The Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Jamia Millia Islamia has organized 2nd Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan Annual Memorial Lecture on 23 April 2019, entilled, ‘Democracy, State & Welfare Under UPA & NDA: The Regime Effect’, which has been addressed by Prof. Zoya Hasan, a noted Political scientist and currently an emeritus Professor at Centre for Political Studies, JNU and a distinguished Professor at the Council for Social Development, New Delhi. The first memorial lecture was delivered by Shri Rajmohan Gandhi, an eminent scholar and well-known historian on the theme of ‘Khan Andul Ghaffar Khan: The Frontier of Gandhi’.
To be precise, Prof. Hasan wrote and contributed on several themes and issues pertaining to Indian politics, affirmative action, state and minority rights, political parties, women’s representations, Indian democracy and inequality etc. The meeting was chaired by the historian and Professor Salil Mishra, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Ambedkar University, Delhi. The meeting was well attended by the faculty members of Jamia, research scholars and general students. On this auspicious occasions, ‘Mewat: Vikas Aur Pichhdepan Ka Tulnatmak Adhyyan (Identifying backwardness of Mewat region in Haryana: A black level analysis, NITI Aayog document) was released by the guest speakers. This document is translated in Hindi by Nargis Jahan, a Ph.D scholar of said Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.
At the outset Professor Zoya Hasan noted that the present ruling dispensation has shifted from earlier regime-UPA in the realm of democracy, state and its role in social welfare programmes and policies. However, for Hasan, there is a great deal of policy continuity from UPA to NDA regime. She said that attacks on civil liberties and democratic rights are not new it was also took place during the Indira Gandhi, when she imposed emergency in 1975. While citing the Prof. Prabhat Patnaik views, she also said that emergency that followed attacks were not based on targeting specific caste and religious communities. Unlike earlier, in this government, religious intolerance and phenomena like mob-lynching has increased and mostly Indian Muslims have been deliberately targeted by the communal forces, adds Hasan. While sharing her thought on nationalism, she said that during the anti-colonial struggle, the inclusive idea of India and ‘civic nationalism’ had emerged rather than religious nationalism. To note that present Hindutva politics often conflate the idea of Hinduism with Hindutva and define nationalism in terms of majority Hindu religion to get political power. Besides, the present time the distinction between the government and state seems to be collapsing which is not good for our inclusive democracy, points out Hasan. While taking about the theme of democracy under the present regime, Hasan said the present regime has made and defined the democracy in terms of ethnic majoritarianism and any attempt to question is considered as an anti-national and problematic. For her dissent is integral part of democracy but for last five years there is erosion of dissent and political freedom. Besides, fake news, media trolling and anti-nation propaganda have been widely deciminated on social media for abusing those who have critical stand towards the persent government. While citing The Economist report in which Indian democracy has been put into the category of ‘Flawed democracy’, she also said that institutions such as election commission, RBI and CBI and public institutions invcluding universities are not functioning well and its intellectual autonomy are being eroded. However, some sections of intelligentsias and right-wing forces have often argued this is not new thing, it also happened during the Indira Gandhi regime and even under the Manmohan Singh government when former president of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi was also ruling the government through the remote control. In response to this, Hasan said that it is ironical to note that under the current regime the media is closely working for the government and defending the policies and programmes rather than acting as watchdog. Indian media is only obsessed with highlighting the previous government policy paralysis and corruptions and termed them as a ‘dark decades’. For Hassan earlier there was difference between media and government, now media is a working as arms of government and still blaming to the opposition party like the congress for doing everything bad in its tenure. For instance, during the previous regime media had launched a sustained campaign and exposed crony capitalism and corruptions of the congress party. For Hasan corporate owned media is having collaboration with present regime rather than acting as independent free press. The corporate owned media has never interrogated the present government’s anti- people policies like demonetizations and GST which taken jobs of mostly poor people. To note that during the previous UPA regime and under the neoliberal economic policy there was jobless growth now due to demonetizations and GST now there are job loss growth, said Hasan.
She has also talked about the role of State social welfare under the UPA and NDA regime. For her during the UPA-I which was supported by the left parties, a range of right based social legislation like right to food, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, MGNREGA and RTI etc., Act has been passed. However, under the NDA the role of State in terms of welfare programme has been radically reduced. And the present government through the privatization started withdrawing its social role and focusing on social insurance policy in the health sector and pushing self entrepreneurship in doing small business rather than giving legal entitlement rights, as she said. In short, the UPA approach on the neo-liberalism is based on pluralism, social welfare, formulated right based policies and ensured legal entailment while the NDA inclined towards classical neo-liberalism is harsh and based on corporate model of development, entrepreneurship without any legal entitlements said Hasan.
As for as the NDA approach to publications of government Data is concern, the record is very unsatisfactory and most the cases, government suppressed the official data and therefore while doing so government is undermining democracy, she pointed out.
While concluding her talk, she underlined that social movement, Civil Society and NGOs have been targeted during the NDA government. During the UPA regime government had accommodated and given participation to civil society and NGOs in the policy formulations for addressing the inequality. For that NAC (National Advisory Council, extra-constitutional body) had been created by UPA regime for advising the government to formulate welfare policies. However, the present government rather than giving participations to the civil society and NGOs is targeting even cracked down on these groups in the name of violating the rules of FCRA. Rather than taking policies advices with the NGOs, and civil society the government is closely working with the RSS and getting help in policy formulations, observes Hasan. While talking about the ranking in the sectors of Health, happiness and human development, and democracy, inequality, she said that India is lagging behind in terms of Human Capital Index and on this accounts India’s ranking is lower than even Nepal and Bangladesh. The employment rate now is very high since the last 45 years of Indian democracy, said Hasan
Despite of these huge crisis and problems discussed above in all walks of life, Prof. Hasan has ended her lecture with the positive note by saying that 2019 general elections will take us hopefully towards the ‘liberal egalitarian’ policy approach.
While responding the question asked by audience with regards to the problem of jobs and role of quality education system, Prof. Hasan says that our education system is very inclusive because the enrollment of girls increased and the India’s affirmative action have democratizes the public education as result, marginalized sections are able to access the higher education now. She agrees that there a need of quality education but university education should not be solely concentrating on providing o jobs in the market. For creating good society and cosmopolitan thinking, Hasan stressed that Humanities and Social sciences are very crucial in society like India. Besides, she said that the problems of employment are not connected to education alone but the economic model improving the infrastructure in manufacturing sector and addressing the agrarian crises. While citing the ‘Gujarat model’ of development (On whose plank, PM Modi voted to power in2014), Prof. Hasan said that this model has not addressed the structural crisis of socio-economic problems and created jobs for the marginalized social groups but it has benefited to the few corporates. While responding another crucial question asked by audience, do you see the tensions between the NAC ( national advisory council) and bureaucrats, Hasan, accepted that tension exist between NAC and Finance Minister, but under the current regime system is over centralized and Prime Minister office (PMO) is dominating in most of the decision making. Last question was asked by the audience with regards to declining political representations of Indian Muslims and response of secular particles like Congress. While responding this question, Hasan accepted that it has now become facts that all political parties including the Congress party is not serious about giving representation to Muslims because they are somehow succumbed to the pressures of communal forces.
The author is a research scholar, University of Delhi.