Its always so much more relatable when Chetan Bhagat confines himself to fiction: much less research, no number crunching and only feel good after-effect !  Unfortunately, a write-up on the economy requires far more rigour: reading, research, keeping up with the day-day developments and much more. While he starts with a genuine concern about the economy, it somewhere gets lost in rhetoric and whataboutery.

In the second paragraph of his piece, Chetan makes a wild assumption of Indians believing that ‘God Created the Problem, God will only fix it’ – his slant reference to a Minister in the Central Government referring the pandemic as an “Act of God” ! What amuses me is Chetan may have taken this literally, forgetting that even the technical word for an unforseen or Force Majeure event is referred as an “Act of God”. There have been a slew of measures taken by all Governments, be it at the Centre or the States to tide over the pandemic – some relatively successful and some not so. But to hypothesize that Indians are leaving things to the mercy of Almighty is rank unfair ! It not only shows one is oblivious to whats happening around but also insincere towards even acknowledging the same.

In the third paragraph, Chetan makes an inappropriate comment that the GDP bill was due to people’s celebration of the strictest, toughest lockdown in the world – WRONG ! The shrink in GDP (what he refers as GDP bill) is the trade off against lives saved (India’s mortality rate is still one of the lowest in the world – 1.7%, rank 75) Coming to his conjecture of people having celebrated the lockdown – WRONG AGAIN! People spontaneously celebrated all those providing us duties in those troubled times from public servants, health, sanitation and civil supply workers, security personnel and last but not the least our leaders uniting people for a common cause.

In the same paragraph, Chetan makes a veiled attack on Hindu way of thinking, reference squarely on the Government at the Centre that the lockdown was its gift to the country. What  Chetan tends to forget is that Public Order and Police are State subjects under Seventh Schedule of the Constitution and the Government at the Centre has only issued guidelines to different Ministries and State Governments and no Order was issued towards lockdown (Orders issued by MHA were in the form of guidelines only) – it CAN’T for the simple reason that its not the subject of the Centre or its role. All lockdowns in all States (except Union Territories (UT’s)) have solely been ordered by the respective State Governments and the management of such lockdowns had been squarely responsibilities of the State Governments (except UT’s). So by Chetan’s conjecture, are we to assume that all States in India and even where the BJP doesn’t form the government, took a Hindu view and imposed the lockdown !?!  Its preposterous that a writer of such stature can make ad-hominem comments on a community just to weave a narrative – its reprehensible and repulsive to the core !

In the fourth paragraph, Chetan asks if Indians aspire to be rich and citizens of a rich country while allaying issues of national defence (buying twelve planes – the reference was to purchase of Rafale), government’s outreach efforts (making ads /nationalistic pitches). If country isn’t secure and if people at the farthest corners of the country aren’t aware of the changes and reforms introduced by the government – how is Chetan exactly proposing to secure the country’s wealth or ensure an incremental trickle down of the benefits of reforms to the masses ? Of course, he doesn’t provide an answer !

In the fifth paragraph, Chetan unveils the roadmap to becoming rich as a two-point formula – no social unrest and complete freedom to the market (read no government intervention in the economy). What Chetan doesn’t tell : for unrests that have already taken place, should legal proceedings be stopped and the accused allowed to go scot-free !?!  Of course Chetan doesn’t answer that. Coming to Chetan’s call for free markets, history tells us Laissez Faire or Hands-Off type of approach with regards to the economy is more of than not failures and the greatest proof was during the Great Depression and also the 2008 Recession – when governments intervened on a pro-active basis to quell the damage. In fact, government intervention on a case-case basis in the markets is a much needed measure and if markets are allowed to run free, natural monopolies can be the result. So Chetan’s prescription of free markets is an utopia at best, a historically failed policy and its unlikely that India will reap rich rewards from the same.

In the sixth paragraph, Chetan makes a call for real fiscal stimulus. My response would be: Wake Up Mr Chetan ! Considerable fiscal stimulus has already been extended by the Government both at the Centre and the States and more may be forthcoming in near future depending on how the economy reacts. So were the earlier stimulus package fake ? Was it sheer ignorance or a feigned one, willfully !?!

Coming to the last but one paragraph, Mr Chetan points to youth’s addiction to cell phones which is a genuine problem but the onus lies squarely on the individual as to how to cut down on wasteful mobile content consumption !

In the last paragraph, Chetan points at a condescending binary – poor nation of under-employed clerks and delivery boys or a rich nation ! Does Mr Chetan’s concept of a rich nation have no place for clerks and delivery boys – are they pariah and scum of society !?! The reference to particular professions of people was by all means avoidable : any nation irrespective of how wealthy it is, would always have certain professions lower down in the pyramid and its perfectly natural ! Instead, what he could have mentioned is India needs more high skilled jobs and not stay content being the off-shore capital or high-burn-rate-delivery-startups’ capital of the world but, he made no such reference.

To conclude, my humble request to Mr Chetan Bhagat would be to write more sensitized, informed pieces, backed by data, rather than sweeping commentaries, ad hominems, purile stuff based on innuendos. And, if not, its better to stick to one’s competence area where one is an acclaimed success !

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