Politics of Terrorism,Economy: Why India needs a complete new approach

Written by: Pathikrit

Over the last one decade or so, three critical issues have captured the mindshare of the common man like nothing else. These three issues are that of terrorism, economic recession and corruption. The last one decade has not only exposed massive corruption cases but India also witnessed some major terror attacks. This apart, unprecedented and backbreaking price rises have also been a bête noire of the Indian populace.

Any political dispensation which comes to power after the 2014 general election would have to solve these issues like nothing else. While on the issue of corruption, political parties speak in near unanimity, at least so far as public posturing goes, on issues of economic policies as well as on the issue of having a radical and a ruthless approach to deal with terrorism, there seems to be considerable divergence in their approach and perspective.

The Indian economy is today standing at a critical juncture whereby it has somehow remained afloat in spite of the massive deterioration in economic stability of most of the European economies. However, plagued with relentless corruption of gargantuan proportion, government's inability to take decisive and bitter economic decisions as well as populist compulsions have completely eroded the sheen off the Indian Story that was the flavour of the world a decade back.

Therefore, whoever comes to power in 2014 would have to take several bitter and unpopular decisions to bring the Indian economy back on track. Several of the freebies and the subsidies would have to come to an end and a culture of making people pay the economic price of whatever they consume would have to be created. Populist measures of freebies would henceforth have disastrous consequences for the fundamental stability of the Indian economy.

Whoever comes to power in 2014 would have to take bitter and unpopular decisions

Incidentally BJP wants to abolish income tax and replace it with a standard tax of 2% on bank deposits to contain leakages and make a much larger number of Indians pay tax. Given the fact that a mere 2.77% of the Indians pay tax, it makes more sense to abolish the entire concept of income tax and the associated hassles, complications, litigations, exemptions and replace it with a more liberal regime whereby some other mechanism instead of income tax is found out to raise revenues for the government. The proportion of people having bank account is much higher than the number of people paying income tax and with RBI envisioning to have a bank account for every adult in India by 2016, a new approach makes more sense as it would increase the tax base by multiples even though the finer details are yet to emerge and implementation of the same might still be a challenge. The possibility of major increase in tax revenue however may nullify many of India's fiscal problems if properly implemented.

Nevertheless it would make more sense to have an income tax free regime devoid of any subsidies than to have several freebies and the government some way or the other charging taxes from the same people whom the freebies have been taken, to raise the cost of the freebies. The conventional approach till now in this country has always been to garner votes with promises of free water, electricity et al, if voted to power and then when things come to a naught, the same regimes are compelled to suddenly raise the prices of essential commodities disproportionately to a level where the public displeasure becomes so high that it gets massively reflected through their swing of vote in the next election. States like Gujarat have performed better because they have attempted to replace the subsidy regime with a regime of making people pay the economic price for what they consume. And the resultant impact has been impressive for the political dispensation in power. For any business entity, small or big, or even a farmer using motor pump, ensured and stable supply of electricity at a price is more important than free electricity with massive power cuts and voltage fluctuations which wreak havoc on machines as well as business fortune.

The UPA regime kept on doling out economic unviable policies through NREGA, loan waivers and several others and then the situation came to such a naught that it was forced to continuously increase price of petrol diesel and cooking gas at such short intervals and which led to such increase in overall prices resulting in so much increase in public anger that they have almost lost hope of returning to power next time. The concept of freebies is always accompanied by the nightmare of increasing fiscal deficit, high inflation, loss of investor confidence and subsequent devaluation of the currency resulting in more inflation dues to increase in the price of imports.

Therefore for any political dispensation coming to power post 2014 elections, the objective should be to increase the real income of people through efficiency in the distribution system, increased productivity and production, increased capital investments and changing archaic laws.

Even while India continues to be one of the worst hit countries in the world in terms of terrorist attacks and violence, as a nation India still does not have any coherent and comprehensive policy to deal with terrorism. It is still considered as a state subject since law & order is a state subject and each state continues to fight its own battle against terrorism. Worsening relation between the Centre and the states has not helped the things either. Worse, political parties continue to play politics with terrorism.

Vote bank politics and categorisation of terrorism have not helped things either. It does not matter whether an act of terror was orchestrated by Maoists, Northeast based insurgent groups, Islamic terror groups, cross border terror groups or home-grown radical elements. It does not matter whether the acts of terror were executed in urban India by Indian Mujahideen or in rural India by Maoists. The action against all should be same and devoid of any colour. Prosecution has to be fool proof and strong enough that perpetrators of terror acts do not get scot free.

Yet over the last several years it has not gone that way. Unfortunately everything in India gets coloured. Maoists in spite of the mayhem they spread are looked with sympathy because of the camouflage of ‘fighting for the downtrodden' that they have successfully weaved around them and even though Maoists have been the biggest violators of human rights and the biggest stumbling block to any kind of developmental activities in backward regions of India wherever they have a sway. Similarly, attempts have also been made by political parties to withdraw terror cases against accused keeping vote bank politics in mind. States have been slack in their post attack investigations as well. Such dangerous games only strengthen the resolve of terror organisations resulting in more terror attacks and death of more ordinary Indians.

Any political dispensation that comes to power post 2014 election would have to have a ruthless and a no-nonsense approach towards dealing with terrorism. The possibility of a massive resurgence in cross border terrorism into India from Pakistan remains a very a high possibility especially in the aftermath of US exit from Afghanistan thereby creating a similar situation as it was in 1989 when the Soviet exit from Afghanistan went hand in hand with the emergence of violent terrorism in Kashmir. India would have to prepare for the same.
Likewise the battle against Maoists who want to uproot democratically elected governments and establish a communist regime, is far from over. It has to be seen by the incumbent government that India's police forces remain motivated and the government support them to the hilt in the battle against Maoists. The days of running with the hare and hunting with the hound should be over. In this respect Union Home Ministry need a complete overhaul in its approach to dealing with terrorism and can no more remain a side player or a distant spectator. Terrorism should be defined as a national security issue and political battles should not be played around it.

India as a nation today stands at a crossroad. Its future would depend on the kinds of policies that are taken by the next regime over the next half a decade. A decisive approach based on long term vision may save India. Populist measures based on objectives of myopic gains may just do the opposite.

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