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'Aam Aadmi Party's performance is significant, it is not about historic politics'

Interview with Director of the Asia Research Centre and India Observatory in the London School of Economics

Ruth Kattumuri
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Dr Ruth Kattumuri, a Director of the Asia Research Centre and India Observatory in the London School of Economics, says that performance of Aam Aadmi Party in the recent Delhi cannot be judged from the point of view of historic or established politics. Kattumuri, who was in Delhi to take part in the recently concluded  Delhi Economics Conclave, tells Vrishti Beniwal that UPA-II worked very hard in introducing social welfare schemes, but the people's verdict is clear.

Do you see any fiscal slippages as the government might try to offer sops to the public ahead of general elections next year, particularly after it lost out in four states in the Assembly elections?

The only point I can make without knowing the details is that UPA-II has worked very hard in introducing several social programmes and also in trying to develop institutional systems for their implementation. There is a lot more to be done. But despite that people’s verdict is what it is. So that is not going to solve the problem anymore. One of the interesting things about India is that it is becoming a mature democracy. It was evident in the last elections. The common man is beginning to say that we have a voice and we will express that voice more strongly. What has happened with the AamAadmi Party in Delhi is significant. It is not about historic politics or the established politics.

As far as reforms are concerned, particularly legislative reforms, do you think there will be a comma, if not a full stop, because of the general elections next year?

Institutions exist and they will continue to do their job irrespective of elections. Only in case of issues which have to go through the Parliamentary system there would be delays.

How do you look at the functioning of the Indian government in the last five years? Do you agree that India suffered from ‘policy paralysis’?

The challenge in India is that people in Parliament are not allowing it to sit. Apart from that I don’t think that there is policy paralysis. Lots of policies and reforms have been introduced in the last five years, but we need to scale up. Strengthening of institutions has happened perceptibly, but the public awareness of these is limited.

From over 9%GDP growth we have come to 5%now.

A. It’s not in India alone. It’s part of the current global scenario.

Do you think growth has bottomed out and we are recovering now

I think it has bottomed out and we are going to go up from here because there are systems now. That’s interesting about India. The public is able to voice these things openly and the change also begins to happen.

India’s food security programme has been criticised by many as it does not address problems like malnutrition and sanitation. What are your views?

What has to be addressed is the issue of malnutrition. There is a good example in Tamil Nadu with Amma’sCanteen which provides nutritious meals at a reasonable cost. Sanitation is also important  and has to be dealt with. Every individual has a fundamental right to at least one full meal in a day and there is enough grain in the world to feed all the seven billion people. There have been different schemes to help overcome these and there are sometimes challenges of implementation in India, which have to be addressed.

How do you look at the ‘Peace Clause’ floated at WTO meet? It comes with certain riders.

I do believe you have to provide facilities to address certain social, economic and developmental problems. There should not be permanent structures. At every stage there should be monitoring and evaluation and if at a certain time the need has been met we have to reform. Right now there is a need to provide subsidies to certain section of the society. We know capacity for efficient implementation is a problem and we should do things to address that.

How do you see India’s efforts in the direction of education and skill development?

Lots of good things have happened in the last few years but the demand is so much more. We have a young population and need to address the gap in opportunities between rural and urban areas. There is a lot of human capital in the urban areas and there is a need to make most of that capital, providing not just skills and education but also professional skills. At the same time you have to create jobs too.


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