Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s criticism in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday of those who “abuse the private sector” sounded more like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn’t there than raising a point for the nation to discuss. His advice of caution against “returning the nation to the babus” was equally intriguing.
This country has long scrapped the licence-permit-babu raj and ushered in an era where the private sector has been viewed as creators of employment and wealth. No government in the last three decades has chosen to ignore them; they did everything possible to promote them instead in the form of policy frameworks and easing of regulatory mechanisms. Even state governments run by political thoughts of all hues vied with one another offering freebies and sops to “unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the youth”. Modi took special care to ensure that India made a quantum jump in its position on the Index of Ease of Doing Business within a couple of years of his assuming power even when the country’s positions in terms of indices on hunger or freedom of thought suffered.
The public sector units were hardly a choice of any government during the liberalisation period. Even brilliant performers were put on the auction block while several others were bled dry by the governments; many have been put on their deathbed by governmental interventions that stopped them from competing with the private sector. Modi’s fears of the nation going back to the babus, thus, sound rather misplaced.
The Prime Minister has spoken in the backdrop of the farming community agitating against new laws which, it fears, would make them captive players of the private corporates with deep pockets. The government should rather address their fears than demonising those who raise them.