The north-eastern states’ political marginalization has not only contributed to their extremely slow development, but also banished their plight from the national imagination—as your editorial describes it, as concerns of “people of far-off states” (“Manipur, a forgotten place”, Mint, 15 June). As distances go, Manipur is probably not any further from Delhi than Kerala, but in terms of development and the state’s place in the public imagination, the distance could be measured in light years. Imagine that it has taken two months of hardships for the state to earn an editorial. The last time it made a splash in national newspapers was when mothers and grandmothers walked naked on the streets to protest the rape of a Manipuri woman by army personnel stationed there.
The following have been very rightly brought out by Arun Maira’s op-ed titled “Ideas that hinder inclusive growth” (Mint, 1 June):
1. The poor want opportunities to create wealth for themselves, through access to capital, education and income-generating opportunities.
2. People should work harder and not ask for handouts.
3. Human beings act rationally in their self-interest.
4. A truly inclusive society can be built when differing social science perspectives are allowed to enmesh with trust and growth.
These objectives can be achieved by changing certain policies. At present, the policy of growth is more concentrated in bigger towns and industrial areas, thus encouraging migration from the villages to bigger towns. This process does not encourage inclusive growth in villages and smaller towns. Our effort should be to encourage a large number of small towns to become urbanized hubs for nearby rural areas. This would discourage migration to bigger towns and cities and the creation of slums. It would also encourage cheaper development of all urban services and facilities including skill development and job creation of various kinds.
Recently, urban development minister S. Jaipal Reddy said during the launch of the Sustainable Urban Transport Project that states must think of imposing a road congestion tax on motorists in an effort to check vehicle numbers and greenhouse gas emissions, citing the success of such measures in Singapore.
The project aims to encourage people to use public transport instead of personal vehicles and thus control greenhouse gas emissions.
Last month, the Delhi government said it is planning to levy a charge on motorists for driving in congested areas of the Capital before the Commonwealth Games in October.
Delhi has over five million vehicles and four million more come to the metropolis every day from adjoining states.
The facts speak for themselves. Though there are a million or more measures to enable and encourage people to use the public transport modes and discourage private motor vehicles from plying on our roads, the minister talks of something absurd such as congestion tax.
Time and again, it has been proved that people are willing to pay taxes for essentials and luxuries. The congestion tax will never work in our system, and other than looting owners of cars to fill government coffers, it will have no other effect. It is foolhardy to think that the Singapore model will work here under our conditions.
A simple fact—larger cars are taxed 22%, whereas smaller cars are taxed 8%. Yet, there has been a phenomenal increase in big car sales.
The minister and his ministry must study ground realities and not resort to formulating armchair policies.
YOUR TURN TO TALK
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