India Uncut

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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Ignoring economic freedoms

Shekhar Gupta writes about the Indira Gandhi years:
It is a most remarkably peculiar Indian phenomenon, where there is almost zero tolerance for political authoritarianism but no such questioning of economic authoritarianism of the kind we suffered between 1967 and 1977. The Indian Express Economics Editor Ila Patnaik gives me stunning evidence of how this was the darkest decade for our economy as, apart from bank nationalisation, some of the most ghastly economic laws, the MRTP Act, Small Scale Reservation Act, FERA, Amended Industrial Disputes Act to finally apply it to many more units, Urban Land Ceiling Act, quantitative and tariff curbs on imports, all happened in this period.
Gaurav Sabnis had pointed out recently that Indians are remarkably tolerant of the suppression of all our freedoms except the political one. Gupta has a take on this as well. He writes:
[H]ere is a theory. Could it be that starting with the euphoric early days of Nehru, we were caught in a neat trap. Nehru built a system where we were offered the political freedoms of a free-market democracy but economic freedoms of a benign socialist system. And because we had a reference point only for political liberty (having been a colony) and none for entrepreneurial freedom, we were so easily taken in. In a way, what Nehru gave us, and Indira built on, was the opposite of what the Communists are doing in China today, offering their people the economic freedoms of free-market democracies and the political restrictions of Communism.
Excellent insight. Read the full piece.
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