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Updated: April 9, 2014 19:22 IST

Make govt. legally, morally responsible to the poor, urges Harsh Mander

Prakash Kamat
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A file picture of social worker and writer Harsh Mander at a meeting in Bangalore. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy.
The Hindu A file picture of social worker and writer Harsh Mander at a meeting in Bangalore. Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy.

Delivering a lecture on "Reclaiming The Idea of Government for The Poor" as part of The Good Governance Lecture Series at The International Centre Goa in Panaji on Tuesday evening, eminent social worker and writer Harsh Mander questioned Narendra Modi's claims of an "investment and development friendly government" in Gujarat.

"The country is in the midst of an important election, the choice of the new government will determine the future of human dignity and will be significant in shaping the future and the society as a whole." said Mr. Mander.

From the mid-80's governments facilitated development for economic growth benefitting only the rich and influential and not the poor.

This extraordinary transformation which still continues today has further pushed the poor to the margins of society, lamented ex-civil servant and former advisor to National Advisory Council.

He described how governments have been exploiting resources to favour industrialists, how rulers have become so indifferent to poverty and wondered whether we truly understand the meaning of the idea of a good government, and went on to ask whether this is "friendly investment or extraordinary crony-capitalism further deepening the dilemma of ideas of public welfare".

Speaking about Modi's Gujarat development model, Mr. Mander questioned the ease at which the Tata's got land in that State. It was only when an RTI application revealed that the investment made by the Tata's was three times the amount given by loan at a negligible 0.1% interest for 20 years. Besides, land and other resources were provided at an unprecedented level. "This means that half the cost of the Tata Nano is on public subsidy" he said.

Mr. Mander urged that people should make the government legally and morally responsible. He says that the greatest economic loss is the malnourished productive population due to the low education and healthcare standards. When the Food Bill was passed, the rupee fell dramatically, prompting some media commentators to say that the Food Bill famishes the rupee.

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