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Exercise In Futilities, Exultation In Inanities

Exercise In Futilities, Exultation In Inanities

“Destruction” of the Indian Economy

Facts cannot be denied. The Indian economy has sunk to a 5% growth rate from its glorious heights. As someone has slightingly remarked, it has dipped to a ‘Hindutva-rate.’  Priyanka Gandhi waxes strong in her criticism. She asks, “Who is responsible for the destruction of the Indian Economy?” Take note. She is not speaking of the decline of the economy, but its “destruction.” This is what happens when real problems are swept under the carpet, as it happened during the last elections, and non-issues like Sanskrit promotion and yoga diffusion occupy the centre-stage. While real problems like rising unemployment, falling prices for farm products, negative consequences of the hasty decisions on demonetization and the GST have been worrying the average citizen, the BJP government was busy pouring out money for Kumbh Melas, high-tech gaushalas, and Hindi imposition. Unproductive ventures lead to undesired deficits. 

“What is worse has been,” says Priyanka, “the manipulation and suppression of data.”  Genuine scholars no more trust Government handouts. Indian credibility has been seriously damaged by the Modi Miracle accounts.

The trouble with the Ruling Party is that they won the elections on mere “Emotive Planks” built around the idea of the Hindu Rashtra. The celebratory session of the Parliament after the elections also manifested the “Unproductive” and absurd dimensions: the chanting of Jai Shri Ram, passing of Triple Talaq, removing the Right to Information. The most Emotive Plank of all was the Kashmir decision that seemed to unite India for a while on an unfair venture.

None of these issues was calculated to generate resources for India; on the contrary, they sucked away her psychological energies and killed her wealth-generating instincts. Subramaniam, former chief economic adviser to the Government, had already warned that the actual growth rate was much lower than what was officially claimed, and that it was not 7%, but mere 4.5% as a Harvard University study revealed. The mere suggestion of this possibility was considered ‘anti-national.’

But reality reveals its face ultimately. India has suffered a “reputational damage” from this superficial type of nationalism and leader-loyalty.  BJP supporters had long been ridiculing ‘foreign educated’ economists, calling them “Macaulayputras.” In Hindutva evaluation, genuine Indians must be Manu-putras… Modi-led and RSS-guided. Despised and marginalized, talent took flight to obscurity for mere survival.  Dinesh Saikia, a well-known intellectual in Assam, says, “Ironically in the committee which drafted the New Education Policy, not a single Educationist was included.” Unenlightened Modi-worshippers shape the future of India.

Put Aside “Vendetta Politics,” says Manmohan Singh

Manmohan Singh came down hard on those responsible for ruining the economy of the nation, which he had carefully built up during his tenure in office. First of all, he says, put aside Vendetta Politics.  He accuses the present leadership of “all-round mismanagement” that has led to the disastrous “man-made crisis.” Selective tax raid has turned into “tax terrorism.”  A government that has come to power with the highest record of MLA-MP purchases has no moral authority to sit in judgement on others’ civic failures. “Tap talents,” Manmohan says, and not drive them out into the wilderness. He asks the Government to listen to “sane voices and thinking minds.” He laments the threat to “social peace,” that the Brute Majority Government has stirred up in Indian society. He warns them against the neglect of farmers who constitute 50% of the Indian population. Such marginalized sectors deserve a better deal. The car industry has slowed down with the loss of 3.5 lakhs jobs. In addition to all this, the Government has taken away 1.76 lakh crores from the Reserve Bank of India; it will take a long time for it to recover. The nation’s economic future, he foresees, is bleak.

Where is all the money gone? For election bribes, horse-trading, sponsoring pilgrimages, subsidizing puja expenses, paying brahmins, repairing temples, training religious warriors, educating moral police, remunerating cow vigilantes! Unproductive ventures lead to undesired deficits.

Raghuram Rajan and Gita Gopinath too showed anxiety about the ‘fake claims’ of high economic performance where there was none.  Meanwhile huge amounts have been dished out to gurus and godmen hanging around the Ruling Class, both at the Centre and in the BJP ruled states. Some were paid like those of the cabinet rank. Corporations have been asked to fulfil their Social Responsibility by putting up Cow-shelters. Some ministerial families went even to the irrational extent of holding their marriage celebrations in Glorified Cow-shelters.

Peoples’ Sentiments Matter, the National Mood Decides the Future

Even the RBI Authorities have ultimately admitted that the economy was showing signs of “sliding into a cyclical downswing,” that there was need to revive consumption, that the deceleration of manufacturing threatened employment and prevented income generation. Big worries are about the weakness in capital goods production. Sales of consumer goods have fallen among farmers due to depressed crop prices. Consequently, domestic demand is less. What is not said is that millions who depended on cattle-trade have lost their livelihood with the cow-slaughter ban, and have sunk into misery; that at least a third part of the Indian population feel unsafe to move out of their ghettos, much less to venture into small scale economic activities. Amit Shah is the first to admit that there should be security in the country to build up a $5 trillion economy. But why does he fail to ensure security to Muslims and Dalits under his dispensation?

A study of the University of Michigan revealed: “There is a strong relationship between consumer sentiments and future economic activity.” Following up that finding, Renu Kohli affirms, “Sentiments matter for economic growth. Optimistic or upbeat sentiments encourage consumers to buy and borrow.” It encourages businesses to plan and invest. RBI Governor too ultimately accepted the enormous importance of a positive “mood” and optimistic “sentiment” for the economy. In place of arousing the “animal spirits” of the economic urge, everyone has become circumspect, cautious, mutually suspicious and skilful in distance-building. In certain areas alone the “animal spirits” seem still high: minority bashing, Kashmir-silencing, humiliating the Opposition leaders.

An Exercise in Futility

The BJP came to power in Assam to draw up the National Register of Citizens, eliminating all those whom they considered ‘foreigners.’ They were referring to the members of the Muslim minority-community, some of whom originally may have been from Bangladesh. Amit Shah had no hesitation to call the 40 lakhs left out in the first draft of the NRC “intruders,” half of whom have already proved themselves citizens. The final draft of the NRC has just been published with nineteen lakhs missing. To avoid reactions, the Authorities have assured that corrections are possible. Response to the present draft of the NRC has been mixed. All those who expressed satisfaction initially at its publication qualified their statement later.

Most people are unhappy to different degrees and for contrasting reasons. This was to be expected, since the entire exercise was meant to weed out as many Muslims as possible with any earlier Bangladeshi connection, so as to preserve a ‘safe’ Hindu demographic proportion in Assam. The Assamese were equally keen to keep the Assamese demographic proportion in reference to immigrant communities. In the process, one lakh Nepalis have been left out. Darjeeling Nepalis are afraid that this may affect them in the long run. Some who did not find their names in the record are thinking of moving to Bengal at least for a while.

Observing these developments, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has expressed anxiety that such a large number people (19 lakhs) should be considered without nationality and declared stateless. India’s international image is bound to suffer. Human Rights activists allege that there are one million illegal Indian immigrants in the UK, and possibly as many in the US; that India is the least qualified nation to disown immigrants.  Grandi insists on access to the affected people and their right to legal assistance. Unfortunately, the ruling clique has developed the curious theory that ‘domestic bullying’ is an ‘internal matter.’ To what extent is it valid?

Fully aware of the inconsistency of this official stand, Assam BJP president, Ranjeet Kumar Dass seems to expect  the Government to pass a bill to include those who have been left out. Meanwhile Delhi spokespersons have assured that those left out in the record will have all the rights.  Some speak of limiting their rights, but at once refer to the need for humanitarian considerations. There has been no official talk at all about deportation, nor is there any likelihood of anything like that being realized in a significant way. Will the entire NRC epic tale ultimately turn out to be an exercise in futility…a venture that kept 55,000 people employed and cost the nation 1,200 crores? Has there been any productive dimension to this exercise?

Exercise in Futilities, Exultation in Inanities

The other day, Mukesh Ambani hailed Amit Shah as a great Karmayogi and declared him to be “the iron man of our age”  after the fashion of Patel. The whispers are that Shahji is being proposed as the one to take the place of Modiji in due time.  Our destinies are in their hands in the present day. Some time ago, the actor Rajnikant raised them to the level of Krishna and Arjuna! Yes, the Kurukshetra war is on. The BJP cohorts and a large number of the Upper Class communities consider Modi’s Kashmir decision as his greatest achievement, like the liberation of Bangladesh by Indira Gandhi… no matter the trepidation that has gripped the weaker communities, who are anxious about their future.  The Kashmir decision has won wide accolades from a large section of the people. Patel’s dream is fulfilled, they acclaim. See how Modiji made Trump yield, Macron bend, Putin stoop, even Xi concede. Meanwhile other citizens have wondered whether the Indian army moving into Kashmir was much different from the way Chinese military contingents moved into Hong Kong recently. Amazingly, the latter allowed far more freedom.

Kashmir is merely the first scene of the modern Mahabharata. Akhand Bharat and a Hindu Rashtra are in shaping. Amit Shah proudly claimed that he had put the “final nail in the coffin of terrorism;” he did not add the words “free human existence” as well…which is true at least at present with regard to Kashmir. The Karmayogi must remember that every Karma has consequences. A question will surely persist in his mind and in the minds of a large number of Thinking People: “Have we bitten off more than we can chew?”  Are there no ‘cosmic’ consequences to a hasty display of muscle power that involves millions of people?

Yes, successes have their limits. Gurucharan Das in his book “The Difficulty of Being Good” on the Mahabharata (Allen Lane, New Delhi, 2009, pg 292) has these lines towards the end: “Although the Pandavas win the war, it is a hollow victory. Almost everyone dies and the Pandavas are condemned in having to rule over an empty kingdom, filled with feelings of guilt, shame and remorse for violating the moral principles of Satya and Ahimsa.” 

This sounds like Vyasa’s call to a collective self-criticism on today’s national political processes. Where are the norms of Satya and Ahimsa in Kashmir, NRC, in our economic strategies and national politics? “One should never do to another what one regards injurious to oneself. This, in brief, the law of dharma” (Mahabharata xviii.113.8).

(Published on 09th September 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 37)