For the past couple of years now, ordinary people here are being bombarded with huge financial figures. A standard catch-line accompanying these whooping sums informs them that this money is and will be used for their betterment, progress and development. Although there is nothing unique about such pronouncements, however, what is new is the increased resonance of financial matters in the popular domain now.
Money has been, and is no doubt being invested, but its benefits are confined to a limited coterie of people who plan, sanction and execute various projects, more on the paper and less on the ground. For a place which has been one of the most corrupt places, no amount of politically loaded financial rhetoric is going to bring about any change unless and until something is done to stop the pilferage of public funds.
Talking peace through economic development is OK and it makes a lot of sense, at least in the theory. Developmental economists say that political freedoms without concomitant economic freedoms are meaningless. Certainly one could cite countless examples to substantiate the point. Ordinary speaking all people enjoy equal political freedoms as guaranteed by the Indian constitution. But still many people are not happy. Why? The major reason being the state’s failure in ensuring other freedoms — that go beyond the political realm — to its economically disadvantaged population. While the country has been progressing, the fruits of this progress have not reached all, and certainly not to the poor. Instead the windfall of power and wealth has remained confined only to a minuscule minority of the ‘bold and the beautiful’ – corporate giants, big businesses and political and bureaucratic elite.
In a country of almost billion-and-a-half people, the gap between the rich and the poor, elite and ordinary is increasing with each passing day. Constitutionally speaking, the President of India has same rights as an ordinary tribal from Kalahandi in Odisha or some remote tribal hamlet in Chattisgarh has, but practically speaking, they are certainly not the equals. Economic freedoms enjoyed by the rich empower them to cherish and benefit from the political freedoms. Take away economic freedoms, as is the case with many tribal poor, political freedoms become meaningless and situation rife and inviting for conflict.
So talking peace alone won’t suffice the need unless government knows how to put this money where the need is. “Figures won’t lie,” but as the adage suggests “liars will figure” is exactly the case here because the governments are yet to move beyond the rhetorical adventurism. Instead of wasting time in sharing meaningless figures, it will be better that government attaches a high priority to inclusive social policies and accordingly invests there so that the wider population has a reason to believe that the state is actively honoring the spirit of peace and freedom through development.