High Time for The Government To Act Like Leadersby Opinion Express August 27, 2018 0 comments
There are a number of issues surrounding the country, making it essential for the Government to promote traditional ways to secure data, boost savings, and save the environment.
India is faced with some serious issues. Recent incidents, like floods in Kerala that wreaked havoc, the opening of 35 of the 39 dams and flooding of almost all districts in the State, must compel us to ponder whether planners or organisations, like the NGT, have failed to perform their duties. Then there are ample statistics that tell us not the reality but how they were actually built up. Aadhaar too is witnessing a re-look from security and privacy aspect that are linked to data security. There are also other aspects that speak of falling household savings and bank deposits. It has almost become customary to blame the Government for any malaise. More often than not, we find that there are many regulators or parallel organisations that have not been serving well.
But Kerala floods stand differently and call for serious introspection. Questions on the functioning of various organisations, as also the State Governments, arise. It appears that organisations, like the NGT, are more concerned about trivial issues like automobile emission. The Green Tribunal could have stopped Mumbai and Kochi airports from being built on flood plains. Why did it not act on time? This also brings us to question whether the NGT acted on the Madhav Gadgil report, technically known as the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel, that had made a set of recommendations for preserving the ecology and biodiversity. The committee had classified 140,000 sq km of land as ecologically sensitive, and had divided it into three zones. How could the Kerala Government reject the report and instead, demand relief packages from the Centre for a calamity that was man-made?
The report was submitted in 2011, two years before the Kedarnath tragedy happened. In Uttarakhand too, human greed and overflowing water of the Tehri Dam devastated the ecologically fragile Himalayan State. It seems nobody learns from mistakes. Kerala’s ghats are fragile and the way some of its hills collapsed due to encroachment of buildings and habitation, testify that greed takes an upper hand over safety and conservation.
It is the people who are suffering and the nation needs to stand by the people of Kerala. The tragedy also raises issues about building dams in sensitive zones, which is an area of the Planning Commission, now NITI Aayog, which sent billions of rupees literally down the waters. A beleaguered nation on the course to growth must wonder why experts could not succeed, as it also happened in the case of Tehri Dam, where repeated warnings were ignored. The total expenditure for Tehri dam was one billion dollar. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage cost benefit analysis concluded that the construction cost of the dam was twice the projected benefits.
Today, the nation is struck with data jugglery of 2011. In this retrospect, it appears that the previous methodology was better and did not inflate gains as the new one has done for 2007-08. This brings few questions to fore: Was it changed for political concerns? Are revised data being dished out to put some political inheritors in dim light? Either way, playing with data is dangerous.
That as a nation we are playing too much with data is evident in the way new methodologies are being announced everyday to secure Aadhaar. An expert panel, headed by Justice BN Srikrishna, had proposed amendments to bolster the idea of data protection. Then came the idea of face recognition and several other changes and innovations. Meanwhile, there were reports that in Uttar Pradesh, hackers diverted foodgrains worth millions by compromising on Aadhaar. Some foreign agencies too are allegedly misusing Aadhaar provisions. All of these are suggestive of a relook at the entire UIDAI process and lay bare the fact that Aadhaar security is not an easy task. The issue has to be taken up on war-footing.
Falling household savings rate — reaching a critical low of 18.7 per cent in 2014-15, declining since 2011-12, when the ratio stood at 23 percent — is a grave sign. India has progressed even during the Hindu rate of growth on this count alone. Whenever the savings equilibrium changed, the economy faced problems. Today, it has hit bank deposits. The reasons are disincentives created by Manmohanomics through reduction of savings interest rates, taxing the savings and making it non-productive even for the geriatric population. The purpose was to boost speculative stock markets, which is today on a cosmetic rise and actually on a crashing course.
If India has to succeed, household savings must be encouraged. Taxes on savings have to go. The Government must rethink how it can earn revenue if the people themselves are pauperised. Besides, banks could also get back to health if people save money. Their savings alone can boost development and growth. Banks cannot look for continuous recapitalisation through taxpayers’ money. It is a devious method. Incentivising savings and freeing it from taxes would help the Government. Let us look at the method of 1960s, when massive National Savings Scheme mobilisations saved the Government through decades.
Let the country go back to its traditional basics to save the nation and not just stick to saving deposits. The traditional frugal living concept has aided the progress of this nation. Traditional knowledge used to take care of ecology, forest conservation, respecting the riverine plains and the nature.
Correcting neglect and decades of problems is not easy. Though all of it is not the creation of the Government, ultimately as nation’s driver, it has to take severe measures. National debate on ecology, not just to reduce auto emission but boosting savings and protecting data, is a must. The path has to be established despite all problems.
(The writer is a senior journalist)
Writer: Shivaji Sarkar
Courtesy: The Pioneer