“Economic Restructuring and Parliamentary Democracy in India:
Challenges and Policy Rejoinder”
Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla
(12-14 August, 2019)
The macro economic reforms kick-started in 1991, brought about expansion of the service sector helped largely by a liberalized investment and trade regime. It also increased consumer choices and reduced poverty significantly. A look at some the key parameters of growth and tracking the country's journey in the last 27 years based on nine key numbers -- sectoral share of GDP, sectoral growth rates, length of roads, number of registered companies, FDI inflows, foreign exchange reserves, telecom subscriber base, number of educational institutions and poverty rate. The logic and theoretical base of the macro economic reforms initiated in 1991 had a very strong micro economic foundation such as consumers’ sovereignty, reducing inputs prices, costs of production etc., which should be reflected in the output prices as we normally expect in a market economy, economies of scale, principles of comparative advantage, free and fair trade of inputs and factors of production and outputs. Efficiency of the production system were started to be considered as key pillars of the reforms.
India adopted parliamentary democratic system after a purposive and elaborate debate among our visionary and sagacious national leaders who were in the forefront of our long-drawn struggle for freedom. The members of the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution with the conviction that it is best suited to our ethos and culture and the specificities of our nation. Any discussion on India’s parliamentary democracy, when we are completing 71 years of freedom, calls for some honest introspection among all sections of our society, particularly among the political and academic communities, about the health of our political system today. The Constitution clearly lays down the institutional foundation for a functioning democracy. Parliament has indeed worked as a vehicle of social engineering. Its initiatives through the years in enacting laws have to be viewed from this broad social perspective. The enactments include those to bring about social change, to enlarge opportunities for education, to implement comprehensive land reforms, and to help in providing just and humane conditions of work. Such several laws have been passed over the years prohibiting practices that are inimical to societal development, and for the creation of a civilized society.
Parliamentary democracy has been facing challenges from many corners since its introduction after Independence. But the nature, content and intensity of the challenges have got much deeper and wider dimensions after the introduction of the New Economic Policy of 1991. Even though parliamentary democracy is the best form of governance to adhere and accommodates the interests of different sections of our society, many economic and social problems of India remain unresolved and the initiation of reforms changes the priorities of the governments. It is presumed that the multi-party coalition governments at the Centre after 1991. Economic Reforms would take care of the diverse interests of the large sections of our population. But it seems that all the coalition partners of the governments in the reform era have a common agenda and consensus on liberalism. Their commonality on the aspect of new liberalism has raised many questions of various dimensions. Many vital sectors including agricultural and allied activities, small scale and traditional industries, concerns of retail traders, accelerated environmental degradation and decelerated decline of poverty, inequality, starvation, malnutrition and other vital health issues got back seats in the present era. The new liberal economic and political agenda and policy decisions undermine the vital relevance of state intervention and accelerate the stepping back of the state from ensuring food security, public health and education, waste management and such basic amenities.
Microeconomic Foundations of Macroeconomic Reforms after 1991.
The theoretical and economic logic of macroeconomic reforms stand on the firm ground and its rationality is well guarded by micro economic foundations of macro market economy practices. But it seems unfit to the unequal social and economic realities in the Indian context. It is argued that Indian economy and systems are immature to transform to a market economy based on microeconomic principles. The macroeconomic reforms intended to remove microeconomic distortions caused by regulations or to reduce the distortions caused market failure and to give least chance for state failures. The macroeconomic reforms have deep and intensive microeconomic link in the areas of exchange rate, trade policy reforms, interest rate and monetary policy reforms, financial and fiscal reforms.
Economic Reforms from First Generation to Second and Third Generation
The reforms on the firm microeconomic principles initiated in 1991 reached to a level of institutional reforms. The first generation of economic reforms aimed at reforms in the product markets which were to ensure free flow of goods and services in the economy and integrate Indian economy with the global economy. However, second generation economic reforms were to intensify and deepen the reforms in the factor and inputs market. There were attempts for accelerating second generation of economic reforms since 2001 but the reform processes were derailed due to many reasons including political and ideological. Repealing socialist legacy laws and creating state capacity is a must to address market failures and to ensure a framework for a well-functioning market economy. Creating the legal and regulatory framework for a well-functioning market economy involves legislative, regulatory and administrative changes. In every aspect, there are fundamental differences between the legal and regulatory framework of a command and control economy (Socialist economy) and an evolving market economy. There seems to be inconsistencies between socialist era regulatory institutions and institutional inefficiencies and an emerging market economy of India. That is why, the third-generation economic reforms largely emphasize on restructuring socialist era institutions and creating new institutions to fine tune and strengthen the merging market economy of India.
The economic and political ideology of the present form of liberalism is the message that private is good and public is bad, on that market forces are good, and state regulation is bad. The main themes of this paradigm which find a great resonance in the present India state and media are:
A little reflection would show that the new liberal policy choices mentioned above are too far-reaching in their consequences, costs and implications, both for the immediate run well-being and quality of life of the Indian people as well as the long-term future of India, to be justified in terms of accelerated growth. But the high rate of growth of GDP seems to be used for concealing the real status of the major problems such as poverty, unemployment, growing inequalities, farmers’ suicide, ecological imbalances and the level and rate change of human and social welfare by creating the smokescreen of a ‘national’ achievement. Thus, in practice, this liberalization is mainly aimed at, and influences, the pattern of growth in a manner that advances the interests and agenda of the top echelons of private, mainly corporate houses.
So the multiparty coalition form governments within the framework of parliamentary democracy have been facing serious challenges in India. This issue invites special attention especially in the context of federal form of governance with laudable autonomy of the state governments. The irony in this era of new liberalism is that the political parties with diverse and mutually opposing interests and constituents of electoral base seem to have agreed on the common agenda of unregulated and unidentified flow of international finance capital. It was expected that the parliamentary democracy would mitigate the basic livelihood problems of dalits and adivasis, poor farmers and villagers, problems of the workers in the unorganized sector, communities engaged in traditional economic activities and fisher men. But the problems remain unaddressed and seem to have worsened.
The entire issues stated above raises a series of questions: What are the strengths and weaknesses of parliamentary democracy in ensuring all encompassing development and pro-poor social engineering? Whether the parliamentary democracy is failing in genuinely addressing the undesirable social and economic developments in the era of new liberalism? What is the role of Judiciary in dealing with legislations and administrative decisions bypassing the basic idea and the core principles of the Indian Constitution in the era of neo-liberalism? Whether the Judiciary should restrain from interfering in the economic policies of the government describing it as policy matters? What are the Environmental Challenges including climate change in the high growth reform period? What challenges come in way of soil and water conservation? What are the issues in the Drinking water zone and relevance of Ganga River Rejuvenation challenges? How has Waste Management been processed and challenges faced?
Whether our parliamentary democracy has been successful in mitigating the negative social developments caused due to liberalism? What is the relevance of legislation today in the context of new liberal policies? What is the response of civil society in this regard? The proposed National Seminar seeks to address these issues.
Today world is knowledge driven and applied skills have emerged as a vital resource to address any challenge we face. To work well with the newfangled forces of society, we need to be mastered by innovative men. By keeping the view to reflect, deliberate and suggest measures to assemble more constructive practices in light of humanoid and ecological needs, the proposed National Seminar seeks to address these issues. Considering the mentioned issues, the Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla would conduct a three day national seminar on “Economic Restructuring and Parliamentary Democracy in India: Threats and Policy Rejoinder” during 12-14 August 2019. We extend our invitation to serious minded academicians, researchers, policy makers and policy administrators. It has been the need of the hour to have a critical understanding on the practice of Economic Restructuring and Parliamentary democracy in the context of threats and policy response in the last two decades.
The sub-themes of the national seminar are:
CALL FOR PAPERS
A limited number of participants will be invited for the Seminar. Those interested in participating should send (by email) an abstract (500 words) of the proposed paper along with their brief bio of around 200 words to:
Associate Professor& Head,
Department of Chemistry,
Feroze Gandhi College, RaeBareli-229001, U.P.
With a copy to
Academic Resource Officer,
Indian Institute of Advanced Study,
Rashtrapati Nivas, Shimla- 171005
The last date for submission of abstract (500 words) is 28th June, 2019 till 12:00 midnight. The Institute intends to send invitation letters to selected participants by the second week of July. It is the policy of the Institute to publish the papers not proceedings of the seminars it organizes. Hence, all invited participants will be expected to submit complete papers (English or Hindi), hitherto unpublished and original, with citations in place, along with a reference section, to the Academic Resource Officer, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla– 171005 by 25th July, 2019. IIAS, Shimla, will be glad to extend its hospitality during the seminar period (free hospitality is provided only to the seminar participant) and is willing to reimburse, if required, rail or air travel expenses from the place of current residence in India, or the port of arrival in India, and back.
Note: Plagiarism is a serious academic offence and the Institute reserves the right to cancel the selection/participation of a candidate found guilty at any stage.
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