The Prime Minister in the recent event in Houston ‘Howdy Modi’ went on to state that everything is fine and all is well in the country. This was stated in eight different languages to put across the point. The statement only goes on to show how defining the ‘wellness’ of a Nation has changed in the current times. A country’s ‘wellness’ are dependent on multiple factors. A look at the contemporary reality shows how the Government has failed on all these fronts but yet boasting of a ‘new reality’ through changing the very definition of ‘wellness’.
The performance on five levels of wellness need to be looked at. These include a) Economic wellness, b) Human wellness, c) Social wellness, d) Environmental wellness and e) Political wellness.
The economy in the recent times has only declined due to haphazard economic misadventures such as ‘Demonetization’ and ‘GST’. The GDP growth in the country has dropped to 5%, the lowest in the last six years. This is despite the fact that calculation of GDP in recent times has been changed to depict a higher level of growth.
The performance of different sectors of the economy is on decline. Automobile sales has dropped. There has been decline of 41% in sales of four wheelers in the last ten months and 22% drop has been witnessed in two wheeler segment. This has its impact on the jobs through layoffs in automobile manufacturing and sales. An estimated 3.5 lakhs jobs have been lost in the automobile sector. A third of India’s textile workers are said to have lost jobs. Parle Biscuit factory laid off about 12,000 workers as Biscuit sales declined due to decline in demand. The shrinking disposable income also has led to decline in sales of undergarments. Agrarian distress continues despite the talk of ‘Doubling farmer’s income’. Unemployment is at its highest at 6.1% in the last 45 years as revealed by NSSOs study.
Across different human development parameters, India has been ranked quite low. India ranks 103rd among the 119 countries surveyed on Global Hunger Index. This takes into account factors such as undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. India is ranked 95th among 129 countries in ‘Gender equality Index’. This takes into account factors such as poverty, health, education, literacy, political representation and equality at the workplace. On Global Gender gap report, India is positioned at 108th position among 144 countries. The report by Oxfam shows that India’s 1% bag 73% of the country’s wealth. India’s human development index (HDI) continues to remain at 130. On World Happiness Report, India continues to be 133rd among the 155 countries.
Deep social polarisation has been seen in India. Violence and hatred in the name of religion has become a new normal. Lynching and deaths targeting minority community has become a frequent occurrence. About 266 lynching related deaths were witnessed in the last five years. While the victims such as Tabrez Ansari and Pehlu Khan fail to get justice, the perpetrators of violence go scot free. Such incidents hardly continue to raise mass sensitivities against such incidents. Lack of justice to victims and lack of action on perpetrators becomes acceptable. Violence is seen as fair in the name of religion. This is seen as a means of minority subjugation, where the minorities need to adjust to this new reality of ‘majoritarian oppression’.
Caste based violence continues. While India boasts of modernity, caste continues to remain a symbol of status for those at the top of the caste hierarchy. When it is used as a means for resisting caste hegemony by oppressed castes, they are subjected to violence. Bheema Khoregaon, a symbol for Caste based resistance for centuries is aimed to be overturned. Incidents such as Una are used to subjugate Dalit castes in the name of ‘holy cow’. Those taking up the cause of Dalits such as Chandrashekhar Azad are put into jails. Institutions of higher learning are used as a means to subjugate oppressed castes leading to loss of lives such as that of Rohith Vemula. Affirmative action provided by the constitution is sought to be done away with, at a time when caste inequalities are far away from ending. Khap panchayats continue to maintain manusmriti norms of ‘marriage within caste’.
While the regime on the one hand boasts of ‘Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao’ and respect for women in Indian tradition, on the other hand it continues to protect the victims of rape. Perpetrators of rape get provided with protection from the regime whether in Kathua, Unnao or in recent Chinmayanand case.
India is ranked 177th out of 180 countries on Environmental performance index. On Air quality front, it is positioned at 178th out of 180 countries. On the much talked about ‘swachh bharat’, India remained at 144th position. On Biodiversity front it remained at 139th position. It is far behind the targets set as per ‘Sustainable Development Goals’. Climate change does not as yet remain among the top priorities of the Government.
The biggest attack has been on the idea of India, as defined by the constitution. Secularism is seen as a bad word, which needs to be done away with. The idea of ‘secularism’ as an abnormal and ‘communal’ as normal is the new norm. ‘Diversity’ is no longer seen as a sign of strength, but seen as a sign of ‘weakness’ and hence the need to do away with ‘diversity’ and bring in ‘uniformity’. Hence the need to bring in a common language, a common religion, a common code. India as a land of ‘Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan’ and not that of a mix of diverse religions, languages, cultures is sought to be imposed through the concept of ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
Nationalism is no longer a love for the people but a love for the land devoid of its people. Hence elimination of ‘Article 370’ gets celebrated. It is seen as a means of unifying the country i.e. the land called India. But it is a simultaneous elimination of ‘people’ from the very idea of a nation. Kashmir continues to be kept away from contact with the country for the last 50 days. 8 million Kashmiris continue to be turned into prisoners in their own land.
Freedom is no longer a right, but an entitlement depending on the political affinity. If one directly or indirectly carries ahead the Hindutva agenda, there is freedom available. There is freedom to carry out hate talks, lynchings, physical acts of violence as its helps the ideological agenda. On the other hand, freedom becomes a restriction for all the dissenting voices whether oppressed people such as Dalits Adivasis, Human rights and Social activists, Public intellectuals, Political opposition etc., Dissent is sought to be curbed through acts such as ‘The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019. The Government can declare any ‘individual’ as terrorist for what it interprets as constituting ‘anti-national’ act. Any expression of dissent can thus be curtailed.
Transparency as a means for strengthening Democracy is no longer seen as a norm. With the recent changes made in ‘Right to Information’, it undermines the power of information commissioners in operating in independent and autonomous manner. The right to information as per the original act provided a tool for the powerless to ask questions and get answers. By amending the act, the Government only aims to restrict transparency of information, which could be related to use of public money or any other important information concerning public concerns.
The autonomy of institutions are sought to be overturned. Autonomous institutions dealing with Education, Elections, Crime Investigations, Management of Macro economy, Information are sought to be done away with. The autonomy of institutions such as Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Election Commission, Judiciary, Universities and Academic bodies is under threat.
All the pillars of Democracy are sought to be curtailed. Different acts are sought to be passed with little scope for parliamentary debate. Within Executive, power continues to be concentrated. Judiciary is sought to be influenced through verdicts in favour of the ideological agenda. Media is turned into mere mouth pieces of the Government. Media is influenced to keep away dissent voices.
Emergence of RSS as a supra-constitutional body which is in the process of redefining the idea of India, not according to values laid down by the constitution but according to the anti-constitutional values propounded in ‘Bunch of Thoughts’, ‘We or our Nationhood defined’, ‘Hindu Rashtra darshan’ or ‘Manusmriti’ is what poses the greatest threat to the Nation.
National Wellness lies in building the idea of India on the principles of ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ where people have opportunities and live in an environment of ‘equity’ with ‘freedom and justice’. Respect for diversity in a spirit of universal brotherhood is integral to it. People form the core in this idea of wellness. On the other hand, the idea of India being built by RSS is far being declared ‘All is well’. It stands on an idea of India, where ‘restrictions, un-freedom, hatred, inequality’ rules. India is being taken towards that direction.
All is not well.
T Navin is a Researcher and works with an NGO