Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant said on Tuesday that “tough reforms” are difficult in India because “we are too much of a democracy”, but added that for the first time the government had shown the will to bring hard-headed reforms across sectors. One part of his quote — “too much of a democracy” — inspired a meme-fest and sharp reactions on social media.
The government today confronted questions on Amitabh Kant’s comment. “We are proud of our democracy,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, closing the subject.
The top plan panel officer made the comments at an online event, ‘The Road to Atmanirbhar Bharat’, organised by Swarajya magazine yesterday.
He was asked whether the Covid pandemic presented an opportunity for India to take the lead in manufacturing, seeing that attempts made in the past had not taken off.
“So tough reforms are very difficult in the Indian context, we are too much of a democracy. For the first time, the government has had the courage and the determination to carry out very hard-headed reforms across sectors – mining, coal, labour, agriculture. These are very, very difficult reforms. The easier reforms were done away with. You needed a huge amount of political determination and administrative will to carry out these reforms which are being done,” Mr Kant replied.
“Many more reforms still need to be done. This government has at least demonstrated its political will to do hard-headed reforms and we need to see them through to become a major manufacturing nation. It’s not easy to compete with China. It’s not easy to become a manufacturing nation, it does not happen out of holding seminars and webinars. It requires a very hard-headed ground level approach which has been attempted for the first time in India,” he asserted.
As some reports quoted Mr Kant as saying that tough reforms were difficult because “we are too much of a democracy”, both the Niti Aayog CEO and Swarajya put out clarifications.
“Swarajya’s interaction with Amitabh Kant was on PLI and manufacturing and not on political systems. His response was in the context of spreading resources too thin and not creating global champions. Some mischievous elements have attempted to distort and quote it totally out of context,” Swarajya posted.
Mr Kant tweeted: “This is definitely not what I said. I was speaking about MEIS scheme (Merchandise Exports from India Scheme to reward exporters) and resources being spread thin and need for creating global champions in manufacturing sector.”
His words were, however, seized by opposition leaders like Congress MP Rahul Gandhi. “Under Mr Modi, reform equals theft. That’s why they need to get rid of democracy,” the Congress leader tweeted, using the hashtag #TooMuchDemocracy.