Book review by Gracy Samjetsabam
Title: RESET Regaining India’s Economic Legacy
Author: Subramanian Swamy
Publisher: Rupa (2019)
Subramanian Swamy is a well-known Indian politician, economist, and statistician. He is a Member of the Parliament in Rajya Sabha. A founding member of the Janata Party, he served as its president till 2013. He has also served as a member of the Planning Commission of India, has been a Cabinet Minister in the PM Chandra Shekhar government, and also been a Chairman of the Commission on Labour Standards and International Trade in the PM Narasimha Rao government. He has made contributions on India’s relations with China, Israel, Sri Lanka, and the USA and is considered as one of the most prominent voices in Indian foreign policy and diplomatic relations. He has a number of books, research papers and journals to his credit. He has written more than 20 books. Some of his most read books include: Economic Growth in China and India 1952–70 (1973), India’s Economic Performance And Reforms: A Perspective for The New Millennium (2000), India’s China Perspective (2001), Financial Architecture and Economic Development in China and India (2006), Hindus Under Siege: The Way Out (2006), Rama Setu: Symbol of National Unity (2008), 2G Spectrum Scam (2011). RESET: Regaining India’s Economic Legacy (2019) is his latest book.
In 1939, Dr. Swamy was born in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and brought up in New Delhi, where he completed his graduation in Mathematics from Hindu College, University of Delhi. He attended Harvard University as a Rockefeller Scholar and under the guidance of Nobel laureate Simon Kuznets received a PhD in economics, on the thesis titled “Economic Growth and Income Distribution in a Developing Nation” in 1965. He returned to India to pursue a career in academics. However, his interest in market economy at a time when the government of the day was tilted more towards the Nehru brand of socialism and command economy pushed him to change path and move towards a political career.
Subramanian Swamy was one of the masterminds in presenting a Swadeshi Plan in 1970, amongst other Jan Sangh leaders that included Jagannathrao Joshi and Nanaji Deshmukh. The monograph vocally directed that socialism be replaced with a competitive market economic system to ensure India’s economic growth at 10 per cent to overtake China by 2030, achieve self-reliance, full employment and produce nuclear weaponry. The plan was deemed “dangerous” by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and was dismissed. This sets the premises for the book RESET: Regaining India’s Economic Legacy. Fifty years hence, this seminal work provides a fresh look into his pioneering ideas on India-specific economic development.
In RESET, Dr. Swamy accentuates, “While it is undeniable, and a reality that the economy is headed for a serious crisis, yet the situation is retrievable. In fact, a turnover can begin within three weeks if the government initiates ‘real’ economic policy changes, as was done in 1991-96 during the tenures of Chandra Shekhar followed by P. V. Narasimha Rao as prime ministers, when I drafted the reform proposals as a senior ranked minister. Does the Modi government 2.0 have such contingency prescriptions ready? It does not seem so as of now. A solid grounding in macroeconomics is essential, which Modi’s colleagues in the Cabinet lack. Such savvy political colleagues cannot be imported. Unless the leader is in sync with such colleagues, like Narasimha Rao, it is not possible to draft such a reform package for a government.”
In the book, he guides us on to India’s economic voyage in three stages — sailing through the ups and downs from the pre-independence days, through the post-Independence till liberalization, and into the post-liberalization India. He acknowledges India’s rich economic legacy and provides a thorough study of the historical accounts that led to degradation in the economic scenario and presents a roadmap to regaining the paradise lost in the Indian economy. The rise and fall of economies seem to be linked with an umbilical cord to a nation’s agricultural productivity and industrial growth. The direction that these two areas take in a country to a large extent depends on the country’s leadership and decision-making.
Taking a historical sweep, Dr. Swamy contends that while British imperialism uprooted Indian agriculture, the Soviet inspired Nehruvian model of centralized economic planning constrained innovation and paved the way for missed opportunities and unfulfilled promises as far industrialization in India was concerned. The book is an astute account of the changes and continuities, the myths and realities in India’s economic outlook and outcomes since independence. The Indian economy post-liberalization has, over the years made undeniable strides to becoming one of the largest economies in the world. However, amidst the stories of growth and development, Indian economic planning is not without fault lines, that if not bridged and repaired would create wide cracks which could negatively impact the trajectory of the Indian economy. Reset is an attempt to provide an unabashed criticism of the present contours of Indian economy and provide a roadmap for a better future.
In the beginning of the book, he pessimistically highlights: “Since 2016, the economy has dangerously gone into a tailspin.” But towards the end of the book, taking pride in India’s innate resilience, he brings in Deendayal Upadhyay’s ideology of “Integral Humanism” within the framework of economics and contrasts it with capitalism and communism. He charts out an optimistic frame through “Integral Humanism” away from “Nehruvian Socialism” towards India’s growth, thus regaining its legacy of development along with modernising and renovating its past heritage. Articulately written, the book lays out irrefutable evidences in the form of tables, charts, and data and discusses in detail the economic conditions India had gone through under the British Raj, the consecutive Five-Year Plans since the independence, and to the present economic scenario.
In Reset, Dr Swamy reflects on the current situation of the Indian economy and stridently calls for a “reset” in the Indian economy. Like in life, in the book too, he does not sit on the fence. He does not shy away from addressing the economic policies of the Modi government as defective and provides a suggestion so that the government can implement corrective measures.
Time and again, the Harvard-educated economist has voiced out that the BJP government under the Modi administration has failed drastically. Adept in the subject, he cogently diagnoses the ailments and prescribes the remedies for laymen as well as economists to understand the prevailing conditions in the Indian economy.
The book can be seen as a wakeup call for the Modi government.
Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English literature and communication skills at the Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal. She is also a freelance copy editor and copy writer. Settled in the western shores of the Arabian Sea, she loves nature besides reading over a hot cup of tea. She can be reached at email@example.com
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