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Congress should also have learnt that dynastic politics doesn’t go well with democracy: Kuldip Nayar on 40 years of Emergency

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India is unlikely to see the imposition of another Emergency due to changes made in the Constitution and people being more vigilant, veteran journalist and political commentator Kuldip Nayar has said, noting that the Congress should have learnt the lesson of not pursuing dynastic politics from the period that saw a curb on civil liberties under Indira Gandhi.

Nayar, 91, who spent three months in jail during the 1975-77 Emergency, said that system was still dependent on the goodwill of the ruling party and there should be proportional representation in the Lok Sabha so that the opposition has a stronger voice in the house.

“There should be proportional representation for at least 50 percent of the seats. Still we are dependent on the goodwill of the ruling party and the prime minister. The opposition will get a stronger voice if there is proportional representation,” Nayar told IANS in an interview on 40 years of Emergency.

Nayar, a veteran journalist who has written several books, including a gripping account of the time, “Emergency Retold,” said the country had learnt its lessons from the Emergency that lasted from June 25, 1975, to March 21, 1977, and saw over 100,000 people being put under detention, civil liberties being curbed and imposition of press censorship.

Asked if the Congress had transformed itself after the Emergency, Nayar, a former high commissioner to Britain, said the party was still stuck in the dynastic mould and this was working to the advantage of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Till the time they come out of dynastic politics, what can happen. Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi and her son (Rahul). Then people also talk of Priyanka (Gandhi Vadra). Dynastic politics is now a feudal thing. It does not go well with democracy. The Congress should also have learnt (from Emergency) that dynastic politics does not go well with democracy,” Nayar said.

Indira Gandhi, who imposed Emergency, was widely seen to have worked under the influence of her son Sanjay Gandhi. She was the daughter of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and her other son, Rajiv Gandhi, also served as the country’s prime minister.

Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, Sonia Gandhi, is the Congress president and her grandson Rahul Gandhi is Congress vice-president.

Asked about senior BJP leader L.K. Advani’s remarks in an interview that forces that can crush democracy were now stronger and a repeat of an Emergency-like situation cannot be ruled out, Nayar said Emergency has become almost impossible because to ratify the measure, a prime minister who tries to impose it will need a two-thirds majority in each house of parliament due to amendments made in the constitution.

“What he (Advani) is saying is that environment is such where power is getting concentrated in one person. Just like at that time it was getting concentrated in Mrs (Indira) Gandhi, now it is getting concentrated in (Narendra) Modi,” Nayar said.

At the same time, he said there were now stronger safeguards for civil liberties in the constitution and its basic structure can also not be changed.

“What he is saying is that an authoritarian system can prevail. An authoritarian system is still possible. Style of governance depends on the person (who is the prime minister). There should be inner-party democracy and I feel that party elections should also be supervised by the Election Commission so that there is independence,” Nayar contended.

Nayar said his advice to the younger generation was that independence, democracy and secularism should not be taken for granted.

“These eternal principles or basics have to be renewed and protected. If there is any tendency (to disturb them), you should get up (and raise your voice). Because if you do not and keep walking, you will suddenly see that a lot of ground has been lost. I saw it during Emergency also that there was initially a response of chalta hai (let it be). This really became a danger,” Nayar said.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at prashant.s@ians.in)

Next Story

Is NYAY Going To Be A Game Changer for Congress?

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers.

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Congress on Friday promised to create one crore jobs across the southern state
Congress state units given more power for 2019 battle- wikimedia commons

By Amit Kapoor & Manisha Kapoor 

The idea of launching Nyuntam Aay Yojana, a cash transfer scheme that intends to provide Rs 72,000 per year to the poorest 20 per cent Indian families, by the Congress Party if it comes to power, has stirred a debate among the policymakers about whether the move is economically viable or is just a tactic by the Congress Party to garner votes in the upcoming general elections.

The discussions are foreseeable, provided that this intervention to ensure basic income to the poor households will cost the country somewhere between 1.5 per cent to 3.4 per cent of GDP, a number higher than the government’s expenditure on healthcare and education. The implementation of NYAY means an additional cost between Rs 3.6 lakh crore to Rs 7.2 lakh crore per year.

To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. However, this will be a major dent in India’s budget expenditure and will explode the fiscal deficit from the current 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

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An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. Pixabay

Apart from fiscal prudence, the other immediate concern surrounding the scheme is the identification of beneficiaries and the database that will be used for this. There is no official income database available with the government at the individual level and since most of the poor work in unorganised rural areas, there is no direct way of verifying their incomes such as through a payroll or income tax.

The proponents of the approach state that a good starting point could be Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 if one goes by multi-dimensional aspect of poverty. However, one can’t ignore the fact that even if the scheme defines poverty by assets and not income for quick exclusion rules, the data is outdated. A scheme targeted at reducing poverty can’t use data that is seven-eight years old. Even if one ignores that, it should be noted that there are major methodological issues with how data was collected. This is reflected in the discrepancies that exist in the data collected through SECC and other governmental data. A fresh survey for the identification process will lead to possibilities of corruption as in other targeted schemes. For instance, various studies have shown that many people who are not below poverty line have BPL cards.

One should also keep in mind that there exist significant disparities across Indian states and districts in terms of income levels and affordability of basic needs such as education, healthcare etc. Therefore, the same amount that means a lot to a person living in a low-income state or a state that has good access to public facilities such as public hospitals, schools etc would not be enough for a person trying to make a living in a high-income region. As a result, a prerequisite for such a scheme is a detailed regional level survey on income characteristics of Indian states and districts.

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To put things in perspective, the expenditure of the proposed scheme is 2.2 times the budget of all centrally sponsored schemes. The party claims that they have worked out all the fiscal calculations before launching the scheme. Pixabay

Another major concern surrounding the scheme is its inflationary implications. It is argued that the act of transferring cash to the target population will boost their purchasing power, which would lead to an increase in demand for goods and services and, thus, push prices upwards. Advocates of the approach have tried to argue that studies around the world present a lot of evidence to the contrary.

An impact evaluation study by UNICEF in Sub-Saharan Africa showed that with the exception of temporary price rise during payment period, cash transfers has no impact on the prices. However, these evidences should be considered with a pinch of salt. They rest on the assumption that the money will be spent on useful goods, that will help the local economy in becoming more productive. Though this will not be the case always.

Also Read: Food Unites People Across The Globe

The concerns about funds being used for harmful purposes cannot be ruled out. It is due to these challenges many policymakers suggest that instead of making welfare payments to poor households in the form of unrestricted cash transfers the government should focus on in-kind transfers. This idea is supported by claim that in-kind transfers will help by encouraging the consumption of right things, such as healthy food.

Given India’s concerns about rising unemployment rates, jobless growth and the fact that we need to have effective utilization of our young population to gain a competitive edge over other economies, the promoters are trying to project that NYAY can prove to be a game changer. However, for the Indian economy, a better alternative would be to strengthen the existing public services landscape by removing social, political and personal barriers, along with carrying out structural reforms that leads to creation of more productive jobs. (IANS)