A Rollercoaster Year
The bygone year 2010 witnessed best of times, as also the worst of times. If the economy revived with steady growth, inflation remained a concern and reforms were sluggish. And adding salt to the wound was the fact that governance hit a new low, as the catchphrase of the year was corruption and scams—Commonwealth Games scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, 2G spectrum scam, Radiagate—to name a few. These scams dampened the overall morale of aam aadmi. However, the 2G spectrum scam merits a special mention. This Rs 1.76-lakh crore worth of scam is equivalent to our trade deficit for one year or twice the size of FII inflows. Another feather in the cap of Indian scandal list is Commonwealth Games loot. Yes, literally a loot! Even before the long-awaited sporting bonanza could see the day of light, the grand event was soaked in the allegations of corruption! Furthermore, the Indian media brought to public the violations of rules at various phases of construction in the Adarsh Housing Society. Questions were raised on the manner in which apartments in the building were allocated to bureaucrats, politicians and army personnel, who had nothing to do with Kargil War. Likewise, corporate lobbyist Nira Radia had been dexterously exploring a corrupt system and compliant ministers. In fact, her writ ran so large that she manipulated Cabinet portfolios in the UPA government. The expose of her ‘multi-versatile’ interventions has caused the government to pull a long face, as it has ravaged UPA-II’s reputation.
Despite these sleazy affairs, the year 2010 witnessed an unprecedented series of events—the visits of heads of five permanent member of UN Security Council. This corroborated the fact that the world hails India not as an emerging power but as one that has “emerged”. For, during these visits, India received unequivocal endorsements of its UNSC aspirations from the leaders of four (UK, US, France and Russia) as well as a tacit support from the leader of China—all are five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In this backdrop, it is worth mentioning the broad contours of these visits. First in July, the British Prime Minister David Cameron went all out to prove his determination to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries. It is no secret that the recession-hit United Kingdom is eyeing India primarily through an economic prism. During his visit, Mr Cameron made a strong pitch for improving bilateral trade and investment. The Indian interest in attracting foreign investment in infrastructure development was reflected in the joint statement, with both countries agreeing to explore how best to go about this. US President Barack Obama pressed all the right buttons and made India feel important to the United States during his visit in November. But let us be very clear that Mr Obama came to India to secure America’s interests. Thereafter, during French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s visit, India and France got along well. Both the countries signed six agreements and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on a range of subjects. However, during the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit in December, the Chinese side failed to ‘unstaple’ the issue of distinctive visas it grants to Indian citizens from Jammu and Kashmir who wish to travel to China. India has been complaining about this Chinese policy, which it regards as an affront to Indian sovereignty and territorial integrity for more than a year, but to no avail. Finally, during his visit, the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed nearly a dozen agreements in such areas as energy, technology, chemical, defence and nuclear matters. Russian-Indian agreement on the joint production of a so-called fifth generation warplane shows that India now expects not just to buy weapons from Russia but also share in the technology of their production. Estimated at around $30 billion dollars, Russia and India plan to develop together aircraft at least as advanced as the US-made F-22 Raptor, PTI news agency reported. On the nuclear front, Russia agreed to provide another two 1,000-megawatt reactors to India.
So India is no longer a rising power but has already risen. But still a large number of marginalised and disadvantaged people have not gained from development. The yawning gap between “haves” and “ haves-not”, according to a report, is evident in the fact that while the combined net worth of 100 richest Indians is equivalent to the GDP of countries like Denmark, Greece or Finland, our country is also home to over 300 million people (almost the size of the US) living in abject poverty. The question arise how soon can we plug the gap between “risen India” and “poverty-stricken Bharat”? But still there is a ray of hope at the end of tunnel—and Bihar Chief Minister is in the vanguard. After assuming the office of CM second consecutive time, Nitish Kumar, in his crusade against corruption, issued an exceptional letter asking all IAS officers in the state to declare their assets, discontinuing of the legislators’ development funds and a December 31 deadline for his ministers to declare their assets. Nitish deserves kudos for his unassuming bold step replete with resolve and determination. If all CMs emulate him with same fervour, the ever-widening gap between “haves” and “haves-not” will be bridged sooner than later.