There is a world beyond politics and in that world lie the aspirations of teeming Indians. Corona-virus has deeply impacted our social and economic life.While social life will get changed over a period of time, it is the economic life which is becoming an Achilles’ heel for India. Economic or material life is basis for human existence and without it, human survival itself is in doubt. According to study by Lancet, around 11 million people die in India out of poverty and this number is set to rise in case India moves into economic slump. Another economic crisis is the last thing which India would like to have in the times of global pandemic.
India’s major problem is that it is getting lost in politics on each and every issue rather than focusing on finding efficient solutions. Too much of media flashing has made the things further bizarre. For example, migrants should have been flown to their homes right at the beginning of lock down or sufficient arrangements should have been done in their destination states.It was clear even in the beginning that however patriotic our government servants are, our system has very less capacity to feed so many migrants in their destination states. Therefore, policy flip flop on this issue has only aggravated the problem. It also showed us that formalization of the economy is still a work in progress.
Another example of such policy flip flop was when government requested to not cut the pay of the employees even when country is in lock down and government went on to stop increase in Dearness allowance of its own employees. There are no free lunches and even if we would wish to have a free lunch it is not in our hands. One can have free lunches for few weeks but the restaurant will surely go bankrupt leaving us starving for the future.The companies and governments will have to rightsize their cost structure and it is an economic reality. Pay-cuts are better then Layoffs and if we push companies to bankruptcies, we will start seeing mass lay-offs. Important is that we see how we can restore economic activity to normal with least pain and reduce the damage happening to businesses. It is important to let the corporations manage their finances while government should itself focus on public finances which themselves require a lot of re-thinking.
India in 1991 had done paradigm shift because we were in a crisis.We are very near to another one and it is time we start admitting that there is a need for structural reforms in the economy. The first and quickest response government can give is to restart the primary and secondary sector in the full swing. If we are able to switch on these two sectors, economy will move to a partial recovery. A balanced emphasis on worker safety and liberal labour laws will give the additional bazooka to this sector. The second and more fundamental reform is to revamp healthcare and education sector. India sees corona crisis as an opportunity to emerge as an alternative to China in manufacturing. An opportunity is an opportunity only if you are prepared for it. Our performance in producing the skilled and healthy humans has been at best ordinary. Therefore, healthcare and education needs a mission mode focus as soon as possible.
India’s 2020 moment lies in governance reforms as fine tuning of bureaucracy can have deep impact on social and economic infrastructure in the company. The first in this list is to corporatise non-essential parts of government and let them take their own economic decisions. The corporatisation of Railway production units and defence production units are low hanging fruits but can have positive impact in terms of employment and GDP growth. The second is to increase the corporate governance standards in India. The public and private sector in India both suffer from poor corporate governance standard. While public sector appointment are still in politico-bureaucratic control without much transparent standards in place and private sector suffer form the whims and fancies of promoter. The regulatory structures in India need to be empowered and corporate appointment should be in tune with country’s vision.
India has no other option left than reforming its bureaucracy and the reforms need political executives to appreciate the need for a professional bureaucracy. So far, such reforms could never get shape but if India wants to come out of the crisis , it will have to take these fundamental reforms else we are just risking ourselves into a deep economic and social crisis. Hopefully, Indians will realize that there is a world beyond politics and it is that world where lies our true existence. We need to protect that world and nourish it.Godspeed, We will do it.