Land Bill

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Make What In India? {Narrative Series}

Published September 28, 2015 by vishalvkale

An article in TOI today tells me that GOI is primarily focussing on 3 sectors : Services, Manufacturing and Agriculture! Now this is primarily a large scope contained in this statement, impossible to go into detail as is. The question is and remains, where is the plan 15 months down the road? Where are the specifics, the what and the how – namely MWII? It should be MWII now, not MII which is fine as a slogan, but means nothing as a strategy.

MWII : Make What In India?

Identify specific sectors, industries where we can build capabilities; identify what is needed in each sector and each area. Then go to market for whatever is needed. Without the specifics, it is mere sloganeering.I do not decry the value of slogans to drive a diverse population : but slogans can only carry you so far. And, as on date, I cant see much beyond slogans. If there is a specific plan in the public, please bring it to my attention : this is an honest request.
I dont for a moment doubt that there must be some sort of a go-forward plan; why keep its distribution limited {if it has been revealed – as I request above, please call my attention to it}? Why not translate it into a national vision for and of and by the people? Why not ensure buy-in from the citizens? Surely if you can coin slogans like MII, SBA, DI you can also do an equally bang up task of selling your specific vision to the people? That will ensure a burst in innovation, ideas and action as more and more people buy-in.
Slogans wont help beyond a certain point; you have to outline your vision for Indian Manufacturing, and drive that vision – not in isolated silos of Government Bureaucrats, Politicians and Industrial bodies {although that is admittedly a vital part of any successful plan]; but in the public discourse. And the public discourse, sorry to state, is far more concerned about Caste, Class, Language, Religion and other aspects that are not conducive to the overall vision of Make In India, which is now beginning to lose its sheen.
I can only hope this is in the works. India needs it. What is needed is the building of a national narrative around Manufacturing In India. A narrative perforce means aspects far beyond sloganeering; it involves a shared vision, a plan and a shared confidence and belief in its eventual success, as also a shared realisation of obstacles. A narrative is a story, a set of connected events that move in a particular direction. It requires a vision, a goal, a set of rules & processes to take it forward, an action plan, and a shared acceptance of resources and their limits.
So far, we only have a slogan; one slogan cannot be a narrative; the slogan has now outlived its utility. 15 months down the road, high time we started building a narrative. High time the Government got into details, and built momentum basis facts and ground scenarios, not slogans. That we can do the building of a narrative is beyond debate; within the past 5 years we have seen two or three excellent examples of a narrative in the public discourse in India. The reason why this is vital is because the building and nurturing of a narrative on a national scale requires buy-in by large segments of the population with the divergent interest and needs. The moment you attempt to do this, some hard questions will emerge, as also a clear direction, which will ensure eventual success.
Once you try to get into specifics, questions will emerge, that will eventually need answering not in slogans, but in hard realities. This is not a negative approach, but a practical one. Any path towards success will need circumventing questions : we cannot run away from the questions. While the Government is certainly not running away from the questions – recent events are proof {more in later articles}, some segments of the public certainly are, as by and large, any questions on MII are met with either a stoic silence, summary ignorance, or worse.
THE INPUTS REQUIRED :
To identify questions, we will have to get into brass tacks, and look at what MII requires :
* Business Environment {Study the Indian Economy, its structure as well as the global/local Macro-Economic Environment; Excise/Customs duties & their structure}
* Land
* Labour {Not just skills; skills are dead easy to impart with training; legal landmines need attention; socio-cultural parameters need attention, socio-political matters need close attention and so on and so forth}
* Markets
* Enviromental Impact and its related issues. This is not a small point; the impact of large-scale industrialisation on the environment in a democracy is certain to lead to massive, massive issues. Combined with socio-cultural & political landscape, it is a major stumbling block}
* Corruption Eradication {Subvention of any point above, in a high vigilance atmosphere of both law enforcement as well as Media means regular and consistent exposure of scams and unhealthy tactics. Certain to stall projects fully and finally}
Let us consider just one or two questions or scenarios :
More than 44-58% of Economic Output is from unorganised sector; More than 70% employment is in Non-Corporate Sector – quoting from Memory. Large range of products and industries are controlled by Non-Corporate Sector {Think point of Markets}. Corporate India is less than 19% of the Indian Economy. Large – Millions – of units are SSI and MSI; What happens to these units if large-scale unplanned industrialisation happens? Their manpower is not employable in your class manufacturing units. Translation : displacement of labour on a national scale – leading to social unrest, and rising tensions amid unemployment. This is not a scaremongering scenario, but a statement based on absolute and verifiable facts of the current Indian Economic Structure.
I have yet to read one word in any English Media outlet or Newspaper that has raised this issue, which is gung-ho about MII. Vernacular is another matter, where a few articles have appeared, although they seemed a bit strong on rhetoric. What do you think will be the impact? The large majority lead the vernacular. What happens if MII does succeed? Look for a problem after the horse has bolted?
Thrice between 2000 and 2010, a body of Indians conducted an experiment, which called for construction of scenarios of development. These experiments were conducted by three unrelated sets of people; and the result of each was the same. In each and every case, the only path that lead to true development – given the ground realities of society as well as economics – was the one that concentrated on the small scale sector in India. All other modes and methods adopted led to an increase in the Gini, with much slower impact on the people who have real need for development. The poor of India. And all other methods delivered lesser GDP growth. Does Make in India cater to this?
This sounds so nice, so decent : “Slower pace of growth” – doesnt it? This slower pace of growth means Millions of people will continue to be poor for one more generation, perhaps more. Please try and explain to these Millions
It isnt about large or start-ups; it is about the structure of the Indian Economy & Democracy & Society, which does not support MII. The roadblocks are tremendous; one such – just one – resulted in the central government devolving the matter to the states. Land.
The presence of large – humongous – numbers of companies in the SME sector is another factor. The ecosystem revolves around these small companies. What happens to them if large scale industrialisation happens? What happened in Mumbai when the textile mills closed down? Who paid the price for development? Watch either Lalbaug – Patel : Zhaali Mumbai Sonyaachi {Mumbai becomes a city of Gold}  , or read S Hussain Zaidi. Are we saying that these should pay the price for development?
There is a way out; plan for the industries, and their manpower, so that a smooth transition is made. I have certainly heard absolutely nothing along those lines being talked about in Public. Which is why what Arvind Kejriwal says – education, health etc need priority attention if the needs of the entire nation are to be catered to. The reason is simple : only an educated and healthy person will be in a position to cash in on the benefits of increased manufacturing jobs opportunities. Both have to g hand in hand for true success. Is this happening?
Another alternative is to focus not on Large Industries – but on purely Indian Start-ups, Indian companies that want to grow, as well as the Small and Medium Sector. Invest in their capability development, enhance their competitiveness. This will generate employment in all classes, as well as focus on technology and skill upgradation; this will generate consumption internally, generate cash internally, meet far lesser resistance as well as require lesser resources.
Large Scale can be looked at on a case-to-case basis, as the economic structure matures & societal development parameters like education etc mature, and companies grow in size and capability. Special case approval for notified sectors can be looked at, where large size is an imperative, like the core sector as an example. This is an eminently feasible solution to the quandary we face, and easier to do than what we are currently attempting.
But let alone seriously consider it – we arent even willing to discuss the feasibility, and intent on ignoring any serious questions that may be asked of MII. Few people are even willing to engage in a fruitful dialogue with those who are objecting basis facts and not rhetoric, with the attendant focus on FDI and FII, which is not entirely supported by numbers. By and large, people ignore – or worse –the ones who raise questions and consider it an attack on the GOI. Well, it isn’t an attack : these are just genuine questions that are arising, and will need urgent attention… Is anyone listening?

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Modi Sarkar and The Farmer : The Achilles Heel

Published May 2, 2015 by vishalvkale

MODI SARKAR : THE ACHILLES HEEL

It has taken a long time to manifest itself, but at long last, we see a developing Achilles Heel in our famed Modi Sarkar; a sad development indeed, given that this is the best government we have had in the past several decades. The only good thing is that the Achilles Heel has manifested itself from a totally unexpected direction; not only that, it also holds serious potential of rekindling a genuine opposition on a national scale, which is a needed and vital component of a functioning democracy.

It has taken twin developments in two connected areas for the weakness to manifest itself : Farmers’ Suicides, and The Land Bill. Taken together, this has created a situation in which, if properly strategized, the opposition can rebuild itself, while simultaneously undermining the central government.

THE CONGRESS : AWAKENING
The sad part is that once again,  it is the Congress that has the opportunity to rise from the ashes. This is sad because it has yet again failed to democratize, and has placed its faith on Dynasty. I have nothing against Rahul Gandhi; he may be an excellent potential leader for all I know; then again, he might not. That is not relevant; what is relevant is the fact that The Congress does not have any leader it feels can connect with the people, despite having some good people on its roster.

Be that as it may, the  Congress has taken what seems to be the right step; change track from the all-too-familiar “communal politics” track to a far more sensible and development oriented focus : that of the farmer and their issues. This bodes well for our democracy, for our economy and for our society, as now there is a chance the real issues might get a much needed attention and focus.

The best way to tackle communalism is not to fan it; all the while building solid relationships within communities. A politically charged message has a polarizing impact, and if the community specific plank is being abandoned by all parties, this is a development worth celebrating. If all parties can abandon a community specific focus, the only way India can go is up and forward. Aag ko jitnaa tool doge, jitni hawaa doge, utni failegi.

And harping on the communal message, which was not making a connect with any definable voter base was always a suspect strategy. Besides, there has to be a provable base for such a strategy that can be directly traced back to your opposition; and this is clearly absent in the BJP.


THE BJP : SLEEPING!
The BJP, meanwhile, is basking in the glory of its rise to power, and ignoring these undercurrents, which might yet turn into a deluge. While it is doing excellent work in any number of areas, its approach and presentation to the people on these two issues is strange and more than a little disturbing, given the party’s admirable understanding of the pulse of India and the Indian people.

Please note my choice of words : in this article, I am taking no position on the Central Government’s Agricultural and Land Policies – that is the subject of another, research based and supported article/s that I shall take up a little later on the Agricultural challenges being faced by India. I am only analyzing the potential impact of the presentation in front of the people, and the angst among them.

It adheres to a top-down development ideology, counting on investment in infrastructure, amenities to drive rural upliftment and employment, while attempting to ensure good governance at all levels of Government. It has also taken a few good steps in the Agriculture sector {Analysed on my blog here : Union Budget Analysis}; these will require time to properly strategise and implement.

What is more pertinent that it has done little to meet head-on the anti-farmer label that is being leveled against it by some, beyond messages to the farming community by the PM. More and more parties and  groups are now coming into the open, calling its policies as pro-Urban India and anti-farmer. The most important aspect that the BJP seems to have forgotten is the population of India – the top 200 Urban Agglomerations account for only around 15.46% of population as per Census 2011

Thus, any message targeted at the rural community that is focused not on ideology, religion, regionalism but rather on their bread and butter is certain to get the attention of the people. That is a foregone conclusion; the needs of the stomach will take primacy; that is a primordial fear. The BJP is giving a message of development : how is this message being received by the population? Is it making a connect with the people?

THE HISTORY
For Urban India, it means investments, growth and jobs. What does it mean for Rural India? What have the prior experiences of Rural India been in this regard? It should mean the same for them : but is this the way it is being perceived in Rural India? Farmers stand to lose their lands; what will they get in return? Each piece of land further supports landless labourers, input vendors etc – we are talking of snatching an entire ecosystem.

What is the history, the prior experiences of the farming community in India? As This Article : Why Farmers Have Every Right to Feel Gypped explores in painful detail – there is a sad, almost terrifying history of governmental failure of monumental  proportions behind this rising tide of protests against the BJP Government with regard to the Agricultural Sector;  what is sad is that this Government has actually started a series of steps that drive some hope into the refurbishment of this sector in the budget, which makes this image of anti-farmer a real tragedy in itself.

And look at the third and recent case reported this month in The Times of India which makes you want to cry and laugh – both at the same time!
The gist of the case is: in 1998, the Railways acquired land from Mela Ram and Madan Lal to lay the Una-Amb track in Himachal Pradesh. As usual, the Railways adopted delaying tactics when it came to paying up. The farmers filed a case for enhanced compensation. After a fair amount of legal to-ing and fro-ing,  in 2013, the HP High Court directed the railways to pay the money within six weeks. “But the railways hasn’t deposited the amount until now”, the farmers’ advocate AK Saini said a few weeks ago. Typical.
So, on April 9, 2015, Mukesh Bansal, the additional district and sessions judge of Una ordered the attachment of the train if the railways failed to pay compensation to the two farmers!! The court said if Mela Ram and Madan Lal did not get Rs. 8.91 lakh and Rs. 26.53 lakh respectively, the train would be stopped at Una station at 5 am on April 16 and attached by it. The farmers were asked to select one out of four trains – and they selected The Delhi-Una Janshatabdi Express!


SUMMARY
My point is simple : the steps taken by the BJP Government have exposed a chink in their armoury, one that is now being exploited by the opposition. This is the Achilles Heel; their weakness. And there is nothing they can do about it; not over the short term. I have purposely taken an isolated case history above : the point is that there is a feeling of inadequacy and helplessness that is rooted in genuine truth and a terrifying history of crass incompetence on the part of successive central governments over the years.

And this atmosphere is giving rise to an opposition movement that is, for the first time in my memory {correct me if I am wrong}, focused on real issues that make a powerful connect with the target audience in Rural India as on solid whole. For the first time, we now have an issue-based discussion in Indian Politics, which is bringing this issue mainstream.

All it really requires to bring the BJP juggernaut to a grinding halt is a solid loss in a few upcoming state elections; were that to happen, coming on top of the shock in Delhi, things will get interesting, as the BJP will be forced to recalibrate and reassess its approach and its communication. Unless the BJP can get its house in order and connect with Rural India and its real issues in light of the historical experience and the on-ground realities and challenges in Rural India, they stand to lose ground…