- An entire generation fully comprehends the significance of the liberalization measures ushered in by the Congress government in the year 1991 under the shrewd leadership of Late Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao, an unheralded reformist hero, who took the gauntlet of freeing the economy. Of course, history will also accord a special place to the then Finance Minister and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for steering the country during extremely difficult times with his far-reaching visionary reforms. That he was fully supported by Rao amply demonstrates the superb working relationship established between the two equally important modern Indian architects enabling the country to be counted one amongst the established world order.
PC: VIJAY KUMAR GABA
- Encomiums apart, the country celebrates three decades of reform after breaking free from the desi version of socialism that was synonymous back then. As the popular jargon goes, the rest is history. Make no mistake, largely identified as a poor nation that could shrug off the despicable nametag by making decisive moves in many of the sectors was the outcome of introducing timely reformist measures. The nation could gain definite traction from then on vis-à-vis comprehensive developments that need no further elaboration. The moot point to ponder over here is whether the history could have been even more glittering, and India’s future now could have been far brighter than what is visible now. Let us delve further to understand what transpired all these years.
- One of the biggest changes visible on the ground is how effective reforms were in reducing poverty, the insurmountable barrier of successive generations, offering succor to the citizens from sufferings. Note that the poverty ratio went down in two decades from 45.3% of the population to 21.9%, even declining in absolute numbers. Understandably, the nation is discernably better off as compared to earlier decades. However, did we do well enough is the rightful question and the answer is a big no. Look not far than our neighbor, China which is the inevitable benchmark. In the first 30 years of its economic opening up, China’s inflation-adjusted GDP grew 17-fold. In contrast, India saw a mere five-fold growth summing up where exactly we moved ahead.
- This has got nothing to do with the form of governance, democracy vs autocracy. People have always recognized good governance and reward governments that brought about palpable material changes in their lives. It is proved beyond doubt that it is high growth alone that gets the national resources for effective welfarism. Unfortunately, India has witnessed years of moderate to slow growth wherein provisioning of adequate resources comes at a premium. Populist and irrational freebies as seen in electricity and agriculture have been the bane severely undermining the reformist measures where the payoffs show up over time, but costs are upfront leading to the postponement of the further introduction of upgrades.
- No wonder, rich farmers in some of the agriculture-oriented states are holding the government to ransom to continue an expensive and inefficient price support system. Against this backdrop, thirty years of reforms anniversary should be nothing more than a sobering thought for the policymakers as well as citizens yet to recover from the devastating pandemic. Of course, the nation could be still driven along the path to ascendancy provided the political leaders, irrespective of party affiliations, bury differences as well as parochial considerations for the good of the nation. Is it lofty ideals to expect from the leaders? You decide.