Today is election day for both Sonia as well as Advani – and there is a reader’s letter here that asks the important question:
Why is Chacha Manmohan not standing for elections?
In the meanwhile, in his column in Mint, Salil Tripathi laments the fact that the party manifestoes of both the Congress as well as the BJP "lack economic vision.”
So let us turn to the star of the Indian political stage, the scientist and former president of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, who has just outlined his “vision” for a bright and prosperous India. This vision is based on the belief that “a technical solution existed for every social and economic problem.”
Kalam proposes four “grids” as his technical solution:
=> the Knowledge Grid interconnects universities with socio-economic institutions, industries and research and development organisations,
=> the Health Grid joins the healthcare institutions of government, corporates and super-speciality hospitals.
=> the e-Governance Grid interconnects the central and state governments and district and block level offices and
=> the PURA Grid is aimed at Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas.
Kalam never mentions roads!
An All-India Toll-Free Roadways Grid is not part of his “technical solution.”
And look at his proposals:
The “knowledge grid” is based on the fallacious idea that the rural poor need “knowledge” from The State; that is, the ministry of human resource destruction
The “health grid” proposes a State programme. It means more ministers like Ramadoss running vast departments, wasting all the resources, producing nothing of any worth.
The “e-governance grid” is a vision of perfect government using computers – whereas real governance is about running cities and towns well, establishing a political order, applying law to all disputes and so on. There is much about government that is human; Kalam seems to think that with the “e-governance grid” the Central Planner On High will run things better. But societies are run by laws based on Principles. Societies cannot be run on the basis of “information.” You need sound theories above all –which Kalam lacks.
Finally, the PURA Grid, Kalam’s pet idea of Putting Urban Amenities in Rural Areas. This remains an idea of “rural development,” to be put into effect by State action, using tax revenues. (But no roads!).
How will a village get an ATM, an “urban amenity”? How will villagers get electricity, piped water and gas? - especially when these are not available even in our cities today, only because they are State monopolies.
Unfortunately, because of economic laws governing the “division of labour,” markets are Urban. Indeed, civilization is urbanization.
The science of Economics suggests Urbanization is the only way to develop the hinterland – for which we need roads and highways.
We need to dump “rural development” and call for an aggressive urbanization: new cities and towns, new hill-stations, new coastal cities, and so on. The USA is 350 million people in 200 cities. We are 1000 million people with 5 cities. We need thousands more. The only way we can achieve this goal is by building roads in a “hub-and-spoke system” pan-India, with every major city treated as a “hub” and the “spokes” leading out to all the smaller, satellite towns surrounding it.
Not a “grid.”
So much for the “technical solution.”
To conclude, Bastiat’s words are eminently applicable to APJ Abdul Kalam:
“The Plans differ. The Planners are all alike.”
And if I sound like a "planner": I plead "not guilty."
The "hubs-and-spokes" road system is a "pattern prediction" based on praxeological principles. It is basic to the economics of transport. It is not a "plan."