Let's be fair. The UPA II government does not discriminate. The aamaadmi and the rich can equally wait for their deliverance. Agriculture or industry, aviation or retail, workers or the unemployed, foodgrain or fuel — equal treatment for all! Manipur's blockade, Telangana, AFSPA, border incursions, increasingly encircling Chinese — all the same!

The government's strategy appears to be — maintain status quo ; every now and then, they utter ambiguous words of hope and then hibernate. Just before the next general elections, they will likely launch another loan waiver or employment guarantee. The National Advisory Council (NAC) has been working overtime like Santa Claus through the year, wrapping its election goodies without a thought for fiscal prudence. Not a thought again, if lessons can be learned from leaking-like-a-sieve flagship programmes, which are beyond the auditors' lens. Evergreen appeasement, reservations sops, probes and commissions of enquiry are ready to be served. No amount of supplementary support from the Congress Party's dirty tricks department seems adequate to defang opponents or contain the new age activists.

The people, however, are not silent. Domain experts are coming up with constructive suggestions on sectoral reforms. The plight of the common man being ground slowly, steadily, under the heavy inflationary wheel is voiced by everyone, including the print and the electronic media. A few days ago, the government was woken up with drums by the nose-diving Kingfisher!

Why have we come to this pass? UPA I was living off the buffer created during the NDA period. Instead of steadily carrying on with second generation reforms as promised, UPA I, came under the influence of Communists and the NAC. Living through its term like the proverbial lotus-eater, it did not foresee the fallout of the failure of good governance. Now in its second term, it is deserted by the Left. A bitter and grumbling NAC is expecting the same kind of subservience as before to promote its lavish ideas. The ailing economy, lying in the ICU, has specialists diagnosing multiple organ failure. Even so, the government remains paralysed!

Policy paralysis

In the last seven years, the UPA (read, the Congress) could have undertaken several measures to generate employment or contain inflation. A core group, under the Finance Minister in 2010, formed three high-powered Working Groups with Chief Ministers of a few states in each of them. The Working Group on Consumer Affairs was headed by the Chief Minister of Gujarat and with CMs of AP, TN and Maharashtra as its members had submitted its report with several suggestions and points for action. As yet, there is no reaction or response from the government to this report.

The Cabinet Secretariat, however, is hurriedly getting ready to bring in FDI in retail as a panacea for inflation. In the eventuality, Indian retailers have no godfathers to look up to for their survival. Whether or not FDI in retail brings down an almost adamant and soaring inflation, it most certainly will give the frail Indian retailers a deadly hug. It is hoped that since the government is in paralysis, an executive order does not slip through, without due consultation and consideration.

Similarly, FDI in aviation cannot be brought in because Kingfisher is in trouble. Did the government analyse what role its civil aviation policy has had in the prevailing crisis? Over the past several years, this sector has been crying for attention. Is it not time for it to be reviewed? FDI in aviation can be considered only after readying the ground for a fair and level playing field for all competitors.

Slipping on fuel

Another area desperately crying for a consistent and well-thought out policy is fuel. In April 2002, the oil sector was fully deregulated. Even the subsidy on kerosene and LPG was to be phased out in about three years from then. After it came to power in 2004, the UPA did not have strategies to effectively alleviate the burden on the poor. Facing soaring international price of crude, it started regulating the price of petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG. However, in June 2010, it deregulated petrol. The companies claim that over and above the subsidy the government gives for PDS kerosene and domestic LPG, the under-recovery per litre of diesel is Rs 8.58; for kerosene Rs 25.66 and for domestic LPG Rs 260.50 per cylinder. Environmentalists are alerting the government that diesel subsidy is actually benefiting diesel car owners to the tune of Rs 10,000 crore!

The government has to correct the distortion, whereby private commercial transport and the rich do not benefit from subsidy meant for public transport and for freight of essential goods. .The India Economic Summit in Mumbai has highlighted industry's concerns in no uncertain terms. With nearly 10-12 million newcomers joining the job market every year, industry needs adequate and meaningful support. Infrastructure has not been backed by the political will and commitment required to achieve targets. The power sector, with coal shortages, does not hold out hope! Allocation of coal blocs is riddled with delays. Labour laws need to be reviewed.

Gajendra's voice could reach Vaikunta; but citizen voices don't seem to reach Delhi!

(The author is a spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Views are personal.)