Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, on Friday, pointed out that with the clear majority in Lok Sabha and low crude oil prices, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had the "once in a generation" opportunity to catapult India onto the next level of growth, and urged Modi to set aside deep-rooted distrust and take India on a high growth trajectory.
Delivering the valedictory address at the National Economy Conclave, Singh said the present regime is looking at all sections of society, be it farmers, youth, entrepreneurs or others through a "tainted prism of distrust" and has positioned itself as the saviour. India is a three trillion global economy driven by private entrepreneurship, and they cannot be expected to grow in an atmosphere of fear, he added.
"There is a palpable atmosphere of fear. Every section is living in fear of authorities, and afraid to do anything," Singh said, adding that the confidence of media, judiciary, the industry, and the creative people has been eroded, and there is deep distrust, suspicion, and pervasive fear, which stifle growth.
Making it clear that he was speaking as a citizen and an economist, keeping aside politics, the former prime minister quoted his teachers at Oxford and said economic growth and development are shaped by societies and one cannot separate economy from the society. The state of the economy depends on the mindset of those who make the decisions that have national, economic and political significance. Mutual trust, he asserted, was the bedrock of economic growth.
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Singh said the GDP figure of 5 per cent being reduced to 4.5 per cent over the quarter was "unacceptable", and added that people wanted 8 to 9 per cent growth. “For that,” he said, "we need to change the climate of fear to one of confidence".
There is no one who can deny the slowdown and the disastrous consequence of it on the farmers, youth and the poor, the former prime minister said in the course of the speech that lasted less than ten minutes.
The National Economy Conclave, organised by the Samruddha Bharat Foundation and the Institute for Contemporary Studies, discussed the state of India's economy, industry, job crisis, agrarian crisis, and fiscal federalism.
The former prime minister did not mention the prevailing situation in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, but said universities taught people to be intellectually honest and fearsome, as well as fostered diversity.