“A democratic state is not supposed to become a prisoner of any private rationality”
The Union government’s recent policy decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail and hike in diesel prices represent an “enormous departure towards an authoritarian State,” economist Prabhat Patnaik said here on Saturday.
Delivering a lecture at the Asian College of Journalism, Prof. Patnaik said: “A democratic state is not supposed to become a prisoner of any private rationality that happens to be operating in the realm of economy. What is happening now marks a fundamental shift in this position as far as the Indian society is concerned.”
What was being said was that “the state can act only by ensuring that the foreign financiers are happy. The state acts to promote their private rationality,” he said.
He stressed the need for the announcement of a scheme for ensuring that no retail trader was harmed by FDI in multi-rand retail. “If [the government] actually thinks no retail trader is going to be harmed, it should be all the more emboldened to announce such a scheme.”
“This had been a remarkable aspect of policy making in India, when policies that distinctly had an adverse effect on a large number of very poor people were nonetheless announced as being part of the social good, even though they are, in terms of any social rationality, irrational,” he said.
Prof. Patnaik said the argument that lack of fiscal resources led to the recent decisions was not acceptable, as the last two or three budgets had facilitated tax concessions for corporate entities, amounting to an annual loss of Rs. 5 lakh crore.
Anyone who was under the notion that in the current situation of globalisation, there was nothing one could do, should not be at the helm of affairs. “If the global scenario imposes an anti-democratic stance, we have to delink from the scenario,” he said.
Neoliberal technocrats had latched on to liberal bourgeois parties not only in India but elsewhere. “But, fundamentally the essence of these policies would remain anti-democratic,” Prof. Patnaik said, adding that “if this is not the time to intervene, it will become too late.”