Hot News

Modi Bubble Bursts

Modi Bubble Bursts

“My fellow Indian, this day last year began a golden chapter in the history of Indian democracy. It was after several decades that the people of the country voted back a full-term government with a full majority. Once again, I bow to the 130 crore people of India and the democratic ethos of our nation. During normal times, I would have been in your midst. However, the present circumstances do not permit that. That is why, I seek your blessings through this letter”. Thus, began the letter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he penned a letter on 30th May, 2020 on the completion of one year of second term in office. The Prime Minister used this opportunity to highlight the steps taken by his government for the good of the country. He also recalled the 2016 surgical strike on terror camps across the Line of Control and the 2019 airstrike to bomb a terror training site deep inside Pakistan.

He went on to state, “Your affection, goodwill and active cooperation have given new energy, and inspiration. The way you have showcased the collective strength of democracy is a guiding light for the whole world. Back in 2014, the people of the country voted for a substantive transformation. In the last five years, the nation saw how the administrative apparatus broke itself free of status quo and from the swamp of corruption as well as misgovernance. True to the spirit of ' Antyodaya' the lives of millions have been transformed”.

Counting the many as he claimed achievements of himself as the Prime Minister of the country and his government he enumerated, “From 2014 to 2019, India's stature rose significantly. The dignity of the poor was enhanced. The nation achieved financial inclusion, free gas and electricity connections, total sanitation coverage, and made progress towards ensuring 'Housing for All.'”.

Coming back to his favourite topic of India moving towards becoming a global leader, he proclaimed, “In 2019, the people of India voted not merely for continuity but also with a dream of taking India to new heights. A dream of making India a global leader. The decisions taken in the last one year are directed at fulfilling this dream”.

In the course of his enumeration of the achievements of his government in the last few years, he further maintained, “Today, 130 crore people feel involved and integrated in the development trajectory of the nation. The light of ' Jan Shakti' and ' Rashtra Shakti' has ignited the entire nation. Powered by the Mantra of ' Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas' India is marching forward in all spheres”. Against the assertions and claims of Mr. Narendra Modi, if a referendum could be conducted in India at this juncture, most of the citizens would rephrase the slogan of the Prime Minister as follows:  kuch ke saath, kuch ke vikas, baaki sab ke saath vishwasghat aur vinash . Let us explore the myth being created by the Prime Minister and his coterie and explode them based on facts and figures.

The Crisis Created by the Corona Virus

The numbers given in the table below is frightening and terrifying to say the least. Epidemics have been part of the human history. No one would deny this. But in a modern society, technologically boasting globe, to see and hear that over 67 lac population is affected as of now is not just alarming but horrifying. We human beings are good in giving names. From epidemics we have upgraded our plight into pandemic. But we seem to be totally not bothered by the fact that around 4 lac people have died. That too those cases which are reported. There is fear that if we include the unreported cases, it would be horrendous.

Table 1: Update of Coronavirus Cases

S.No

Area

World

India

1.      

Cases

75,97,301

2,98,283

2.     

Deaths

4,23,844

8,501

3.     

Recovered

38,41,493

1,29,215

4.     

Closed Cases

4,265,337

-

Source : https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/  - 12/06/2020

It is heartening to see that the number of recoveries has increased to 38,41,493. This is due to the information about how to deal with the virus, what measures to be taken to prevent it, what measures to be taken to promote good health so that more people are not affected, people all over the world adhering to preventive measures, etc. But it is perturbing to see that even now over 45.61 per cent of cases are still pending. It is hoped that even these affected persons would recover and return back to their families and carry on normal life.

In the month of April, it was really very encouraging that the cases reported in India were not that overwhelming. May be as reported that we are moving into third phase and more cases are reported and the number may move higher. But from the data provided by Worldometers, the positive cases in India is on the increase rapidly. While it was only 11,555 as on 15th April, 2020, it has risen to 2,16,824 as on 4th June, 2020. That is, it is almost 20 times more within 50 days. Daily cases are on the increase inspite of India opting for 4 phases of serious lockdown.

It is alarming and terrifying to see that 9,000 cases were reported in India on Thursday, June 5th.  Further, India crossed 2.2 lacs on 4th June, 2020. These are cases that are reported. But there is unconfirmed report that hundreds and thousands of those affected are not welcomed into the hospitals, not screened and not treated.  What is even more horrendous is that those who are tested positive and die are disposed off without registering as corona virus affected persons. Even with this game going on, the cases are on the increase is a huge cause of concern to all the conscious, concerned, committed citizens of this country.

Let us go a step ahead and present some numbers that are baffling. Spain has a population of 4,67,53,542 and out of this about 8.69 per cent were tested. The United States of America has 33,08,64,650 population and out of this about 5.91 per cent were tested. India has a population of over 1,37,90,11,457, that is, 137 crore population and out of this only 0.32 per cent of the population were tested. These were also not a planned testing but since the migrants were moving en mass to save themselves and their families, these were tested. Also, it is reported that those who are ‘powerful and influential’ skip the testing but spread the virus. But since they are influential, no powers on the earth can subject them to test and if found positive official quarantining.

Emerging Situation in India Due to Covid-19

Covid-19 took everyone by surprise. People were not informed and people were not prepared. The Government delayed its response due to its political compulsions. As stated in the past, the government was busy entertaining Trump who himself sacrificed the safety and life of his people. The government was also busy toppling the democratically elected government in Madhya Pradesh. It did not address the issue of domestic and international travellers who were also one of the potent carriers of the virus. This led to vast spread and resulting in innumerable problems and hardships to common and ordinary citizens of this country.

Even in normal times, medical facilities were very poor for those who are poor and deprived. Irrespective of all tall claims and pronouncements of many health schemes, the common citizen cannot get proper treatment in government hospitals. Now lack of medical facilities has become all the more critical. But the fact of the matter is that those who have money or have connection get admitted in any hospital and get treated. Some of them can even get a certificate that they are ok, while they have tested positive. While some are quarantined in toilets others are quarantined in 5 star hotels. The age old divide of haves and have-nots, powerful and powerless at this time of crisis also continues unabated in India.

The much advertised social distancing, washing of hands, sanitising and wearing masks and staying at home was possible for only 20% of the population. The rest could not adhere since they didn’t have the provisions for this. The government was more interested in keep harping on these restrictions than providing an ordinary object like mask for those forced to live in slums and clean the cities by rag picking. For that segment of the population who even do not have proper drinking water, washing hands regularly is not a possibility. For those who do not have soap to bath even once a week, washing their hands regularly is not something affordable.

Irrespective of repeated warning by the World Health Organisation and other doctors and professionals in this area, the government continued to be busy with its own game plans. At the most what it did was to organise ‘clapping of hands and beating of plates’ hoping and wishing that the virus would be scared of these and disappear. Or it organised ‘Janta Curfew’, that is ‘People’s Lockdown’ to ‘ward off the evil’. But instead of these gimmicks if the government had put its acts together to scientifically and professionally deal with the health crisis created by the virus, this country would have been saved. Now this health crisis has got converted into a massive humanitarian crisis affecting over 80 crore population.

When some of the politicians were dancing with their stooges and saying, “go corona go”, the government appeared to have believed that soon things will become normal. But this the citizens knew was only a wishful thinking devoid of reality. The proof of this was seen in what was happening in Italy, Germany and Spain, countries which have much better governance and administrative sense, citizens are united to fight against any common crisis, systems and mechanisms are better placed and functioning. In India while the common citizens have all these senses, the ruling elite has divided them on the basis of caste, class, gender, religion, region, mental and menial labour, pure and pollution, etc.

In the beginning, the government warned people that this is a serious virus and people should be ready for lockdown and work down so as to prevent the spread of it. In the name of ‘Protecting the Nation’ people were asked to sacrifice. But now the government is saying ‘we have to learn to live with crisis’. People are at a loss with these conflicting pronouncements. If the country has crossed 3 lac mark in a short time, it should be a cause of concern not just for the citizens but those who are elected to protect the lives and property of the citizens.

Crisis Emerging from 4 Phases of Lockdown

The economy was and is affected badly. The Times of India reported on 24th November, 2019 that w hen Narendra Modi was re-elected, optimists expected GDP growth to accelerate to 8 per cent. But now they themselves are weeping that the Indian GDP has plummeting towards 4 per cent, having fallen steadily in the last four quarters, 7 per cent, 6.8 per cent, 5.6 per cent and 5 per cent. Inspite of presenting a picture of economic growth, the country has sunk deep and the common citizens of this country are paying a great price. 

Due to the economic policies and programs of the former Congress government and the present Bharatiya Janata Party government, people had lost employment and wages. In the last few years this is even grimmer. A recent working paper published by the Centre for Sustainable Employment, Azim Premji University has contested official claims on employment, showing an “unprecedented” fall in total employment from 2011-12 to 2017-18. The study demonstrates employment dropped by 9 million between these years – “for the first time in India’s history”.

Due to lack of employment and increase in unemployment and under-employment in many parts of India, the work force from the villages were forced to migrate to the urban areas to eke out a living. They moved to wherever they could find work and wages. They did not think of safe and secure migration which is only possible for the 20 per cent elite of this country. The work force had no choice but to opt for distress migration. To a question asked in the parliament on 23rd March, 2016 regarding the migrant labourers, the then Union Minister of State Mr. Santosh Gangwar replied that there are 100 million migrant labourers in India.

Thus, the presence of migrant labourers is about 10 crores, which is over 7.30 of the total population. If we calculate this amount only with the total work force, which was 503.8 million as stated by the World Bank, it would be 19.85 per cent. Thus, vast number of Indians are forced to migrate to different parts of India to earn a living in some of the most deplorable conditions. This work force which is unenumerated in the place of origin is also unrecorded in the place of destination. Their whereabouts is known only to their families and at the most to the agents who take them to work to a totally unknown place.

Most of these are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. If these migrant labourers move to north India they can communicate in Hindi and can manage. But if they migrate to south India, they are lost due to local language. Those who remain longer try to learn the language and manage well. There is no provision for registering them neither in the place of origin in the place of destination and hence they can not avail any social security benefits. This was one of the reasons due to which the migrants suffered multiple discriminations this time.

More than 90% of workforce in India come from the unorganised sector. In lay man’s terms, 9 out of 10 persons in the workforce in India belong to the unorganised sector. A high proportion of socially and economically underprivileged sections of society are concentrated in the informal economic activities. But it is this unorganised, unrecognised, invisible and voiceless workforce which is accountable for about 50% of the national product. What is more intriguing is that out of this high proportion of unorganised work force only 0.4% of the workers were receiving benefits like provident fund, and this proportion has not changed since 1999-2000. This is as per Government of India Report on Employment-Unemployment survey, Vol. I, Ministry of Labour and Employment, (2013-14).

The social security measures such as old age pension, gratuity, employees’ state insurance and other insurance schemes are non– accessible to workers of the unorganised sector. A large number of statutes and schemes addressed to different categories of workers are found neither feasible nor practicable. This is because labour relations in the unorganised sector are chaotic and there is no formal employer-employee relationship. But, even if it exists, it is of casual nature. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, Report on Condition of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganised Sector, 2007 stated this. It also recommended that since the unorganised sector plays pivotal role in the Indian economy, it needs special attention.

But like any other recommendations which is applicable to the poor and the marginalized and in this case the work force which is only considered as a vote bank and not citizens of this country, no follow up was done. Therefore, it is a huge section of the society that the government had failed to consider in its decision making year after year, plan after plan. Now when the present government announced the lockdown it totally and fully did not bother to take into account of the migrant labourers who are far away from their homes, cannot stay where they are as migrant labourers and cannot get home on their own. It is this that has led to the untold misery of this segment of the population of India due to lockdown. This also has painted a grave picture of India in the international arena.

Forced by the total lack of human sensitivity by the ruling class towards the migrant labourers, they started walking home, some walking hundreds and thousands of kilo meters. Some are walking even today and some started walking now since they did not find any support from anyone. One such migrant worker is Kiran Devi who along with her children walking along a road in New Delhi on June 3, 2020 to her home in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh. Ms. Devi started her journey on May 23, 2020 from Jalandhar (Courtesy. India Today. June 4th, 2020). When will she and her children reach home is a million dollar question. Will they reach at all is the crucial question.

The fact of the matter is that the migrant labourers are returning back home in a large scale and this will lead to a huge army of unemployed and under employed labour force in villages and towns. Due to walking or travelling in most dangerous transports and the tardy manner these migrant labourers are treated they are exhausted and expanded. But when they arrive at home and village, what they are seeing is only poverty and misery, lack of basic amenities, lack of scope for even ordinary economic activities, etc. This has dejected many of them as reported by them. They feel that they are caught between devil and deep sea. Except talking of lockdown, the government does not talk anything else.

No livelihood is possible. Even if they are willing to take up some work and earn a living for themselves and their families, there is nothing in the village. NREGA which is supposed to provide jobs for the returnee migrants is extremely limited. Though the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh keeps on announcing that lacs of jobs have been created and will be created, there is nothing in real terms. Further, due to lack of job cards with the migrants, even though there is work the migrants cannot make use of them. Some Pradhans are kind enough to give work with the Aadhar Card which is a great relief. Some Pradhans do not want to do anything since there is huge demand for work and less cash.

Due to this distressing and debilitating scene, some returnee migrants are contemplating of going back to where they migrated for work. They are afraid if they do not do this, they and their family will have to starve. Interestingly, some of the former employees are already contacting these migrant labourers to hire vehicle and come back to work. If not all, some surely will go. If not the entire family, at least individuals may go back to the place they worked. Many surely may go after paddy transplantation. Since it is raining already, paddy transplantation may take place early this year and many may move as migrant labourers to their former place of work.

Not Democracy but Autocracy

While over 80 per cent of the population is faced with malnutrition and starvation and impending death, the rulers of this country are engaged in pronouncements that project them as ‘ vishwa guru’ or ‘global leaders’. Anyone who cared to read the letter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi written on 30th May, would be crudely shocked to see the utter lack of empathy or even sympathy towards the struggling masses. He did not even shed crocodile tears, leave alone feeling remorse and acknowledging the innumerable mistakes he and his government has made and apologising to the citizens and assuring to rectify the wrongs done and doing those he failed to do.

In this crisis more created by lockdown than the virus, he did not even say that he will ensure that no Indian will die of starvation created by the lockdown. He did not even say that with the Food Corporation of India storages being full, he will order the concerned department to ensure the supply of food to the ‘antyodaya’ so that the most affected survive now and build up their families as they go on. He did not even talk about the loss of over 300 migrant labourers who died on the way and did not feel the sadness of the family members who could not even claim the body or do proper final rites. But instead talked of the surgical strike which only he thought boosted his morale but did nothing to the country. It surely created enemies and also showed the country in poor light among the world citizens.

To make the matters worse, the Finance Minister announced that there are no more schemes to be announced for a year. She did not say anything about the 20 lac crores which her government promised to disburse among the citizens of the country. But closed the chapter saying that ‘you find your own way and we have managed the 20 lac crores for our own end”.

Even during this great international crisis of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown there were and are Indians who did not boast of being global leader but provided food to their neighbours, reached someone to hospital, reached someone to the station, Muslims performed last rites of those dead and whose family refused to do anything. Hence, common, conscious and compassionate Indians are greatly hopeful that as Indians we will face the crisis created by the virus and by the unplanned lockdown by the political establishment.

Indians like, Dr Shifa Mohammed from Kerala decided to postpone her wedding and chose to treat her COVID-19 afflicted patients struggling for life. What she said should challenge the political establishment to be more human and more Indian. “Marriage can wait, but not my patients”. The entire India salutes them.

(Published on 15th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 25)