A dangerous deficit

Lofty jargons like fiscal deficit, current account deficit etc make little sense to a populace caught in a chaotic economic scenario. But crystal clear to all is the credibility deficit, the refusal of our netas and babus to walk their talk. Clearly, the Government and politicians are unwilling to do what they want us to do. Their duplicity and hypocrisy easily show up through the skin-deep cosmetic finishes that they frequently lay out. Some samples:

The new RBI Governor is expected to wave the magic wand and weave miracles. We will wish him well because that would mean wishing ourselves well too. But can we ignore the fact that before this assignment he was an advisor to the Finance Ministry and therefore one among those who landed us in this mess first? Again, no one denies the role of external factors in the current currency crisis. But many experts point out that the turmoil is aggravated by the F.Ministry’s many dubious ‘innovations’ like derivatives, participatory notes etc, not to speak of the familiar profiteering through short and forward trading. Some even suggest that these novelties were introduced only to facilitate whitewashing of loot by the high and mighty. Will the RBI Guv make bold to rectify or reverse such official and organised perversion of monetary policy, albeit at the risk of incurring the wrath of the political bosses … or their wards? Would not pleading ignorance of these rackets belie the profound scholarship and insight that backed his candidature?

The bulk of the economy operates in black, outside the official loop and making a mockery of monetary measures. Govt policies too incentivise only quick, illicit cash, not honest, hard-earned livelihoods. Sting operations show that even the banking system that strangles small customers, lends itself to laundering if the transaction is sizeable. The Income Tax department that hounds the ordinary taxpayer for a missed TDS or a misplaced decimal, however, exhibits chronic blindness as thousands of crores of political black money pass by right under its eye. The Hawala trade, that has reportedly zoomed, thanks to impending polls and currency fluctuations, somehow skips our smart enforcement sleuths otherwise watchful of every dollar that crosses borders. And all our economic wizards at the helm nonchalantly spin sophisticated sob stories while all they have to do is act on that file gathering dust on the highest table of the land, one that contains the Swindlers’ List of those having swadeshi sleaze stashed away in Swiss and sundry accounts. The inflow of that One Lakh crores and odd would alone enact a ravaging Re revenge on the headstrong dollar.

Temple and household gold are now being eyed. The people are constantly exhorted to shun bullion. Whatever the arguments, the Indian reality is parents, across castes and religions, save for gold and in gold, for their daughters, as a cultural and social obligation. And it is always in terms of grams and sovereigns, not rupee values, something the wives of the netas and babus will vouch for. That is the reason why hike in import duties rarely cause a dip in quantum demand. Instead, such policies only help bullion hoarders and stockists, besides speculators, even while pinching peoples’ pockets. As for the thrills and glitter linked to gold, the fancy for precious metals and stones is universal, not just an Indian trait. Suffice to say that touching temple troves is a difficult and dangerous option and is akin to touching a raw nerve of every citizen. Particularly when the so-called temples of our electoral democracy, namely, political parties replete with their own presiding deities and pompous rituals, brazenly sit on mountains of unaccounted wealth and yet remain beyond scrutiny.

The Petro minister is pleading for fuel savings and even suggested a lockout of bunks during nights. He seems unaware that the Government departments are the biggest guzzlers of petrol/diesel, with just the Delhi bureaucracy notching up a staggering Rs 3000 cr bill annually! To quote a news report, ‘A secretary’s monthly entitlement of petrol is 800 litres, enough for the officer to travel by road between Delhi and Mumbai eight times a month’. Can’t the ‘public servants’ use public transport or car pools, since most Govt offices are often in one cluster? Indeed, thrift and austerity make for good public prescriptions, but are bad as a personal practice.

A falling poverty line and a massive food (B)bill. A ‘landmark’ land law and a land grabbing son-in-law. Stall Parli for hours only to pass critical legislations in seconds. A scam is uncovered but files go missing. Indeed, our ruling elite reflects our country’s ‘diversity’ a bit too starkly!

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Jawahar T R