India – Price to pay for democracy

We take pride in the fact that India is world’s largest democracy. At the same time we need to be aware of the price India has to pay for the democracy. Comparisons between India and China have to be seen in this context. Recent events at Singur is one such example where development had to take a backseat to allow democratic right of freedom of protest to politicians with selfish motives. A similar situation in China is unimaginable. Interestingly, Ratan Tata is the Chairman of the Investment Commission formed by the Government of India to promote and facilitate investments in India. What a shame that he himself is struggling in his own company’s investments.

Singur is not the only example where development had to be sacrificed. The main justification given for Indo-US Nuclear Deal is that India is short of Uranium and this deal would allow Indian to import Uranium from countries like Australia, South Africa or Canada. Not many know that India’s plans of setting up Uranium Mining projects in Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya have not taken off due to stiff opposition from NGOs, local politicians and even the Nexalities (in AP). If we have to make concessions to the US under the Nuclear Deal the blame has to be shared by those who did not allow the Uranium Mining Projects to take off in time. Again, being a democracy our first priority is to allow the NGOs and politicians to protest. Development is always a second priority. Even the Nuclear Deal was opposed tooth and nail by the Left and the Government somehow managed to survive.

Another example is the Lanjjgarh Alumina Refinery of Vedanta in Orissa. Construction of the refinery was completed nearly two years back at a cost of USD 800 million but the plant was not allowed to mine bauxite to run the refinery owing to pressures from NGOs and local politicians. It appears that the NGOs of the whole world had got together to oppose the project. It took more than 2 years for the Supreme Court of India to finally award a judgement in favour of the project. Can we imagine a similar situation in China?

What is happening in Mumbai is a national shame. Petty politicians are allowed to take the city to ransom for the most ridiculous reasons. Raj Thakery wants signboards in Marathi. Ramdas Athawale wants to take revenge for not getting a chance to participate in a TV show. Every such protest directly impacts the business. Shops are forced to close. Taxi drivers are beaten up. Traffic is disrupted.

The list of such examples is virtually endless. At the same time it is difficult to estimate the indirect impact such cases would have had on potential investments.

In fact, India needs to be congratulated to achieve the present growth rate in spite giving step motherly treatment to development in order to keep its democracy going.

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