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The month old gamble of Mr. Modi has put the whole country in an unprecedented chaos. The demonetization of 86.4% of the circulating currency in the form of Rs 500 and 1000 rupee notes has put into jeopardy the life of major sections of society. Nearly seventy people have died in the queues to withdraw the money from Banks/ATMs. The daily wage workers have to lose their daily earning to withdraw the cash, many daily wage earners had to go back to their villages for lack of work, the small trade has been damaged severely, farmers are neck deep in trouble while probably those holding the ‘black money’ don’t have to suffer such an ordeal. The 80% of estimated black money is stashed in the overseas tax heavens; roughly 15% of such wealth is in the form of real estate, gold and shares etc. It is only 5% of money which is in the form of currency notes. It is for this 5% quantum that 86% currency has been demonetized and millions of people, who barely make their two ends meet, have been put to such a massive discomfort.

The impact of this is that the hard earned money of the peasants and common people in the cooperative banks, agricultural credit societies, housing societies and so on has been frozen in a single stroke. The agricultural-rural economy is close to paralysis. The massive loans of corporate houses have been labelled as ‘Bad loans’ and have been waived off. All these expose that the true intention of this assault is not eradication of black money, but to unleash a social engineering for draining away the meagre earnings of the common people in to the coffers of corporate billionaires through the banking system. This move has full backing of those who deal with black money or those Corporate giants who stand to benefit as their loans are being waived off.

The response to this has been very diverse. Most of those standing in long queues have expressed their opinions though their life and sweat. A few among them have also praised the effort by saying that in the long run it will be better for them. Most of the opposition parties though disunited as usual have vehemently criticized the move of the government. Prominent economists and substantial section of media have scathingly criticized the move of the government. The critics of the Modi policy, again as usual are being labelled as anti-Nationals. Baba Ramdev, the fellow traveller of Modi politics, used the word ‘Deshdrohi’ (anti national) and RSS groomed Devendra Fadanvis, the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, used the word Deshvirodhi (against the nation) for these critics. The large sections of Modi followers, despite their discomforts, are holding that it is a good move. Their delusion is that in the long term the system will be better and they will benefit. Modi launched an app to conduct a survey to show that people’s opinion is with him, while a few surveys are showing growing resentment against this move.

It’s no mystery as to why this has been undertaken. Two major Gujarati papers had carried the news of demonetization several months ago. Many are arguing that the move is intended to cripple the opposition parties in the forthcoming elections in UP and Punjab in particular. The idea is to reduce the campaigning capability of opposition parties. The problem of ‘bad loans’ to the Corporates faced by the banks are to be solved through the massive deposits of public funds, which is alleged to be a goal of the demonetisation move. There are reports that BJP has bought lots of real estate just prior to demonetization.

Modi campaign for power in 2014 was built around the promise of Acche Din and bringing the black money from overseas banks and then depositing of 15 Lakhs in everybody’s account. The social scenario has worsened abysmally during last two years. The prices of commodities reached sky high during this period. Tur dal has shot up from Rs. 60 to 150 per kg. Despite the drastic fall in the prices of crude oil in international market from 119 per barrel to 30 per barrel, the petrol price in India has come down only from Rupees 67 to 60 or so only. Corporates like Mallya have made merry by running away with huge debts. This along with the non-realization of boastful promises, like rupee becoming stronger vis-à-vis dollar, are nowhere in sight. The agrarian crisis has been worsening. With the demonitisation the production in unorganized sector has come to a near halt. It seems Mr. Modi, taunted by opposition and critics on his boastful promise, now wants to claim that so many efforts are being done in this direction. As such the major area of non-taxed money remains untouched. There is a push towards cashless economy when large number people seem to be unprepared for that.

During last over two and a half years the so called fringe elements of RSS combine, Modi’s ideological pond, has become bolder and has thrown up non issues, identity related ones in the public domain. These emotive issues which took off from the Ram Temple-Babri Mosque dispute have been joined in by issues related to Holy cow, beef, pseudo nationalism, Bharat Mata ki Jai, abolishing the autonomy of educational institutions, creating a growing atmosphere of intolerance leading to returning of awards by eminent writers and social workers. The deeper issues related to poverty alleviation, employment, malnutrition, health and matters pertaining to agrarian crisis have been buried under the weight of pseudo nationalism. This hyper nationalism has also worsened the state of affairs in Kashmir and relations with neighbours, Pakistan and Nepal in particular.

The move seems to benefit only the corporates and is creating huge suffering for the average people. However, the propaganda ‘this will benefit us’ has been spread with great amount of success. But can this deceptive propaganda win over the reality for so long?

       This December 16 marked four years of the gang-rape and subsequent death of 23-year-old Delhi student who is remembered as Nirbhaya. The national Capital had erupted over the most outrageous and heinous crime. The dreadful episode had led to the setting up of the Verma Commission whose report resulted in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2013. The new law introduced unprecedented provisions in the Indian Penal Code providing for death penalty in rape cases that led to either the death of the victim or left her in a vegetative state. It also provided for stringent punishment for sexual voyeurism and stalking, making them serious criminal offences.

However, four years down the line, things have not improved a wee bit. As many as five incidents of rape, including that of a girl in a moving car in Delhi, in the very week marking the fourth anniversary of Nirbhaya gang-rape, are a spiteful and disgusting reminder that situation has worsened on the ground. As the hullabaloo over the Nirbhaya incident died out and public reaction ebbed away, women have become sitting ducks for rapists across the country; this has been substantiated by statistics. Bringing all efforts to contain assaults on women to a naught, the last four years saw a steep increase in rape cases in Delhi, a trend witnessed across the country. If in 2012 there were 706 cases, it went up to 2199 in 2015, registering 200 per cent rise in sexual assaults despite various rigorous measures being put in place. At the all-India level, 2,44,270 crimes against women were reported in 2012. The number surged to an whopping 3,27,394 in 2015. If these are the registered cases, one can well imagine the number of unreported cases.

Even as rape cases are on the rise, an equally disturbing trend is being witnessed on two other fronts: the rate of conviction is abysmally low and the number of rape cases being withdrawn is on the rise. It speaks volumes on the lackadaisical manner in which crime against women are investigated, leaving many loopholes for the accused to escape punishment. In 2012, the police had secured 49.25% conviction in rape cases. It fell to 35.69% in 2013 and 34.5% in 2014. Last year, the conviction rate saw a drastic fall to 29.37%, putting the nature of police investigation under the shadow of serious doubt. It also brings out the most unfortunate situation of witnesses turning hostile due to threat by the accused.   

A Delhi Police report revealed that there had been withdrawal of as many as 104 rape cases in 2015. This is indicative of lack of faith in the criminal justice system by the victims. There are several instances wherein the investigating agencies have drawn the ire of various courts for doing their work haphazardly, making the victims lose the battle. Even the most stringent laws will not bring solace to the victims unless they are implemented effectively. India will remain one of the most dangerous places for women, as some surveys have pointed out, unless the government takes bold corrective measures.

(Published on 26th December 2016, Volume XXVIII, Issue 52)#