Business wants a ‘stimulus’ desperately

Yoginder K Alagh | Updated on October 16, 2019 Published on October 16, 2019

The release of Sardar Sarovar dam waters is a positive development. But the economy needs a better response

Sometimes nothing happens. Then it rains news. So, the Sardar Sarovar Dam is almost filled up and may actually spill over. I remember the battles fought. They would not let 1,200 Megawatts of hydro turbines. They would not want a 40,000 cusecs main canal. It was something new. Babus like to tread the beaten path. I dug in my toes. But it is unproven technology. Well, so was the proposed PSLV rocket being developed by ISRO.

A young Frenchman had designed the next biggest canal in Morocco, with a computer controlled delivery system. It halved distribution losses. Today, the biggest canal in the world will carry drinking water to areas which had delayed kharif sowing and fill their tanks, ponds and beels. The free power bonus will help an energy- starved region, supporting jobs for its youngsters and saving energy.

I remember visiting the areas where the proposed canal was to reach, in a village close to the border. An old lady with torn clothes gave me a very tasty meal and saying ‘ Saheb, Deem Joeaay’ (we want a dam). The Gandhian Chunni kaka helped in rehabilitation. In the Adivasi area Anil Patel and Sudarshan Iyengar in Arch Vahini did model rehabilitation projects. Similarly in the Bahl, the depression between mainland North Gujarat and Saurashtra, Ushaben Mehta at Gundi near Lothal made me eat a wheat laadu, saying you must give us more water. Now their families must be getting more water.

The other side

But there’s the sour part. My friend YSR Reddy’s son has put Chandrababu Naidu and his son under house arrest. With its Kashmir policy, the GOI has started a new ‘normal’. If somebody is going to start a political agitation, put them under house arrest. Of course the TDP, when it gets a chance, will not be a saintly party. Remember what it did to its founder. It is easy to change democratic traditions. It is difficult to go back to the earlier state. In Karnataka, with stronger local democratic traditions from the days of Devraj Urs, the chief minister expressed mild disapproval on incarcerating an opposition leader.

Meanwhile we are at it again. The experts around the Prime Minister and the former prime minister are busy grinding out counterfactuals to the falling GDP rates. Manmohan Singh wants more reform. But business wants a ‘stimulus’ desperately. My favourite growth economist, Paul Krugman, also does and predicted a hard landing otherwise with rising unemployment.

This means sacrifice. Resources will have to be raised and infrastructure outlays really increased, instead of exhortations to public sector undertakings to spend their own money. As a PSU chief said to me, “Sir, if I do it without diligence, the PAC will send me to jail, but if I get money and a directive from the GOI, I am protected.”

When you are in a trough and need to get out, use your powers. Corporate India is waiting.

The writer is a former union minister

Published on October 16, 2019
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