There was a time not so long ago when on many emotive issues political careers were being rejuvenated or made on the threat of 'if the demand is not accepted there will be threat to Indian unity'. Issues of employment, reservation, etc were feeders. That rhetoric had its day and sunk without leaving a trace.
In a so called new era the threat is of 'civil war and bloodshed'. Release of NRC got a CM agitated. How far this threat will go is for future to unfold.
In the meanwhile, life goes on. In the last four years much seminal action has been generated by the powers that govern at the Centre. The writer of these lines had an occasion to interact with Shri Narendra Modi in his closing years as Chief Minister of Gujarat. Shri Modi came across as a man who meant business. This is not the same thing as saying that he invariably managed to get his bureaucrats on board or that all his statements and intentions had a logical follow through to a conclusion. This applies to NRC.
The purpose here is, also, to highlight how social discourse can affect business. If the launch of the second draft of Assam's National Register of Citizens can lead the Chief Minister of a neighbouring state to threaten bloodbath and civil war, business is entitled to ask her which way business should to turn?
The story doesn't end there. With release of NRC another line of business has been launched.
The writer of these lines received in mail the call of a Forum called 'Citizens for Justice and Peace'. This forum does not name anyone as office bearers of the Forum, claims to be based in Mumbai and asks for donations. In its request brochure it has got pictures of five individuals from the same community. It is well known that the so called 40 lakhs people who are left out from the register do not all belong to the same community. It is well recognised that Koch Rajbongshis; people of Nepalese origin and many Hindus also do not figure in the NRC. The brochure of this forum refers to how Monuwar Hussain, just 8 years old or a ShamshulHaq or a Saken Ali have all been unfairly treated. It is being claimed that Saken's name was misspelt as 'Sakhen' and that caused trouble for him. All this may be true.
Such errors are known to happen, do happen and are not unlikely in the case of NRC. Fortunately, in case of NRC, there is forum for appeal.
The problem is that, often, there is no workable platform for reprieve. The writer of these lines was issued a voters identity card reading Vinay shitGautam. On approaching the person for correction, the person retorted, 'How does it matter, after all you remain the same person'.
That was some years ago. Since then, in the social and business landscape monitoring has become far more ubiquous but inefficiency remains the same.
One has to keep re-establishing one's identity, especially in business, over and over again. The list is long, repetitive and keeps multiplying. In one case, a person was asked to submit copy of the passport, copy of the PAN card, copy of the Aadhaar card, copy of the latest mobile bill, get it certified by a practising Company Secretary, etc. etc.
Yes, this is doable. It can take multiple hours if not days. But the systems must work.
There are numerous cases where getting one address changed on the Aadhaar card has been responded to by multiple 'technical errors'. The system says that the new Aadhaar Card may take up to 90 days. The computer systems of the service desks of Aadhaar Card update are often manned by those who are otherwise unemployable or the system itself is so slow that it takes about 10-15 minutes per case. In the meanwhile the line of people waiting keeps getting longer and the antics of protest ensure that the key functionary of the office disappears.
How does business function under such circumstances? Of the many slogans that this government has, one is, 'ease of doing business'. Does the situation need any comment?
There is no existing training institution or skill formation institution which is even claiming to train in basic efficiencies.
Indeed if someone desires efficiency, he soon gets termed as an 'odd ball'.
In the meanwhile, the political rhetoric keeps getting shriller. In the last four years, the dynastic leader of a major political party has 'hugged' and 'winked' but always failed to find anything worthwhile that the government has done. Obviously, the compliments have been reciprocated.
The creature who wants a job done feels hapless and business gets stuck at several new points. The Minister for IT, like many other Ministers features on select television channels to show how digitisation is sweeping the country. No one wants to make issues with him. The reprisals are short and swift.
In the meanwhile, business is finding its own ways of coping. They are not waiting for reforms to reform. As the election date come nearer, the likelihood of more and more populist actions increases.
Business in the middle of 2019 may be left as hapless as it was in 2014. The fate of business may have not changed even though factors causing the haplessness may well have changed. This is one of the few cases where one hopes that one's analysis and conclusions would need to be revisited.