An interesting article about economic growth as a national objective

Prabhat Pattanaki wrote a very interesting article in today’s TT linking the Indian PM’s statement about putting economic growth of 10% as a national objective and recent spate of events in India that undermined democratic processes and punishment of dissent to the state policy. The article was quite a chiller of a reading, positing that it explicit use of growth as national objective means that the state loses control to corporates or business which in turn dictate terms, but also, any resistance to such an idea of vested national interest renders them “anti-national”.

Economic growth does not necessarily mean national prosperity for all. The statistics cited in the article suggest that the poverty rate worsened over a ten year period (1993-94 versus 2003-2004 even with revised definition of poverty, (see a blog on Tendulkar report here) as inability to provide for 2400 cals/day for rural folks and 2100 cals/day for urban folks) despite “economic development”. Economic growth does not necessarily mean poverty alleviation; in fact, the poverty and marginalisation of certain section of the population can worsen.

The article talks about Indian prime minister’s recent speech to a section of police officers that a growth of 10% be set as a national goal, and states that this has far reaching consequences and connotations in the direction of governance, specifically in how dissent and democratic processes be tackled.

The argument stems from the fact that growth does not necessarily mean less marginalization or elimination of poverty; further emphasis of “economic growth” as national objective in place of issues such as poverty elimination, emphasizes a very limited view of people; the article argues that placing national economic growth as achievable objectives legitimizes and virtually endorses low levels of state controls on industry and high levels of submission to industry interests which itself have their own issues around social responsibility to deal with. In the context of Central India, it means more mining, more marginalization of Adivasis and tribals, and endorsement of a specific ideological position against the Naxalites because in these areas Naxals are super-active. Thus, and any resistance that may be perceived as inimical to economic growth is deemed as anti to national interests and therefore legitimizes police actions.

Scary, isn’t it? Given the fact that economic growth does not necessarily lead to poverty reduction, if not outright increase in the number of poor and marginalized people; that, corporates have very poor records of social accountability and social responsiveness in India (think of Bhopal Tragedy and recently Kodaikanal Mercury Poisoning), and endorsement of police actions against resistance aims to stifle dissent.…


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