The current Government came to power with the slogans of ‘Ache Din’ and ‘Sabka saath, Sabka vikas’ in which promises of better days and an inclusive model of development was promised. Lot of public relations exercises through advertisements, interviews in government favouring news channels tried to project its ‘development’ orientation. In reality, the travel made thus far shows a different picture. The four years represented the period where government used its power to threaten the autonomous institutions and in reality promote an ‘exclusive’ model of development. It is here that it is important to review the four years of the current government.
Wada na todo abhiyan has come out with the citizens report on four years of NDA Government 2014-18 titled as Promises vs Reality. The report highlights the gaps between the promises vs reality through analysis of situation of most marginalized groups Dalits, Adivasis, Nomadic Tribes, Minorities, Women, Sexual Minorities, Children, Youth and Persons with Disability. It also delves into issues related to Aadhar card, Corruption, Economy, Health, Environment, Water & Sanitation, Media, Land rights, Housing, Urban Poverty etc.
The highlights of key observations of the report on different aspects are mentioned.
Referring to Aadhar card, it is stated that despite the lack of legal mandate for Aadhaar, the pushing of Aadhaar has often denied the poor with welfare measures such as MGNREGA, Pension scheme, Mid-day meal scheme, Ration etc, sometimes even leading to deaths. It has excluded the poor from welfare benefits. Moreover it also comes with risks and poses threat to freedom and privacy.
Despite attempting in projecting as an anti-corruption crusader, the period has witnessed scams such as Vyapam, Nirav Modi and Sahara Birla. Lokpal bill is yet to be passed and a Lokpal appointed. The definition of corruption in the Corruption act is weakened and also the influence of whistle blowers. Attempt is also in the process to weaken Right to Information, which can further reduce transparency.
The amendments made to Child labour laws have provided more spaces by legitimising certain forms of child labour. Children can now be engaged in ‘family enterprises’ thereby creating ample opportunities for the factories / industries in the out-sourced home based assignments and also in different levels of supply chain line procurement, transport, manufacturing and distribution. Through reducing the excluded list for engaging child labour, it provides spaces for engaging children in chemical mixing units, cotton farms and brick kilns.
Budgetary allocations towards education reduced from 4.1% to 3.6%. About 2 lakh government schools were shut down. The real investment in Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) and Mid-day meal (adjusted to inflation) has only reduced. As a result 6.5 crore students in 6-17 age category continue to remain out of school. The dropout rates tends to be about 41%. About 10% schools are single teacher schools and with lack of infrastructural facilities.
In health, infant mortality continues to remain high and so is the case with malnutrition. Share of investment on child health and nutrition has seen a decline in this period.
In sanitation program swachh bharat abhiyan (SBA), the concerns of manual scavengers hasn’t been addressed. Drinking water hasn’t received much attention.
The newly launched ‘National Health Protection Scheme’ does not cover costs towards out-patient treatment. The protection scheme only provides an opportunity for private health care providers to benefit frokm public investment. This is at the cost of strengthening a robust public health care infrastructure. As a result, the direct beneficiaries would be private health providers who would overcharge. On the other hand it would further starve the public health care system to improve its infrastructure and improve quality of services.
In agriculture sector, the period saw mass protests of the farmers due to the agrarian crisis. Despite the talk of allocations under agricultural insurance, increase in MSP and interest subvention for farmers, these did not yield benefit to farmers. The increasing costs of production and lowering of prices further pushed the farmers into agrarian crisis. Despite increase in agricultural production, farmers did not benefit as there was poor price gain.
The manufacturing sector continued to stagnate. It did not generate employment. Make in India, Skill India and Start up India hasn’t been able to kickstart Indian Industry to take off.
In relation to Dalits, while Ambedkar was hailed, his teaching were pushed under the carpet. Violence against Dallits in the form of lynching continued. There was attempt to weaken the SC & ST atrocities act.
In regard to environment, the government attempted at weakening environmental regulations. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for offering environmental clearances for construction project, highway projects in ecologically sensitive areas are being done away with. Despite the pollution being contributed by thermal power plants, it is being protected and promoted.
The period saw pushing of policies such as Goods and Service Tax (GST) and Demonetization. These policies had irreversible damage of the financial landscape. The gross Nonperforming assets (NPA) in banks increased.
Despite the talk of smart cities, a large number of urban poor continued to remain homeless. 90% of urban homeless still do not have roof over their head. Street vendors, city workers and homeless face challenge of eviction. Informalisation of the economy has meant that 90% of the workforce are without written contract, social security benefit and security of tenure. The basic services of urban poor continues to be denied.
The country witnessed rise of communal violence by hard-line hindu groups, witnessed demonization of certain communities by pro-government media based on their caste religion and political beliefs.Vigilante groups such as cow protection groups emerged which lynched minorities and Dalits. 24 lynching cases were witnessed.
Repressive laws were used against journalists, lawyers, activists etc. The press freedom was attacked. Defamation, legal charges such as sedition were used. Gauri Lankesh was assassinated. NDTV was raided. Defamation was filed against the Wire. EPW editor was forced to resign. Cartoonist Bala was arrested. Violence against women intensified even taking the shape of religious hatred. Islamophobia was propagated in the name of Rohingya refugees. Protests at Jantar Mantar was banned. Extra judicial killings saw an increase particularly in Uttar Pradesh.
The period saw an assault on the independence of the judiciary. There were delays in appointments of judges. Charges of misallocation of cases to judge who favour government were made. The sitting judges came out openly and expressed concern with the independence of the judiciary.
Despite promises of focusing on Job creation, in reality the period saw Job losses. Unemployment rate remained at 18.9 million. While working age population continued to grow, this was accompanied by job creation. Job creation declined from 10 lakhs in 2010 to 1.5 lakhs in 2016. Work participation rates remained low and more so in the case of women. Demonetization led to significant job losses.
There was growing landlessness in the rural areas. Absence of compensation in the form of ‘land for land’ in cases of land acquisition has further contributed to the problem.The implementation and receipt of claims under forest rights act was the slowest during 2014-18. Focus of CAMPA while may focus on agro-forestry poses challenges to FRA agenda on community rights over common property resources.
The period saw polarisation of media. Ideological backing and pro-modi nature of debating became a part of certain newsrooms. Objective media gave way to ideologically favouring media. This was seen in different debates related to issue of Una, Dadri lynching, Kathua incidents and university protests. Fake media and BJP IT cell added to glorification attempts of the Prime minister. Mann ki baat, mygov.in, NaMo app was used as a public relations exercise. Critical media was humiliated in the name of prestitutes. Scruplous allegations were levelled against independent news organizations.
Lynching of minorities by gau rakshasks became a trend. About 24 lynching cases were reported. Open expressions of hatred and bigotry became normal in all public places – schools to universities, workplaces to living rooms, online and in political rallies. About 351 cases of violence against Christians were seen in 2017. The threat is seen across all religions. Hate speeches became a new normal. Hate speeches by 10 MPs and 17 MLAs were witnessed. Communal incidents witnessed an increase by 28% during three year period. These were a direct result of hate speeches. Acts related to religious conversions were passed in Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.
In energy sector, despite the tall claims of government about Pradhan mantra ujwala yojana, where about 33 million families had taken free LPG, the reality was after its exhaustion this was dropped due to cost issues or delay in receiving the cylinder in many families.
The experience of NDA with Adivasi has been disappointing, disempowering and disillusioned. Under-trials in LWE areas have increased. Constitutional provisions including Panchayat Extension Scheduled Areas (PESA) were severely compromised. The government sought to pay tokenistic regard to constitutional bodies such as Scheduled Tribe commission, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Tribal Advisory councils and sought to replace it with National Tribal Advisory Council. Implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) has been compromised with only 25% of claims being settled. Allocation under Tribal sub plan is seriously compromised with lower allocation in comparison to population.
Despite the projection of being pro-women, the period saw an increase in concerns over women’s safety and security or in up-keeping their dignity. Cyber-crime, rape and violence against women while it increased, no action was taken against perpetrators including the politicians. Women activists and journalists were targeted by trollers.
While youth form the substantive population in India, their core concerns related to employment was ignored. Employment generation through Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP), Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushal Yojana (DDU-GKY) and Deen Dayal Antodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM)hasn’t been able to bring much benefits to the youth. While skill training is being taken massively, this has not resulted in good quality employment. Scholarships were cut down in Universities. Student unrest was witnessed in Universities due to new ideological impositions.
The period saw attempts in ideological imposition. The ideological underpinnings have provided more spaces for theforces of exclusion rather than inclusion. Beneficiaries of good days are being defined in terms of their social identities based on religion, class and caste.
T Navin is a Researcher and works with an NGO