Stale diet

The prime minister was evasive and hypocritical.

If it was expected that prime minister Manmohan Singh’s address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day would provide any clues to the government’s thinking and plan of action on any major problems facing the country, there was only disappointment. Prime ministers have used the occasion in the past to make important announcements about government policies and actions in the coming and later years. The country is facing a difficult situation, especially in the economic field, and the government has been criticised for taking no initiative to revive the economy. The prime minister’s speech only proved how correct the criticism is, because he offered no ideas or solutions, except in the vaguest terms.

In fact Manmohan Singh accepted the charges of policy paralysis when he said that a lack of political consensus is preventing the government from taking steps to spur economic growth. That is an admission of failure because the responsibility to build a consensus lies squarely with the government. If there was no consensus till now, does he expect it to emerge when the government is seen as weak and the country is moving towards elections? The equation of economic growth with national security does not help if the government is unable to act accordingly. On the issue of corruption which is agitating popular mind, there was no clear commitment, except the promise to continue efforts to bring in transparency and accountability and to reduce corruption. The prime minister wants opposition parties to help the government to pass the Lokpal bill, while it was the government which did not have its heart in the bill and scuttled it. None of the assertions and claims made by the prime minister on these important issues carried credibility, and his stance was even evasive and hypocritical.

No prime minister’s speech is complete without the announcement of a new government scheme or extension of another. So mention was made of the national rural health mission, free supply of medicines, skill development plans etc. They are fine and deserve applause if they are implemented. Except for them, there was no concrete proposal on any important issue, and the address might be thought of as an opportunity lost, a forgettable exercise in generalities and inanities. The prime minister said there was ‘a need to introspect what remains to be done so that we learn from our failures.’ He and the government have not shown signs of doing that.

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