By: Naagesh Padmanaban
December 20, 2006
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent remarks at the National Development
Council do not come as a surprise. Apparently, he wants the Muslims of
India to have the first claim on the country's resources. This is the
latest in UPA’s appeasement politics. To contain the fall out, his spin
doctors have gotten into action. They have made sincere efforts to inform
fellow countrymen that it is the opposition BJP that is twisting his
statements out of context!!
Manmohan Singh is apparently so far removed from the ground reality in
India that I guess he is either oblivious or no longer concerned about his
sinking image. Such a remark from the Prime Minister and the subsequent
face-saving efforts are indeed so amateurish that now even Indians are
beginning to ignore this high political office. Fellow academia has long
given up on the good doctor. Nevertheless, such a statement from an
economist and a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, only adds to
the agony of the nation.
Resource allocation, if I may respectfully remind the Prime Minister, must
be prioritized to reach the neediest segments of society. In a country
which houses most of the world’s poor, it should automatically begin at
the bottom of the economic spectrum. Poverty in India, like elsewhere,
does not favor religion, caste or place of birth. Muslims are not the only
have-nots in India. It has afflicted whole regions and generations of
Indians. The sufferings among the poor in India is uniform be it the
Muslims or Hindus or any other religion.
Mr. Singh informs India that he wants to ”devise innovative plans to
ensure that minorities, particularly the Muslim minority, are empowered to
share equitably in the fruits of development”. The learned economist
pompously declares that “they must have the first claim on resources”.
That grandiloquence is naked word smithy to tier India’s pathetic poor by
religion and thus polarize the nation. He has however, with great
gumption, not informed us why the Muslim poor need the ”first claim on
resources”. In India, the Prime Minister, by force of precedent, is not
obliged to tell the nation why.
If you stop to reflect on his statement, it shows how callous and
nonchalant he is towards the Hindu or a non-Muslim poor. The reality as we
all know, is that most of India’s poor - in absolute numbers - are Hindus.
Secondly, he has in effect proclaimed to the world outside India that the
Hindu poor do not need urgent resource allocation. This must indeed be a
new variety of Nehruvian economics with an Oxford flavor. See the subtle
shift and value additions in Manmohanomics version 2.0 that is geared for
The Manmohanomics algorithm still does not tell us how a Hindu poor
mitigates his hardships and hence deserves less attention while the Muslim
poor cannot and so requires priority. Probably, it must be the Hindu’s
past karma that makes him less eligible for ”resource allocation”,
whatever that means. But is it not the constitutional obligation, moral
responsibility and the country’s minimum expectation of the government to
seek the holistic implementation of anti poverty programs to all needy
sections of India? It now appears that if you are born a non-Muslim and
poor in Manmohan’s India, then the government stands relieved of such
aforesaid obligations and responsibilities whatsoever. The legal pundits
can quibble over the breach of the Prime Minister’s solemn oath to uphold
the constitution and serve all people of India. This is but one more
addition to their list.
India’s polity today is all topsy-turvy. Unthinkable have happened and
continue to happen. The root cause, as many distinguished Indians have
noted, is the continued erosion of the people’s faith in the political
class and a consequent fragile polity. Every election fetches the
political parties less and less of popular support and a wafer thin edge
over their rivals. To keep the diminishing constituents happy, the gambles
are getting more desperate. Hence you find an otherwise reputed economist
turned PM devising an allocation methodology that would appear to defy
logic. Yet, that does not give him the excuse to abdicate his
responsibility to ensure equal treatment and unity of the country.
This new resource allocation priority is yet another vehicle cunningly
drafted to circumvent and subvert the Constitution and the unalienable
right to equality. Of course, the constitution clearly seeks to prohibit
any discrimination based on sex, caste, class or religion. The Supreme
Court of India has clearly spelt out on multiple occasions that
reservation per se is unconstitutional and strikes at the very heart of
the principles of equality and natural justice. That progressive judges
have played no small part to undo this right guaranteed to each and every
Indian has been well documented by Arun Shourie in his book - Falling Over
Backwards and is beyond the scope of this essay.
Some may dismiss this as a ploy born out of political expediency. But it
is noteworthy to remind the Prime Minister that it nevertheless amounts to
playing with fire. In his quest to stay on in power, another weak
predecessor had set the country on fire over reservations. V.P Singh is
living to see that the people have not forgotten his attempts to undo
India in his desperate clutches at power. But more dangerous, as many have
pointed out, is the fact that this is an ominous reminder of the tragic
religious polarization that led to India’s partition in 1947. India’s
destiny is above the immediacy of staying in office for a full term. It
would be far more honorable to resign than destroy India in the long term.
Manmohanomics ver 2.0 may have passed the expediency test, but still fails
to impress the nation.
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