“No nation was rich in the past… You cannot become rich by hunting animals”
On 23rd January, 2017, former Finance minister P. Chidambaram arrived at Sri Venkateswara College as a chief guest for Blisspoint ’17, the annual fest of the Economics department.His gentle speech, laced with truisms and prophecies and lots of advice for the younger generation, seemed befitting for an audience comprising economics enthusiasts.He was in character. And it left an impact, though many were probably disappointed that the word ‘demonetisation’ didn’t actually make it into the speech. Even so, the issues circling the crux of the matter sure did.
The minister began with the origins of a liberal economy, since the theme of the fest was ‘Celebrating 25 Years of Economic Reforms’. And while tracing the uphill journey to liberalisation in India in 1991, he was mindful of the fact that it has not always been a bed of roses. The reforms did not make people rich. But, and this he emphasized, they gave the masses a basic freedom — economic freedom is like political freedom, like the right to vote or to voice opinions freely in a democracy.
Where the ball left the court was when some of the points were tactfully raised, but never talked about beyond a certain limit. Of course, the UPA government’s achievements were recounted. Today there are no investors, no ‘risk-takers’, as he lamented.But then, there was no lingering upon the dismal effects which capitalism and a free, competitive economy has upon small-scale businesses and handicrafts.
It was all in good faith when the minister said, “We don’t see that now,” regarding the swollen bellies and decaying teeth of children in rural India. Some development has surely graced the interiors of the country. But he made no mention of casteism. Amidst all the cheering for India’s phenomenal ‘growth’ (despite the 2008 global financial crisis, he reminds us), the issue of caste discrimination does not even find a mention. Ironically, the Sociology department had invited Dalit activist Bezwada Wilson just last year. And he had vehemently identified caste-based practices as the largest force driving poverty and backwardness in rural India still.
All things said and done, P.Chidambaram ended his speech with a bang, on a matter much discussed: “We cannot allow Trump-ism in India. Even America will suffer if it succeeds there.”Clearly, the minister had made a crisp statement and raised some issues to be pondered upon and debated in the upcoming budget.
Image Credits – Blisspoint, Sri Venkateswara College