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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 12, March 14, 2015

A Crisis in Governance

Saturday 14 March 2015, by Rajindar Sachar

A deep somnolence, lack of direction and absence of commitment to the constitutionally directed philosophy of social justice seems to be enveloping the major existing political parties thereby enhancing the danger of the BJP’s policy of divisiveness and pro-capitalist outlook spreading in the country. This is shown by the lack of any response and consistent policy and programme from the Leftist and secular parties. That may explain the gushing congratulations they have showered on the Aam Admi Party (AAP). No doubt the AAP is entitled to all praise over its massive win in Delhi. But for any political party and individual to so believe and act that the AAP can be an instrument of change in the political and social life of the country is like wanting to see a rainbow in the sky during the afternoon blazing sun. I say this because the AAP believes in private economy being the solution to the country’s ills and poverty. It specifically said so in its Manifesto that “Government should not be in the business of running business”. “AAP is not against capitalism as such but only crony capitalism.” This is a wrong thinking. By just emphasising crony capitalism the evil and unsuitability of capitalism for the development of our country is deliberately papered over—the evil of capitalism itself is the real danger.

The urgency and danger of open onslaught by Big Business on the sanctum of the Indian state has exploded in our face by the recent widespread corporate sector spying, including by the highest in this sector, in the innermost offices of the Union of India, in Oil, Coal, Power Ministries and in security-related nuclear arsenals. Secret papers of the yet-to-be-announced Budget were also leaked.

This action is more awesome than mere spying. The Modi Government is all praise for the corporate sector. It publically professes that the country can only progress through the instrumentality of the private sector. If with all the favours from the Modi Government, the highest in the corporate sector are on a path to destroy the inner sanctity of the corridors of the policy-making state, the BJP needs to scrutinise more closely its open alliance with corporate sector.

It is still more worrisome when it is known that another complaint against the same corporate company has been pending enquiry notwith-standing the complaint by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) made in 2013 to the Reserve Bank of India, about the legality of a loan of over Rs 6000 crores given to the dummy of this very corporate giant. And still ironically the Union Minister of Finance has announced that it plans to do disinvestment to the extent of Rs 45,000 crores in financial year 2016-15 by selling a part of the holding of family silver of public sectors like ONGC and even the State Bank of India .......and other public sector corporations to, amongst others, these very private companies. It has also announced that its tax policies will be corporate-friendly.

The government has unashamedly announced that it will not appeal against Bombay High Court judgment or amend the law retrospectively to nullify the effect of the Vodafone judgment by the Supreme Court (which many eminent jurists say requires reconsideration even ignoring the Solicitor General’s advice to file appeal) which shows such close links with the corporate lobby. The loss from change of law will continue to deprive the Union Government of tax receipts from future transactions also, and will be a big drain in our economy.

Recently in parliamentary recess the Union Government slyly issued ordinances, especially the land ordinance, to almost pulverise the provisions of the new Land Acquisition Act. The Supreme Court had said that in spite of the ordinance the acquisition would lapse, if compensation has not been paid within the stipulated time as the ordinance does not have the specific retrospective effect. But as the government is committed to bring in the amendments to help the Big Business, it has no blushes to give assurance to the Big Business that it will change the law retrospectively, to help them rather than the farmers. This apprehension of landholders arises from the much-publicised scheme of the Modi Government expediting its Delhi-Mumbai corridor project which will result in displacement of thousands of farmers and other residents. This is one of the cruelest of ventures by the corporate sector-friendly Modi Government and is already being opposed by the NBA and Socialist Party (India) and several human rights organisations.

Another urgent matter calling for attention is the inhumanity against the poor in Delhi who, though on paper have the right to free treatment in some of the private hospitals that had been allotted land at concessional rates (as directed by the courts in a petition filed by the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties), the position is that 40 per cent beds remain vacant.

Another scandal continuing from the UPA Government in 2005 is of Special Economic Zones —50 per cent of the allotted land remains unused there. The parliamentary Standing Committee in 2007 had estimated a revenue loss of Rs 1.75 lakh crores from tax holiday granted between 2005 to 2010. The Sezs were touted to lead to export boom and earn foreign exchange. The reality is that less than 48 per cent of the existing SEZs are engaged in export activity—but only 3.8 per cent of exports came form these Zones in 2013-14. How deceitful can you get!

Any party which seeks to speak for the poor in the country should be ashamed at the gross deprivation and inequality persisting in our land. According to the 59th round of the NSSO report estimates, the average net worth of the top 10 per cent of the population in India was 380 times that of the bottom 10 per cent. The net worth could support consumption for 23 years for those in the top bracket and less than three months for those in the bottom one. The report said that the billionaires’ total wealth represented about 10 per cent of India’s GDP in 2012. Should this vulgar inequality be allowed to continue? If Modi’s economic pattern is allowed to prevail it will become worse. Only socialist-oriented policies can checkmate it. Will the so-called secular, progressives make a programme-based joint front along with trade unions and farmers’ unions to meet this challenge of the combined onslaught from the partnership of global and Indian corporate giants?

The author, a retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was the Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s high-level Committee on the Status of Muslims and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. A former President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he is a tireless champion of human rights. He can be contacted at e-mail: rsachar1@vsnl.net/rsachar23 @bol.net.in