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Adding one more Half-baked Economic proposal for debate- Amend 8th Schedule/Official Languages Act-1963 & remove

SSI reservation list synchronously

By: Amit Bhushan Date: 26th Nov.2013

First on the Fast Changing Electoral Equations: This Election season is ripening fast. Like all previous elections in India, people are witness to electoral mischief of the political parties. The parties are erecting defensive faades through fabrication of a web of charges on opponents or opposing parties to discredit them and rob them of opportunity to be on offensive. A newbie in the fray has been badly hounded and left to tend to its wound by more seasoned rivals and relatively naive & unsuspecting supporters (though not all may be nave). Its campaign on RTI which allowed it a lead due to offensive abilities was restricted due to political ambitions of leaders. Now it is bereft of its offensive abilities which gave it some edge, and looking for shields of support. Arrogance in Indian politics is germinated out of the very polity which forces candidates to dump their sensitivity towards peoples hearsay and ride their respective boats to finish line. This is what seasoned players do, and are corrupted by power and money in the process; although their belief in self righteousness remains unshaken since much of the benefits need to be invested back in re-elections or on elections of supporters. Seasoned observers in media knew this but their need for gimmicks or fascinating story for public consumption is much more than their money they would get for educating public about this reality. The established parties wanted to quell this enigma of support for newbie in full so that they can ensure that their rank and file remains loyal to them and does not start on their own independent orchestrated and organized campaign. A rise of newbie to win-ability would have enlightened many such thoughts amongst politicians who yearn for independence from servility of their masters. The established parties want to register in the memory of their supporters that- it is the established parties that win; and not some motley group of urbanized youths clustered together under an umbrella with utopian ideas. The Aam Admi is witnessing its first taste of Real Politik in India. The rural parts of India have witnessed this many a times previously with rise of each independent party, however due to feudal nature of politics and politicians, dominance of caste based politics, involvement of violence etc. including lack of reach as well as interest of media as well as larger middle class public; the phenomenon

was neither studied nor understood well. Quite a few people may have known that the basis of campaign of being perfect rather being better had in-built weak elements although these were inadvertently projected as powerful differentiators and are extremely prone to mischief as well as errors. The role of commercial media i.e. mainline Tele as well as print media has rather been friendlier towards its consumers up till now. Most of them including their smaller rivals are actively searching for themes and format which may strike a chord with people even though they ignore criticism of incidents and episodes and move on for the next break-through. They have also struck to putting all spotlights on the main political rivals including most of their gibberish outputs; probably as per directions received from the sponsors and bureaucratic advises whose concerns are to ensure continuity rather than some fundamental changes. The media also happily showcases khalis phoreners including equally blueblooded phoren trained or based Desi s, gloating over over-published ideas of like liberalizing labour laws, reduce Fiscal deficit (without any politically feasible idea) or cutting down subsidies on fertilizers and fuel with equal damages. While these well meaning people may not be wrong, however it depicts a lack of depth of understanding of Indias political economy where the government the phenomenon of rising deficit has become an almost self sustaining process. The floundering government surviving on crutches is supposed to look the other way on leakages, then public pressure forces it to make more resources commitment ballooning deficit which leads to even more leakages through various layers of overarching democracy leading to further demands on resources. A fast growing economy managed to cover the folly, but the slowdown coupled with the pressures of election has led to worst possible expose on the government. It is a bit interesting to watch the hollowness of people in electoral fray as well as media created celebrities (of course with some rich history for some of the people) glued to the very same old wine in new bottle trick. A change demands new thinking, fresh faces and approaches although it will have a meaning only when it is convincing to a large cross-section of people. With political people beating each other black and blue with rhetoric serves very little public purpose though it may give some content to a gluttons media. Now lets move on the topic: The idea draws from the fact that subsidies are not the only way to invest on general masses. If government makes laws and policies which makes private sector invest in enhancing their engagement with masses, it could be an equally potent tool. Given our experience with subsidies and the leakages hereunder, the new people looking to set an eye on governance must look

for alternatives. Given such a scenario, amending the Official Languages Act may offer some glimmer of hope. Under the present law, the center as well as states mandate a definition of official language/s for themselves which become language for court proceedings, for office use in governments at center as well as state level. It also allows government to promote language/s allowing budgetary provisions to be used for the same. This has been a matter of pain for people as well as the powerful. The powerful have never been able to satisfy people who find their languages left out or the language development proposal not getting enough attention. It is also well known that practically none of the corporate in states of TN or WB which witnessed much frenzied action on languages front, conduct their business in the local language. The proposal is about amending the law and the government giving more powers to states in a controled decontrol fashion to ensure that mass consumer interests are well protected and the state can take adequate measures to force Big businesses are communicating in the language of the consumers of the state. The states should be empowered to enforce upon the corporate doing consumer oriented business (B-to-C) like banking, telecom, Consumer durables and FMCG etc. to ensure that they have capabilities to communicate in language of consumers. The state should also be able to mandate that such companies must be open to be sued in the states court where proceedings may run in local language at convenience of customer. This should be different from attacking hoardings as in past or similar frenzy, but should rely on forcing corporate to invest in software capabilities as well as have pack markings including specs/ingredients and pricing in language of local customers. While this would increase the cost of selling/or access cost to tap the local market for the corporate which will be forced to make additional investment to develop capabilities and adapt to local language advertising/packaging. However much of the expenses will be on additional manpower and with local agencies. The cost impact will be least on SME which operate in one or two markets and more on larger corporate which operate in a larger number of markets and still more on imports where unit cost impact could be much higher. The entities may be given some time to progressively increase their compliance with proposed law in say, up to three years and law could have penal provisions for non-compliant companies. Compliance standards itself can be arrived by state in discussions with recognized industry chambers and associations within states. This should not be treated as protectionism as in Indian context, the proposal will force ramp up corporate as well as publics capabilities. It would also give states some handle to better connect with large corporate. Say allow CM of UP to connect with US MNCs dealing in Aaloo Pav and Murg Tangri to

enhance level of their consumer engagement in state; CM on Bihar to enforce User Interface in Bhojpuri on consumer electronics from Japan and Korea for better satisfaction level of masses and CM of Gujarat/Punjab and Kerela to convince Chinese Laptop and mobile instruments manufacturers to have keyboards and language support for improved usability not only in parts of India but in some of remotest part of entire world. Needless to say that Indian talent will be available in abundance to help them achieve this at paltry costs and in no time. Since the proposal would no doubt put some pressure on businesses, they can then be offered a simultaneous toning down or the SSI reservation list as a sop. The SSI sector is already feeling the pinch from imports from which the reservation list has not been able to protect it. It may well be directed to tap the opportunities being created through the Languages route and become open to competing basis competency than reservation lists. The center can make further cut in systemic cost of operations for corporate and reduce red tapes and bureaucratic/political costs as well as custom duties so that its action is not doubted as protectionism but one where development of people is seen as prime motive. Also, the cost of investment on language compliance on corporate including that of managing operations of multi-lingual compliance should be well calibrated and commensurate to balance things. The Indian state can take up role of promoting the cause of smaller state on growing languages such Dogra, Nagamese and Mizo etc. where it may offer sops to people like National channels with local programming contents or FM channels in these languages with contents developed by local population to help the intellectuals there reach out to the rest of the masses. This can also end the torment of center not recognizing language of the people.