Issue :   
December 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         December 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:December' 2018


Bane of divisive politics in India, US

S. Narendra

Donald Trump

No brief on international politico-economic situation can avoid referring to American politics,especially under the present US president Donald Trump. The country has very recently gone through its mid-term elections to 36 out of 50 state governorships, city councils, powerful 100 member federal senate and 436-member House of Representatives. President Trump led the campaign from the front, as no other predecessors had done before and made it a referendum on his ‘America First’ conservative agenda. In the polls his Republican party retained the Senate majority but lost the less powerful lower house of Representatives to opposition democrats espousing a liberal agenda An upset president threatened to wage a war on the House if it fails to fall in line with his inward looking agenda. Reportedly, the candidates to the two federal legislatures spent about $8 billion on the campaign; that was outside the campaign money invested by interested groups.According to most observers, the campaign was one of the most divisive ones in American political history. There was widespread ‘gerry -

mandering’ ( fixing of constituency boundaries by candidates choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their candidates), preventing registration of poor black and Latino voters who tend to support Democrats, removing polling booths for preventing registered voters.Yet the polls showed a surge of young voters, more than 100 women becoming members of the lower house, a Muslim woman,more blacks and Latinos getting elected.In almost all contests the winning margin was very narrow.
On the one side, the election went to energise the opposition Democrat’s party. On the other hand, it’s very resurgence and attacks on the president and his policies could help him to hold the political centrestage, as he has been occupying it since 2016. He has totally eclipsed the Republican party, by authoring the success of its candidates in the latest round of elections.

According to Time magazine, the voter turn -out was historic , thanks to Trump’s persona and confrontationist, racist and divisive campaign that drove voters of the two parties to the polling booth. One is struck by the similarities between the world’s richest and largest democracies-US and India - moving in incessant cycles of highly divisive electoral politics.Both present pictures of dysfunctional democracy facing the crisis of institutions considered as pillars of representative governments.

Transportation options

In India’s chaotic,polluted urban scene, transportation options are very limited.While the prime minister occasionally exhorts people not to use automobiles, the infrastructure and traffic planning do not provide safe facilities for cyclists and pedestrians.High cost urban roads are used for free, haphazard auto -parking that add to road congestion. In contrast, in well planned urban cities in the West, people have multiple transportation options made possible by separating high speed vehicles from cyclists, pedestrians and offering designated parking facilities.

Mobility options Such century- old planning has opened a new multimillion dollar micro-transportation business in which Uber, Lyft, Ford, Google Alphabet have invested. Kid’s two-wheeled scooti has been upgraded to an electric scooter. Batches of them are kept in city centres and could be hired, just as one was hiring a cycles. The Uberlike services see such micro-mobility as offering the last mile link from home to work, shopping and leisure activities.This is adding another dimension to the emerging shared economy,where you pay as you go. MRT or mass rapid transport (metro)system that is being developed in India suffers from its failure to simultaneously provide for the last mile link-such as sufficient parking of automobiles at metro-stations, public bus services from such stations to short destinations, and other multiple mobility options.As a result, the objective of decongesting roads is rarely achieved.

Combating air pollution

Delhi air pollution Even as India’s capital was enveloped by highly polluted air, its representatives were participating in the world’s first ever conclave in Geneva on Air Pollution sponsored by WHO.Nearly 6.5 million deaths are caused every year due to polluted air.Asia-Pacific region accounts for one-third of such pollution,led by China and the Gangetic plains of India. Domestic fuel burning, vehicular exhausts and burning of farming wastes cause lung cancer and other pulmonary diseases,especially among the vulnerable young and old.Diseases and deaths are preventable,provided common-sense and science are applied; WHO conference was an attempt to remind participants to go back to the basics.
Unlike at the Climate Change Conference in 2014, India did not put up a convincing plan of action to combat air pollution at Geneva. It said that it would bring down pollution levels, particularly particulate matter “in definite percentage terms by 2024’. The Indian Parliament was also given a similar vague assurance by Indian health minister Dr.Harsh Vardhan sometime ago.The Indian National Clean Air Plan is yet to be finalised,despite the country being home to 11 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.The draft Plan does not have pollution reduction target targets linked to timelines.The document of the Geneva meet list 25 simple solutions including enforcement of strict vehicles emission standards, dust control from construction, increasing green cover.One wonders why there is no political will for India to set an example in the same way as Swacha Bharat crusade.

What ails economy ?

World economy is expected to grow at 3.7 per cent next year, on top of the same rate of growth recorded in the previous two years. While this is not spectacular, it seems healthy given the headwinds coming from US trade war, embargo on Iran oil exports, uncertainty over Brexit deal, slowing Chinese economy.A Bloomberg news agency forecast notes India as a star performer with over 7 per cent growth rate,followed by China’s 6.6 per cent.The global growth is pulled up by the big US economy that has moved up with 3-4 percent growth for nearly three quarters.
IMF says that the world economy could have done better. It warns that the current growth level faces risks from trade wars and political threats and disruption in crude oil supplies.As far as India is concerned, the looming general elections and growth mostly spurred by public investment and sluggish job growth should be matters of concern.
No region of the world is free from threats to global growth-Latin America’s large economies such as that of Brazil, Argentina have unsustainable debts and political turmoil. In EU,the central bank is reversing its policy of pumping money and could raise interest rates. Italy is defying its creditors by resorting to budget deficit.Facing tough US tariffs, an already slowing economy of China, is headed for tough times. Its troubles could affect bulk commodity exporters such as Australia, Africa and Latin America.
What one notes is that the economic troubles of today’s world are caused more by man’s political behaviour than economic fundamentals.

The author has been Distinguished civil servant and thinker of India.