Bengaluru: Prof. James Manor of Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, is set to gain a unique distinction. A frequent visitor to Bengaluru and Karnataka, he will soon complete 45 years studying Karnataka. In the city to attend an international symposium, Prof. Manor spoke to DC on the present Congress government, the previous UPA government at the Centre and the IT industry. Here are excerpts from his interview.
Karnataka is one state which constantly attracts attention with people from other states and other parts of the world settling in Bengaluru city. The IT revolution in the Nineties helped the state grow after liberalisation. Where do you find Karnataka standing politically and economically?
The IT revolution has brought investments, this industry seems to be driving the growth engine of the state.
The government is sensibly using the money generated here in rural areas. This will continue, I think. Karnataka had made tremendous progress in deepening democracy, opening democratic institutions to OBCs and Dalits. This happened here more peacefully than in many other states. What will happen in future?
It all depends on whether the state continues to have three parties or moves to a two-party system.
With corruption cases linked to those at the helm, do you think the state has a bleak future in attracting investments and giving good governance?
Compared to the 2004-2013 period, the government now seems good. Earlier the mining mafia was making money. That has stopped. Another issue I noticed was the profiteering from urban land use. The current government is taking action to tackle this. Even though there are some corrupt people in this government too, they are tackling issues pretty well compared to other states, where half of the country’s population lives and where one man or one woman dominates. The CMs there are making money through corrupt practices. A CM in one of the states has taken US $ one million more than 100 times. That is not the case in Karnataka.
Many industries are moving out of the state ever since Telangana and Andhra Pradesh were formed. The present government gives an impression that its priority is not industry. In such a situation where will the state go?
This is a problem here since it is believed perhaps mistakenly that S.M. Krishna lost the election in 2004 because of the propaganda that he was too favourable to urban Karnataka ignoring rural Karnataka. One false information was that BATF was diverting funds meant for rural Karnataka to urban areas while the fact was it did not do anything like that. We do understand that politicians are very sensitive pleasing rural voters because they are the ones who decide the elections. The present government wants to project this image (of being pro-rural only). If it does not seek investment, it is unwise. They might be trying but not as forcefully as they should. And Bengaluru’s service industry is so strong compared to Andhra Pradesh that it need not worry about industries moving there.
After the new government came to power at the Centre, the political leadership said they would implement federalism. But we have single-leader rule in the states and corrupt establishments. Do you think this model will work?
I am not the one who can recommend what Indians should do. Considering the way Indians think or act, I can say this. The 14th finance commission made this recommendation which made it look like the Centre would give a lot more money to the states. The GOI accepted the report. Though there was tremendous presure from officials not to implement it, the PM was committed to the new idea. Actually, states are not getting 10 or 12 per cent more money as was projected, but will get perhaps two to three per cent more. The states will get more discretionary powers. In some states, enlightened leaders may spend as per their vision, but others may flounder. If it turns out to be a national problem, the next finance commission may reverse it.
You have studied ‘dole-out politics.’ In Karnataka there is a debate on whether to give Re 1 per kg rice or not. How do you view it?
I think malnutrition and inequality are serious problems and to that extent such actions are justified. Karnataka does not suffer from serious malnutrition. But this programme is not a bad idea. The other such programme, is MNREGA which I studied extensively. I would say, it benefits people. It reduced inequality. We have evidence to prove it. So, I am in favour of such programmes.
But the National sample survey data paints a gloomy picture of rural India. These schemes have failed to improve people’s status.
From 2009-11, there was an international financial crisis. The problem was not that of GOI. I studied MNREGA in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh besides collecting data from 20 states. Whatever they say against MNREGA is not true. It is highly constructive. The previous government got a bad press probably....