Dr.ManMohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, while holding a prestigious post in World Bank in the capacity of an economist was hijacked from NewYork, US, by late Prime Minister P.V.Narasimha Rao keeping in mind an aim to boost the Indian Economy by initiating innovative measures, appointed Dr.Singh as the Finance Minister of India in 1991. Narasimha Rao, the Chanakya of Indian politics in a one- -on-one meeting with Dr.Singh impressed upon the latter, the need for rescuing the ailing Indian economy, the need for bidding a farewell to the ‘outdated economic paths’ followed by various govts in the past and advised Dr.Singh to bring in neo-liberal reforms to give a new face-lift to the Indian economy. An obliging ManMohan Singh in his capacity as the new Finance Minister shook his head in agreement with Rao and right away took up the responsibility of opening up the economy to attract Foreign Direct Investments in various fields and initiated neo-liberal measures which was the staple diet across US and European nations, then.
Dr.Singh’s first budget was an example of giving a new direction to the economy and in his budget speech he dwelt upon the urgent necessity of opening up the economy to Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) and also adopting innovative measures to bring in economic growth. The grapevine is that upon taking up his post as Finance Minister, he prepared a draft of the budget which was the replication of the old models followed by the former govts and with a purpose of meeting the Prime Minister he sought an appointment with Mr.Rao and placed before him the budget proposals for his scrutiny. On going through the draft budget proposals, Rao reportedly turned furious and threw it away and asserted that what he wanted was an innovative budget which could attract the investors in large numbers, both Indian and foreign investors through the new economic reforms dispensing with the license raj and other road blocks which according to him were redundant in the global economic scenario. Dr. Singh had to draft a new budget the essence of which was neo-liberal measures and FDI investments on a vast scale with no strings attached.
While presenting his first budget before Parliament, of course, with the concurrence of the then PM, he dwelt on the need for introducing new measures aiming high growth trajectory. Dr.Singh while presenting his first budget before Parliament never forgot to mention his intention to lift the poor people at the bottom of the social ladder and that reference must have been to draw applause from the MPs especially those in the treasury benches. On the contrary, he never cared to cater to the needs of the poor as also 70 percent of Indian farmers who feed India by slogging out in the vast fields from morning to evening under the scorching sun. He always took care to encourage the Corporates and business tycoons who constitute only a minority. He announced economic incentives to the Corporates, both Indian and foreign industrialists and business tycoons. As a result, while the Corporates got fattened day by day those at the lower strata of the society continued to suffer due to large-scale poverty, famine, mal-nourishment, unemployment, scarcity of pure drinking water, lack of sanitation facilities, millions pulling on across the nations with no covers over their heads, the enslavement of women and children roaming thru the streets with begging bowls while children of their age – those hailing from well-to-do families marched to their schools in uniforms. Put it in a nutshell, the much trumpeted neo-liberal reforms and globalization while provided a bonanza to those at the upper ladder of the society with them benefitting much, the middle-class, the farmers and the down-trodden, drifted to the abyss of suffering days. In other words, the rich became richer and the poor, poorer. While the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) signaled an upward growth the conditions of middle-class, farmers and the poor remained grim. Dr.Singh’s theory that with the economy scaling heights, through the trickle-down effect was bound to benefit those at the bottom level was a blunder. What the poor benefitted was nothing.
As a consequence of which in the General Elections held after five years, the Congress and its allies were voted out of power. Those took charge after that were short-lived.
In 1998, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) under BJP which was led byoccupied the saddle and contrary to what they preached, what they practised was to follow the path of Narasimha Rao govt and as a result the Corporates turned millionaires and billionaires while the down-trodden continued to be down-trodden. After six years of rule, with high voltage publicity campaign through print and electronic media, the NDA alliance fought the elections and emerged a cropper. The ‘shining India’ slogan had no takers as it was a ‘suffering India’ the electorate witnessed as termed by CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury.
UPA had to wait till 2004 to assume power at the Centre again, its outlook but not changed for the better. But to continue in power UPA alliance was forced to seek the support of LDF(Left Democratic Front) which was on a stronger wicket then with 61 MPs at its command. The CPI(M) and its allies by arm-twisting the UPA govt led by none other than Dr.ManMohan Singh forced him to take initiative to cater to the needs of the poor, middle-class and farmers. Some welcome steps like MGNREGP (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme) and certain pro-poor reforms were implemented.
Now that UPA-2 is in the saddle which was catapulted to power due to the implementation of pro-poor reforms as demanded by the LDF (Left Democratic Front) which fell out with the UPA alliance on the controversial issue of Civil Nuclear Bill signed by the then US President George Bush and Dr.ManMohan Singh. UPA-2 govt have chosen the path of initiating neo-liberal reforms vigorously, more vigorously and on Friday Dr.ManMohan Singh after dithering for a while declared 51 percent investment in Foreign multi-brand retail and 100 percent investment in single-brand retail sector. It further declared 49 percent FDI investment in civil aviation sector. Besides all these, Dr.Singh has declared his intention of mopping up Rs.15000 crores by disinvesting some profit-making public sector under-takings to reduce the fiscal deficit, all these amidst the threat of withdrawal of support by Trinamool Congress led by Mamata Banerji and the widespread protests of Left Democratic parties.
In the event of allowing FDI investments in multi-brand retail sector and single-brand retail outlets, lakhs of Indian small-scale retailers are certain to go down the drain. It is better to remember that 2014 is not far away. It is quite painful that be it a UPA govt or a BJP govt the path followed by both are the same and with the Left Democratic Front conspicuous by its inability to choose a different path due to its decline at the national level.