Any student of economics would perhaps recall a discussion in the undergraduate class on the difference between normative and positive economics. Positive economics helps one to analyse the economy on the basis of what it is. On the other hand, normative economics deals with the analysis of the economy on the basis of what it should be. Debates on what should be forms the basis of the debates on development strategies. Theories and strategies may vary based on subjective judgments on what is considered a desirable state of affairs. However, they are based on certain absolute truths relating to individual and social well-being. For example there cannot be any debate regarding the fact that a well-fed person experiences greater well-being than a hungry man. It is well known that state policies regarding social well-being, takes into account these absolute truths.
The book under review deals with this very fundamental but now often regarded redundant guideline of social policymaking and the role of the state in ensuring social and economic well-being. As per the title of the book, the author puts forward the view that the concept of welfare state is gone.
S. Mohammad Irshad gives us an illuminating overview of the history of development planning in India and the slow but sure stages over the last few decades that has led to its ultimate demise. As mentioned in the preface, the focus of the book is “about the transformation of the Indian economy under the Modi regime.” The author refers to certain policies and/or policy failures over the decades that have led to economic inequality and perpetuation of poverty. He also points out that, “…every political party wants to prefer the ‘development’ of the country as its chief agenda and keeps telling people that it is committed to it.” But presently there has been open “legitimisation of capitalist development.” The author establishes this point by discussing each of the three recent economic interventions namely - the Niti Aayog, demonetisation, and the GST roll-out.
The first chapter traces the process of coming to power of the Modi government and in this context provides a detailed discussion of the political economy of elections. The second chapter deals with an elaborate discussion of forming of the NITI Aayog and the consequent dismantling of planned development. The author describes the NITI Aayog as ‘a project of privatisation of development governance’, as it appears to have provided a momentum to the ongoing process of privatisation that had started with the economic liberalisation in the 1980s. Analysing in detail the policy documents of the NITI Aayog, the author establishes the fact that there is only one direction in which the Indian economy may move, that is, towards displacement of development planning and withdrawal of government support for the weaker sections. The third chapter provides a review of the demonetisation policy that was suddenly thrust upon the Indian population on November 8, 2016. Providing a detailed analysis of the dynamics of black money in the
Indian economy and its relation with the corporate economy and political power, the author shows how demonetisation has failed in curbing black money. This was said to be an important objective of demonetisation. On the other hand it involved a high cost that was directly and indirectly borne by the people, the worst affected being the rural and informal sector. The next chapter gives us a detailed discussion of the history of the GST, its implications and its economic effects. The history of the GST goes back to the period of economic reforms in 1991. The analysis is very objective. The flaws of previous governments have not been lost sight of. We find mention of the gradual move towards privatisation over the decades and the rise of crony capitalism. The concluding chapter discusses the dangers of privatisation of state responsibilities.
There have been a few typing errors in very critical areas of the book that hampers smooth reading. On the whole, the book provides a very good analysis of the current issues related to the Indian economy. The author painstakingly justifies his arguments with supporting data. It is a good read for anybody interested in the Indian economy.