The Economic Survey 2019-20, tabled on Friday in Parliament, could well have been titled: ‘In search of lost time’, or ‘Remembrance of things past’.
In lavender-blue paperback jacket, which is also the colour of its charts and graphs, and with its emphasis on “wealth creation” and spurring entrepreneurial spirit at a time of dwindling consumption and revenue, lack of jobs, and industrial activity, the survey is a reminder of the old nursery rhyme Lavender Blue: “Call up your men, set them to work. Some with a rake, some with a fork. Some to make hay, some to thresh corn, whilst you and I keep ourselves warm.”
The survey insinuates all that currently ails the economy is a result of the country’s post-independence policymaking that had lapsed into socialism. It argues there is historical evidence that India had been the dominant economic power for more than three-fourths of the known economic history. It largely ignores the contribution of over 200 years of colonial yoke towards India’s deprivation.
In the preface, it states it has documented “that ideas of wealth creation are rooted in India’s old and rich tradition ranging from Kautilya’s Arthashastra to Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural, which emphasises ethical wealth creation as a noble human pursuit.” There are also quotes from the Rig Veda and other ancient Hindu texts.
On entrepreneurial spirit, the survey refers to the 2010 Bollywood movie Band Baaja Baaraat. It has used the film — which is a story about an out-of-the-box entrepreneurial venture where the two protagonists start a wedding planning business — as an example of how entrepreneurship is widespread in India and not confined to big cities. The film’s story, however, was set in Delhi.
In another insight, the survey has observed that it is much easier to buy a gun than to open a restaurant in India.
According to the National Restaurant Association of India, 36 approvals are needed to open an eatery in Bengaluru, 26 in Delhi, and 22 in Mumbai. In stark contrast, you’ll require way fewer license to procure new arms and major fireworks, at 19 and 12, respectively. While this is factually true, gun licenses are extremely hard to come by as police forces discourage gun use.
Chief Economic Advisor Krishnamurthy Subramanian, it would seem, has also found inspiration in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s famous comment made in 2018 on how a tea seller discovered a “jugaad” to run his stove on the gas from a nearby drain. The survey has advocated the integration of “Assemble in India” into “Make In India” to focus on labour-intensive exports.
The survey, too, has its share of jugaad. On pages 150 and 151, Wikipedia is cited as source of two charts — ‘Number of banks in the global top 100’ and ‘Country’s GDP and number of banks in the global top 100’.