Posts Tagged ‘modi sarkar’


May 31, 2015

Regressive Phase

Sitaram Yechury


More dangerous than unmet economic goals is the ideological chauvinism.

The King of France, Louis XV, achieved notoriety for saying, “After me, the deluge”. As the first year of this Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government ends, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be amending this to read as: “Before me, the void: After me, the deluge”. He has gone as far to say, twice on foreign soil in May, that NRIs were “ashamed” of being called Indians before he got elected.

During the course of this one year, we are being told ad-nauseum that Mr. Modi is rebuilding India from the ruins left behind by six decades of successive governments. Alas, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the six-year long NDA government have been confined to forgotten history. Undoubtedly, there has been a plethora of unfulfilled promises, a merciless loot of our resources and growing exploitation of our people during these decades. This, however, is not the point of this Modi government’s public relations exercise. Their point is to portray the Prime Minister with the arrival of a messiah a la the mythological Kalki Avatar. Never mind that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India has recently said that Mr. Modi must not be thought of as “Ronald Reagan on a white horse”. The myth-manufacturing PR wheel continues to turn.

It is now clear that what has been attempted this year is an attack on whatever rights common Indians have managed to achieve through struggles for so far. The government is in retreat, with huge cuts in the budget, in vital areas of health, education, social welfare, Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes sub-plans etc.

There is a new trident of challenges that is being constructed before both the country and the people: there is an aggressive pursuit of neoliberal economic reforms, an onslaught on the secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic by the sharpening of communal polarisation, and a the slow but certain movement towards authoritarian rule. The last is easily seen in the damaging of democratic institutions and the bypassing of methods sacrosanct in a parliamentary democracy.

Economic challenges

This NDA government is aggressively pursuing neoliberal economic reforms followed by the previous Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. All key sectors of our economy have now being opened up for greater Foreign Direct Investment inflows. The government is backtracking on many issues that it had opposed earlier such as permitting FDI in retail trade. The most brazen U-turn has been the new Land Acquisition Ordinance that it has pushed through thrice after having supported the 2013 Bill. The urgency to hand over real estate to foreign and domestic corporates for profit maximisation is driving the government’s agenda at the expense of ruining vast sections of our peasantry. Precious mineral resources are being handed over for private profit along with ambitious targets of the privatisation of the public sector. Crony capitalism is having a field day.

The statistical base year for national income accounts has been changed in order to project the GDP growth rate in better light. Despite this, it is clear that manufacturing and industrial growth is just not taking off. Corporates have registered an unprecedented accumulation of inventories. This is leading to a fall in employment sharply. Coupled with the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities and successive big hikes in the prices of fuel, this is imposing severe hardships on the livelihood of our people.

Agrarian distress

The agrarian distress is deepening. For the first time since Independence, a fall in the total cultivated area has been reported. With the hike in the prices of inputs and the sharp decrease in subsidies, many farmers are abandoning agricultural activity as they are unable to survive. Forced to borrow, they suffer debts that they are unable to repay. This is resulting in continued incidents of distress suicides. The state of the workers is no better — the share of wages as a proportion of GDP now stands a little over 10 per cent compared to over 25 per cent in 1990-91.

On the other hand, the rich have become richer. As per the Forbes list 2014, the 100 richest people in India are all U.S.$ billionaires, i.e., 45 more than the figure of 55 in 2011. The combined wealth of these 100 billionaires comes to $346 billion. The share of the top 1 per cent in the total wealth of households has increased from 36.8 per cent in 2000 to a phenomenal 49 per cent in 2014. The promised ‘better days’ or ‘acche din’ are turning from illusions into a nightmare for the vast majority.

Communal polarisation

Simultaneously, communal polarisation is being kept on the boil and is being sharpened through governmental patronage. The BJP, as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is advancing the project of transforming the modern secular democratic Indian republic into the RSS project of an intolerant ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The communal campaigns of ‘ghar wapsi’ and the stigmatisation of inter-religious marriages as ‘love jihad’ are accompanied with frenzied efforts to replace history by mythology and philosophy by theology. This is resulting in attempts to change the curriculum of schools and the nature of research bodies in the country. There are growing reports of communal tensions and even riots from various corners of the country. Attacks on Muslim minorities and targeting Christian churches in particular have grown exponentially. Mr. Modi has not assured even on the floor of Parliament that action would be taken against those who violate the law with impunity, by delivering inciting hate speeches.

Using the strength of its majority in the Lok Sabha, albeit with just 31 per cent of the vote polled, the BJP bulldozed nearly 50 legislations without parliamentary scrutiny. Parliamentary scrutiny is exercised by the Parliamentary Standing Committees examining all legislative proposals. These committees have as their members virtually the entire political spectrum represented in both Houses of Parliament at any point of time. This enables them to suggest fine-tuning of these legislations and if necessary, to reconsider or redraft some.

These are indeed ominous signals. This year has been marked by the NDA not being able to meet economic expectations, no doubt. But it has heralded a new and retrogressive phase in India, which is more dangerous. The government is stepping back from international commitments made in the spheres of environment, human rights and labour laws, the latest being the changes in the Juvenile Justice law. This government believes in reversing progressive economics by minimising government where it is most required — pulling millions out of poverty — and replacing it with policies for the already rich and powerful. This, along with a narrow and chauvinistic idea of India, threatens to push back even small social gains made. Social peace and harmony are undervalued goods, and any attempt to tinker with social amity as political design will have explosive consequences.

Moreover, Mr. Modi and the BJP claim as their triumph the fact that no corruption scam has emerged during the course of this year. Does anyone recollect any such scam during the first four years of the UPA government? Just as time exposed the UPA scams, so will time expose this government’s record in aggressively pursuing crony capitalism.

Louis XV’s infamous remark is widely believed to have anticipated the French Revolution. What Mr. Modi’s attempts to paint India as the land of the void before him leads to, surely time will tell.

Sitaram Yechury is the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

One Year Of Modi Govt

May 30, 2015

One Year of Modi govt: Bure Din For Social Sector

Modi government has damaged the rights-based legislative framework without spelling out what will replace it.

Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey

No one in the last two decades has come to power with greater euphoria than the Narendra Modi sarkar. It has taken less than a year for that euphoria to recede and change to disappointment. There are sufficient reasons for this change. The celebrations of the first year in office of this government are in sharp contrast to the plight of the common person.

The callousness of the government is most noticeable in its attitude to social sector issues. It does not seem to realise that rights-based legislation were not a UPA creation, but a reflection of the aspirations of millions of Indians struggling to procure the most basic entitlements. In its desire to establish itself by discarding past achievements, the current government is making a cardinal mistake.

Nothing could be more symptomatic of this narrow partisan approach than the prime minister’s statement on the MGNREGA in Parliament. It is shocking that the PM could promise to build a programme only to establish its monumental failure. This statement sent a strong message down the line to discredit and mismanage the programme. It is a failure not only of leadership but of vision and governance. The PM’s rhetoric sounds hollow even to his own party. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister has publicly stated that the MGNREGA is one of the best programmes in independent India.

Rights-based legislation like the forest rights act, right to food, right to education and right to information, passed in the last 10 years, did not merely provide economic and social entitlements to the poor. They were an attempt by India’s poorest citizens to claim delivery of basic services and ensure accountability. The people’s right to participate to ensure delivery and to monitor these programmes arose from numerous failures.

Rights-based legislation are an attempt by people to demand a share of governance. The demand for transparency, the right to question, audit development programmes and their implementation, arose from this. This framework is being undermined through budget cuts and the attempt to replace rights with cash transfers, which are much more in a paradigm of doles and handouts. Bank accounts without money and spurious promises through contributory pension and insurance schemes cannot replace the crippling of existing programmes. Even as earlier programmes and laws are ridiculed, there is no vision or direction for what is to replace them.

There is, in fact, no roadmap this government has to offer for the social sector. If this government felt that the earlier legislation were a complete failure, it should have issued a white paper on the shortcomings and provided a blueprint for how these would be overcome. This would at least have provided the people of this country an idea of what they could expect and where they could hold the government to account.

Much of rural India has found itself reeling under a loss of social sector entitlements and scrambling to save whatever resources it has. In the farming community, many might not be personally affected by the land acquisition ordinance, but most are affected by market-driven policies on minimum support prices and inefficiencies in the provision of fertilisers, irrigation, etc. The obstinacy of the government in repeatedly reimposing the ordinance has only confirmed the rural sector’s fears that these are the days of “company raj” and “bure din”.

The government has probably begun to realise that the MGNREGA is one of the less expensive ways to provide basic support, especially in times of distress. But the PM’s earlier message has been internalised by the system to such an extent that even the PMO’s later assurance to extend support for the MGNREGA has not been able to change things on the ground. People are still unable to get work. What could be a more decisive example of poor governance?

The attack on participatory governance has been even more surprising. While there was a stated ideological bias against social sector entitlements, the rhetoric on transparency, accountability, anti-corruption and improved efficiency seemed unequivocal. However, by repeated and deliberate acts of omission and commission, this government has made sure that a carefully constructed transparency framework has been comprehensively undermined. The accountability laws waiting to be implemented and passed have been pushed into amendments and committees.

The non-appointment of the chief information commissioner and three other commissioners cannot be justified on any legitimate ground. Despite repeated protests, the government has brazened it out to undermine the credibility of the information commission. The whistleblower protection and Lokpal laws were passed with great difficulty. They have been weakened through proposed amendments and further delayed by sending them to standing committees.

The grievance redressal law (a kind of RTI part II) would have ensured accountability of all government servants and been crucial to ensuring efficiency and service delivery. Instead, institutions more responsive in engaging with the people have been replaced by exclusive structures. The argument of efficiency remains a myth as the entire system functions with extraordinary centralisation, opacity and lack of public accountability.

The fact that this is a “Modi sarkar” and not the “NDA or BJP sarkar” is proclaimed repeatedly and deliberately. It is testimony to the undemocratic nature of the government’s current internal politics. Critics gave the BJP credit for its (comparative) internal democracy. The ruling party is now defined in the feudal mould of a single ruler, rather than a party that functions collectively and democratically.

The chaiwalla image has been replaced by that of a sartorially conscious leader with a designer suit. All decisions are taken by the PM, and he is constantly travelling abroad. This has led to a dysfunctional single-leader system where questions of the people do not get answered and find no platform.

Finally, the attack on activists, NGOs and other dissenters on development politics is unwise and deeply damaging to our democratic framework. People committed to the welfare of marginalised communities and the environment find themselves branded as “anti-national”, with a completely warped sense of what true national interest is. We can only hope that the people will assert their rights and demand that promises be kept and that we will see a more inclusive and plural India.

The writers are with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. Roy was a member of the UPA’s National Advisory Council until May 2013 / Courtesy: Indian Express