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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 29 New Delhi July 11, 2015

Celebration in the Era of Modi

Saturday 11 July 2015

by Imtiaz Ahmad Ansari

Last year it was “achche din aane wale hain” (good days are about to come). It was in reference to two predictions. First, that a Modi-led government will be formed at the Centre and, second, the Modi-led government will be a panacea for all the ills India was suffering from. The first part of the prediction came true with a clear BJP-led majority government at the Centre. However, the second part of the prediction is still in limbo. Sloganeering is one thing and its realisation is quite a different matter.

May 26, 2015 marked the completion of one year of the NDA rule at the Centre after coming to power in 2014. To celebrate its first anniversary, they organiseed nationwide rallies and different functions. A week-long ‘Jan Kalyan Parv’ was also part of the celebration agenda. Nagla Chandrabhan, a village in Mathura and the birth-place of Deendayal Upadhyay, the Jan Sangh ideologue, was identified as the starting point of the celebration. “Varsh Ek, Kaam Anek” and “Modi Sarkaar, Kaam Lagataar” were the two slogans identified by the ruling party to celebrate their first anniversary. But what were the achievements of the government during the year under Modi which the party celebrated?

From the very beginning of the formation of the NDA Government at the Centre, the biggest challenge before Modi was the revival of the Indian economy. But after one year, the economy still appears to be in a pathetic condition. For example, increase in farm wages has been only 3.8 per cent compared to average 13.6 per cent during the last ten years. The performance of the manufacturing sector has also experienced a negative trend. In fact, the NDA Government does not appear to be anymore different than the UPA Government when it comes to economic policies.

The perspective on which Modi functions is that you industrialise the country and it will solve every problem which plagues the country. Before advancing with this jaundiced concept, our Prime Minister should keep certain facts in mind. India is still a peasant-based economy and a large section of the society is poor. The kind of industrial age in which we are living is different from the industrial age of 17th and 18th century Europe. Today’s industries are not labour-intensive. A major part of the industrial enterprises is machine-based. A single machine can perform the task of several individuals. So, the premise that industries will solve the crisis is poorly conceived.

All the industrial projects about which Narendra Modi is talking are land-intensive projects. The infrastructure in cities, setting up industrial corridors, building smart cities, expressways and superfast bullet trains, etc. all require land on a massive scale. But where is the land? The answer is the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015. Although passed by the Lok Sabha, the Bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha. When compared to the LARR Act, 2013 (under the UPA regime), the present version seems to be more anti-people and more corporate-friendly. The major bone of contention is the provision which states that no consent is required from the landowners for five categories of projects: (i) defence, (ii) rural infrastructure, (iii) affordable housing, (iv) industrial corridors, and (v) infrastructure projects. Included also is the provision that no social impact assessment will be done for projects falling under these five categories. Only time will tell as to what will be the final shape of this Bill because it is this particular Bill on which Modi’s future India is based. But for now the country is facing serious rural distress.

Modi promised that he will provide corruption free good governance. But neither is the governance good nor is it corruption-resistant. The massive admission and recruit-ment scandal, called Vyapam, has surfaced in Madhya Pradesh, ruled by BJP.

The achievements of the Modi Government on the socio-political front are relatively more impressive. Love Jihad,ghar vapsi, beef ban, attack on religious institutions belonging to minorities, hate speeches are some of the dividends earned by the BJP and its affiliates in the first year.

The year was bristling with anti-minority sentiments. For them, Mother Teresa was more of a Christian zealot than a true champion of serving humanity. For the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Sanjay Raut, voting rights should be taken from those not practising family planning so that they cannot play vote-bank politics. The purported target was the Muslims. And it is because of these developments that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in its 2015 report, said that the freedom to practise religion has declined in India.

No country can become truly developed where a large section of its population lives under perpetual threat. What is the meaning of having a double-digit economy which cannot generate confidence in its farmers not to commit suicide and say to its minorities that you are free and equal with the rest of the society? Development is necessary and so is the freedom to live peacefully. They are the two sides of the same coin.

This year the BJP and its affiliates postponed the event of unveiling the statue of Hindutva’s saviour, Nathuram Godse, on the day of the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Ironically, Modi is unveiling a statue of Gandhi on foreign land, and at home the Hindutva brigade is engaged in undermining Gandhi. I think they postponed Godse’s event till the next year because this year they have a lot more things to celebrate (?). Political commentators are of the opinion that Modi needs more time and it will be too early to judge him in one year. If it is too early to judge him in one year, it is too early to celebrate as well.

Imtiaz Ahmad Ansari is a Visiting Faculty of Sociology at Amity University, Noida. He can be contacted at: imtiaz.ahmad01@gmail.com