The NDTV News on September 2 reported a statement of the BJP Spokesperson, Sambit Patra, on Dr. Manmohan Singh that the former Prime Minister was used as a "puppet" by "people behind the scene". "He (Mr Singh) was an economist but people behind the scenes used him as a puppet to impose their laws and promote corruption and nepotism. What kind of injustice it did to Indian economy we all know," the BJP spokesperson was quoted by news agency PTI as saying. His argument to prove that the Indian economy is doing well is, indeed, laughable: “Now the atmosphere is about ‘ Modi hai to mumkin hai’, as the Prime Minister has created a strong economy with good credentials in his six years of rule.”
Instead of responding intelligently to the criticism by Dr. Manmohan Singh of the Modi government for the “worrisome” economic slowdown, the BJP spokesperson indulged in mudslinging on the person of Dr. Singh. A day before the reaction of BJP spokesperson, Dr. Manmohan Singh had lambasted the Modi government for its failure on the economic front. He characterized the economic slowdown as “man-made crisis” and he blamed the Modi government's decision of demonetisation and a "hastily implemented GST" for the current state of economy. In his statement he mentioned that "India has the potential to grow at a much faster rate, but the all-round mismanagement by the Modi government has resulted in this slowdown," He also appealed to the government to come out of its denial mode and take the advice of experts. "India cannot afford to continue down this path. Therefore, I urge the government to put aside vendetta politics, and reach out to all sane voices and thinking minds, to steer our economy out of this man-made crisis," Dr Manmohan Singh said.
Dr. Manmohan Singh is a renowned economist who has held many responsible positions both at the national and international levels like the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, member of Board of Governors of International Monitory Fund (IMF) and the International Bank of Reconstruction, Union Finance Minister and Prime Minister of India twice. He has both experience and expertise in dealing with economic issues. Moreover, he is a person who speaks rarely and only in measured words. As a result, his views on economic issues are taken seriously by administrators and economists not only in India but also all over the world. One wonders what credibility the BJP spokesperson has to take on Dr. Manmohan Singh.
The facts and figures regarding the economic slowdown are evident before the government and the BJP: drastically reduced GDP growth rate of 5% in the last quarter, 30% decline in the sale of passenger cars in the month of August, 3.5 lakh people losing job in the automobile sector alone etc. Growth of eight core industries slowed down to 2.1% in July 2019 as against 7.3% in the same month last year, according to government data released on September 1. According to the same data, the output of coal, crude oil, natural gas and refinery products recorded negative growth. The statement of Niti Aayog Vice-Chairman, Rajiv Kumar on 23rd August is an admission of the seriousness of the issue. “Nobody had faced this sort of situation in the last 70 years where entire financial system was under threat,” he said. In spite of the hard facts before the government, reluctance to accept the reality on the part of the BJP spokesperson is nothing but arrogance and pride.
All governments in power have a tendency to reject outright any negative reports about its governance. If a journalist after making a detailed study and visiting the people concerned reports about hunger deaths, the immediate reaction of the government will be denial. The BJP stands out among all political parties in India in not accepting the reality and the best example is the statement of Sambit Patra. "The world economy is facing a slowdown but we can say with happiness that the Indian economy is doing well... because of strong base and fundamentals, our economy is doing quite well," he said. Not accepting the disastrous consequences of demonetization by the BJP government, in spite of various studies available on its negative consequences, is another example.
In a democracy, it is the responsibility of the opposition to pinpoint the failures of the ruling party. The ruling party has also the freedom to explain to the people its position by presenting facts and figures. Instead of giving a strong rebuttal with convincing arguments, the BJP spokesperson indulged in personal attack on a respected economist, Dr. Manmohan Singh. This incident exposes the intellectual poverty of the BJP.
On September 2, the NDTV News reported that the UP government filed a case against a journalist, Pawan Jiswal who works with Jansandesh, a Hindi Publication, for shooting a video that shows children of a school in Mirzapur sitting on floor and eating rotis with salt. In its complaint, the Block Education Officer of the area has accused the journalist and the local village head’s representative of conspiracy to defame the Uttar Pradesh government. In the video from a school in Mirzapur, young children are seen sitting on the floor of the school corridor, eating rotis with salt as part of the mid-day meal scheme of the state government. The journalist and the village head's representative have been accused of cheating and criminal conspiracy.
According to the journalist, he had informed the district authorities before going to the school and he is being made a scapegoat by the district administration. “I reached the spot on August 22 and informed assistant BSA, Brijesh Kumar Singh, before going to the school. I shot the first video at 12.07pm when the kids were being served salt and roti. I then informed my seniors who in turn had informed District Magistrate about it. The DM then reached the spot and took action against those who were responsible,” Jaiswal said, as per the media report.
After Narendra Modi came to power there is a lot of pressure on the journalists and media houses who do not toe the line of the government. Raiding news channels, boycotting prime-time debates, and stopping government advertising have been among the common tactics used by the Modi government, according to Nikhil Inamdar (“How Narendra Modi has almost killed Indian media” in QUARTZ INDIA, March 12, 2019)
Muzzling the media, intolerance of any criticism of the government, disdain for experts and intellectuals are considered to be the traits of the arrival of fascism. The US Holocaust museum has an exhibit that shows 12 Early Warning Signs of Fascism as follows.
1. Powerful and continuing nationalism
2. Disdain for human rights
3. Identification of enemies as unifying cause
4. Rampant Sexism
5. Controlled mass media
6. Obsession with national security
7. Religion and government intertwined.
8. Corporate power protected
9. Labour Power suppressed
10. Disdain for intellectual and art
11. Obsession with crime and punishment
12. Rampant cronyism and corruption
The tendency not to accept the reality is found not only among the political leaders but among the religious leaders too. Power and money make the religious leaders also arrogant. They want to keep people subservient through rituals, rules, dogmas, superstitions, blind faith etc. In olden days it was easy for the religious leaders to keep the people submissive with the drug of religiosity. Because of the revolution in information technology, people have easy access to knowledge and information. People are becoming enlightened and they have started questioning the authoritarian ways of the religious leaders. They have started assessing the religious teachings using critical thinking. They have shown the courage to question the dictates of the religious leaders. The religious leaders, who are not ready to accept the reality of the changes that are taking place in the people, accuse those persons who question the leaders as “enemies” and “terrorists”.
Political and religious leaders cannot take people always for granted. They have to bear in mind what Abraham Lincoln has said. “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”.
(firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 09th September 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 37)