By Waled Aadnan:
Firstly, the mollycoddling between the Indian State and India Inc. has often marginalised the masses of the people. The agenda of development and growth pursued vigorously since 1991 has left many behind in its wake. Reading the Introduction to the Economic Survey 2011-12 makes one giddy with the number of growth figures mentioned. The idea proposed by growth enthusiasts is that the economy is a cake and growth expands it so that more and more people can join in. The ground reality, on the other hand, is that although India’s Gross Domestic Product has increased manifold thus leading to a much larger cake, much of the increase has accrued to a small proportion of the population. India’s growth is a service-led one, in contrast to an industry-led growth that we have witnessed in most of the modern European and American nations.
What this implies is that the cake has been rationed by a small proportion of educated Indians working mostly in the services sector leaving 53.7% Indians multi-dimensionally poor (according to The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) developed in 2010 by Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative and the United Nations Development Programme, popularly known as the World Bank). Even today, India is home to about 25 percent of the world’s hungry poor. By the government’s own admission, around 43 per cent of children under the age of five years are malnourished and more than half of all pregnant women aged between 15 and 49 years suffer from anaemia.
In the light of such crushing poverty, hunger and widespread deprivation of basic amenities that should ideally be accessible to every citizen in a modern democratic country, the focus on neo-liberalism may have inflated the growth rate but it is the other sort of inflation that has got people noticing, and not in a favourable manner.
A plethora of scams, widespread rent-seeking, loss of government revenue due to favours made to corporates and stagnant expenditure on social sector schemes in real terms (i.e. after accounting for inflation) has forced the electorate to put their eggs in another basket, so to speak. Viewed this way, the vote for the regional parties is not so much a positive vote than a negative vote against the bigger parties. Often, the trust is misplaced as seen in the case of the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu whose pro-technology policies at the expense of the rural poor saw him thrashed at the next polls. But in many cases, as in that of Nitish Kumar in Bihar or the Badals in Punjab, the development agenda has been played out in a balanced manner. Similar trust has been reposed in Akhilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh.