Shanker Sinh Vaghela: Governments often have to take loans to execute major public welfare projects and infrastructure development works. But a government is also supposed to ensure that the burden of loans should remain under check so that it does not become a bone in the throat.
The debt of the Gujarat government has increased considerably over the years and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be a major blow for the state’s already strained finances. COVID-19 has crushed the industry and business in the state and sent the economy into a tailspin. In such a situation, it is the responsibility of bureaucrats to intimate their political bosses about the impending financial crisis. But Gujarat’s bureaucracy has never learned to stand up to its political leaders and tell them the reality. Such a spineless bureaucracy has only added to the financial troubles of the state and the people.
To earn brownie points from politicians, officials never informed the state government that its expensive schemes and celebrations were not generating enough returns and in fact, were draining the exchequer. Had this money been spent on schemes that actually benefited the people, then we would not have been in this situation.
Instead of planning ahead for the potential impact of COVID-19, the government was busy clapping and making noises for the sake of optics. The labourers that formed the backbone of Gujarat’s industry were left to fend for themselves as they scrambled to get home. If they fail to return, Gujarat will see its development stagnating.
Development is not a favour bestowed on the people. It is a continuous process and the state has always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Gujarat has always been ahead as far as industrialisation is concerned. The credit for its economic prosperity cannot be attributed to a particular party or person. Centuries ago, Gujarati traders crossed oceans to take advantage of the sea trade and had spread their reach to Africa and the Middle East, bringing prosperity to the state. Today, the same state has been made bankrupt by a government that continues to live on past glory and arrogance.
Presently, the state has 50 lakh to 60 lakh unemployed people and this figure will balloon further as COVID-19 pandemic renders many more unemployed. Even as students graduate with expensive degrees, there are not enough employment opportunities for them. Gujarat is directionless and it even lacks the workforce to support its industry. Instead of randomly changing rules it needs to bring appropriate changes in labour laws so that manufacturing can get a boost or else Gujarat will further continue to get sucked into the quagmire of debt.