And now, jugaadnomics
Times of India, December 23, 2015
have to wait till Rajya Sabha changes its composition or
After last year?s
watershed elections, many had expected India to immediately
enter a new economic era, and some even started giving it a
name, Modinomics. It was, of course, modelled after Reaganomics
and Abenomics, the eponymous homage to the economic rejigging of
1980s USA by President Ronald Reagan and present day Japan by
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
That expectation had
been based on both the campaign rhetoric as well as the new PM?s
track record as chief minister. But despite getting the biggest
mandate and the first single-party Lok Sabha majority in three
decades, his government?s economic agenda has been marooned in
the parliamentary logjam in Rajya Sabha.
That is not to say
there has been no change in the economy. The government
legitimately refers to India?s 12-place jump in this year?s
annual World Bank index on ease of doing business. Going by the
World Economic Forum?s annual index of economic competitiveness,
India has done even better, going up 16 places after five years
of decline. And FDI is up significantly.
But the kind of
quantum leap that would justify an epoch-defining moniker has
been elusive. So what is a government to do? The perception that
it had tried to bypass Parliament by issuing a large number of
ordinances is misplaced. From Nehru?s time Indian governments,
including this one, have averaged around 10 ordinances a year.
One way is to fall
back on a timehonoured Indian approach, jugaad. This familiar
north Indian term nevertheless deserves some reflection.
Wikipedia calls jugaad ?a colloquial Hindi and Punjabi word that
can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around, used for
solutions that bend rules, or a resource that can be used as
such, or a person who can solve a complicated issue.?
From using washing
machines as industrial-strength mixies for making lassi, to
paper clips holding skin flaps during surgery, examples of
Indian jugaad are legion. In fact, several international
academic papers and books have been written on jugaad, covering
fields such as innovation, technology and management.
Now jugaad has
arrived in India?s lawmaking. As this column is being written
the government has filed in Lok Sabha the long overdue
bankruptcy bill, aimed at expediting and streamlining the
winding down of unviable businesses.
But this bill has a
twist. It includes tweaks to tax laws, including income tax and
customs and excise duties, thus making it a ?money bill?, which
does not require passage by the Rajya Sabha.
Arun Jaitley had first hinted at this as a fallback option back
in August, when his bid to break the Rajya Sabha logjam got no
support from the opposition. Several other democracies that
faced such deadlock between two chambers of bicameral
legislatures have resolved them by amending their constitutions.
This was done by either reducing the powers of the chamber that
is nominated or indirectly elected, the path followed by the UK
and Italy, or by making that chamber directly elected, which the
But key sections of
the opposition remain resolutely against even discussing any
systemic reform. Six members of Rajya Sabha have gone to the
extent of filing a privilege and contempt motion against this
author, for writing in these pages last month that it is time to
debate such reforms in India.
structuring of legislation as money bills that might not in the
usual course be so is a workaround, a jugaad way of getting
things done. Will it pass muster? Some experts, including
lawyers and retired senior bureaucrats, say it does. Even
critics, while objecting to its propriety, tacitly admit it may
be legally feasible.
retired Lok Sabha Secretary General P D T Achary has written
that the Constitution requires money bills to have no non-money
bill components, but also that the Speaker?s decision is final
in these matters. He further says that there ought to be
stipulated procedures for how the Speaker should interpret what
constitutes a money bill, but concedes there aren?t any.
He cites precedents
of Rajya Sabha accepting the finality of the Speaker?s decision
in this matter. And though he has reservations, Achary most
tellingly quotes Nehru from 1953, ?It is now clear and beyond
the possibility of dispute that the Speaker?s authority is final
in declaring that a bill is a money bill. When the Speaker gives
a certificate to this effect, this cannot be challenged. The
Speaker has no obligation to consult anyone in coming to a
It is quite possible
that Nehru?s successors will disregard his stand and try legal
and agitative means to challenge the government?s move.
Nevertheless, it seems the latter has done its homework. And
that the present ruling party, which in opposition had similarly
crippled its predecessor, is determined to chart a different
The opposition is
right to ask the government to reach out more and address its
concerns. But unless it is also sincerely willing to find middle
ground, it could find itself outflanked on all but the most
exceptional bills like GST, which require constitutional
Jugaad is not the
ideal solution, but it gets the job done in difficult
circumstances. Until either, the Rajya Sabha composition
changes, or there is a breakthrough compromise, Modinomics will
have to wait, but Jugaadnomics need not.
*BJD Lok Sabha MP
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