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Priorities On Reverse Gear

Priorities On Reverse Gear

Ever since Narendra Modi came to power at the Centre the focus of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar has been to expand its hold all over India and implement the Hindutva agenda. The party has been always in election gear, using divisive agenda. The recent high profile rally (Jan Suraksha Yatra) organized in Kerala clearly shows the priority of the BJP is expanding its presence in the State through communal polarization, as it did in other parts of the country.

In their alacrity to covert India into a saffron country, the BJP and the Prime Minister have forgotten the promises they had made to the people during the election campaign in 2014. The slogan Sab ka sath sabka viskas is submerged in hate speeches and highly divisive and communal slogans like ‘ love jihad’,  'red and jihadi terrorism', ‘thushtikaran’ etc. Development, governance and job creation were the catch words that attracted the masses to vote for Modi and BJP. But they have taken a backseat and the priorities of Modi government are on reverse gear because of its greed for power and obsession with Hindutva.

According to the World Hunger Index 2017 published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, India ranks 100 among the 119 developing countries. Last year India’s position was 97. The report measures hunger using four data points: undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality. The good news is that the world is less hungry than it was in 2000: hunger has decreased by 27% since then. But India is last among the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) group of emerging nations. India’s neighbours in South Asia, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are doing better than India, while Pakistan and Afghanistan are doing worse.

Of Indian children under five, one in three (35.7%) is underweight, one in three (38.4%) is stunted and one in five (21%) is wasted, according to 2015-16 NFHS (National Family Health Survey). India has been implementing two mega programmes, targeting the children: Integrated Child Development Services and the Mid Day Meal. If the government had focused on good governance, as Modi had promised at the time of election, the two mega schemes would have been implemented effectively and India would have done better in child care and child development.

The youth of India voted in large numbers for Modi because he had promised to create one core jobs a year. “The country has been dragged through 10 years of Jobless Growth by the Congress-led UPA Government,” the BJP had said in its manifesto for the 2014 general election. “Under the broader economic revival, BJP will accord high priority to job creation and opportunities for entrepreneurship.”

According to the Labour Ministry survey, the total number of jobs created in the first three years of the BJP government was 1.51 million. It is nearly 39% less than the 2.47 million created during the three previous years. According to the same survey there was shift in the pattern of employment from permanent jobs to causal or contract employment.

The economy too has been in a reverse gear as indicated by the slowdown in GDP growth. Instead of accepting the fault lines in the economic policies like demonetization and faulty implementation of GST the government and BJP have been on overdrive to attack those who pointed out the failures. The Prime Minister branded critics as pessimists. The Modi government has to put in place policies that will boost economic growth along with job creation. Jobless economic growth will only widen the existing gap between the rich and the poor.

The performance of India under the BJP government in health and education has been lackluster. Currently India ranks 154 among 195 countries in the Healthcare Index at global level behind its neighbors Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. India performs poorly in tackling cases of tuberculosis, diabetes, chronic kidney diseases and rheumatic heart diseases. Public health expenditure has remained stagnant at 1 percent. According to Medical Council of India, the doctor-patient ratio in India was about 1 to 1,700 in 2015.

India spends a little under three percent of the GDP on education, according to the World Bank data. India has about 300 million illiterate people; still the government expenditure on education has remained low. Countries such as Brazil and South Africa have spent at least six percent of their GDP on education since 2014. If the BJP government was serious about the implementation of Right to Education Act it would have enhanced the allocation for education, particularly elementary and high school education. 

It seems that the government is not able to focus on the core areas of development because of its misplaced priorities due to the pressure from the Hindutvavadies. What good governance the people can expect from a Chief Minister like Yogi Adityanth? His priorities have been closing down slaughter houses and forming Anti-Romeo squads. Another priority for him is building a huge statue of Lord Ram on the banks of Sarayu River in Ayodhya. Sources say that its height could be 100 meters.

While participating in the Diwali celebrations at Ayodhya, Yogi Adityanath had said, "The real meaning of  Ram Rajya  is a home, electricity and LPG gas cylinders for all households." Will constructing a statue of Lord Ram, costing crores of rupees, contribute to the creation of Ram Rajya? Will Lord Ram, who is known for his commitment to the welfare of his people, be pleased with this wastage of scarce resources?  

One of the priorities of the BJP government in Maharashtra is building a statue of Shivaji of 208 meters, costing about Rs 4,000 crore. Maharashtra is one of the states having the highest number of farmer suicides. As many as 3,228 farmers committed suicide in Maharashtra in 2015 according to a report in The Hindu on 14th January 2016.

Instead of allotting finance to save the precious lives of the farmers, the BJP government is busy with building a statue of Shivaji. The BJP governments both in states and at the centre are inclined to exploit the sentiments of the people for electoral purpose instead of finding solutions to their problems.

What was the need for a host of central ministers and several Chief Ministers descending on God’s own country to lead the Jan Suraksha Yatra? According to the data released by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the five states which witnessed highest incidents of communal violence in 2016 are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Four of these states are ruled by BJP. The central ministers and the chief ministers should have focused on governance in their respective states instead of wasting time and money. The BJP-RSS combine’s real intention appears to be creating communal tension in Kerala and polarize the Hindu votes.

The BJP government at the Centre and the Yogi Adityanath government in UP have failed to fulfill the promises made to the people.  In order to divert the attention of the people from burning issues related to economy and livelihood, the BJP rakes up unwarranted controversies. The controversial BJP MLA Sangeet Som made a statement on 16th October that the Taj Mahal was built by “traitors” and “it is blot on the Indian Culture”. During the Lok Sabha election in 2014 and the election to the UP assembly, the BJP resorted to communal politics, projecting Hindus as the victims of Muslim atrocities and the SP government discriminating in favour of Muslims.

Prashant Jha in his book, ‘ How the BJP Wins’ has brought to light the communal strategy the party adopted in the elections, particularly in UP. “It was enough to construct a perception, through images, texts, using WhatAppp and the whole organizational network, of the Muslim as the criminal and the Hindu as the victim, of all other parties as only working for the Muslim and the BJP as the sole defender of Hindu interests”. The controversy on Taj Mahal seems to be a preparation for 2019 and a trick to divert the attention of the people from the criticism of the government on the economic front.   

The demand by the BJP to delete a critical remark on GST from the Tamil movie, ‘Mersal’ is another diversionary tactic. Critics of the BJP have pointed out that the Central Board of Film Certification has certified the movie and what right the BJP has to ask the producer to delete a portion from the movie. H. Raja, a national secretary of the BJP and Tamil Nadu leader, posted on Twitter a photo of actor Vijay's voter ID card and official letter head, to show that the popular star is a Christian and his full name is C Vijay Joseph. Raja wanted to convey to the public that since Vijay is a Christian he is opposed to the policy of the BJP government. This incident clearly shows how the BJP is trying to communalize an issue as simple as a criticism of GST. Every citizen of India has the right to criticize the policies of the government.

The BJP government in Rajasthan had to face criticism from the media and the opposition for its failures on various issues. Instead of facing the criticism with robust arguments and reason, the Vasundara Raje government took recourse to an ordinance aimed at controlling reporting and investigation of corruption charges against senior public servants, including the ministers and the Chief Minister. How can the BJP that had promised corruption-free governance take recourse to such an ordinance? It reflects the insecurity of the Rajasthan government and hypocrisy of the party.

After completion of three years in power, the Modi government does not have much to project as its achievements in terms of the promises it had made to the people. The government should have made an introspection and adopted mid-course correction in its policies. Resorting to diversionary tactics and communal polarization will not do any good to the nation. By skillfully playing the Hindutva card the BJP may succeed in expanding its reach, but the people will be the losers. 

 (jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 30th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 44)