By Amar Yumnam
“Das Gute, dieser Satz steht fest, ist stets das Bose, was man lasset”. This is what Wilhelm Busch said meaning that not doing the bad amounts to goodness. Busch was a powerful satirist in the later part of nineteenth century Germany. This is quoted in an article in the Ecological Economics, I have just read, of Manfred Max-Neef titled “The good is the bad that we don’t do. Economic crimes against humanity: A proposal”. Max-Neef is a former Vice Chancellor of Universidad Austral de Chile and now Director of the Economics Institute.
Max-Neef has been a powerful exponent of the need for a reorientation of Economics as well as the development policies in the developing countries. While in the latest article he emphasises the necessity for discontinuing doing the bad, something like this approach needs, I feel, to be done in the context of governance in this country. The issues of corruption and governance have been the biggest issues in recent years in this country. The forthcoming parliamentary elections too are being fought mainly on these issues. The talks of women-empowerment and caring for the downtrodden by Rahul Gandhi have failed to appeal to the electorate of the country. Rather the articulations on corruption and governance of the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party have caught the imagination of the people in the country.
At this juncture, the country needs to doubly ponder why the talk of the important agenda of empowerment of women and improving the livelihood of the poor are not as appealing to the populace as those of corruption and governance. We have history of the development experience and the effectiveness or rather otherwise on the delivery of development programmes since the beginning of planning in this country. The continuous lapses on the delivery front of development programmes have been the unexpressed grudge of the people for long but with little opportunity for assertion of the feelings by the population. The big exposures on corruption scams in recent years and the large scale exposure on crony capitalism wherein a few closed to the government became strikingly rich within short periods have definitely played a role in the new articulations and new political winds blowing in this country. In the latest issue of The Economist, corruption in India is given as the cause of the decline in recent growth performance and worsening relationship between private sector and the state: “Corruption produces bad decisions; concern over corruption produces indecision. Graft does not function, as some claim that it does elsewhere, as an unseemly but expedient market solution to inert bureaucracy, greasing the seized-up wheels of industry. It has put grit in those wheels. Loans to industries with graft problems have infected the largely-state-run banking syste; at least a tenth of its loans are sour. Inept cronies have messed up vital road and power projects. Mines and other assets lie idle as courts dither over how crooked their owners are……Few senior people go to jail; but officials fear being accused of malfeasance, so many think the safest course of action is to make no decisions at all”.
Now why crony capitalism became a characteristic of the Indian Polity? This is where we should be finding the cause of the disease. In order to dig into this, we need to define two things – one is cause and another is interest. In usual discussions, we usually treat the two as synonymous. We thought doing something in the national interest is the same as performing something for the cause of the nation. But we can no longer treat these two as synonymous. The synonymous treatment of the two over the decades has been exploited as convenient frame for the emergence of crony capitalism in this country. Further the imperative for serving the cause has been made subservient to serving the interests. Unfortunately the cause and the interest here belong to different entities. While everything of the development interventions has been meant to serve the cause of the nation and the cause of the people, the interests have been all for the powers that be and those who are close to them. The cause of the country and the people and the interests have parted ways to such an extent that the cause easily became a sacrificial component in functioning while the interests could in no case be compromised. This has been allowed to continue far too long and has reached the limit.
The forthcoming parliamentary elections give the people of the country an opportunity to define in clear terms the two concepts of cause and interest in the Indian context. We have to decide as ultimate determinants of state power as to whether we stand for the cause of the land and people or we stand for personal interests. If we opt for the first the outcome of interventions would be widely shared. On the other hand, if we opt for the later, the result of the development interventions would be monopolised by a few as so far. While serving the interests cannot attend to the purposes of the cause, serving the cause can accommodate the interest of all. Now is the moment to decide which one we stand for collectively in this democracy.