Social engineering is passé as it has fallen flat on the face of those who engineered it successfully for long, be it Laloo Yadav in Bihar or Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh. It is ‘Out’ and what has come ‘In’ promises to transform the Indian politics in general and governance in particular. Sadly, this new opium of masses is even more dangerous as this emerging genre of vote bank politics takes even higher a moral ground in the name of ‘Votes for Development’.
However, beyond this idealistic façade lies another sort of engineering—‘Developmental Engineering’ which as of now has earned enough curiosity among the media and intellectuals. Its proponents nevertheless fall way short of not just ideals but also ideas for any tangible transformation, be it Narendra Modi or Arvind Kejriwal.
Intellectuals argue whether any other term has been so over-used and abused in the collective consciousness at the political level than ‘Development’ which, of course, means different things to different people. For some it is the GDP growth that is indicator of development, others find holistic development including liveability index and other social indicator as a benchmark.
Populism has also been a development indicator in this part of the world for quite some time, but social engineering is increasingly waning and the void that it creates promises to put development card on the forefront.
While it is convenient to assume that the young and aspiration driven India is no more ready to be carried by rhetoric alone, a close scrutiny of India’s socio-political consciousness reflects development as an agenda is yet to make inroads into politics and translate into votes. India’s ballot box traction point runs much deeper than macro level media rhetorics.
In the name of development, what is actually happening is that a sort of developmental engineering is replacing the tried and tested social engineering that is waning its charm, thanks to its over-use and abuse by the so-called messiah of social justice.
There are two kinds of lies that are applied by respective governments to over-project its development card—plain lies and statistical engineering. The opposition party uses the same methodology to carry home the point lack of development. In plain lies all propaganda machinery is put to use to create an aura of ‘feel good’ or ‘fear psychosis’ which does not have a factual bearing on the ground.
Secondly, it is the statistical engineering which is applied and by selective use of statistics it is made to believe that the state’s growth on development index is reflective of its progress. If Narendra Modi symbolises developmental engineering, Arvind Kejriwal is orchestrating plain lies.
However, GDP growth or economic prosperity on a macro level does not often give the correct picture. Unless the state’s growth has been inclusive and growth is at par or parallel on various social indicators also, such growth is neither sustainable nor tangible enough to be called ‘Greater Good for Greater Number of People’.
Take for instance the over-hyped and over-projected development model of Gujarat. Indeed the economic growth of Gujarat has been better than the national average. However, equally true is the fact that other states like Delhi, Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu have done better than Gujarat in recent times. Gujarat is neither the best performer in the top ten best performing states, nor is its growth evaluation on various key indicators any impressive.
Poverty, a key indicator of development is not reducing significantly in Gujarat and its less than impressive performance shows it is at number 18th position. As per Planning Commission figure all India BPL (Below Poverty Line) percentage has gone down from 37.20 to 29.8 between 2004-05 and 2009-10 whereas Gujarat’s percentage has gone down by only 8.6 points during the same period.
Add to it, the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s lofty economic remark that nutrition has gone down because women are health conscious in the state and eat less. That, of course, is indicative of state’s seriousness with this key development metrics.
Even from a purely economic development standpoint, Gujarat is number nine among the top ten states with percentage of population having concrete roof over head. Even states like Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Punjab are ahead of Gujarat; with tiny places like Puducherry and Lakshadweep having better track record than Gujarat.
In terms of sex ratio, another indicator of a developed state, Gujarat stands at a patriarchal low rank of 20th position, with only 918 females per 1000 males. Though Gujarat often boasts of better literacy rate than the national average, its standing is at 15th position in the country. In terms of infant mortality rate, again Gujarat’s statistical projection may boast of better than national average but it stands at 18th position. Maternal mortality rate also shows states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are doing better than Gujarat.
This raises a fundamental question about the developmental engineering and its relevance beyond the vote bank politics. The moot point is development for whom and at what cost? Definitely, a development plank meant for industrialists can not be an effective development model.
When the Congress President Sonia Gandhi emphasised that “passion for progress must be supplemented with compassion for poor” during deliberation on Food Security Bill, it was that grand vision of development model on which Gujarat stands nowhere.
Gujarat is just a case study here, but the fact of the matter is that many of the states that boast of development as their USP may not come out with relatively modest score when judged with all the key indicators of development. Reasons why many of the governments are shown the door even after creating so much of development projection, most classic example being the ‘India Shining’ of Atal Behari Vajpayee Government at centre.
In India the elections have by and large not been contested on development plank; it is just that the term development that is symptomatic of the developmental engineering instead of social engineering which has lived its shelf life. And it is not just the politicians alone who are to be blamed for this. What are we up to as Indians, as vote banks?
Do we really scrutiny to differentiate the wheat from the chaff? If so, how come someone like Arvind Kejriwal take a moral high ground with absolutely no solution to offer for most of the developmental, both social and economic, problems afflicting the Indians.
So, it is basically one rhetoric being replaced by another without any tangible focus on development that still stands as the bane of Indian democracy. The mirage of a better governance continues; some have channelized it in the name of social justice while others are orchestrating in the name of development.
Some others with no track record have taken an altogether different route of developmental engineering in the name of creating an utopian society. India just stands as the laboratory for all engineering and the Indian voters are at the best guinea pigs for them.