Manmohan Singh was interviewed by several editors. He talks about why it is that the Government cannot randomly give away the foodgrains, even if government-owned godowns have surplus stock.
His reasoning that farmers will stop producing food if the government starts giving away free food may be a little too Ayn Rand-ish for my liking. Also, it may seem a bit obtuse to say that when you have 37 percent of your population below the poverty line, and there’s no way you can feed all of them for free, you can’t feed a some part of them (because that would be unfair to the rest, I guess). But when he takes on the Supreme Court and says that the higher judiciary in this country should not go around talking about policy formulation, I think he’s spot-on.
The higher judiciary, the Supreme Court in particular, doesn’t just uphold the law, it micromanages our lives. Its judgements range through matters great and small. It decides what’s good for the environment and what isn’t, whether dams should be built, rivers linked, mountains moved, forests felled. It decides what our cities should look like and who has the right to live in them. It decides whether slums should be cleared, streets widened, shops sealed, whether strikes should be allowed, industries should be shut down, relocated or privatised. It decides what goes into school textbooks, what sort of fuel should be used in public transport and schedules of fines for traffic offences. It decides what colour the lights on judges’ cars should be (red) and whether they should blink or not (they should). It has become the premier arbiter of public policy in this country that likes to market itself as the World’s Largest Democracy.
I think it’s fantastic that the Prime Minister has just asked the Supreme Court to mind its own business.
I also think what he had to say about people in his government disagreeing with each other, or two ministries in his government fighting it out (the Environment ministry and the Civil aviation minister are at loggerheads over the Navi Mumbai Airport. The Environment ministry also stopped Vedanta from plundering Orissa’s forests. Kamal Nath and Montek Singh have gone toe to toe) was brilliant. He points out that Nehru or Indira Gandhi’s cabinets had a lot more internal disagreement, and that disagreement should be the norm in a democracy, not something to be looked upon as a bad thing.
He also says, of his being interviewed by several top editors, that the pigeon has been set amongst the cats. Indeed!