How an economy performs depends on policies that the government implements. Is there any reason to expect Indian governments to be exploitative?
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History provides a plausible answer. For nearly a century, India was under comprehensive colonial British rule. As can be rationally expected, the government that the British imposed on India was not primarily directed towards development, but rather towards extraction. That is only reasonable because wealth extraction is the rationale for colonial rule.
This structure administration and control was left intact when the British decided to leave India, and was taken over by the government of Independent India. Although India attained political independence from the British raj, Indians did not become free of a controlling—and extractive—government. Independence brought political freedom to Indians, but not economic freedom. The positive correlation between economic freedom and the prosperity of a country is so robust that the causal link between the two is impossible to miss or deny. Countries with the most economic freedom are the most prosperous.
In the first quartile, the most economically free, you find the prosperous large advanced industrialised countries such as the UK 10th rank , the US 16th , Japan 26th and Germany 29th. The fourth quartile is the least free and understandably economically backward countries like Iran, Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela.
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India falls near the bottom of the third quartile th , behind Mexico 93rd , Russia 99th and China th. As noted at the beginning, Indians are not incapable of creating wealth. Where they have economic freedom, they do prosper. This fact is noteworthy because it points to a fundamental structural difference between India and the US even though they are both large democracies.
In short, it allows deliberate political and economic exploitation. The US constitution, by contrast, is short, grants freedom of speech, protects property rights, prohibits discrimination among citizens, and limits the power of the government. The most salient distinction between the US and Indian constitutions lies in the relationship between the people and the government that the two define.
The US constitution places the people as the principal and the government as its agent. This is evidenced in the limits that the constitution imposes on the power of the US Congress. The Indian constitution places the government as the principal and the people as its agent—as can be expected of a government that is essentially colonial in nature.
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The deleterious effects of the license-control-quota-permit raj are too evident. Economic policies frame the economic environment and, therefore, the economic opportunities. Competent people who lack economic opportunities vote with their feet—if they are able to—in search of greater economic freedom. Looked at it this way, Indian Americans are economic migrants and economic refugees.
The wealth they create for themselves and their adopted country is huge, but it also represents the wealth that could have been potentially created in India but was lost. Four areas were addressed on a war footing — cleanliness, security, toilets and drinking water.
Simultaneously, we ordered construction of 8, new classrooms in existing schools another 10, rooms have been ordered this year. Blackboards in many schools were replaced with swanky green or whiteboards. Furniture was replaced on a massive scale. All schools were painted. Shabby buildings were either repaired or new buildings made by razing them.
All these steps together created a congenial environment in schools, where students felt like learning and teachers felt like teaching. Tackling infrastructure was easy. It only needed political will and money. The more complex question was — how do you uplift the morale of the 55, strong workforce of teachers, principals, officials and staff?
This is where education minister Manish Sisodia and his adviser Atishi Marlena played a critical role. They won staff confidence by constantly engaging with them, listening to them, sympathising with their problems and often solving them. Teachers and principals were made to feel important and respected. Principals were sent abroad to Cambridge and Harvard universities for training. For the first time in India, principals of government schools were being sent abroad for training.
Teachers were sent to IIMs for training. They came back with great energy and enthusiasm. The results are quite encouraging so far.
Not just the physical environment of the schools has improved, exam results have also shown improvement. Class XII board results of government schools in Delhi have been better than of private schools for the last two consecutive years, again a first in India. More than students from government schools have qualified JEE exam in the last two years. Another critical initiative was taken. Parents were made active participants in school affairs.
For the first time, parent-teacher meetings PTMs were organised in all government schools in Many parents met the teachers for the first time. PTMs are now a regular feature.
An SMC consists of Principal, some teachers and a few parents. Parent members are elected by the general body of parents of all students of that school. SMCs have been given powers and some finances. This experiment has been tried for the first time in the country with great success. We believe in co-existence of both private and government schools. As long as private schools follow the laws, government does not interfere in their functioning. There were complaints of extortionist fee hikes by some private schools. Those schools, which are on government land, were not allowed to increase their fee without a government audit.
Almost schools have been ordered to refund excess fees charged. Again, it is for the first time in India that private schools actually refunded excess fee. As per Delhi education model, education is free upto 12th class. For higher education after 12th class, the government has set up a trust to provide loans upto Rs 10 lakh. Economically weak students and those students who wish to fund their own college education can avail of this loan.
It is very easy to get this loan. The government acts as a guarantor.
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The student repays it in 15 years in easy instalments. Repayment starts one year after completion of graduation.
For those students who wish to take up a job immediately after 12th class, skill centres are being set up in collaboration with the Singapore government.