Millennium Post

Wake up Mr Prime Minister

This is the 13th time in 13 years that I am presenting my alternative budget. There have been a few, rare occasions when finance ministers have unveiled proposals that have made me hopeful about the future of India. On most occasions, the budgets have been spectacular and persistent failures.

When he became prime minister in 2004, Manmohan Singh came with unparalleled experience in administration and economics. So what went wrong? Not only has Singh repeatedly failed to say no to some really crazy and harebrained schemes cooked by Jholawala members of the National Advisory Council, he has also been so mysteriously silent over the last almost nine years that none of us knows exactly how much he cares. Now, people have even begun to question his integrity and timidity.

So what options does Singh really have for India? I hate to say this: but not a single, major step to accelerate economic growth has been taken by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government since 2004. Our GDP growth rate has crashed. Latest estimates indicate that the GDP growth rates in fiscal 2012-2013 will be a dismal 5.4 per cent. I have always maintained that the Indian economy can grow in excess of 10 per cent a year on a sustained basis. Basically we are missing out on about five per cent of GDP growth that we could have achieved. India’s GDP is now at about $2 trillion. Five per cent of that works out to $100 billion. So in just two years, the Indian economy has lost potential GDP – or income – worth $200 billion. That kind of money would have financed most welfare schemes for an entire generation. 

However, my main proposal in this ‘last chance budget’ and my suggestion to Singh and Chidambaram is crystal clear – tackle corruption and make the judicial system of this country functional. The outrage is too huge and people are in no mood to forgive anymore. Just recall the horrific gang rape in Delhi that sparked such a huge nationwide outrage. It’s the lack of fear of punishment due to which such cases keep repeating themselves. And the key to making this country devoid of economic and physical rapes is a functional judiciary that will also solve the key problem of corruption in India.

Corruption and greed are globally prevalent, yet it touches far few lives in the United states of America than in India simply because the American judicial system is functional – they have 10 times more judges per million people than in India. If we have to achieve such standards, we need to have about 1,00,000 more judges.

This is surely achievable in a span of five years. To have 20,000 additional judges per year, we have to budget for an additional amount of approximately Rs 6,000 crores per year, assuming that the expenses around a judge and his office assistants will not be more than Rs 30,00,000 per year. I would thus propose that we keep aside a minimum of Rs 6,000 crore to immediately set up special fast track courts.

I would hire experienced lawyers and judges who have retired recently to wear their robes again. These courts should try corruption cases against senior government officials and politicians; and should complete the hearings and deliver their verdicts in one year. If convicted, the politicians and senior officials must be forever barred from public life and their assets seized – when this happens, a huge message will go out to all corrupt people.

And please do not say that India does not have the resources to spare Rs 6,000 crores a year – if former President Pratibha Patil can spend Rs 18 crore on just one foreign trip, surely there is enough money going around to implement this decision.

I won’t go into the nitty gritty of the other proposals that I have in mind for Singh and Chidambaram. All I will say is that these are very doable things.

I mean, if we can plan to send an Indian to the moon by 2020, surely we can do these simple and basic things. So my request to Singh is very simple: for nine years, you have carried on with the tag of being a non-performer and a non-leader.

You also know that there will be no more budgets with you as the prime minister after this 2013 exercise since the one presented in 2014 before the Lok Sabha elections would be a vote on account. I appeal not just to your sense of duty and patriotism but also to your sense of history and your ego. This really is the last chance for you to redeem yourself.

The author is a management guru and director of IIPM Think Tank

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