May 24, 2006EconomyPublic PolicySecurity

Dr Manmohan Singh must go

The UPA government has lost its moral right to govern

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

He just made a scapegoat out of the armed forces…

The Indian prime minister went to address security forces fighting terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir and made a lecture on human rights the centrepiece of his address to them. It’s so easy isn’t it — to punch those folks who won’t punch you back. It may play well to a certain political theatre for the Indian prime minister to make the same sounds as the apologists of terrorism, but it makes little sense. There is no condoning any abuse of authority on the part of the security forces; but the appropriate, effective, and ultimately the only honourable way to address these is through internal channels of government, and down the chain of command. India’s war against terrorism is far from over and spectacularly damaging troop morale is a foolish way to prosecute it.

The Indian prime minister is neither an activist nor a plaintiff (and certainly not Gen Musharraf’s spokesman) — he and his cabinet are ultimately responsible for the armed forces. Indeed, if he feels that their conduct requires public excoriation, he should accept his responsibility in allowing such a sorry situation to come to pass. Unless he awoke to the need to respect human rights only this morning, his government has been unable to check their errant behaviour in the two years that it has been in power. Since human-rights abuses are no trifling matter, Dr Manmohan Singh should do the right thing and resign.

…and has already failed the youth

Doctors facing the water cannon - via Email from Anand S

It would have been reasonable to assume that a policy as important as reservations in education would have been introduced in a careful, well-considered and responsible manner. Instead his government dropped a bombshell on an unsuspecting nation, compelling the youth to to take to the streets, some missing classes and others losing jobs. And despite all the ruckus, despite all the shameful use of force against some of India’s brightest young people, despite the prospect of situation taking a turn for the worse, the UPA government and its allies resolutely announced that the new reservations policy will come into effect as early as the next academic year. The little concession it made — that the number of seats in the general merit category will be increased — makes little practical sense. It requires the Indian government to double its expenditure on higher education, and increase intake in educational institutions by half.

The impracticality of the whole thing struck the government as another afterthought, and it has since announced that the increase may now happen in phases. But even if the Indian government manages it, the business of increasing the number of seats is absurd, because while demand will increase, the number of seats will be fixed, albeit at a higher number. Even as the unfairness and the potential damage in this policy are palpable, his HRD minister could not even half articulate that the reservations policy is based on sound analysis and likely to achieve the lofty goals of social justice that it is ostensibly designed for.

The subtle Tiananmen, and wither economic reform?

The UPA government’s conduct cannot be described as insensitivity or apathy. It has long crossed over into the territory of callous disregard for the aspirations of a new generation of Indians. The Chinese Communist Party only did it tactlessly — the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square resulted in China’s leaders appearing as an autocratic and murderous lot. India’s Congress party has and is doing it much more tactfully. At least the Chinese are making amends through reform of their economy. The debate over economic reform that was at the centre of national discourse when the UPA government took over is now quite dead.

Dr Manmohan Singh and his government must step down now. For its incompetence and ineptitude. But mostly because its continuation in power risks doing lasting damage to India’s society, economy and interests.

Update: Business Standard’s editorial on hopes belied, via Ajay Shah’s blog.

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