Thursday, August 24, 2017
NEW DELHI: The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the centre marks its third anniversary on May 26, 2017. The government assumed office, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the slogan of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ (Collective Efforts, Inclusive Growth).
The BJP promised in its election manifesto to fix Minimum Support Price (MSP) of agricultural produce at 50 percent above the cost of production.
Narendra Modi also declared, as a Prime Ministerial candidate in April 2014, that special courts will be set up to try tainted MPs and MLAs within one year.
PM Modi also asked for a “moratorium on communalism” in his Independence Day speech in 2014. Now that the party is planning to celebrate its three years in power, it is pertinent to ask whether there is any relation between the words and actions of PM Modi, and whether or not the promises made to the people of India have been fulfilled.
One would assume that the women and men engaged in the agricultural sector are included in the above slogan as they are the ones who put food on our plates. The 2014 election manifesto of the party declared that the “BJP will take steps to enhance the profitability in agriculture, by ensuring a 50 percent profits over the cost of production…” Given that the agriculture provided work to about 49 percent of the total workforce in India (NSSO, 2011-12), and it contributed a little over 17 percent to the Gross Domestic Product in 2015-16, it was sensible for the BJP to make the above promise in its manifesto.
The recommendation that the Minimum Support Price for agricultural produce should be “at least 50% more than the weighted average cost of production” was given by The National Commission on Farmers, which was headed by Prof. M.S. Swaminathan. The final report of the Commission was submitted in November 2006, but this recommendation was never implemented by the then central government headed by PM Manmohan Singh.
The above promise was also important because of the large scale participation of women in agriculture. Out of the total female workforce in India, 80 percent is in rural areas. Approximately three-fourths of this 80 percent is engaged in agriculture. In other words, 60 percent of the all the female workforce in India is engaged in agriculture. Not only this, 70 percent of all the agricultural work is done by women. The BJP manifesto also talked about the women as the nation builders. Therefore, if the government had met its promise, it would have not only helped the agricultural sector, but also the large female workforce participating in that sector.
In his speech in April 2014, PM made a connection between the “faulty agricultural policy of the UPA” and the suicide of farmers.
In the year 2015, a total of 1690 farmers committed suicide in the states of Maharashtra (725), Punjab (449), Telangana (342), Karnataka (107), and Andhra Pradesh (58). The BJP, with its ally Shiv Sena, formed the government in Maharashtra in October 2014.
In Punjab, the BJP was a junior partner in the government which was led by Shiromoni Akali Dal (SAD), and was in power from 2012 to 2017. The 2015 Annual Report of National Crime Records Bureau identified indebtedness of farmers as the most important cause of farmers’ suicide. With the rising input costs in agriculture, the fixing of the MSP at ‘cost + 50 percent’ would have provided some relief to the farmers.
Did the BJP keep its word after coming into power? The central government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in February 2015 stating that the MSP cannot be fixed on the basis of ‘cost + 50 percent’ principle as it “may distort the market”. With this one single affidavit, the government reneged on its promise made to the farmers, and all those who are engaged in agriculture.
“I will spare no effort to fulfil the party’s promises”, wrote Narendra Modi in the election manifesto. It seems PM Modi is not working hard enough to fulfil the promises made to the people of India.
Whether the people of India should take PM Modi’s words at face value? Another affidavit filed by the government in Supreme Court answers this question. On November 8, 2016, PM Modi in his televised addressed to the people of India announced the government’s decision (read his decision alone), to demonetise Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes. He announced that the old notes could be exchanged for the new ones until March 31, 2017. The government, later on, brought forward the last date of exchanging old notes to December 31, 2016. Mukul Rohatgi, the Attorney General, submitted in the SC that, “there is no question of PM’s speech…if PM says March 31, 2017 but the law says December 30, 2016, the law will prevail over the PM. Let’s be clear about that first”.
A solemn assurance to the people of India was not kept by PM Modi. So, it is clear that reneging on promises is not an aberration, but the norm for PM Modi.
PM Modi not only reneges on his promises made to the people of India, but he propagates non-facts as well. In his speech in December 2016, PM Modi claimed that the BJP government has not changed “even a comma or a full stop” in the law that regulates the funding of political parties from foreign sources. In the Union Budget presented in February 2016, Arun Jaitley changed the definition of a foreign company in the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010, and that too with the retrospective effect. This was done in order to undo the Delhi High Court Judgement delivered in March 2014 that found both the BJP and Congress guilty of violating the above Act. Nothing can be more dangerous for the people of a nation when neither the PM’s word nor the law of the land matters.
In his Independence Day address to the nation in 2014, PM Modi urged the people of India to put a “moratorium on communalism” for 10 years. One wonders why he said 10 years, and not for all times to come. In the recently concluded Uttar Pradesh (UP) Assembly elections, the BJP (312 seats) and its allies (13 seats) won a total of 325 out of 403 assembly seats. Such a huge mandate made it incumbent upon the PM Modi and his party to appoint a person with a clean record. On the contrary, the BJP chose a person with a criminal record.
Ajay Singh Bisht (Adityanath), the Chief Minister of UP, faces charges related to promoting enmity between different groups on the ground of religion (153A), injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class (295), attempt to murder (307), and so on. In fact, the list of criminal cases is so long that he was not able to fit them in the space provided in his election affidavit in his normal handwriting. One can only suggest to the Election Commission that when Adityanath chooses to become a member of either House of the state of UP, a special affidavit be designed so that he can list all the criminal cases pending against him with ease.
Another BJP MP who faces plethora of criminal cases, and is member of the Cabinet, is Uma Bharti, Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. She faces charges related to Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration (153 B), 153A, 307, and the list goes on. She is one of the accused in the Babri Masjid demolition case, and the SC has recently revived the conspiracy charges against her and others in the case, and ordered that the trial be completed in 2 years.
Sanjeev Kumar Baliyan is Minister of State in the Ministry headed by Uma Bharti. Baliyan is an accused in 2013 Muzaffarpur riots. He is accused of inciting violence through his speech. Needless to say, PM Modi forgot to fulfil his promise of ending criminalisation of politics, and instead inducted Baliyan in his Council of Ministers.
“One crore new jobs will be provided to the youth of the country”, promised Narendra Modi in November 2013. So far, the government is creating jobs at the rate of 3.4 lakhs per year. It is highly improbable that the target of 1 crore jobs will be met in the remaining two years. The inequality in the country had risen under the watch of PM Modi. According to 2015 report of Credit Suisse, the top 1 percent of the population owned 53 percent of the total wealth of the country. The figure for the year 2016 was 58.4 percent.
One might ask Kiska Saath, Kiska Vikas? In other words, who is with PM Modi, and who has benefitted?
The simple answer is Aaropiyon ka Saath, Dhanwanon ka Vikas, that is, ‘Company of the Accused, Growth of the Wealthy’. Given that ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas’ has clearly not worked, one may suggest an alternative: ‘Samaveshi Vikas, Samajik Sadbhav’, that is, Inclusive Development with Social Harmony.