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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 1 New Delhi December 23, 2017 - Annual Number

India: Tales of ‘Progress’ and ‘Pain

Sunday 24 December 2017


by Arup Kumar Sen

Very recently, a communication from the Prime Minister’s Office reminded us that “demonetisation proves to be a game-changer”. While highlighting the “multi-dimensional benefits of demonetisation”, the aforementioned communication disclosed that “stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir came down by 75 per cent from the previous year”. In his public speech, addressed to the Indian community in Manila, Philippines (November13, 2017), the Prime Minister announced: “India is the land of Mahatma Gandhi, peace is integral to our culture.”

The global credit rating agency, Moody’s Investors Services, has also recently upgraded India’s sovereign ratings, citing the Modi Govern-ment’s “wide-ranging programme of economic and institutional reforms”.

The story of economic and social ‘progress’ narrated above is not substantiated by facts. On the contrary, common people suffered and are suffering a lot from the drastic measures adopted by the Modi Government in recent times. The eminent economist, Arun Kumar, in his recent entry in TheIndian Express (September 8), has written the story of ‘pain’ caused by demonetisation to the commoners. To put it in his own words: “A large number of those who never generated any black money were put to tremendous hardship. They lost jobs and had to stand in queues for days to withdraw their own money. Trade and businesses suffered. People were forced to return to their villages because they lost jobs in the cities.” The impact of demonetisation on the economy, particularly its unorganized segment, is alarming. Again, to put it in the words of Arun Kumar:

“Demonetisation dented the economy severely and it has not yet recovered because capacity utilisation fell and that led to a decline in investment. The unorganised sector has declined by anything from 60 to 80 per cent, according to surveys from that period, and the rate of growth of the economy turned negative. GST has aggravated that effect because it has hit the unorganised sector hard.”

It may be mentioned in this connection that the Committee on Unorganised Sector Statistics, appointed by the National Statistical Commission, Government of India, noted in its report (2012) that more than 90 per cent of workforce in India are engaged in the unorganised or informal sector, and that “a high proportion of socially and economically underprivileged sections of society are concentrated in the informal economic activities”. So, whatever may be the claims of the Prime Minister’s Office and the global rating agency, the victims of recent economic policies of the Modi Government mostly belong to the socially and economically underprivileged sections of our society.

It is difficult for us to understand the linkage between demonetisation and drastic drop in “stone-pelting incidents in Kashmir”, as claimed by the Prime Minister’s Office. But, we do not have any doubt about the gross human rights violations in Kashmir by the armed forces of the State in recent times.

[This article is dedicated to my friend, Biplab Chakraborty, who died on October 22, 2017, after living a 62-year life of activism—A.K.S.]

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