Saturday, 17 May 2014

Alternatives to arm twisting:how you can have your cake and let me have it too.....

Gujarat Model and Alternatives from within Gujarat Understood through a prism of Development and Institutions
Munish Alagh
A Country which loses sight of its ideological bearings is in much danger of sinking into the abyss of decline and deterioration. National Policy Statements are often not simply statements which express a country’s ruling parties political ideology, but also the Orientation and Thinking of its People. Recent dominant societal and economic trends in India are examples in recent political discourse of such a trend. In India a very clear worrying trend towards socially conservative policy and an economic policy encouraging crony capitalist tendency in the name of the Gujarat Model is rearing its ugly head.
Countries choose different strategies towards economic growth, as any Masters Student of Economic Growth would tell you, Economic Growth can be analysed in terms of the Neo Classical Model (Solow Swan) which explains that increasing capital relative to labour leads to Growth as well as that technological progress can increase the level of this growth, meanwhile an alternative approach based on Human Development which following from Romers Endogenous Growth Theory which allows for increasing returns to technology, further also introduces Human Capital as a variable. Robert Barro and others took this concept of human development further. Human Development is crucial for Economic Growth and a Model of Growth which is based on Crony Capitalismideals basically does not encourage any kind of innovation in ideas and human capital.
The Problem with the Gujarat Model of development is that its flawed at the very start, the Bharatiya Janta Party of Narendra Modi wants to move away from Nehruvian ideals, so that’s fine, but any approach to development which encourages spending of huge sums of unaccounted money on things ranging from a political campaign, to land for favourite businesses and aims to take away land from farmers and make the marginalized “clear out” for the sake of development raises questions which make further more detailed questioning regarding Agricultural Support and non farm employment raised here more relevant.
 India is a large country with economic and institutional policy traditions which are based on and lead to their relevance and future dominance of the world stage, City States like Singapore and Dubai can afford policies based on ignoring nuanced and innovative thought and in its place introducing practical result oriented steps, our country cannot. It’s not that Singapore and Dubai have not been innovative or approached development positively, but my major criticism against the development in these countries is that this development has at the very first instance failed to address very important issues regarding the deep rooted development of their own people: lack of democratic freedoms, discouragement of any kind of dissent, ignorance of the rights of the poor, the working classes and the dispossessed and in the case of Dubai lack of any kind of real intellectual capital and development of its indigenous ethnic population, in this sense Dubai is a classical prototype of Gujarat where too the indigenous population lacks in true indices of development like Education.
In Gujarat ‘might is right’ is the approach followed, do not question power of the elite established class otherwise you will be dispossessed is the war cry and is much more going to be the slogan or the message of the future, let us look at this Model(?) In terms of two interesting approaches and alternatives from within Gujarat. As I have written in my thesis published by Academic, Farmers need their hands strengthened: a large stock of grains needs to be gathered by providing price support and this needs to be bought up by the government and stored efficiently and well, besides this microlending to impoverished farmers, security of land tenure et al needs to be strengthened as opposed to dispossession of farmers as indulged by Modi. The Kheda and Bardoli Satyagraha in Gujarat itself were examples in which Gandhiji struggled for the rights of farmers as opposed to riding roughshod over their rights and privileges which were being threatened by the British. Another danger is the crony capitalism of the likes of Adanis and Ambanis in the Modi Model. As opposed to this is the model underlined by me in my project of “Retail Franchising in a Minority Community in villages of North and Central Gujarat”  a research project I have undertaken with ICSSR support. The project underlines the case of Nadim Jafri a young Muslim entrepreneur who has undertaken project which aims to build up microentrepreneurial franchisees from young village farmers of the Chilea community of Shia Muslims in the villages (Nadims brother is the sect head of the Chilea Muslims.) Thus these young farmers develop in the villages itself upscaling their facilities while remaining in the comfortable location and building up a franchising enterprise with their own investment of between 15 to 35 lakhs. This is indeed an alternative paradigm which needs to be studied.

Finally, I will say that all over the world: in Canada, in France, in the United States, the idea of freedom and plurality is being challenged with simply one approach and that is: “My way or the Highway”. The biggest example of such arm twisting is in Gujarat, this needs to be challenged and we must build up strong alternatives both by private initiative and by groups of commited and motivated young men and women who are motivated for the cause of a more humane, inclusive approach.