When the Indian scene is viewed through the prism of macro-economic data, the economy gives every impression of being in a sweet spot. Inflation is low, the central fiscal deficit has been falling steadily, and the external account is comfortably balanced. Growth could be better, especially after the slowdown last year, but most forecasts suggest a continued GDP growth rate of more than 7 per cent because of the fading effects of demonetisation, the expectation of another good monsoon, and improvement in the global economy which finds reflection in better export figures for India. The political complement to the positive economic situation is the existence of a secure and energetic government in New Delhi, buoyed as it must be by the expectation that it is likely to win re-election in 2019. So what’s to worry?
Plenty, it would seem. For one thing, parts of the country’s political heartland give the impression of being seething cauldrons of unrest and dissatisfaction. Agitating farmers have turned violent, wanting debt write-offs among other things. Caste groups like the Jats, Gujjars and Patidars agitate periodically for inclusion in reserved categories (signalling the lack of jobs), while new outfits like the Bhim army fight for civil rights, usually in the context of exacerbating caste conflicts. Add to these the unchecked vigilante action on one or other pretext, and further alienation and fresh violence in the Kashmir valley. The country can boast of economic stability and creditable growth rates, but it is evident that a range of problems lurk beneath the surface, waiting to erupt.