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Mainstream, VOL LV No 16 New Delhi April 8, 2017

Emasculating a Genuinely Popular Governing System

Sunday 9 April 2017, by D. Bandyopadhyay


Essays of Inclusive Growth and Some Reminiscences by C.H. Hanumantha Rao; published by Academic Foundation; 2014; price: Rs 995.00.

The prime quality of reviewing a book is objectivity. The reviewer should be able to scan the book with complete neutrality. But being an ordinary person, I can’t claim that I am above normal emotions. I write this because Prof C. H. Hanumantha Rao is not only known to me but I consider him as my friend. So I may not have that objectivity on making some comments on his book entitled Essays on Inclusive Growth and Some Reminiscences.

Since the clarion call of “Garibi Hatao” given by Smt Indira Gandhi, “growth with equality” becme the catchword in development economics. But a slogan hardly reflects the reality. The author rightly says: “The last two decades of globalisation have witnessed rising growth rates in gross domestic products (GDP) along with growing income inequality in several developing economies including India.”

Since the Green Revolution in the 1960s there has been no comparable breakthrough in agri-cultural technology. Governments of the day did not consider it important to promote agricultural research to lead to any possible upsurge of production. Perhaps, due to the general swing to the Right no one talks about land reforms today. The result is that agriculture has been languishing for quite some time. One silver-lining has been the 73rd and 74th Amendments of the Constitution creating elected panchayats and municipalities to bring gover-nance nearer to the people. Perhaps, the entrenched interests conspired not to part with the power that they have been enjoying for so long. This resulted in the emasculation of a genuinely popular governing system.

This infirmity is not uniquely Indian. Those who refer to China as a ‘model of development’ “often forget that it also suffered from the same disease. China achieved an unprecedented rate of growth during its period of reforms but it equally suffered from an unprecedented rise in income inequality not quite anticipated by the leaders.” (p. 55) They realised this threat to the society as a threat to their political leadership. In the first decade of the 21st century they again re-emphasised the primacy of social justice to construct a harmonious society. In India with all its difficulties we have a very lively demo-cratic set-up which allows “public protest and periodic change of government”. (p. 53) lndia’s democratic framework constitutes the greatest asset as an instrument of achieving inclusive and sustainable development.

What I liked most most are Chapters 29 onwards contaning ”Some Reminiscences”. These are more in the nature of autobiographical thumbnail sketches of persons some of whom are fairly known to me. Though very brief, these represent the essence of their personalities quite vividly.

This book, though basically on economics, is highly readable. It should find a place in the book collection not only of professionals but also of general readers.

Architect of ‘Operation Barga’ during the Left Front Government in West Bengal, the reviewer was the Secretary (Rural Development) and Secretary (Revenue) in the Union Government. Now retired, he is currently a Member of the Rajya Sabha representing the Trinamul Congress.

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