- Manmohan Singh says India faces danger from social disharmony
- He said economic slowdown and global health epidemic big concerns
- "I deeply worry," he said about "this potent combination of risks"
India faces imminent danger from the trinity of social disharmony, economic slowdown and a global health epidemic, Manmohan Singh says in an article published in The Hindu newspaper on Friday. Prime Minister Narendra Modi "must convince the nation, not merely through words but by deeds, that he is cognisant of the dangers we face and reassure the nation that he can help us tide over this as smoothly as we can," the former Prime Minister writes, describing what he calls a "grim and morose" situation in the country.
"It is with a very heavy heart that I write this...I deeply worry that this potent combination of risks may not only rupture the soul of India but also diminish our global standing as an economic and democratic power in the world," says Manmohan Singh, who was Prime Minister of India for two terms between 2004 and 2014.
Referring to last week's violence in parts of Delhi, Dr Singh says communal tensions were stoked and flames of religious intolerance fanned by "unruly sections of our society, including the political class". Institutions of law and order had abandoned their dharma to protect citizens and institutions of justice and media "have also failed us", he adds.
"With no checks, the fire of social tensions is rapidly spreading across the nation and threatens to char the soul of our nation. It can only be extinguished by the same people that lit it," the former prime minister and economist writes.
"Just in a matter of few years, India has slid rapidly from being a global showcase of a model of economic development through liberal democratic methods to a strife ridden majoritarian state in economic despair."
In times of a floundering economy, the impact of such social unrest would only exacerbate the slowdown, he says. "Social harmony, the bedrock of economic development, is now under peril. No amount of tweaking of tax rates, showering of corporate incentives or goading will propel Indian or foreign businesses to invest, when the risk of eruption of sudden violence in one's neighbourhood looms large," writes Dr Singh.
He prescribes a three-point plan for the government -- "First, it should focus all energies and efforts on containing the COVID-19 threat and prepare adequately. Two, it should withdraw or amend the Citizenship Act, end the toxic social climate and foster national unity. Three, it should put together a detailed and meticulous fiscal stimulus plan to boost consumption demand and revive the economy."
Dr Singh writes that it is not his desire to offer a dire prognosis or to exaggerate fears. "The truth is that the current situation is very grim and morose. The India that we know and cherish is slipping away fast. Wilfully stoked communal tensions, gross economic mismanagement and an external health shock are threatening to derail India's progress and standing."