Atanu Dey On India's Development

Dr Manmohan Singh is Pitiable

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I am torn between contempt and pity for the small man that Dr Manmohan Singh is. Does the man have no shame? Do guts? No spine? Apparently there’s nothing in him that is of any value. He traded in his integrity — that is if he had any to start off with — to become the appointed prime minister. But he could have grown a backbone and redeemed himself. If not for himself, at least for the sake of the clan to which he belong, the proud fearless warrior clan of Sikhs.

I have repeatedly called him a despicably dishonest man” on this blog. But never mind my blog. How about recognized columnists in major newspapers? Columnist after columnist, commentator after commentator, bloggers after bloggers have used rivers of ink (or perhaps zillions of electrons zipping around on silicon chips) to write about his utter failure as a prime minister, nay, his utter failure as a human being. And yet the man remains unmoved.

Ashok Mitra laments for a cog in the machinery of the GREAT RENOUNCER and asks, “Does the prime minister matter?” in The Telegraph, Calcutta India.

Is it not egregiously irrelevant in such a situation to wax eloquent over the prime minister’s integrity? For consider the goings-on during the 2G spectrum episode. Were nothing known of the prime minister’s correspondence with his minister as well as of the Radia tapes, two alternative assumptions are still possible: either that the prime minister was aware of the irregularities that were being plotted but was unable to do anything about it, or that he was totally ignorant of what was happening.

In case the prime minister knew that large scale larceny was taking place within the portals of government, the natural question to ask is, why did he not put his foot down instead of accepting the developments philosophically — in other words, why did he agree to go along with corruption? Is he not, technically, an accessory after the fact? Cross over to the second hypothesis: while the prime minister was a man of first-class integrity, he was not aware of the shady things happening within his premises. If a prime minister does not know what is transpiring within the ambit of his authority, does it not reflect on his efficiency and, therefore, his suitability for occupying the position?

It was, after all, the personal decision of the individual who is prime minister to accept the position in full awareness of the overwhelmingly important conditionality attached, namely, that he must abide the preferences, prejudices and inclinations of the Great Renouncer. If the prime minister is feeling humiliated by the snide comments swirling at this moment around his person, he can only lay the blame at the door of the decision he took in 2004 to be a cog in the dynasty’s wheel. It is for him to ruminate whether tending his private garden would not have been a superior choice.

While there’s life, there’s hope. A man always has a chance. A man can resign and beg for forgiveness for the mistakes he made. But Dr Singh can’t. Only a man can, not a cog in some stupid wheel. So rather than contempt, I lean towards pity for him.

  • http://esotericrambling.blogspot.com Esoteric

    Ive never liked Dr Singh as India’s PM.He would be good as a FM or as a babu.He isnt known for his backbone.His record was tainted by the BCCI(the ISI Bank in the 80s that went bust).Infact,his approval to allow BCCI to operate in India could be the trigger for Rajiv/Sonia to ‘trust’ the man.

    His personal lack of accpeting bribes doesnt make him a paragon of virtue.He has shown by accepting political positions and also his fake Assamese domicile that he isnt above cutting corners and also his great ambition for power,without its powers.

    Its a funny ambition to have, to be the PM but not enjoy all the fruits of corruption and then also compromise his powers due to or via coalitions or party presidents.You are right,he deserves pity rather than contempt.

    I think in his view,he is maing the best use of the situation given the pressures on him through various vested interests.Despite his character flaws,he is still the best amongst his party’s lot.He is now a full year into a running battle with Sonia.He knows that his going after Kalmadi’s and Raja’s might threaten his being PM in the Govt at a later stage but might be his only lever to save his life.

    Its not without reason why FM keeps promoting Rahul and passing chits to PM to announce his desire to appear before the PAC during Congress sessions..The man is isolated within his own Govt and he knows to live on he will now need to finish his detractors from within.

    The fact that NAC recommendations were rejected have to seen in that light.Its also interesting,the moment BJP announced their intent to target Sonia/Bofors,Congress leaders are leaking their okay with JPC demand.

    PM is the only man right now,given Vajpayee’s failures who can get the dynasty to pay for its crimes.He is walking a tightrope..I admire his courage to take on the biggest of them all..and take take all the flak without losing shape in public.One shouldnt assume CBI raids and arrests are without consequences,that is PMs personal insurance policy.

    Whats worrying is Rahul and Congress hints at imposing emergency by suggesting Indira had it good during her tenure.If everything fails,eventually dont be surprised if 75′ happens all over again.The problem is that BJP is complicit with the dynasty as they badly want a two party system,and them to have a larger share of the vote.Vajpayee had showed how he can overlook Sonia’s omissions through 99-04.

    Thats why the PM today is a really lonely man..with only Dr Swami his true friend and he knows it.

  • Jagadish C

    Two PM’s will go down as extremes – Indira Gandhi for her draconian attempt at dictatorship and the legalization of the license raj corruption system, and Manmohan Singh for being the most ineffective PM whose presence or absence didn’t affect the country’s operations one single bit.

  • Jhed

    I think you miss — rather spectacularly — the grand design. MMS does not care for your praise, or that of the columnists you cite. He is establishing a legacy that will benefit India for the next few decades. In the 1990s he was the architect of liberalization. Now he is establishing India as a real economic superpower. Yes there are corrupt people — and let’s be clear that the opposition is not composed of saintly maiden aunts. Yes there are distractions. But, “shaanta, gadaadhaarii Bhiima, shaanta!”

    What is the big picture? If at the end of MMS’s reign India is as powerful an economic superpower as the USA was at its heyday, it will be well worth it (I would argue we are well on our way there). Guess what, you might even be able to get rid of tinpot dictators like the Thackreys just because people will not pay attention to them, they won’t have anything useful to say about the betterment of India, just polemics about banning random jhatkas and “Bombay” from Bollywood.

  • Jasdeep

    @Atanu dev… First i want to say tat u did a very good job on “corruption matters” it was nice reading it.. couple of cores is more like pocket money…
    regarding this topic.. from your “out bursts” it seems that u/other columnists want one thing.. recognization… u want a person at the level of PM of India to go through media news and take out time to reply to them… have you ever thought who the hell would run the country???
    even businessmen and small politicians dont give a damn about news in media.. because everything is twisted and turned… media says to us but “big babu’s” want to portray to us..

    corruption in India is not because of politicians… its because of Indian citizens.. a Indian doesn’t mind giving some amount of money to get his work done quicker.. he has no idea abt RTI..
    almost any n every one is allowed to become a MLA or MP in India..
    living outside India, I thank god other nationalities dont read Indian news.. do you have any idea of how embarrassing it would be if they ask “i just read about an MLA rapping a minor girl” “i just read about the wide spread killing of girl child” “i just saw the MP throw slippers at each other”
    these people have no shame what so ever… and guess what, IT IS INDIAN CITIZENS WHO ELECT THE BEST OF ANIMALS AMONG THEMSELVES TO BE SEATED IN PARLIAMENT…

    about 2G issue, I think I would agree with rahul ghandi… these are the issues that come when you are in collation…

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  • kautilya

    In bambayya language.. the alleged PM of India will be called – “yeda ban ke pedha”..

    MMS is a very corrupt man..

    someone in the comment section said, at the end of his tenure india will be as powerful an economy as the US…

    first of all ROTFL and second of all, please pass me the pot..

  • MJ

    Jhed, I think you miss – rather spectacularly – the basic laws of science, economics, politics and rational thought.

    Its because of dumb people like Jhed that MMS can remain respectable and supposedly, a man of integrity.

    1) Apparently, Jhed doesn’t know that MMS can ignore the people of India because he has never participated in an election. In fact, his being PM should ideally be illegal. He shouldn’t care for each and every columnist, but he should care about the people of India. 90% of all people polled online (ToI, etc) have indicated that MMS owes moral responsibility on the various scams.

    2) MMS has not reformed any institution in India in the last 7 years. *All* economists acknowledge he has not done enough. So, where’s the proof that he is doing well. Just wait for this year’s budget – the proof will be in the pudding.

    3) As far as his being the architect of reforms in the 90s. India has probably been the last democracy on the planet to liberalize its economy. Don’t you think that is weird. It is inevitable for a democracy and it should have been done irrespective of the calibre of the finance minister? MMS has clearly mentioned that PV Rao was instrumental in creating the political environment for reforms. Something, MMS will readily concede he is no good at.

    4) As far as becoming as good as the US in its heyday,
    a) firstly, your aim should be to be 4 times as good as the US because we have 4 times as many people.
    b) IMF projects that India will overtake the US in 2050 iff it grows at the current rate. Either way, India is not going to get anywhere close to the US during MMS reign (by the way, I detest the use of the word reign/raj in a democracy. Apparently, it does not bother you) or his lifetime. It is just mathematically impossible even if the US starts declining which it is.

    5) “I would argue we are well on our way there”

    We might be but there’s also a hell of a way to go. At current projections, which are favorable to India’s case, the jury will be out for the next 40 years. And, even then, on a per capita basis India will be 1/4th the US.

    By the way, the US is hoping India and China become developed economies quickly. Tt will help them get out of their funk by exporting more to us. US via its innovations (computers to start with) has done more for India’s growth than Indian leaders.

    6) We need more than MMS can do at this point. It is an optimist who hopes that people might realize what an idiot MMS is, and as a result force changes which improve India’s situation.

  • MJ

    Let me stress point 3) even more.

    Communist China realized the benefits of capitalism and economic liberalization much earlier than India. Don’t you think that is stupendously weird for democratic India? Let’s understand that a) it was inevitable, b) it should have been done much earlier, c) even an average economist would have known what to do. And, the good ones had been wondering forever why India didn’t do it earlier.

    The growth of India post liberalization says more about the gap that existed between India and the world, rather than anything about India’s supposed greatness.

  • http://www.flawsophy.net flawsophy

    the congress has played the best PR move possible …

    … have an intellectual, docile, mild, gentleman as commander in chief … someone warm enough for people to not get all worked about … and someone soft enough to not be able to enforce personal convictions get in way of party’s “business”

    and then this exterior branding subtly translates to freedom of doing ANYTHING behind closed doors …

    genius move. … I feel quite a lot is intentional !!! So, I solved my dilemma … no pity since the disagreement is not with the front-face but with what he is helping to shield …

  • Praveen

    Jhed

    The online medium is prone to abuse (online disinhibition effect or something like that)

    Anyway, I would like to stress that India is NO WAY near a superpower. Becoming a superpower requires becoming a developed nation first, which requires clean tap water, complete literacy, no hunger deaths, no periodic rioting etc. Are we going to get there in the next 30 years? Not with the way things are going.

    The UPA reversed several reforms in 2004 (fuel prices being one) – and now ends up in 2010 doing the same thing on pricing which NDA did. Meanwhile, we have lost 6 years. Of course, who is bothered when we have ‘emerged’ as a superpower.

    Please wake up and buy the coffee. Smelling can wait.

    Regards
    Praveen

  • Amit S

    @Jhed

    Superpower ke khwaab inhi to shobha dete hain jine T***on me damm ho!
    Usko kya to vish-heen vineet dant-heen aur saral ho!

    We cannot even take on a bloody Pakistan for the numerous terrorists acts, including the 26/11. Heck, the term “26/11″ is a copy cat of “9/11″, just like “Bollywood” is “inspired” from Hollywood.

    Let us first create the environment where people can solve their own or each other’s problems instead of depending on Mai-Baap Sarkaar government. Let us fist make sure that Rule of Law is established, that is, law is applicable no matter what your social/political/economic standing. Let us first make sure that people’s land is not taken away for “development” define by some corrupt politician or babu.

    Let us first take care of our own people before thinking about our power relation with rest of the world.

    Superpower! Baat karta hai!

  • Bandicoot

    I cannot stop coming up with enough reasons that he should continue serving as PM. Move over the 2G spectrum scam and commonwealth games fiasco that happened while he blissfully napped. Way back in 2006, his decree that “Muslims must have first claim on resources”, thereby violating the first right [and paving the way for 3rd right violations] of the constitution [rights, which ironically he is obliged to protect], cleared all doubts that he was after all a politician. Yet the mainstream media continues to heap praise on him, for his integrity and for liberating India from license-raj. What they forget is that it was not a stroke of genius that led to that but the noose of bankruptcy that finally led to those reformist policies. Its time that he resigns, for if we are to continue on a high-growth trajectory we need a strong leader, not a puppet.

  • Horsetrader

    Jasdeep says corruption in India is not because of the politicians, but the citizens willing to bribe to get their work done. You’re telling me you have never, ever had to bribe anyone in India to get something done?

    Tell me how many people are willing to go through what it takes to get their jobs done without bribing someone.

    Let me give you a very simple example. My office-mate and I had to apply for an international driving permit a few years ago as we were traveling to the UK on work. The cost of the IDP was 300 rupees. I went through a tout, paid about 1000 rupees in all, and got it done within the day.

    My buddy tried going through the proper channels. The “officer in charge” was on extended leave at the RTO. After about 10 days he could get through to the officer’s supervisor. He was asked for a huge bunch of documents including ration card, PAN card, bank statements, FD investment statements and a whole bunch of unnecessary paperwork that is simply not needed for an IDP. He got them in about three days and this senior officer was not to be found. Waited another few days and got to someone else in the RTO. That officer gave him the run-around.

    Many times he was clearly told to pay up and avoid the hassle. He refused. He still has not got his IDP after these years. He can’t go to another RTO because of his residence location. He is really stuck unless he is prepared to bribe someone.

    Now YOU tell me how the hell one can fight against this institutionalised corruption? How many people are willing to waste their lives fighting the system in the faint hope of getting some justice?

    Idiots like, say, each and every big minster elected to government, will keep blathering meaningless platitudes about “fighting corruption at all levels” and other useless garbage. Nothing ever gets translated into real action.

    I see these bribes as part of the payment for the service you get.

  • http://ketpan.wordpress.com/ Ketan

    Atanu,

    You’re being too charitable to Dr. Singh. Why is it not possible that ever since he entered the Indian bureaucracy, or perhaps, even prior to that, he never had any appreciable amount integrity in the first place? I remember, you had written how you had concluded that he must not have integrity from his role as Finance Minister during PV Narsimharao’s tenure.

  • Krish

    But Mr Dey, the noble laureate has defended MMS as a great man. Is it the case of “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” ?

  • larissa

    .But Mr Dey, the noble laureate has defended MMS as a great man. Is it the case of “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” ?

    Of course. Have you realized that the laureate never criticizes Congress, and when you really read his works, I suppose it is a way to obtain coveted positions, just like his books reflect the fashionable liberal/left ideas, which is also helpful to get positions at international universities which churn out this kind of thinking.

  • J Prabhu

    It is a false notion that Manmohan Singh was the father of India’s liberalisation during PVNR’s regime 1991 onwards. For those of you old enough to remember (I am 51 years old and was an active voter at the time) Manmohan was for a long time extremely reluctant to change status quo in any form whatsoever. Even PVNR cannot be said to be the father of the reforms, though he did his bit. The global economic landscape changed rapidly, India had no choice but to implement some sort of reforms or be sidelined and become another third-world country left behind in the dust forever.

    MMS just happened to be there at the time. I think he is best fit to be an academician or lecturer, he is completely unfit to be in any position of power. Any serious economist worth his salt would have been closely studying China, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan and the other neighbouring Asian economies to learn from their ongoing economic changes and mistakes.

    If MMS had really been such a visionary architect of our reforms, we would be ahead of China today. They are also beset by corruption and nepotism. How come they are able to plan and execute so effectively that they are a force to equal the US today, both military and economically? 20 years ago they were nothing great, not much more advanced than India, their economy was even more closed than India, their language skills were zero, their companies were state-run. Today, they are the manufacturing kings, their economy kicks our butts and the US does not mess with their military might.

    In the 1980s, China’s GDP was about the same as India, roughly $160 billion. Per capita GDP for India was nearly 25% higher than China. In 2009, China GDP was about $5 trillion, India was $1.3 trillion. How are they ahead by a factor of 4?

    The same story applies to FDI (foreign direct investment). No matter how much trade happens within the country, it is a fact of life today that we live in a global economy. We cannot be blind to global economic trends.

    Last year the FDI into China was about $300 billion, India had about $25 billion. Why?

    Don’t tell me Manmohan is a great leader. He may be a good economist but a powerless one, and certainly not a leader of a country.

  • Sid

    @Atanu,

    A man always has a chance. A man can resign and beg for forgiveness for the mistakes he made. But Dr Singh can’t.

    You are expecting too much from him. In his entire career he has done nothing but bending over backwards so that powerful can have their way. Look at his entire career.

  • larissa

    Even liberal tilting BBC is seeing through India’s so called “democracy” charade! So this is what Indians fought for independence, to be a fiefdom as the BBC calls it! Me thinks our old kings perhaps had more dignity than these people, in that they had to fight to protect their kingdom or lose it…I hope for India that the 60 years of ruining the lives of hundreds of millions in the name of fake liberalism and democracy will one day have to be accounted for…

    Is India sliding into a hereditary monarchy?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2011/01/is_india_sliding_into_a.html

  • Pushkar

    Well,I would go on to say at this point, if someone goes and spits at his face , he would think , if Madam would be happy if clean it, or i can use this to get more sympathy from media. And let people Jhea believe that he is a humble human being. When people see grand design in plans he would obviously feel elated. If there is a grand plan its to screw India , that’s the plan.

  • Manu

    Mr. Dey, this pitiable Singh and his govt. has been re-elected again and again by the people of this country.

    Remember what Churchill called Gandhi – a half naked fakir. And who are Mr Dey Dey??

    If you chose to spit towards the sky, the spittle falls right back on your face!

  • larissa

    When the leftist BBC has such headlines as the below, one realizes there is something deeply wrong in India, and that its democracy gives “democracy” a bad name….
    Is India sliding into a hereditary monarchy?
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/soutikbiswas/2011/01/is_india_sliding_into_a.html

  • seadog4227

    You are too kind to MMS.
    His record does not show ability of any kind.
    The “reform” of the 90s is credited to Narasimha Rao, who told MMS to change his initial outmoded “socialist” budget. The rest is history.
    This has got to be the worst government ever in our history: all round failure, intrigues, corruption with new stories erupting everyday.
    No action will be taken in any case beginning from Satyam/ Maytas to 2G and black money.
    For me , the most appalling and tragic case of complete collusion, moral degeneration and all-round failure is the Bhopal Gas Tragedy update.
    Vote this party out for 25 years: India will change on its’ own.

  • Amit Sharma

    # Manmohan Singh’s First Law of Motion : Everybody stays in a state of rest unless acted upon by Soniaji.

    # Manmohan Singh’s Third Law of Motion : Every action has an equal and opposite inaction.

    # One day there will be a movie made about Manmohan Singh. And the director will go, “Lights. Camera. Inaction”.

  • http://themmindset.wordpress.com/ The Mindset

    Someone called MMS “SHIKHANDI” I completely agree, he is!
    He has no spine to take a simple decision on his own, without asking the permission of “Italian Mummy”.
    As far as bringing economic libersalisation is concerned it was implemented because no other option was left. India had only 3 weeks worth of gold reserves. it was at this critical moment that those policies were implemented.

    Actually if look pratically it was BJP which implemented these policies. Congress has no guts to implement economic liberal policy, if anyone remember it was during 2001-2002 that a economic boom was witnessed, mobile phones became cheaper along with other commodities. All these changes facilitated business and communication. So we should thank the BJP govt to implement these policies rather than this eunuch.

    It is shame that a person who was rejected by South Delhi people is working as a PM.
    The Congress govt. is the worst govt. in the world and MMS the worst PM.

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