Economic slowdown: RSS to hold economists' meet on 6 October, suggest steps to tide over crisis

Worried by constant criticism that India’s economy is in trouble, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has convened a special meeting of economists and financial planners on 6 October to put together a white paper on corrective measures the government could adopt in tackling the crisis.

The RSS, the unofficial think tank of the ruling NDA, will present its findings and recommendations to the Prime Minister's Office, a Sangh functionary told Firstpost, adding that the gathering has been summoned by Mohan Bhagwat, the man who heads the organisation.

“It would be an alternate economic survey with solutions to boost the economy,” claimed a senior RSS official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He clarified that although the Sangh's brainstorming sessions are an annual affair, this particular confabulation marks a departure from the norm that it has been organised specifically to address the economy, does not count senior editors among attendees, and that the resulting white paper will be presented formally to the PMO.

Bhagwat’s move, claimed the RSS functionary, was also to counter the recent onslaught on the Modi government by a host of politicians, the latest being senior BJP leader and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, through his article, titled I need to speak up now.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Bhagwat, it is reliably learnt, has already met some key economists in Delhi and sought their views on the state of the economy. He has also asked the RSS to include as many senior economists and financial planners for this crucial discussion panels so that they could offer advice on what could be done to push private investment which has shrunk industrial production and pushed agriculture in distress.

The meeting, to be held at the RSS main office in Delhi, will have economic planners and financial analysts from various ministries and also private entities. Invitations have also been sent to heads of a host of public sector undertakings like National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and Indian Railways. The meeting will also be attended by vice chancellors of various universities and heads of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT).

In his speech to the party and also to the nation on the occasion of Dusherra, Bhagwat praised the New Delhi government for its deft handling of the Dokalam standoff with the neighbouring China. He also praised the Modi government for not offering a helping hand to the exploding Rohingya refugee crisis but emphasised the need to protect farmers through a minimum support price (MSP) from the vagaries of market and demanded protection to small, medium and micro business units which provide jobs to people, especially, from the financially weaker sections.

The annual speech of RSS chief is significant because the organisation was started on Dussehra in 1925.

“Our economic policies should ensure the needs of big businesses, small medium and micro are to be protected,” he said.

RSS insiders claim the Delhi meeting followed the party’s annual, three-day long meet in early September in Vrindavan where some of the economic issues were deliberated by party bigwigs. Members of Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, a trade union backed by RSS, and Laghu Udyog Bharati, one of the India’s largest MSME, had raised some serious issues about the country’s economy at the Vrindavan meeting.

Sources in the Sangh claim the Delhi meeting will serve two ends: to deflect attention from the BJP, and, more important, to highlight the RSS' influence on the government and push its "pro-poor, pro-people agenda", which a section of the RSS feels has been neglected by the Modi government.

“The idea is to push Bharat, where the majority lives, only then India will progress,” said the RSS official.

Seasoned political analyst Mohan Guruswamy said the RSS meeting is an "ego-boosting exercise" for the government which is under severe pressure from the opposition. “I have not seen any great, visionary ideas coming out of the RSS camp except their thoughts for the financially weaker section of the society. But that is just one part of the economy. I would wait and watch, let us see what this conclave offers and what comes out of it.”

Gopal Aggarwal, the head of the Economic Cell of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the meeting of RSS chief on Dusherra has been a regular feature. “But the meeting will assume significance because the Sangh will offer its view point on a host of issues confronting the government. So while the meeting is routine because its held every year, its importance is now definitely high.”

Aggarwal should know the importance of the meeting. Top BJP leader Subramanian Swamy remarked last month that the country's economy was heading towards depression, asking questions about sliding GDP figures. Equally critical was Yashwant Sinha's remark that the economy is on a “downward spiral, poised for a hard landing”. Both these comments appeared more credible than those made by the Opposition leaders.

Aggarwal said some of the criticism is totally misplaced because even at 5.7 percent GDP growth rate in the June-September quarter, India is still among the fastest growing economies of the world and the global agencies are still optimistic about India's growth potential.

“The economy is not in a mess, but if the RSS has some interesting ideas to offer, we would love to take a look at them,” said Aggarwal.

He said some of the top global agencies have acknowledged the reform measures taken by the Modi government - demonetisation, digitisation and GST -as much needed course correction. A Morgan Stanley research report said the government’s digital push to the economy - JAM (Jan Dhan, Aadhaar and Mobile initiative, and GST) will help India to become the world's third-largest economy within a decade with a gross domestic product of $6 trillion.

Aggarwal said even the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted India's economic growth rate will pick up faster and that the cash shortages in cash dependent sectors of economy will gradually end and give a more vigorous push to economy and help it achieve growth of 7.2 percent for 2017-18. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said last month the economy would grow at 6.7 percent for 2017-18.

“It will be good to see if the RSS has a better roadmap for the government. I will wait for the report,” said Aggarwal.

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2017 16:39 PM

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