ON May 26, 2016, this BJP-led Narendra Modi government completes two years in office. At the conclusion of the CPI(M)’s 21st Congress, we had warned that under this government, a new `trimoorti’ is being sculpted. Its three faces represent the following: one, the relentless pursuit of aggressive communal polarisation in the effort to transform the secular democratic character of the Indian Republic into the RSS version of a rabidly intolerant fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’; two, the pursuit of the neo-liberal trajectory of economic reforms, more aggressively than pursued by the UPA government under Dr Manmohan Singh, imposing unprecedented burdens on the vast majority of our people; and three, increasing recourse to authoritarian measures undermining the institutions of parliamentary democracy and running roughshod over democratic rights and civil liberties.
The experience of this two-year rule vindicates the correctness of this warning. In every one of these three areas, the situation today is much worse than what it was earlier.
AGGRESSIVELY SHARPENING COMMUNAL POLARISATION
No sooner than Narendra Modi assumed office of the prime minister began the litany of hate speeches being delivered by union cabinet ministers and BJP MPs. PM Modi was asked in the parliament in the very first session after he became PM, whether his government will, in accordance to the existing Indian law and the penal code that define hate speeches as a criminal offence, take action against such perpetrators. Far from any action, PM Modi has till date refused to give such an assurance in the parliament, and hence, to the people.
This unambiguous signal of official patronage and encouragement for the spread of communal poison continues to be fully utilised by all the RSS tentacles across the country. The daylight murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Dr Kalburgi saw the unprecedented protest action by the country’s intellectuals, literatures, scientists, historians and others, many of whom returned the awards that they had received in protest. The Modi government brazenly ignored these protests.
Various communal campaigns starting from love jihad, ghar vapasi, against beef eating, prescribing dress codes and the moral policing – all contributed to generate an atmosphere of hatred against religious minorities particularly Muslims. The lynching of Atlaq over allegations of beef eating or the public hanging of two youth in Latehar, Jharkhand on unfounded allegations of promoting cow slaughter etc have only vitiated the atmosphere even further.
Simultaneously began the systematic effort to communalise the entire education system and academic research in the country. RSS pracharaks continue to be appointed in key positions in these institutions. Efforts for rewriting the syllabus and curricula to be taught in schools and colleges continue relentlessly. The brazen attack on premier educational institutions like JNU, the film institute, IITs and other important education centres is part of the drive to attack secular progressive values and intimidate the students and teaching community into becoming servile conformists of the Hindutva ideology. The Modi government went to the extent of foisting sedition charges against JNU students on unfounded and doctored evidence. The attack on the Hyderabad Central University that led to the tragic suicide of a promising dalit research scholar, Rohith Vemula, displayed the virulent high caste bias of the Hindutva dispensation.
In its effort to transform the Indian Republic into the RSS version of a `Hindu Rashtra’, the Modi government is attempting to masquerade Hindu mythology as Indian history and Hindu theology as Indian philosophy.
The latest instance of misusing the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to absolve the leading lights of the Hindutva terror organisations, brazenly negating the impeccable evidence collected against them in the Malegaon terror attacks is a clear case of official patronage and protection being provided to the Hindutva terror outfits. The trail of investigation that linked the Malegaon terror attack to the others like the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid, Ajmer Dargah Sharif and the Samjhauta Express blasts have also been, thus, compromised.
The Modi government is compromising India’s struggle to root out terrorism from our country. It is universally accepted that terrorism in India knows no religion, caste, or region. Instead of treating all terror attacks as being unacceptable and not to be tolerated, this Modi government is patronising Hindutva terror.
There are many more such instances of communal hatred all across the country at this very moment. Hopefully, somewhere these are being documented. But importantly, secular-minded people who cherish the foundational values of our Republic are rising in protest across the country.
During the course of these two years, this Modi government has embarked upon a systematic course to undermine the institutions of parliamentary democracy to advance its partisan objectives.
It sought to amend the Land Acquisition Act, 2013 that was passed by the parliament with the BJP’s support through a series of ordinances in order to make land acquisition easier for the corporates at the expense of our already beleaguered farmers battling agrarian distress. These efforts, after promulgating ordinances thrice, had to be finally given up as the Modi government failed to get the Rajya Sabha approval.
In order to bypass the Rajya Sabha where it does not have a majority, unlike in the Lok Sabha where it bulldozes its way exercising its `tyranny of the majority’, the Modi government has taken recourse to a subterfuge of declaring legislative bills as `Money Bills’ which do not require the Rajya Sabha’s endorsement. It is grossly misinterpreting the constitutional provisions to suit its purpose of bypassing the Rajya Sabha.
One such bill was the Aadhar Bill. The Supreme Court has now admitted a writ petition to be heard before a three-judge bench challenging this legislation and its characterisation as a `Money Bill’.
The Modi government’s authoritarian face was nakedly exposed in the manner in which it is grossly misusing Article 356 to dismiss legitimately elected governments of the opposition parties. Its effort in Uttarakhand has now been reversed with the Supreme Court intervention. The apex court had passed a severe indictment about the brazen manner in which Article 356 is sought to be misused.
Attacks on people’s democratic rights, freedom of expression, right to life and liberty are escalating across the country.
FANCIFUL SLOGANS AND TALL CLAIMS
On various counts, the claims associated with the propaganda blitz undertaken by the Modi government continue to be exposed. It had promised a corruption free government. This claim was punctured by various scams that have occurred in BJP-ruled states like the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh etc. One session of the parliament was rocked by the sensational revelations of protection and patronage provided to the former IPL chief, Lalit Modi (a fugitive from Indian law), by the external affairs minister and the Rajasthan BJP chief minister. The course of `crony capitalism’ that the Modi government is pursuing is bound to generate greater corruption. The skeletons in the cupboard are bound to stumble out sooner than later. Remember, it took six years before the UPA corruption scams began to surface. During the course of the next three years, much of this is bound to come up for public scrutiny.
The government had grandly announced its slogan of `minimum government, maximum governance’. The ongoing patidar (Patel) agitation in Gujarat and the mayhem unleashed by the Jat agitation in Haryana exposed the BJP’s claims of effective governance.
During the course of these two years, India’s time-tested independent foreign policy has been severely undermined.
In a singular obsession to promote prime minister Modi’s personal image abroad, this government has systematically shifted India’s foreign policy to dovetail the global geostrategic priorities of US imperialism. The series of bilateral agreements undertaken with the USA, including defence and logistics support agreements, have exposed India’s vulnerability to the penetration of imperialist agencies and armed forces into our domestic facilities. They have only provided USA and other Western powers avenues to maximise their profits through the sale of defence equipments to India. In global perception, this Modi government has reduced India in foreign policy diplomatic discourse to a hyphenated existence with Pakistan, ie, the standard usage `Indo-Pak’.
In its eagerness to emerge as a trusted subordinate ally of US imperialism, the Modi government has succumbed to pressures that were hitherto resisted in international fora, adding to India’s prestige as the leader of the developing countries. This has happened in the international climate change conferences when India signed on the dotted line at the COP 21 in Paris recently negating the `red lines’ drawn by our parliament. Likewise, in the WTO Doha Round negotiations summit at Nairobi, India succumbed to grant greater access to India’s agriculture and markets and compromised on our food security obligations to the Indian people.
Prime Minister Modi proudly claiming `Barack, my friend’ may be a subject matter for social media comments but it marks the current reality of reducing India into a deeper subordinate relationship with the USA during Barack Obama’s presidency.
RELENTLESS ECONOMIC ONSLAUGHT ON THE PEOPLE
The highlight of PM Modi’s aggressive implementation of the neo-liberal economic reforms has been the provision of greater access to foreign capital to maximise their profits at the expense of India’s domestic economy.
Economic revival was the biggest commitment made by the BJP during its campaign. Many, who were not comfortable with the party’s regressive social and political agenda, latched on to that promise. Two years down the line, we have an economy which is declining on all fronts.
The doctored data of India’s growth rate being the fastest in the world today has been met with universal disbelief. Both the RBI governor and the prime minister’s economic advisor have stated on record that the GDP growth figures do not match the ground reality. In a global economic situation of despair, the RBI governor described India’s claims of registering the highest GDP growth rate in the world as “one eyed is the King of the blind”. All these, notwithstanding, let us look at the major promises made by the BJP and PM Modi during the 2014 general elections to the people.
The government had promised doubling of exports from USD 465.9 billion in 2013-14 to approximately USD 900 billion by 2019-20. In reality, exports have declined for 17 straight months in a row, to a five-year low of USD 261.13 billion. This is the worst decline in exports in the last 63 years. While much of this has to do with the continuing crisis of world capitalism, it does not explain fully this phenomenal decline. The Modi government’s policy to promote India’s exports has severely faltered during these two years.
With all the strategies of export-led growth collapsing today, India had to look internally to expand the purchasing power in the hands of the Indian people and, thus, accelerating the growth of domestic aggregate demand. That the opposite has happened is reflected in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP). In March, IIP grew by a mere 0.1 percent and for the whole of 2015-16, it grew at 2.4 percent. The same IIP had grown at 4.8 percent in 2013-14. The breakdown of IIP numbers paints an even scarier picture. Manufacturing contracted in March and grew at only two percent during FY 2015-16. Capital goods segment also contracted by 2.9 percent over the entire year, indicating a sluggishness in private investment. The annual core sector growth of only 2.7 percent, a decade low, confirms the gloomy scenario for the industry.
The investment trends in 2014 and 2015 have been equally disastrous. In 2014, investment proposals fell by over 23 percent to Rs 4 lakh crore from Rs 5.3 lakh crore in 2013. And in 2015, they saw another drop of 23 percent to Rs 3.11 lakh crore. The first quarter of 2016 has seen investment proposals of Rs 60,130 crore, and if this trend continues, investments will see a further decline this year.
With the industry in decline, there are no jobs for the 14 million Indians who enter the market every year. Government data shows that new jobs in eight labour-intensive industries fell to a six-year low in 2015, with only 1.35 lakh jobs being created. Between April and June last year, the number of jobs actually declined by 43,000. During October-December 2015, the highest decrease in employment was seen in the IT-BPO sector by 14,000, followed by 13,000 in the automobile sector, 12,000 in metals, and 8000 in gems and jewellery business. The BJP government, which came with a promise of creating 20 million new jobs every year, seems hell-bent upon turning India’s demographic dividend into a demographic disaster.
Declining exports, subdued manufacturing and poor investment demand portend further worrying times for the banking sector. Used by various governments to prop their favoured crony capitalists, India’s banking sector is already in a deep mess. The NPAs of banks are estimated to be around Rs 13 lakh crore (USD 195 billion). This amount of bad loans owed to our banks, which is going to increase next year, is bigger than the GDP of 112 countries. Not only that, the amount of bad loans now actually exceeds the market value of the banks.
Who owes these loans? The government is not willing to make this data public, leave alone take any punitive action against these fat cats. But the same people have no qualms auctioning a poor farmer’s utensils for defaulting on a loan of Rs 5,000. It is worthwhile to remember that these loans to crony capitalists have been extended by public sector banks which have been capitalised by taxpayers’ money.
Working people have also borne the burden of additional taxation by the government. The increase in taxes, cesses and levies have all been done in indirect taxes (to the tune of Rs 20,600 crores) where the poor have to bear the greater burden. Direct taxes have been further reduced by Rs 1,600 odd crores benefitting the rich. Even the estimated targets have not been met. No attempt has been made to recover the pending tax dues of Rs 6 lakh crore or redeem the tax benefits as `incentives’ of another Rs 6 lakh crore extended in the budget.
In addition, people are victims of higher inflation too. The Consumer Price Index rose by 5.4 percent in April, and rural inflation was at 6.1 percent. The food component was up by 6.2 percent, and price of dal (lentils) rose by 34 percent in April. Petrol and diesel prices continue to be raised with shocking regularity. Core inflation, stripped of the volatile food and fuel components, which indicates stable inflationary trends, was up to 6.8 percent.
Government statistics, which underplay the real numbers, show that 2,997 farmers committed suicide last year and 116 farmers, have already taken their lives in the first three months of this year. Their numbers have only risen since, but the prime minister does nothing except mouth homilies during his various monologues. In a Kafkaesque move, agriculture ministry issued a tender seeking ‘brand ambassadors’ for popularising its content on social media.
This is a double whammy for the rural poor who have seen their wages decline in real terms in the past two years. The farmers were promised a 50 percent margin over their production costs by PM Modi during the election campaign but have failed to realise even their investment under this government. Distress suicides are on the rise. Poor rains and droughts are not in anyone’s hands, but the response is certainly in government’s control. While people in rural India were suffering, the government didn’t release money due under MGNREGA for last year till the Supreme Court ordered it to do so. Last week, the Supreme Court was incensed enough to say in its judgment that “there is a clear constitutional breach committed by the State…” and "Social justice has been thrown out of the window by the Government of India”.
But the government couldn’t care less for Supreme Court’s indictment. It carries on its merry ways, splurging money on celebrations, advertising and marketing. The prime minister may say that Indians are not good at marketing, but it clearly excludes his government. His government has increased the spending on advertising this year by a whopping 20 percent to Rs 1,200 crore.
Thus, these two years have seen a sharp increase in the economic burdens imposed on the vast majority of our people. It is by now clear that in all the three major counts, this new trimoorti that is being sculpted, means both a regression for India as a secular democratic republic and a major onslaught on the livelihood of the vast majority of our people. It is only through widespread powerful popular people’s struggles, can this all-round offensive be met. Therefore, as we move into the third year of this government, the tasks before the Indian people are clear – mount the resistance to defend the people’s right to a decent livelihood and in defence of the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution. This resistance must reach in this coming year levels to reverse this disastrous course and defeat all efforts to negate our secular democratic foundations.
In this context, the RSS/BJP and PM Modi’s `celebrations’ acquire a surreal dimension.