Ms. Meenakshi Lekhi, MP, Govt of India and Supreme Court lawyer, visited IIM Ahmedabad on July 6, to give a talk on “Perspectives on Indian Economic Development and Policy Making”, as part of the Speaker Series organized by the PGPX batch.
Ms Lekhi began her talk speaking about the situation in which the current government took charge, and proudly spoke about its achievements in the past year, including reduction of fiscal deficit, improvement of current account deficit and containment of leakages. She spoke about a two-pronged strategy for development- augmentation of the current resources and distribution to people who require it. She touched on a number of issues, such as the contribution of food and a healthy lifestyle to economic development, creation of an economic policy for the unorganized sector, focus on renewable energy and the PM’s pet project, Make in India. She justified the dismantling of the Planning Commission, saying that it carried the burden of a “dole out” economy. She also laid out the new government’s idea of using a quasi-federal structure, with a central policy but localized implementation.
She moved to talking about Delhi and criticizing the previous government’s land acquisition policies. She took to task the fact that there were slums and squatters on government land authorized for development. She spoke about smart cities and waste management systems required for better management of resources. She ended with a flourish, declaring that India deserved a UN Security Council seat as it was part of the country’s destiny.
After what seemed like a slightly haphazard speech, touching on a plethora of topics while not giving specific insight into the vision of the government regarding policymaking, the floor was opened up to audience questions. A gentleman questioned the lack of direction in the government’s plan on implementation of reform in various areas, such as administration, judicial and labor. Ms Lekhi refuted the statement that there was a dearth of talent in the government, and asked the audience to have faith, affirming that the GST bill would be passed, and stating that improper articulation about the land acquisition bill led to the current state of confusion. She skirted the question about implementation of policies, and avoided the question on the government’s education plan.
When asked how much black money would flow back into the country, she joked that she was bad with numbers but said that means needed to be created to make the black money white and bring it back. On facing a tough question about postponing investment in flashy things like the Sardar Patel statue or bullet trains until necessities for all were achieved, she stated that while necessities were needed, it was also necessary to generate pride in oneself, and hence some of the above expenditures were required. She avoided the tougher questions about the government’s plan of action and repeated that the country needed to have faith in the PM’s vision and desire for change.
In all, the talk summarized the achievements of the government since election, but did not give much clarity or perspective about the state of policy making in India.
– Arundhati Hazra (PGP 2014-16)