The former Finance Minister Yaswant Sinha’s comments on the distressing state of the economy should make the nation think. It hurts to learn that the rate of growth has rapidly declined to 5.7% in spite of the repeated reassurances of the people at the helm.
One thing we have to admit today is that the Economy cannot be planned on the basis of visible assets alone like raw materials, factories and machines. Invisible assets like knowledge and skills play a greater role. These are called human capital. Of late, sociologist James Coleman has been insisting that more important still is the Social Capital existing in a society, which is defined as “the ability of people to work together for a common purpose.” Francis Fukuyama defines this value as Trust, in his book Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity.
Healthy and mutually stimulating Social Relationships prevailing in a society is the foundation on which a vigorous Economy can be built...an Economy with a predictable future. Unity of purpose is decisive. “A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.” It cannot perform. Nor can a society, nor an economy. The tragedy in our country today is that the common bonds of our social togetherness are being torn apart. People are shrinking back to their own security shells for mere survival. There is a ghettoization of society, especially of minority communities and weaker groups. Productive energy is falling rapidly and is being diverted to mutually alienating initiatives.
We are told, that after the Godhra riots in Gujarat, Muslims withdrew from shared spaces into isolated and sheltered corners. After the Shabbirpur violence something similar has been happening to the Dalits in UP. However, that has not protected them either. Serious cases have been filed against them, clearly intended to put them on the defensive, exhaust their energies, drain their resources, mute their vociferousness and break their resolve...a strategy that Hindutva think-tank has developed against all minorities. However, that will not be the end of the story. Chandrasekhar Azad Raavan, the Dalit leader, says that their collective anger is only mounting. What is worrying is that Indian society is getting polarized.
Nothing, however, has damaged India’s image before the international community as the emergence of its “cow defence forces.” Recently, Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, commended their valiant performance. More and more young volunteers are ready to join their ranks. These energies could have been placed at the service of an expanding Economy. But they are being diverted to hurting and humiliating the weaker communities.
“Cow vigilantism” has done to the image of India what “Blasphemy Laws” have done to that of Pakistan. Even people from the poorest and humblest parts of the world ask themselves in wonder why Indians, who claim to have the highest IQ record, tear at each other like Neanderthal men over a dead cow. The entire world holds its breath while India passes laws to uphold those ‘hobbling quadrupeds,’ sets up commissions, constitutes ministries, appoints inspection teams, develops ‘beef detection kits,’ imposes death penalties, and organizes fighting forces to defend the aging members of the bovine species.
Neutral men can look at the ban on cow-slaughter only as a daft Fascist decision, or, as a frenzied Nazi folly. ‘So, that is where India is,’ they whisper to themselves in utter contempt. One wonders why Modiji has not taken a cow-vigilante team on his foreign trips to educate the nations about the benefit of devotion to this Great Benefactress of humanity or talked about her contribution to Indian economy in G20.
In any case, be sure of one thing. No economy can thrive when the very livelihood of the Aam Admi is being threatened. On a single Sunday some 5000 cattle used to be sold in some regions of India. The closing of markets has caused the loss of crores to the economy, and robbed millions of people of their life-sustenance, especially Muslims and Dalits. To perceptive persons the Hindutva “Violent Piety” is meant to be a crusade against the life-sources of these two communities specially. Their strategy is to hit the opponents where they are most vulnerable. But the tragedy is that it has de-motivated the economic drive in more than one-third of the Indian population.
This cattle-fervour has nothing to do with genuine love for those pitiable creatures. Cows have been reportedly starving to death in Haryana. JNU School of Social sciences has estimated that feeding the aged cattle will cost more than the defence budget, at least 5.4. lakh crores. Reputedly, there are 122.9 million cows in India. Where is the fodder to be found for the retiring cows? India may have to import milk by 2021, as we shall soon be running short of fodder supply. And what will the people do with the moribund bovine breed that limps by every lamp-post and holds up the vehicular movement on every street?
Abstemious Indians ultimately may have to return to the Vedic days when their ancestors kept fighting fit with a rich supply of tender-beef, as the historian D. N. Jha tries to show, basing himself on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, VI, 4. Today it would be considered sacrilege!
And yet, even compassionate Asoka only reduced animal-slaughter for his royal household, did not abolish it. In any case, Akhil Gogoi of Assam considers the entire cow-related conspiracy a distraction from real issues: e.g. floods, land being taken away from subsistence farmers. The list can lengthen: farmers’ suicide, out-of-school children, train accidents. There were 9 accidents within 27 days.
Amit Shah claims that his party believes in performance, not in dynasty. That is precisely what the public is demanding. Performance, not just for the ruling party through MLA-purchases, empty promises and deceptive slogans; but performance for the average Indian, in the area e.g. of health, education, social development and drinking water. Yogi Adityanath came to power with the slogan ‘Development for all.’ But when he actually took over, his concern was cow-warriors, Surya Namaskar, Sanskrit, Gita, a-historical boasts about Hindu achievements, condemnation of Muslim rulers.
Meantime some 2000 children are dying in his Gorakhpur home-constituency every year, from where he has represented the people already 4 terms. And 52 cities in UP remain the filthiest in the country. Most tragic of all, Yogiji needs paramilitary forces to impose discipline around hospitals and educational institutions and suppress discontentment.
He has divided the state through his followers who cry, “If you wish to remain in UP, cry ‘Jai Shri Ram.’” And the Dalits reply “Jai Shri Bhim.” Yogi’s foot soldiers ask the Muslims to choose between kabarstan or Pakistan. Even Amir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan are told to find a place in the neighbouring country. Little surprise, that, as the outgoing Vice President frankly admitted, there is anxiety in the hearts of Muslims. So too in the hearts of Dalits and other minorities.
As for Modi, when he is back from his foreign tours, he is busy launching a 1.1 lakh crore rupees bullet train (while railway accidents increase precisely in Hindutva dominated areas), releasing Ramachandra stamps in Varanasi, supervising ballistic missiles like Kim Jong-un of Korea, announcing 3 crore free electric connects in view of the elections. Contrast all this show and display with the ugly reality that Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Modiji does not lose his sleep over it. In fact, he never takes rest. More ought to be done, he says. Statues of immense size are coming up of Patel, Shivaji and others, involving crores, while the economy is slowing down and employment opportunities are shrinking.
Meanwhile Modi’s ardent supporters attend to the details: they are busy with beef-ban, love jihad, abolition of Urdu, changing of road names, de-recognition of the role of the Mughals, supervision of Vandemataram, imposition of their own version of patriotism, work on personal law. None of these activities are productive nor do they contribute the least towards the economy. The nation’s energy is spent on inanities.
Who has time for the economy, when a battle of Mahabharata has been declared involving every part of India and every section of society by the ruling clique? A war is going on against those whom the elite consider in contempt “ Vanaras and Kiratas”, which means the marginal and humbler sections of society who constitute the real productive element. In fact, the reputed Economist Thomas Piketty has firmly asserted that Indian inequality has reached the highest since 1922.
Who can wonder that the economy takes a downward dip when half the population is against the other half: witch-hunting, moral policing, ransacking business houses and theatres; organizing gau rakshak groups, Operation Durga, anti-Romeo squads, Hindu Yuva Vahinis; and imposing cultural nationalism? Intellectuals are marginalized, independent thinkers are silenced, critics are eliminated.
More will be done when two lakh Bajrang Dal youth will be commissioned as Dharam Yodhas (religious warriors) in December. In this situation of helplessness, as Gramsci says, even well-meaning people move towards a sort of acceptance. History has always known opportunists, sycophants, and time-servers.
What is being destroyed in India today is the “ability of people to work together for a common purpose” which James Coleman considered most important for giving dynamism to an expanding economy. It will take a long time to rebuild the “Trust” to which Francis Fukuyama refers, and which was part of our common Indian heritage. On the contrary, what haunts India today, as someone has said, is the “Gujarat brand of established fear.” No wonder. After all, the Gujarat brand is the decisive brand for the nation today! And the proximate Gujarat election will show whether we are heading for a “1000-year Reich.”
(Published on 09th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 41)