CHANDIGARH, APR 12,
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said while economic growth remains a high priority for the country, there is a growing concern that the commitment to ensuring that disparities and inequality do not grow is weakening. “This can be a serious potential threat to our democracy,” he said.
Mr. Singh said, “Development planning, and the Planning Commission, were designed to ensure that while the economy grew, inequality did not. With the abolition of the Planning Commission, fresh efforts have to be made to keep inequalities under control.”
Pointing out that as much as equality, freedom is a prerequisite for democracy, Mr. Singh said a dangerous and false binary is now surfacing in Indian political discourse, which must be firmly rejected.
“We have to choose between freedom and development. It is not a new binary. The argument was put to Mahatma Gandhi, that good governance and development are better than Swaraj. The argument was also widely advanced by colonial and pro-colonial forces that India was not ready for freedom, and that continued British Raj would be better for us for our development. The choice of the people of India then was, and still is, clear and unambiguous. We will be free and independent. For us, freedom is neither merely an instrument for development nor to be subordinated to development. It is our birth right on which we shall never compromise. Growth, wealth and development are fruits of democracy, not substitutes,” he said.
Stressing that democracy is inseparable from fraternity, Mr. Singh said, “I need not dwell long on the current concern that attempts are being made to divide the Indian people on the basis of religion and caste, language and culture. Atrocities against minorities and Dalits are increasing.”
Mr. Singh said that our electoral system has succeeded against great odds. “There is, however, today widespread concern that our electoral system is being undermined by money power and muscle power. The faith of people in democratic elections as the best system to select a government that would govern in the common interest is today being eroded — as much by a sustained campaign to attack democratic institutions and elected representatives as by the increasing political corruption and the capture of political parties and elected office by vested interests,” he said.
CHANDIGARH, APR 12,