Sentiments on India have taken a nosedive. Not so sudden but in pretty short period. Economist has bid good bye to Incredible India. Some have even talked about replacing Indonesia with India in the BRICS group.
Here are the signs:
- Inflation is high and out of control. It is hurting people like never before. The last time high prices pinched like this was in 1973 - the oil shock and post-71 war. This time around it's oil again and there are global factors at work. Government has limited leeway this time but it has selected bad tools. Jacking up interest rates and drying up credit have clearly been counterproductive. Budget deficit is out of control
- Rupee is at a historic low. RBI says it cannot protect it against weak fundamentals. So imports, primarily oil, become more expensive. So, inflation is here to stay. Exporters may rejoice - but only so much. Our balance of payments in $185 bn deficit is making it hard
- Corruption is at historic high - to a point that the idea of India is being called in question. Prosecution does not seem to be going anywhere. Everyone is out after a sojourn in Tihar - some want it to be christened as National Palace. The scale of corruption is unprecedented and reach is widespread. All national resources seem open for loot - coal, minerals, forests, sand, ... At this scale business/economy have been decisively penetrated by the corrupt and the integrity of economy and business is now in question. By vilifying Team Anna government loses its own credibility
- Government is in paralysis. Army Chief has to write to the PM - not the Defense Minister - talking about alarming deficit of ammunition and equipment. CII has been talking about paralysis in decision making. Azim Premji talks about leaderless government. Ashish Nandy has written - Time to Go, Sir. Reforms are stalled. Non-issues are at center-stage
- Deaf and dumb governance. You raise concerns they go without a response. Or you would be labelled anti-national, communal, traitor, ridiculed. Democracy has to be about transparent conduct. Here we have people asking who is Anna Hazare to question us? Well, isn't his being a citizen of India enough?
- Growth rate has plummeted to 6.x % and credit ratings have been downgraded. Part of it is bad economics and part of it is vindictive mindset - opening closed cases, changing laws with retrospective effect
- Indian businessmen have been investing abroad heavily instead of in India
- If PM was the only face in the government that inspired some confidence then he does not speak, only protests. He has no answer to all corruption charges except that nobody will be spared. All have been spared as far as eyes can see. CBI is used selectively against opponents. Mulayam and Mayawati will not be touched and Jagan Reddy would be caught double quick. Tihar-returnees have done their time
- Populist schemes like MNREGA are bleeding money and feeding the corrupt
One could go on and on. But the inevitable question is what should I/we be doing in these times? Can't just sit back. We need to be vocal and say what we do not like. Need to unite/collaborate and help form pressure groups. Influence these groups and the power-that-be. Evolve mechanisms to use RTI and other tools to expose the undesirable and demand transparency and integrity.
Equally, we need to work on constructive activities. Innovation, research, training, mentoring, skills development.
It all requires us to join hands nationally and globally. If not now, then when?