Published October 4-7, 2022
A New Movement
As India celebrated 75 years of Independence, Har Ghar Tiranga (the national flag in every home) was all the rage, little realising that the nation may be free from the British, but the British Raj 2.0 mindset of control and division, extraction and exploitation still pervades every party and government with the result that the people are still slaves to those in power. With the politicians running an anti-prosperity machine, it is little surprise that India is still a poor nation with vast swathes of the country resembling sub-Saharan Africa. Given freedom, Indians prosper as those outside India in countries with economic freedom have demonstrated. The question that every Indian should be asking is: why are we poor?
What India needs is a new mass movement: Har Ghar Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Translated, this would mean prosperity for every family. Without prosperity, a billion Indians continue to suffer in silence, living life on government handouts even as the politicians debate what constitutes freebies and what is welfare. The question that should be debated is what it will take to make Indians rich, but no one is even asking that.
Har Ghar Tiranga works because it inspires nationalistic pride. The national flag is a visible symbol. It also serves as a good distraction from day-to-day troubles. In contrast, Har Ghar Lakshmi has no symbol. Freedom and prosperity are felt in actions; there is no easy demonstration effect that can go viral. Maybe freedom from government dole is the answer because all that the handouts succeed in doing is keep people poor for another generation.
And yet, Lakshmi is what Indians need – for a future which can be dramatically better than the present. Lakshmi’s conjoined twin is Swatantra (freedom). The two come together. With Indians believing that we are a free people just because the British handed over power and exited the country is perhaps the biggest falsehood perpetrated on a nation. India’s new rulers after 1947 simply continued what the British did, and therefore the outcome has not changed dramatically. India could have been at $20-30,000 per capita income; Indians languish at a tenth of that. Just because a small fraction of Indians have a lifestyle comparable to that of Americans does not mean that all Indians are rich.
This is why we need a movement that unites all Indians behind a single mission: freedom and prosperity. Har Ghar Lakshmi is that idea, where people unite to oust the real enemies of India (the politicians and their parties), install a new set of leaders who dismantle the anti-prosperity machine, set the people on an irreversible path to prosperity, and finally, create new rules for the nation to ensure no future politicians and governments can take their freedom and prosperity away.
Har Ghar Lakshmi needs a new understanding of what creates and destroys wealth, how a new political platform is needed with women at the forefront, and how the ideas of Web3 can play a pivotal role in the Indian Revolution.
In India, we know all too well how to destroy wealth. Suppression of freedom, high taxes on economic activity by individuals and businesses, putting hurdles on education, taxing imports (which inevitably taxes exports), delayed justice, public sector units, not decentralising governance, random government interventions, discrimination based on caste, religion and group affiliations, and control of public wealth – these are just some of the facets of the anti-prosperity machine run by those in power. India’s politicians and bureaucrats have learnt nothing in the past 75 years from the successes of the nations that created wealth for their people; they have focused on wealth capture for themselves and their cronies.
As I said in my Manthan talk in July 2021: “The government runs schools, colleges, trains, planes, buses, hotels, mining companies, automobile companies, banks, insurance companies, and every conceivable commercial enterprise. It restricts what private firms can produce, dictates who may be employed and on what terms. The government regulates education, controls temples, and discriminates among citizens based on caste and religion. It restricts free speech, threatens sedition, controls what’s broadcast on radio, censors publications, bans books and movies. In short, the lives of people are planned and controlled by an extensive bureaucracy — just like it was done by the British. That is why India is not rich…The greatest barrier to Indians in India is the government. Not any particular government of this or that party but all governments and all parties. India’s real enemy is domestic — the mai-baap sarkar.”
From agriculture to manufacturing, from education to trade — every Indian sector needs freedom. Only then will the private sector be able to create quality jobs at scale; only via jobs and production of goods and services that people want will wealth creation take place. The one big idea to kickstart this is Dhan Vapasi, the monetisation and return of public wealth to the rightful owners, the people of India. As I said: “The total amount of public wealth is conservatively estimated to be around $20 trillion. That works out to be roughly Rs 50 lakhs per Indian family. From this, it is possible to return Rs 1 lakh per family every year. With money in the bank, people will get the purchasing power that will increase demand for goods and services. This increase in demand will push industries to create jobs at an unprecedented pace.”
As I have written previously, Dhan Vapasi is that program which can achieve the following:
- Put money in the hands of people without enlarging the fiscal deficit
- Get India to sustained 10% GDP growth rate
- Not entail any government borrowing which will impact future growth
- Attract global investors and their trillions of dollars
- Not cause inflation
- Be politically popular and financially wise
- Solve the credit constraint problem that many Indians face
- Give families the freedom to make their own choices
- Not a violation of the fundamental rights of the people
No government in power will do Dhan Vapasi and the other changes that India needs. India’s economic transformation needs to be preceded by a political revolution.
TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan wrote recently in Business Standard: “The general pattern that emerges is that although India does not lack agencies to ensure good governance, they are mostly cosmetic in nature because, just as it was when the British ruled India, the bureaucracy is the real repository of all power. It protects itself fiercely in every manner possible. This includes negating all other agencies that exist to ensure good governance…Even after 75 years, politically, India remains feudal, and bureaucratically it remains colonial. All the good intentions exhibited by different agencies and leaders have been unable to alter both attitudes and practice. Much of India’s institutional arrangement is for show only. The only consolation the country has is that things are not worse.”
Can we seriously expect our politicians and political parties who are responsible for creating India’s anti-prosperity machine which denies Indians freedom to change overnight? Every Indian leader in power had an opportunity to undo the past; no Prime Minister did. They all stuck with the same bureaucratic minds, the same failed ideas of the past, and had the same lust for permanent power.
India needs a mass movement that replaces the politicians and political parties with new leaders who come to power with a single focus: free the people from the clutches of the government. Change can only be done via the electoral process. The good news is that two-thirds of Indian voters are what I have called NANVs (non-aligned and non-voters). They need to come together into a coalition – United Voters of India (UVI). As I have written previously, “UVI should be a decentralised platform where Independents chosen by local voters via primaries should be contestants – and presuming they win, we would have a Lok Sabha of Independents, uncontaminated by present day politicians and their parties…It is UVI which must complete the unfinished freedom movement to do what should have happened in 1947 – a political and economic revolution that put Indians on an irreversible path of prosperity.”
As Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is reported to have famously asked after a leading consulting firm presented him with a plan for 10% growth in India, “Lekin yeh karega kaun?”, we need to ask the same question: “But who will do this?”
I answered this question in a recent essay: “She will Transform India”. India needs 543 Lakshmis – educated women with no past political affiliations, with age on their side to carry the aspirations of young India. India needs an all-women Swatantra Lok Sabha, “[f]ree from the clutches of the politicians and their parties, India’s biggest enemies. Because by preventing wealth creation, they weakened our borders. Because by preventing prosperity, they created generation after generation that was enslaved by the state. By restricting [our] freedom, they gave themselves the power to extract and exploit. It is time for change, a Nayi Disha. For [us] and for India.”
Web3: Digital and Decentralised
The only way a modern mass movement can succeed is by leveraging the power of technology. The same network effects which have helped social media apps go viral and find a place on most of our mobiles can help spread the “Lakshmi” app. Signing up for Dhan Vapasi can be the magnetic pull for the early adopters. Once a threshold of supporters is reached, local primaries can select the candidates to contest the Lok Sabha seats. On election day, the same app can work to ensure all the supporters go out to vote. Arithmetically, the NANV (non-aligned and non-voters) numbers support an Independent UVI-backed candidate. But what matters is the turnout at the polling booth.
The innovation in this process can be Web3 NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) for Dhan Vapasi. Every person who signs up for Dhan Vapasi gets an NFT promising a share of the monetised value of India’s public assets each year. The greater the contribution in recruitment of new members, the higher can be the share. Given that the public wealth of Indians is estimated at Rs 50 lakh per family, the actual wealth return each year can be substantial to give people an opportunity to transform their future in a step-function manner because the status quo of subsidies, welfare schemes and handouts just ensures survival, not upward mobility and prosperity.
The NFTs are stored on the blockchain and therefore open and immutable. They could even be traded or transferred. Thus, those in need of money earlier could trade it for immediate cash, while those not needing the wealth could gift it to someone else.
The “Lakshmi” app has no centralised controller. It is guided by rules. Each political unit selects its own candidate. There is no “High Command” to make decisions. UVI thus works like a decentralised autonomous organisation – local coalitions, loosely joined. This is a movement of the people, for the people, and by the people.
Har Ghar Lakshmi is what will deliver Har Ghar Naukri (job in every home) and Har Ghar Samriddhi (prosperity in every home). But this is not going to happen with any of our political parties and politicians. India needs a clean break from the past, a fresh start, a new Independence that delivers individual, civic and economic freedom. If the people unite, then the day is not far when these words will begin the transformation that India needs: “As promised in our Nayi Disha Agenda which you have voted for, here are the first 5 decisions taken by my government to see you free and on the path to prosperity. First, Dhan Vapasi. You voted for 543 Lakshmis. It is now our turn to make sure your Lakshmi is returned to you…Use this wisely to build your future. Second, tax cuts. No tax will exceed 10% — from income tax to corporate tax to GST. This will leave more money in your hands. Money with you is far more productive than in the hands of the government. We believe that together with Dhan Vapasi, the tax cuts will spur consumption, investments and growth – which in turn will drive job creation. Third, we will remove all barriers that prevent entrepreneurship from functioning smoothly. From agriculture to education, from manufacturing to services, from gaming to crypto, the government will not dictate what businesses should do…Fourth, we will ensure speedy justice and contract enforcement…Finally, non-discrimination. No more pandering, no more special rights and benefits. We are all Indians under the same flag. Freedom in our educational and religious institutions has been hindered by mistakes made in the Constitution. We will change this. Our government will be prohibited from discriminating among citizens. No special status will be granted for any individual or group based on their religious, caste, or linguistic background. This is our Nayi Disha, an agenda for freedom and prosperity. India has a lot of catching up to do. Without economic strength we will always be weak on every other front. For the first time, you are truly free. Go out and create prosperity and a better future for yourself and your family. That is the best you can do for the country. Shubh Labh. Ghar Lao Lakshmi. Jai Hind.”