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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 11 New Delhi March 2, 2019

India Under Narendra Modi

Sunday 3 March 2019

by Sandeep Pandey and Rahul Pandey

Narendra Modi’s ascension to power was accompanied with jubilation and expectation. His supporters were expecting an end to era of corruption and initiation of good governance which was described as Achche Din. His party’s adherence to idea of nationalism was believed to make India a vibrant country and guide it to be a world leader. He gave the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ conveying that his government was for all.

Corruption

The government system is infested with corruption. A minimum of 10 per cent is siphoned off from government schemes and projects, some of which goes back to the political party in power and the remaining is pocketed by various administrative, executive and political functionaries. This corruption continues and has increased. Now an additional Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh person working as Official on Special Duty or some equivalent position in every government department also has a share in this booty. The Narendra Modi Government removed the limit of 7.5 per cent of average net profits which private companies could donate to political parties and did away with the requirement of disclosing the names of corporate donors and political parties which received the donations from the companies in a post-Right to Information era in India which is tantamount to legitimising corruption.

Extradition of Christian Michel in Augusta Westland deal but inability to bring back Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Nitin Sandesara (Sterling Biotech) and Jatin Mehta (Winsome Diamonds)—all of whom are accused of financial fraud and have fled in the past four years—smacks of political expediency. Anil Ambani’s company, Reliance Defence, registered 12 days before Narendra Modi entered into a deal with the French Government, being given the contract for manufacturing Rafale fighter aircraft gives credence to the allegations of crony capitalism. Rise of businessman Adani from Gujarat to the national level accompanying that of Narendra Modi also raises the same suspicion.

Economy

The economy suffered a setback because of the ill-advised demonetisation and clumsy implementation of Goods and Services Tax. First, the government appeared to be manipulating the method of calculating the Gross Domestic Product growth rate to show a higher figure and then it got the Central Statistics Office to slash the United Progressive Alliance Government’s past GDP figures. This government has been continuously fudging data to show an improved performance, for example, villages are being declared electrified even when 100 per cent households don’t have electricity connections. Make in India drive didn’t yield much investment and the Skill Development programme wasn’t much successful either. This is evident from the fact that ultimately the Narendra Modi Government had to resort to the populist measure of 10 per cent reservation in jobs for the economically weaker sections from among the segment of population not covered under the SC/ST and OBC reservation to contain the resentment of youth with regard to the employment situation. The most important skill of farming from the point of view of human existence was not given due consideration and the farmers’ anger reflected in the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party in three big Hindi-speaking States. The incomes have gone down across different sectors of the economy and people are feeling the pinch.

According to the data published by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the authoritative agency reputed for researching and publishing economic databases in India, 1 crore jobs were lost in the year 2018 and the unemployment rate hit a 27-month high in December 2018. According to a recent report published by the Azim Premji University, the present rate of unemployment is the highest seen in India in at least the last 20 years, with youth unemployment being the highest. The unemployment situation is made worse by depressed wages, with 82 per cent of men and 92 per cent of women earning less than Rs 10,000 per month.

Law and Order

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule has resulted in a state of lawlessness. The cadres of the ‘party with a difference’ were frequently seen taking law into their own hands and even attacking the police. Lynching deaths created an atmosphere of terror in the hearts of minorities. If a person from the minority community expressed concern he was told to go to Pakistan by one of the legislators or members of the ruling party. The idea of democracy where even the weakest person should feel secure went for a toss and the majoritarian rule reigned supreme. The idea of summary justice gained ground. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath publicly declared that bullet will be responded with bullet. While accused criminals were being shot dead by the police, he withdrew permission for going ahead with the criminal cases pending against himself. The BJP MLAs involved in the rape and harassment of women were protected by the state.

Academic Institutions

Academic institutions were the worst sufferers of the BJP rule. High positions were occupied by people not because of their academic calibre but because of their proximity to the RSS ideology. Student protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Hyderabad and Banaras Hindu University erupted against the highhan-dedness of academic authorities who only knew one way to deal with students—to use brute force to quell any dissent. Criticising the government or party in power became a crime and a number of people were ejected from academic campuses because of their dissenting views. The government seemed to be more interested in ensuring the victory of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, student wing of the RSS, in university student body elections rather than the academic quality of teaching and research.

The RSS-BJP functionaries would advise scientists to research how in the past a human head could be replaced by an elephant head. Internationally acclaimed scientists like Venkat-raman Ramakrishnan have stopped attending Indian Science Congress since 2015 because of the dominance of pseudoscience being broadcast from high pedestals. The fact that PM Modi himself uttered bizarre unscientific remarks on more than one occasion has emboldened several Ministers, MPs and MLAs in the BJP to openly espouse similar views and deride universally respected scientists and scientific principles. This has created an atmosphere where scientific temper, rational thinking and dissent are publicly jeered and even sought to be punished. On the other hand, pseudoscience and cronyism are being rewarded. An example of academic cronyism is the non-existent Jio Institute being awarded the Institute of Eminence status by the government which makes it entitled to get Rs 1000 crore funds for five years.

Sanitation Programme

A high-profile Swachch Bharat Mission (SBM) is ongoing. The irony is that the government has not cared to provide toilets to some of the lowest level workers in this mission, working as volunteers without any honorarium, who are being made to motivate others to build toilets. Members of the Gram Panchayat-level monitoring committees from District Lakhimpur Khiri Shankaria and Hema Malini from Dhakia, Janewmati from Bhuda, Ramawati from Bisenpuri, Ishwari, Baldev, Anjali, Sushmawati, Rinki, Sharda, Sheela from Bhanpuri Khajuria, Guddi from Lalpur Dhaka, Barsati, Savitri, Sunita, Ria, Sabrunnisa from Kamlapuri, Sushila, Sarita, Sandhya of Krishnanagar Bhojhia, Jagdish from Murarkheda, Nirmala Devi from Krishnanagar all from Block Palia are some such examples of torch-bearers of this scheme who don’t own a toilet themselves.

Bida is the President of her Gram Panchayat’s Monitoring Committee. She took upon herself the responsibility of getting toilets made for villagers. She borrowed cement, iron rods, morang and bajri worth Rs 1,80,000 and bricks worth Rs 88,000 to get 60 toilets built in her Gram Sabha Kamlapuri. Now she is finding it difficult to get these payments made from either the Gram Panchayat or the Block Office.

In GP Bengalpur of Block Bharawan in Hardoi District 60 toilets have been shown to be built of which 20 are missing on ground. In GP Maharajganj Dheri of Block Moth in Jhansi District two firms have been made payments for construction of toilets whereas in this scheme Rs 12,000 for construction of a toilet was supposed to be credited to each beneficiary’s bank account. A 2011 baseline survey has been used to achieve the target of Open Defecation Free. As a result even after Villages and Blocks are being declared Open Defecation Free, a number of households are left out to defecate in the open. The hurried quality of construction is questionable and a reason why people are not using the toilets even after they are constructed.

As brand ambassador of the SBM, Amitabh Bachchan, has been promoting twin soak-pit toilets, in areas like UP and Bihar, where water table is quite high, there is a danger of ground water getting polluted because of this design. In such areas the safer design is the septic tank. But everybody, who has got anything to do with the SBM, is parroting the promotion of soak-pit design.

As the next general elections approach, the government, having realised that it cannot meet the target of making toilets for everybody, is now engaged in a massive wall-painting exercise across the country to create an impression that a vibrant SBM is going on whereas one can see garbage strewn over at many places.

Ganga Rejuvenation

A sum of Rs 22,000 crores was allocated for the high-profile Namami Gange project of which more than Rs 7000 crores has been spent. The official data shows that quality of Ganga water has worsened since this project was launched. Moreover, the government doesn’t have a plan to treat all the sewage flowing into Ganga. Saints like Professor Guru Das Agrawal, who became a sadhu and adopted the name of Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand, are dying while fasting and the government is not doing anything to save their lives. Three saints, Swami Nigmanand, Baba Nagnath and Swami Sanand, have died. Swami Gokulanand has been murdered. Sant Gopal Das is missing after a long fast and Brahmachari Atmoabodhanand is on fast for close to hundred days now. A day before Professor G.D. Agrawal died at the AIIMS, Rishikesh, Nitin Gadkari announced a minimum 30 per cent environmental flow in Ganga which was not in consonance with recommendations of the Indian Institute of Technology Consortium and was not acceptable to Prof Agrawal. Nitin Gadkari is not willing to stop the construction of dams which have been held responsible for natural calamities as well as for posing threat to the quality of the Ganga water by various experts.

Fisherfolk in Varanasi are protesting against the Cruise which has been allowed to operate by a private company and poses a threat to their livelihood. For the first time the licenses for their boats have not been renewed by the Municipal Commissioner. Fisherfolk are being threatened by the government to surrender.

It is quite clear that the government under Modi-Gadkari wants to commercially exploit Ganga and is least bothered about its cleanliness.

Cow Protection

This is a classic example of mismanagement of governance by the BJP Government. After a series of lynching incidents carried out by Gau Rakshaks against Muslims and Dalits and the government not taking a strong stand against people taking law into their hands, the cattle trade came to a standstill. With nowhere to go and it becoming unaffordable for their former owners to feed them, cattle, including old cows, bulls and male calves, became stray and started destroying standing crops. Barbed and blade-wire fences were set up by farmers around their fields which created more casualty. Villagers started demanding a gaushala in every Gram Sabha which the government was in no position to provide. Some farmers are known to have herded stray cattle from the Sitapur district in UP and made them cross the Nepal border in the north.

Foreign Affairs

Contrary to the perception created among Modi supporters that he has increased India’s prestige the world over by his foreign sojourns, India’s relationship has worsened with most countries, especially with its South Asian neighbours. While the US President refused to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day event, Pakistan has sprung a surprise goodwill gesture of opening up the Kartarpur corridor. The Indian Government which has taken an official stand to not engage with the Pakistani Government for peace talks, is now busy taking credit for the Kartarpur corridor. This is similar to the u-turn it took on the Sabrimala issue where for the first three days the BJP was taking credit for the Supreme Court judgement allowing women of all ages entry into the temple but went on to change its stand after observing the mood of tantris and religious bigots.

To sum up, in the past five years we’ve had a government which announced grand schemes, poured money in constant propaganda, made little economic or developmental progress on ground, instead made some economic reverses, promoted crony businesses, protected financial fraudsters, damaged democratic institutions, fueled bigotry and divided its own people.From the past record of other mainstream political parties such as the Congress/UPA and regional parties, it’s clear that they too have practised cronyism, corruption and delivered inefficient implementation of develop-mental programmes. However, the scale of cronyism, misgovernance, incompetence, vindictiveness and propaganda demonstrated on so many fronts collectively in the past five years has rarely been witnessed earlier.

Sandeep Pandey is a social activist and Rahul Pandey is an academic, entrepreneur and activist.

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