'What is most distressing is that the revival of the economy, creation of more employment, and reducing poverty are not on the government's agenda at all.'
'We are an economy on the verge of a demographic disaster.'
Ahead of next week's Union Budget 2022-2023, economist Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar, a former member of the Planning Commission, discusses the the state of the economy and the challenges ahead with Rediff.com Senior Contributors Sunil Gatade and Venkatesh Kesari.
Mungekar, a former vice chancellor of Mumbai University, was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha. The first of a two-part interview:
What are your expectations from the Budget?
I do not expect any innovation in the Budget nor any clear-cut effective strategy for reviving the economy because this government continues to lack any vision on the revival of the economy.
What is most distressing is that the revival of the economy, creation of more employment, and reducing poverty are not on the agenda of the government at all.
This government is only election-oriented and knows only the agenda of how to continuously polarise the society on communal lines.
As a result, the economy is their last priority.
This will adversely affect employment generation and damage the aspirations of the youth who were supposed to deliver demographic dividends.
We are an economy on the verge of a demographic disaster.
Being an agricultural economist, how do you look at the farmers' agitation that forced the government to withdraw the controversial farm laws? How do you see the way ahead on the matter?
The farmers' agitation for their legitimate demands is one of the momentous historical events in post-independent India.
That lakhs of farmers gathered together in a steadfast manner disregarding all hurdles and odds, the Modi government humiliating and intimidating them proved that a strong and determined movement could shake the government of the day.
It was unacceptable on the part of the government, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi that he showed a total lack of sensitivity in the sense that he miserably failed in appealing to farmers to come for any sort of discussions.
Since he is forced to repeal the farm laws, the assurances given by the government are not in the sight of fulfillment.
The government has assured withdrawal of all cases against agitating farmers, compensation to the families of 700 farmers who died in the agitation, and appointed a high-level committee to find out an amicable solution.
The government has not moved even an inch.
On the other hand, if (Meghalaya) Governor Satyapal Malik's observations about the PM regarding farmers' demand, the PM appears to be in a mood of retreat, and in view of his past performance, he may not act at all. This would amount to cheating the farming community.
The only way out is that the government must restart fulfilling the assurances and meeting their main demand of giving legal guarantees on offering MSP at least for some period till a viable alternative to protect farmers income is found
Talk in political circles is that the rising prices of essential commodities including the unprecedented rise in petrol and diesel prices resulted in the reverses for the BJP in recent bypolls in several parts of the country.
How do you see these issues impacting assembly polls in five states including Uttar Pradesh?
After Independence, no other prime minister has been so unduly overconfident and complacent as Narendra Modi.
That is why the results of the bypolls sometime back would have been a shock to him.
The way the economy and the polity of the country is being managed by the present ruling dispensation is responsible for the reverses and probably if they do not rectify at the earliest, these reverses are going to be more intense, more severe, and damaging to the ruling party particularly in the coming elections to the five states
In Uttar Pradesh, people say that there are two main contenders: The BJP and Akhilesh Yadav.
If we take into account the trends in the bypolls, the Congress will emerge as a third force.
I wish the Samajwadi Party and the Congress both show sportsmanship spirit.
If they show political acumen and maturity and make some compromises, it will be very difficult for the BJP to return to power despite the 12 lakh lamps in Ayodhya.
Has the 'It is the economy' moment arrived for Prime Minister Modi and the BJP?
'It is the economy' moment has certainly arrived for the prime minister.
Because unfortunately for the country, he does not seem to be at all preoccupied with any of the questions facing the people.
He is engrossed in his Mann ki Baat in which people for some time were somewhat mesmerised, but it has become irrelevant because he devotes Mann Ki Baat to some abstract and imaginary situations rather than facing the reality.
People have realised that Modi's capacity to deliver the goods is exhausted, which was minimal itself, to begin with.
- Part II: 'Unemployment is unprecedented'
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com