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HomeOpinionNehru went to cabinet on Kashmir, but Modi’s decision-making is different

Nehru went to cabinet on Kashmir, but Modi’s decision-making is different

For a leader, the ability to take decisions speedily is a virtue but equally important is to weigh in the possible consequences.

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The Narendra Modi government has now been in power for close to seven years. It is known to be proud of being decisive and acting speedily in implementing its decisions for the welfare of the people. This is often sought to be contrasted to the allegedly lackadaisical and corrupt ways of the previous governments.

While the ability to make decisions speedily is a virtue, at the time of taking the decision it is essential that, to the extent possible, the consequences, including adverse fall out, should be foreseen and catered for. We will evaluate how certain critical decisions, taken by the previous and present government, measure up to this criterion of good and effective decision making.

Decisions of consequence are arrived at after going through a consultative process. For instance, when a proposal is mooted by a central ministry for initiating a particular course of action pertaining to an issue within its remit, but requires inputs from other ministries too, the nodal ministry circulates a consultative paper to the ministries concerned and then taking note of the views, if any, expressed by them finalises the proposal to be placed before the cabinet. However, there are rare occasions, when, if the situation so warrants, it is given short shrift at the will of the prime minister. This, of course, depends on the aura and personality of the prime minister.

One may recall the imposition of Emergency in 1975 by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, when the approval of the President was obtained and the promulgation of Emergency done without the cabinet being taken into confidence. The formal approval of the Cabinet was shown as having been obtained ex post facto. This was an instance of a chief executive, with a dominant personality, taking a momentous decision, ostensibly in the ‘national interest’, while running roughshod over laid down practice and procedures.

In this backdrop, we may briefly recount some other decisions, of great import, taken with or without strictly following prescribed procedures.


Also read: How Modi has made a ‘Nehruvian’ half-blunder on China & ignored investing in the military


Nehru’s UN appeal on Kashmir

Shortly after Independence, India had to grapple with the problem of raiders from across the borders in Pakistan. It would be recalled that the crisis resulted in forcing the formal accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India and sending our military forces to drive out the Pakistanis. While this military operation was continuing and major part of the territory recaptured, under international pressure, India referred the matter to the United Nations (UN) for adjudication. The UN ordered a ceasefire pending resolution of the dispute through holding a plebiscite under UN supervision.

This decision of referring the dispute to the UN has been grist for the mill for critics of Nehru for having unnecessarily internationalised the dispute. This outlook may not be fair since the decision was clearly not of Nehru alone but of the Cabinet, which had a number of luminaries, including Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

At the time, perhaps, world opinion would have turned against India if the military operation had not been halted by us despite international pressure.


Also read: Shambles over farmers’ protest shows Modi-Shah BJP needs a Punjab tutorial


Nationalisation and Bangladesh war

I may refer to two other decisions of a seminal nature, when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, that have had lasting impact and perhaps changed the course of history. The first was the nationalisation of critical segments of the economy — banks and insurance, coal mines and sick textile mills. This decision was a part of the leftward tilt of the Economy, orchestrated under the stewardship of Indira Gandhi. The second was that of military action in support of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh that led to the dismemberment of Pakistan and the emergence of an independent country.

The benefits of the first one are questionable for, generally speaking, the nationalised banks, with one or two exceptions, have not performed well. The jury is still out on the question of whether the economy derived any benefit as a result of nationalisation of the private banks. The decision to go to war with Pakistan was, however, a seminal success. Our pesky neighbour was cut to size and a new nation, friendly to India, was born.

Whether or not, these decisions were taken following the due process, they surely bore the stamp of an authoritative leader who would not allow any impediments or niceties to stand in the way of whatever she had determined was the best course of action to be pursued.

In this backdrop, we may now consider and analyse certain decisions — having far-reaching consequences — that have been taken in recent times by the Narendra Modi government.


Also read: Thatcher or Anna moment? Why Modi’s choice on farmers’ protest will shape future politics


The demonetisation call

The first of these is the demonetisation of high-value currency notes, announced all of a sudden on national television on 8 November 2016 by the Prime Minister. The professed objective of this step was to curb black money, check the circulation of fake currency and promote e-payments and financial inclusion. With the withdrawal of all Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, around 86 per cent of the total currency in circulation stood demonetised.

But this sudden withdrawal of most of the currency notes with the people caused great hardship for many, since the replacement currency was not readily available for the people depositing the defunct notes from next day onwards, and long queues were seen at the branches of banks all over the country. There were reports of elderly people put to great hardship while queuing up for hours at the banks. Some of them even died. This chaotic situation continued for several months till adequate currency notes had been put into circulation.

Besides the great hardship caused to the people, the principal objective in taking this step of removing black money in circulation was really not achieved since 99.3 per cent of the demonetised banknotes worth Rs 15.30 lakh crore of the Rs 15.41 lakh crore that had been demonetised, were deposited back in the banking system.

The long-lasting adverse impact of demonetisation was that the country’s industrial production declined and so did its GDP growth rate. The Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) were very badly hit, resulting in contraction of employment. This impact is being felt even now, since the growth rate has not picked up to the pre-demonetisation levels.

With the benefit of hindsight, it can be said that the demonetisation decision was counterproductive. Besides hardship caused to the people in its immediate aftermath, it had a long-lasting adverse impact on the economy.

The decision was evidently taken without examining the issues in depth and not going through the appropriate consultative process. The consequences were evidently not foreseen and catered for. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) , which is the repository of expertise in such matters, had no opportunity to examine the mater in depth since its clearance was obtained, at a hastily convened meeting of the Board of Directors, at 5:30 pm, the same evening the decision was announced by PM Modi on national television at 08:30 pm.

It is now generally accepted by experts that the demonetisation decision was flawed and proved counterproductive. Its adverse consequences could have, at least, been mitigated somewhat if, while maintaining its confidentiality, the RBI had been enabled to keep adequate replacement currency notes ready for being put into circulation for the currency notes to be withdrawn.

Evidently, this was a hastily conceived and implemented decision, taken by PM Modi and his close advisers, without proper examination of the issue involved, impact and consequences. A typical instance of a decision taken in haste to be repented at leisure, though of course, the government remains in denial about its deleterious consequences.


Also read: Modi is popular, BJP keeps winning, but India’s indicators & global rankings are alarming


The lockdown

Another decision that was announced suddenly on national television by the Prime Minister was the imposition of the lockdown on 23 March 2020. The lockdown has been described as the most rigorous in the world. It was done with the objective of containing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. One immediate fallout was that the daily-wage workers in the unorganised sector were rendered jobless at one stroke. This number is huge since, according to the Economic survey of 2018-19, 93 per cent of the total workforce in India is from the unorganised sector. The total workforce is estimated at around 45 crore — the number in the unorganised sector being 93 per cent would be of the order of 43 crore.

Losing their jobs, many of them panicked. Since they lacked the means to sustain themselves in the urban settings they worked in, they were out on the streets in massive numbers to go back to their homes.

Apart from the misery caused, the purpose of the lockdown was greatly negated because of the uncontrolled movement of huge number of people. The purpose of imposing the lockdown was defeated on the first day itself. Subsequently, this also perhaps caused the spread of infection to various parts of the country, particularly from the urban centres to the rural hinterland.  If the lockdown had been imposed with proper warning, the pandemic would possibly have been better contained and overcome earlier. Arrangements could have been put in place to prevent the sudden exodus of the migrants.

The decision to impose the lockdown suddenly was again apparently taken without adequate consultations and obtaining of inputs from important stakeholders. The impact on migrant workers was clearly not anticipated as it should have been and mitigative measures taken to ameliorate the misery that suddenly befell them and also obviate the spread of Covid19, because of the uncontrolled exodus of these people.


Also read: In Modi’s AMU pitch to Muslims, retreat from party politics hurting foreign policy interests


And the three farm laws

Finally, we may consider the developments that led to the ongoing farmers’ protest. The three laws, that the farmers are opposing so strenuously and persistently, were initially promulgated through an Ordinance. The framers of the Constitution had envisaged that the expedient of issuing an Ordinance for promulgating a law would be rarely resorted to and when it was considered imperative to bring in a law to meet an exigency that had suddenly arisen and a special law was urgently needed to deal with it. Clearly, no such situation had arisen since farming had been continuing on an even keel for long, without any emergent need to have a new set of laws to handle a crisis in the sector. The manner in which these laws were thereafter adopted, in both Houses of Parliament, has been subject of criticism. It can be said that they were adopted without consulting the major stakeholders the farmers. Demands by Opposition parties to refer the Bills to a Select Committee were overruled. The way they were passed in Rajya Sabha was really questionable with a voice vote, rejecting requests for a division.

The government failed to foresee that the farming community would react so strongly to laws they believed were detrimental to their interests. It is true that productivity of agriculture in India is below par. Reforms are necessary to clear the path for achieving higher productivity. Had the laws been evolved after arriving at a consensus regarding the provisions, through consultations and detailed discussions with the stakeholders, the current impasse would not have arisen and the farming community would not have felt that laws that were against their interests had been thrust upon them.


Also read: 7 reasons why Modi govt is in retreat on farm reform laws


The consequences of hasty decision making

These instances show how decisions taken without due consideration of the implications and giving short shrift to the consultative process, can defeat the purpose for which the step was taken.

The lesson to be learnt is that, except in a real emergency, such as facing external aggression, decisions having far-reaching import should be taken following due process lest they prove counterproductive. It is to be hoped that lessons have been learnt and the Modi government, which has a substantial period of its term still left, would have learnt from the experience gained of taking decisions in haste and act in a more circumspect manner so that the people do not have to suffer because of whims of the ruling party. In this context, the phrase “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” rings very true.

The writer is a former Secretary (Revenue) in GOI and Executive Director, Asian Development Bank. Views are personal.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. If you want to know the blunders by Nehru – read Prof Ishtiaq Ahmed’s biography of Jinnah (or watch his numerous interviews on YouTube).
    The only decisive decision Nehru seems to have taken is to send the army (without preparation) to fight against China (I only learnt this from Cut the Clutter!). We saw the consequences of that, didn’t we?
    The problem with these folks is this – Modi is getting by with ‘last mile delivery’, making India and Indians strong around the globe and no one can find anything to throw at him that sticks.

    • Nehru set up the foundations of India, as a progressive modern state, different from a theocratic dictatorship or military state. The IITs were his vision. He started the space and nuclear programme – which has made India unconquerable by external armies.

      If the BJP types had come in 1947, we would have only gomutra and gobar industries run by Baba Ramdev types, Ayirveda quacks. A country run by uneducated chai wallahs from shakhas would not exist 70 years after.

      • Ha!! Ha!! So did Islamic Pakistan voted for by majority of Muslims had Gaumutra that they are in such a mess?? And those Islamic voters who stayed in India despite Pakistan had Gaumutra too??

        Nehru set close to zero foundations after giving epic Hindu lands to Islamic terrorists!! He was a stupid communist, quasi Mulla!!

        His ultimate duty was to take back all Kashmir & send all those who voted for Pakistan to Pakistan!! But these leftist journalists will never talk truth!! Setting up space-nuclear programme was a good initiative though but poorly followed through or else India would have been a nuclear power immediately after China!!

    • @print with these leftists are rarely objective or truthful & call themselves journalists!!

  2. Indeed Nehru took decisions jointly. In fact on Kashmir, Patel would have let it go, because he had said ‘if the limbs are diseased cut them off’. It was Nehru who did not want to cede J & K in the negotiated settlement. It was foolish to keep J & K after agreeing to partition. Either you don’t agree to partition and seek a united solution, or if you agree to partition, do it properly. But still I don’t blame Nehru : he was Kashmiri, and it was his home, I understand he did not want to lose it. Patel realised J & K would be an insoluble bone of contention, he would have let it go had it not been for Nehru.

    As for Modi, he is fundamentally not a democrat, he has been raised in the Sangh, and Sanghis have always been brought up on Nazi ideology and methodolgy. Decisions are taken by a few autocrats and made acceptable to the public by propaganda, hate and intimidation.

    The major decisions Modi has made that have set India back are : demonetisation, CAA-NRC, Article 370 and farmers’ laws.

    Demonetisation shrank the economy by 2% of GDP, and India has not not recovered since. Was it based on consultation ? Well, when the media asked Jaitley if he knew about it, he could not say ‘yes’. The decision was taken by a team of Gujaratis close to the PMO. The reason given was to cut corruption and take out black money. Then what was the purpose of withdrawing 1000 and replacing with 2000 ? The purpose was to win the UP election. Only the BJP had access to the 2000 notes. Modi said, if demonetisation did not end corruption after 58 days, people could hang him. Now his followers will say that it was a jumla, and express surprise it was taken literally. 99% of the money came back, and Amit Shah’s bank had the biggest deposits. Afterwards, they invented reasons which the faithful parrot even now : card transactions, cashless economy, end of counterfeiting. Only a small elite is into card transactions. As for counterfeiting, there were many cases. In Kerala, the police caught BJP-RSS people printing the Rs. 2000 note using a printing machine – imported from China ! Recently, a temple in Gujarat was caught printing the notes. What will the bhakts say ? They will say that Modi and Jaitley only said the new notes would stop Pakistanis from counterfeiting, they never claimed it will stop Indians !

    The CAA-NRC spread the news to the west that India is passing some thing like the Nuremberg race laws and this is the first step to concentration camps. There were censure motions in several US town councils. Amit Shah said on TV that CAA-NRC is decided, it will not be just for Assam, it will be all-India. Modi on the other hand said NRC has not been decided etc. Covid threw a spanner into CAA-NRC. People say the BJP always has a hidden agenda, that is why these contradictions come. They are driven by wickedness, so naturally lies and contradictions will abound.

    Repeal of Article 370 was not thought through. It was all brawn and no brain. The BJP thought it was like beating up minorities and saying it is an internal matter. But J & K was disputed territory, so it brought China in, and China thrashed Indian soldiers and took land – and Modi kept quiet. Why weren’t the bhakths shouting against Modi then ? Now the situation is that India faces a two front war (Shekhar Gupta), and has to spend money (which is not available) to prepare for that. There will be ongoing attacks against Indian forces in Kashmir, but now the news does not come.

    As for the farmer’s strike, it is dragging the economy down further. Again it has come due to lack of transparency – the farmers suspect their lands will go to Adani. The blame is put on Khalistanis, Greta, Disha Ravi… pathetic.

    Only on Covid, I would not blame Modi for malfide intentions. I blame him only for incompetence ! But then, he is a chai wallah.

    But overall, the author is right about Modi’s decision making : the style of execution is secretive. The reason is it is driven by wickedness.

    • The only Nazis are Islamist’s & leftists/communists!! Partition was voted for by Muslims!! So what are Muslims still doing in India?? Did they stay here to drink Gaumutra?? As for Kashmir, it has been a Hindu land for eons & should remain so!! Islam was a only a guest and must learn to remain so!!

    • @Tog: Ha!! Ha!! So Indians & BJP should learn democracy from Congress?? This half mulla & half Vatican dictatorial family had done EVM hacking when Nehru was made PM despite he getting ZERO votes to lead India!!

  3. It is an accepted and well-known fact that India could withstand, successfully, the world-wide economic melt down of 2008 only because of the strength of the nationalised banks.

    • @G. Radhakrishnan: Ha!! Ha!! You have a communist logic!! India a has made close to zero economic progress because of congress/Indira Gandhi & her soviet/communist policies!! Nationalized banks were used for corruption by congress as so many fraudulent farm waivers & NPA’s have proven!! It was because of this Vinci/Nehru family that India remained a colonized nation; the effects of which are felt even today!!

  4. Patel was in Bombay when Nehru grandiosely announced that matter was taken to UN. It was informed to Cabinet after the matter was announced regards taking matter to UN. And Patle had famously mentioned – Jawaharlal Royega.

  5. This is a poorly researched writing, if at all it can be called researched. Demonization provided the base for better financial accountability and majorly the fake currency menace which was encouraged by the previous govt for its benefit of compromising the country. It laid the foundation of digital payments which helped the entire country during the lockdown which was another very good measure. Critics of all of these have zero ideas on the contrary. Every tru farmer and economist has approved the farm law. So don’t see which school this IAS passed from. Kashmir has been bane for India. But the hard decisions of the current govt has been benefiting the country. When a true journalist writes another decade later it will be even more pronounced.

  6. To be decisive always pays better dividends. In the process there could be mistakes in the decisions taken with or without consultations. Mistakes (whether of the past or the current Governments) when recognised are corrected. But to make progress it is imperative to take quick decisions and also act decisively.

    ‘We the people” feel this attribute of any Government as aa positive for progress.

  7. The article is self-contradictory. Covid, of all the events listed, was a real emergency with nation-wide implications. Mulling over the possible second or third-order effects had low utility since the pandemic was without a historical precedent and its impact highly uncertain. If anything, I would argue that debating its consequences could have resulted in a dithering policy response, resulting in a higher fatality rate that India has experienced.

  8. Heh Heh What about Article 370, it looks like you acknowledge it is a success, but unable to write because it will break your theme. Press kept repeating demonetisation affected industrial growth, Can someone care to explain why and how and how is that even possible?

    • China is beating India for Article 370, they killed Indians and took land, and your chai wallah said heh, heh, nothing happened.

      • Ha!! Ha!! So WHY is China running with tail between it’s legs?? And WHY are Pakistanis & Muslims who live for Islam are supporting these communists to kill/rape Muslims and do non-Han genocide??

  9. Article with definite intent to defame present PM at the cost of wrongful glorification of past and less capable PM.

  10. The presentation in this article of Mr Lahiri of The Print is intentional wrongful. He is glorifying Nehru and hiding he was made PM at the cost of Mr Patel and resulted in creation of rift with Mr Jinnah.

    Similarly, no one should forget the speech by Mr Nehru in Parliament on Kashmir and China.
    Feel sorry for newspaper to sell the sweat that has become stale.

    • @Pradeep: Yes!! Nehru was the face of Islamic “prophet” Mohammad & indeed communists!!

  11. Another Leftist writer , who got benefits from corrupt congress governments , paying his gratitude by spitting poison on Modi and Hindus , this shows how our Leftists Officers spoiled the Indian economy and its development to benefit corrupt Gandhi family .

  12. Does, who an individual is or what post one held makes, one unbiased and objective ?
    While concluding “It is now generally accepted by experts that the demonetization decision was flawed and proved counterproductive” are there no experts with a contrary conviction who also need a mention?
    Do we know what percentage of the MSME/SME sector depends purely on support to heavy industry and what percentage is stand alone?
    Is is not obvious that during covid and pre-covid slow down the entire industrial sector suffered and MSME/ SMEs could not have been exceptions, and the pick up in that sector will also come with a lag i.e. after the heavy industry picks up.
    The successful decisions of surgical strike and Balakot must have been taken only after following the due process or were too insignificant, since they do not find a mention above.
    NOT ONE article on the farmers issue including this clearly mentions specific points that will harm the farmer. If the existing system is good why the the suicides except in area where there protesting farmers come from ?
    Forget the farmers, but at least the intellectuals supporting the farmers should put up 10 points that need the change .
    Or have the Babus who wrote the laws just put a whole lot of jargon without understanding it?
    There is something wrong or is it something like the Hemorrhoids which pain but cannot be displayed. We need the doctors to explain but why are they silent.

  13. Yet another Nehru family bootlicker is out of the woodwork. For the record, Nehru was the most horrible british colluders forced on india by Gandhi and the British. We are still paying for the follies of that monster. I would love to see Modi as the PM for the next 20 years just to watch these librandus squeal and squirm into extinction.

    • @RJ: Exactly!! I wonder if Nehru & even MK Gandi were freedom fighters, If they were so fierce freedom lovers, WHY were they not sent to Kaala paani as so many other real patriots & nationalist fighters??!! WHY were they not hanged like Bhagat singh??

      With the advantage of hindsight, one can safely conclude that Nehru & MK Gandhi were British stooges!! They never let any nationalist & patriot come to power!! They were brought in by the British to make a fool of Hindus & Sikhs!!

      They even divided India & gave epic Hindu & Sikh lands to Islamic terrorists & let those traitors stay in India!!

      ps: Hindu is everyone who is patriotic & nationalist for this land & civilization!! This includes Muslims & Christians!!

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