India’s problems are so many, in so many fields, that a ‘general theory’ is required to work out the reforms necessary to fix them. Right now, the focus is too much on singular issues at the expense of the larger picture. Environmentalists, for instance, oppose developmental projects reflexively, without even bothering to consider the other side of the story. This turns them effectively into ‘eco-fundamentalists’. People want the economy to function better but baulk at the solutions offered. Indian farmers are happy with the ‘minimum’ return for their products, leaving them among those least productive in the world. China, with less arable land than India, has twice the agriculture productivity.
It is a difficult task to abandon ‘security’, be it ever so little, and take the plunge into competitive, market oriented economics. Comfort politics has almost entirely smothered the risk-taking spirit. Indians feel content that the economy was ‘liberalised’ during the times of Narasimha Rao and Atal Behari Vajpayee, thinking that should serve for all times to come. That is not, however, the case – a consensus has to developed, beginning with the ‘intellectual class’, on the ‘necessary sacrifices’ required. Romantic notions and ‘feel good’ humanism will not help put food on the tables of India’s poor, nor provide jobs to the unemployed.
Part of the reason the present situation has developed is because of the failure of opposition politics. The new agriculture laws, for instance, could have been properly debated in Parliament, bringing forth all the pros and cons. Instead, it was turned into an emotional issue, in the expectation of instigating unrest and garnering votes. With an electorate long used to parties ditching pre-poll promises, which they know to be unrealistic anyway, there is no need felt to have well-formulated policies arrived at after deep deliberation. Most opposition parties, instead of being committed to their ideologies and seeking their implementation, are focused only on acquiring power. So it is that parties with vastly diverging ideas on governance join forces to form governments. Obviously, nothing gets done as they cancel each other out, leaving them with nothing but the shared perks of power. An example of this is the ruling coalition in Maharashtra.
The opposition has to offer a clear alternative if it wishes to be effective. This would come from actually identifying and confronting the problems, instead of proposing escapist make believe formulations. India needs a much better opposition.