No sweet year, bitter Sour, first year of Modi govt. 2.0 edition

By Abdulhafiz Lakhani / Ahmedabad

From 2019 to 2020  year of Modi 2.0 has been  unprecedentedly difficult for India on all major fronts, economy suffered badly and India has been pushed to poverty, Lockdown created havoc in the lives of millions of poor, lack of strategy, thoughtfulness and policy has hit India hard adding to the woes of corona crisis, hundreds of migrants lost their lives and thousands are still stranded on roads, On the occasion of Modi 2.0 anniversary, India witnesses social unrest, devastated economy and diplomatic hassles.

The sudden lock down created an economic and humanitarian crisis unprecedented in the country.  The most shocking fact was the national media initially decided to sit out of this story, but when economic hardship and denial of life became heart rendering, a few media outlets did come in open to narrate the human suffering created by the ill-conceived idea of lock down to contain the Covid-19.

The government’s sudden decision to shut the nation stripped invisible millions of their livelihood as 81 % of the urban population, 87% of the rural population lost their jobs. In April alone, some 1220 crore jobs were lost and about 1215 lakh workers were rendered jobless. The unemployment rate shot up to an unprecedented 26% from 8% due to nationwide lock down. Further, the economic growth fell to a zero, with some financial institutions pegging it at 0.1 GDP%, and some even giving it negative points.

Politicians are good at making promises. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is no exception. In fact, he particularly excels at it. But if the proof of the pudding lies in its eating, without exception every politician falls short. Probably, marketing dreams, promising good life is an integral part of politics everywhere.

Here we started with Jawaharlal Nehru offering socialism to wipe the tears of a long-suffering people starved of two square meals a day. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, rose very high on the catchy slogan of Garibi Hatao. Half a century later, millions of Garibs are seen on India’s roads trekking miserably back home to their villages from the poverty and squalor of towns they are leaving behind due to the lockdown on their daily income.

 In between, we have had a number of other pretenders to the New Delhi throne whose stint was largely unremarkable, barring one. Manmohan Singh’s promise of unshackling the animal spirits of the entrepreneurial class to ensure handsome economic growth, too, remained largely unfulfilled.

 Now come to Modi. Into his sixth year, he has promised to complete the process of reforms which the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh team had begun in the 90s but which was abandoned halfway, without allowing it to realise its full potential. Surprisingly, in the midst of the coronavirus lockdown, the Modi Sarkar revived the reforms package.

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 It undertook to free land and labour markets, carry out structural reforms in the financial sector, open up the economy for foreign direct investment, and remove obstructions in the way of foreign companies setting up shop here. It also promised to free up the mining sector, allowing for public-private partnership. Likewise, it promised to remove caps on foreign investment in most sectors of the economy.

 All these promises constituted what was said to be the Rs. 20-lakh crore economic salvage package which cumulatively constituted, it was claimed by the Prime Minister, ten percent of the GDP. Of course, in real terms the package was about one percent of the GDP. In fact, the main part of the package had little to do with the corona pandemic. The long-overdue reforms could have been announced any time before or after the pandemic. 

People and investors have lost their faith in the sagging Indian economy Today economic growth is at 5% but it is not only the 5% which is a cause of concern… the share of agriculture in our GDP has dropped to a record low of 14%,”, that 65% of Indian people depend on agriculture.

 Be that as it may, the Prime Minister’s penchant to make tall promises was yet again on display in his inaugural address to the 125th annual session of the Confederation of Indian Industry recently through a video-link. To the assembled captains of industry and commerce, Modi must have sounded overly optimistic when he said, “Yes, we will definitely get our growth back.” How and when were the obvious questions answers to which may not have been clear to his audience, the very people on whose shoulders lies the responsibility to get the economic engine running again.

The PM, however, was full of hope. “Corona may have slowed our speed of growth but India has now moved ahead from lockdown with the phase one of unlock. Unlock Phase–I has reopened a large part of the economy.” The last claim must have sounded unreal to lots of people in his distinguished audience since they knew first-hand that despite the partial lifting of restrictions much of the economy was yet to get back to pre-lockdown normal due to the absence of workers, disruption in supply chains and a lack of demand.

 It would be a while before things return to normal, if at all. But the PM appeared to paint a positive picture despite the actual economic actors entertaining genuine misgivings about getting back on stream any time soon, post-lockdown. Displaying his weakness for alliteration and acronyms, which increasingly elicits snide comments, Modi talked of ‘intent, inclusion, investment, infrastructure and innovation’ as crucial for India to revert to a high-growth trajectory.

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On intent, the Rs. 20-lakh crore package is certainly not wanting. But where are the rest of the elements, i.e., investment, innovation, etc.? In fact, where is the evidence of the far-reaching reforms in labour, land, financial sector, foreign investment, et al? As they say, the way to hell is paved with good intentions. No government in free India has been lacking in good intentions. The only shortcoming has always been delivery, performance, will to put into action what was promised in words. We are afraid Modi will fall far short in keeping his promise..

With the passing of the CAA, which grants citizenship to the persecuted minorities from South Asian countries, the government had accomplished a key Hindutva agenda. 

The agitation in Delhi against CAA and the National Register of Citizens were looked at as being anti-minority led to violent agitation in Delhi and elsewhere. The issue was kept alive by elderly Muslim women in Delhi and the government was under some pressure before coronavirus pandemic sent everyone scurrying for home.

The events in India during last few months, beginning with  Triple Talaq Bill, abolition of article 370, bringing of Citizenship Amendment Act and the spectacular democratic protest of Shaheen Bagh created a situation where the Hate spreading mechanisms became more aggressive. To cap it all came the Covid 19, the incident of Tablighi Jamaat, where the blame of spreading Corona was falsely put on Muslims as a whole. It was alleged that Muslims are out to launch Corona Jihad, are producing Corona bomb etc. became the part of popular thinking and life of Muslim community in general became unbearable. Even the lynching of Sadhus near Palghar by the local villagers was presented initially as the act of the ‘Hated’ community.

At present migrant workers are in dire need of a national register for meaningful socio-economic interventions to be made to them. But no government is keen to do such exercise. They want to use them as vote banks for elections and abuse them during the time of crisis. Neither the government nor the society has any remorse towards their sufferings. So no bell tolls for the migrant workers in India, this is the sum and summary of the migrant workers story under the Covid-19. (With Media Input)

(www.siyasat.net is Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India based website)

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