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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 39, New Delhi, September 19, 2015

Face of the Challenge

Sunday 20 September 2015, by SC


While secular democracy is at stake under the Narendra Modi dispensation with countrywide rise in parochial communal violence spearheaded by the Hindu extremists on the one side and Muslim fundamentalists on the other, the largest circulated national newspaper in the Capital has reported today that the ongoing war on dengue (which has taken a toll of 15 lives in Delhi so far following the death of yet another child) has been crippled due to a 66 per cent drop in funds in the last three years (resulting in reduction in the staff thereby badly affecting preventive steps). As the newspaper, The Times of India, reports on the front page, “Between 2012 and 2015, the Central Government allocation to Delhi for controlling vector-borne diseases came down from about Rs 50 crores to just Rs 17 crores.”

The result? According to The TOI, “The Delhi Government... allocated a smaller proportion of its funds to the three municipal corporations. The share of funds for controlling malaria and dengue went down from about 10 per cent of the total expenditure by the Directorate of Health Services to just short of five per cent in the same period.”

What does this mean? “Faced with an increasing population, a large proporation of which stays in colonies with poor drainage and garbage dispersal, the corporations are badly cash-strapped. So less funds for mosquito control mean less manpower, less chemical spraying and less checking.” And you have the massive crisis wrought by dengue staring in the face.

The crisis is accentuated by hospitals, mainly under government control, running out of beds for dengue patients. Several dengue-hit children have died because of the hospital managements refusing to admit them in the hospitals they run for that very reason. This has provoked the Delhi Government to issue the threat of taking over private hospitals. But now information has come that two super-speciality hospitals under the same Delhi Government—that can accommodate 950 sick persons—are lying mostly unused for in-patient treatment. A shocking case of misplaced priorities which are bound to grow with mounting reliance on economic reforms in health services.

Economic stratification in the country due to the rampant rise in neo-liberalism will only make matters worse. Yet the authorities and their mouthpieces—the big business press—are supremely unconcerned.

Meanwhile as the ruling party indulges in rank communal polarisation in the Bihar Assembly elections, the Kolhapur Police has after seven months made the first arrest in connection with the murder of veteran CPI leader and rationalist thinker Govind Pansare. Vishnu Gaikwad (32), a “full-time” member of the radical Hindu organisation, Sanatan Sanstha, was taken into custody yesterday. The police is now probing the link between the murders of Pansare, rationalist leader Narendra Dabholkar (whom Pansare acknowledged as his mentor) and Karnataka scholar M.M. Kalburgi. This is a hopeful sign. Better late than never.

The attacks on rationalists are a direct fallout of the coming to power of a resurgent BJP led by Narendra Modi with the RSS’ full blessings. As Hindu communal assaults on institutions like the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library intensify (alongside banning of stamps bearing the images of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi because of their transparently secular credentials) and onslaughts on rationalists like Pansare, Dabholkar and Kalbargi acquire a vicious character, there is no option for secular democrats of all hues but to unite and bestir themselves to resist with all their strength the pernicious attempts underway to alter the secular, democratic, pluralist face of India.

At the height of the fascist offensive in Europe in the thirties, a popular slogan was coined: “No Pasaran (They shall not pass)”. Perhaps that needs to be rephrased in the Indian context. For fascism has indeed arrived on the Indian scene even if the progressive forces continue to live in their make-believe world completely divorced from the ground reality. The question is: how long will they enjoy the luxury of such a pastime?

September 17 S.C.

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