The Government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at war with official agencies as far as economy of the country is concerned as both do not agree on numbers and the result is either Government challenges them or buries the reports. In case the agencies point out that that demagnetization led to large scale unemployment and closure of units, the Government claims that GDP growth was highest in that year.
If the economists say that Unemployment has touched record number, the Government spokesman claim that numbers point out otherwise like creation of jobs in large numbers. The dispute goes on like change of base year for calculating GDP numbers. The two Reserve Bank Governors left because they did not agree with move to demonetize high value currency notes.
The same story goes on for agriculture where the Government claims that farmers are getting the highest price for their produce while farmers claim that they are selling the same much below the procurement price fixed by the Government to private traders because machinery for procurement has not been put in place. The story is endless sugar cane farmers are not being paid. As such we are witnessing agitation by farmers who has been forced to knock at the doors of rulers or commit suicides in drought prone areas in different states.
The ruling party is avoiding any debate on economic issues like distress in agriculture in rural areas or lack of jobs in urban areas. The result is that many communities who were well off in past because they owned agricultural land are now agitating for reservation of jobs quota to overcome distress. Prime Minister and other leaders are speaking about temple in Ayodhya, statues of other heroes to be built at cost of hundreds of crores, Pulwama attack or on the ownership of title Chowkidar.
In such a situation there is no time for widespread d malnutrition in the country insurgency in parts of North East, Naxal affected area and Jammu and Kashmir. In case of Jammu and Kashmir E.C has decided to close its eyes as the state held Panchayat elections and will hold elections to Lok Sabha but can not hold elections for Sate Assembly. It is unfortunate that in a country which lacks basic health facilities and drinking water there is no debate on these issues relating to life.
Long ago the theme in general was that polls are fought on issues of roads, water, education and health. Instead we are now contesting on the issue of who is a nationalist, saving cows, temple and caste. We are also in a phase even if you can loose in polls you can make the number by inducing the members from opposition by offering them berths in Ministry or other inducements. The best example of it is Goa, a small State which elects two members only for Lok Sabha has one Chief Minister, two Deputy Chief Ministers and all members of ruling party hold some office .
It is unfortunate that in a country we have issues dozens of issues relating to life and health of people we are allowing leaders to debate on emotional issues diverting attention from economic issue. At a time when the world is facing depression Indian public is being fed with doubtful numbers. It is for the first time that the Government has been accused of either hiding numbers which show poor health of economy or disputing them.
At best it is a war between academics and civil servants which is creating a situation where the numbers put across on various subjects by official agencies of India will not be believed as was the case with many communist countries. To hide numbers or to dress them up only leads to fooling our self for which a heavy price has to be paid as was the case with countries like Russia.
India did adopt the model of Planning Commission like Communist countries, but its numbers put across by professional bodies were never in doubt. There is need to find out why Reserve Bank of India could not come out with numbers after demonetization of high value currency notes or the growth of NPA with nationalised banks in last four years. In a democracy there is need to be transparent and not to bury the figures or hide them.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)