits of stars ranging from Javed Miandad to Sachin Tendulkar. And then India stayed away for a while as talk about bookies and off-field corrupt influences surfaced. Meanwhile, terrorism-scarred Pakistan kept the UAE as its home venue as nervous rivals refused to land either at Karachi or Lahore. Since then, India has warmed up to the UAE as a cricketing outpost while Pakistan has found a few visitors willing to play on its turf. As a second host for the IPL, the UAE has always stepped forward and India had an instant solution for its T20 World Cup hosting crisis. After winning the inaugural ICC World T20 in South Africa back in 2007, India has suffered a title drought and there is a case for course correction. But before that, its dual units have to tackle six limited-overs contests in Sri Lanka and five Tests in England.
After asserting that people should wait for the Union Budget’s announcements to trickle down before seeking a fresh stimulus to cope with the second wave of the pandemic, the government finally unveiled a relief package of sorts this Monday. The financial implications of the measures, such as the promise of easy small-ticket loans for 25 lakh micro-entrepreneurs and 11,000 tourist agents and free tourist visas, have been projected at about Rs. 6.29 lakh crore by the Finance Ministry. Nearly Rs. 2.68 lakh crore of this is in the form of credit guarantees. A further Rs. 1.5 lakh crore of guarantees has been promised to add to the Rs. 3 lakh crore emergency credit scheme, but the scheme’s tenure hasn’t been extended beyond September 30. Similar backing has been announced for loans worth Rs. 60,000 crore to COVID-affected sectors, but only tourism has been publicly identified. Enhancing loan guarantees will perhaps give risk-averse lenders more confidence in extending loans when the credit:deposit ratio has hit a multi-year low. But there is little to make such loans viable by stirring demand for goods and services. Free visas are a good idea but are unlikely to gain traction till India has a firmer grip on the pandemic by providing vaccines for all, including for those under 18. Loans of Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh for travel agents may help meet some liabilities or expenses but won’t make people take holidays. Just like last year’s Rs. 20 lakh crore package, the actual outgo from the exchequer this time is minimal and the direct stimulus to demand abysmal.
Additional spending of Rs. 15,000 crore to ramp up paediatric healthcare, with guarantees for Rs. 50,000 crore low-interest loans for health projects in the hinterland, are critical to cope with future pandemic waves. It makes sense to direct resources towards health and faster vaccination. But the inclusion of measures already announced (such as fertilizer subsidies and food grains for the poor), along with spends planned over the next two or five years, and even a Rs. 77.5 crore bailout plan for an ailing farm marketing firm, gives the package just extra padding. Investing time and resources to figure out some form of income support for the vulnerable sections in rural and urban areas would have been more helpful. Weak demand is a bigger concern for industry this year as high inflation, a propensity to save for future medical bills, and an uncertain job market have led to belt-tightening from consumers. If the government is hesitant about creating new doles for the fear of them becoming permanent features, it could have at least offered some immediate relief for all by addressing the elephant in the room – high fuel prices. This would dampen inflation, empower RBI to lend greater support to growth and leave a little more money in people’s hands to spend. While the effort to maintain fiscal restraint may impress global rating agencies, they would be among the first to acknowledge that there’s a tipping point where policy inaction risks hurting the economy’s long-term prospects.
[Moscow, June 30] The three Soyuz cosmonauts died to-day under mysterious circumstances while returning to earth, turning their record-setting 24-day space odyssey into the worst tragedy in more than a decade of spacefaring by man ... The cosmonauts whose tragic end plunged the world in sorrow were Lt. Col. Georgi Debrovolsky, Flight Engineer Vladislav Volkov and Test Engineer Viktor Patsayev.
… The trio, who had been in space for more than three weeks, separated from the Salyut orbital station last night for the return to earth. The return flight was going according to plan when radio contact was lost after the ship’s braking system for re-entry to the atmosphere was switched off. Soyuz-11 was slowed down by the atmosphere and the parachute system put into operation before landing. The soft engines were fired according to plan and the craft landed smoothly in the preset area...
A helicopter-borne recovery crew, who landed simultaneously with the Soyuz-11, opened the hatch and found the three cosmonauts in their seats, with no sign of life.