After the completion of one year of Modi-2.0, several supporters of the BJP are now busy in underlining the huge success and achievements of the Modi-Shah duo in the public domain. They claim, PM Modi with a landslide victory in 2019, has done historic job after passing legislation (like triple talaq, the abolition of Article 370, and Citizenship Amendment Act). BJP’s supports claim great success as far as containing the larger threat of Covid-19, in comparison to other countries. The point has also been underlined by PM Modi himself in his Man Ki Baat, telecasted by the All India Radio on 31st May 2020.
For the supporters of the BJP and mainly bhakts, no secular governments since independence have had achieved great success as PM Modi led BJP government has done within six-year in general and one year in particular after passing the range of legislations and taking hard decisions. For them, erstwhile secular a regime like Congress had utterly failed. They say the former governments, the so-called sikular governments had succumbed to the pressure of Muslim conservative forces and had done so far great harm to the Hindu majority community and appeased the minority community especially Indian Muslims for the sake of vote bank politics. To prove this point, the Hindu Right often cites the Shah Bano’s controversy that took place around the 1980s.
The question needs to be asked: Are the claims made by the Hindu Right as mentioned above valid? And secondly, given the sad and depressing situations of our country, amidst Covid-19, is it worthwhile to celebrate achievements of Modi-2.0 ? In this, a small piece, I shall try to critically look at and reflect the claims of the Hindu Right and supporters of the BJP in the light of empirical studies, as done by the national and international organizations vis-a-vis subaltern masses. In so doing, I have argued that during six years of the Modi-Shah duo in general and one year, in particular, the socio-economic conditions of minorities, Dalits, women, and Tribals have in fact become worse and their exclusion on all fronts continue unabated. Besides socio-economic exclusion, I have also argued that civil liberties, democratic rights, and freedom of dissenting masses have been muzzled to the large extent in recent times, as these points have been also documented by the Freedom Report 2020.
The recent arrests of defenders of several Human Rights activists and Student activists could be cited as examples. Contrary to the claims made by the BJP leaders and its supporters, I have argued that during the tenure of the Modi-Shah duo, we have witnessed the rise of huge inequality, mob-lynching, violence against women (cases of domestic violence against women have been doubly increased during the lockdown) and socio-economic marginalization of subaltern masses. Instead of following the policy of Sabka Sath sabka Vikas and after 2019 landslide victory PM Modi had added Sabka Vishwash which includes minorities also.
Contrary to these empty slogans, secular-minded scholars have underlined, the Modi-Shah duo has pushed forward the agenda of the ‘crony capitalism’ and ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ at the cost of toiling masses in the larger Indian public domain. As a result, the plight of subaltern masses continue unabated and they are not able to get employment and basic heath and economic facilities, as recently documented by international an organization like ILO(International Labour Organization) and various civil society organizations in its reports. For instance, the level of unemployment rate is very high in our country in comparison to the last 45 years and it will going to get further accentuated in the post-COVID-19 world because of international including the Indian economy is currently passing through downturn due to the unplanned national lockdown. Besides material deprivations of vast vulnerable masses, the civil, democratic rights and freedom of dissenting masses have been hugely suppressed and some of them especially students are languishing in jail particularly those activists who have registered anti-CAA protests in Delhi and elsewhere in the so-called the largest democratic regime like India, as Freedom Report 2020 has also documented.
As left-leaning economists have reminded that the crisis and huge challenges in health and economic sectors have further increased in the wake of corona pandemic that followed by the stringent lockdown announced by PM Modi on 24th March 2020. After the sudden and unplanned (as also happened in case of demonetizations, reminded by the economists) steps taken by the ruling government, millions of migrant workers and India’s extremely poor came out on the streets and started long barefoot journey because public transports were suspended immediately after the lookdown. Taking note of sad and depressing situations, amidst Covid-19 lockdown, the economists have strongly put forward their views that the ruling government must take immediate robust welfare measures and announce economic relief package (for instance, strengthen the PDS and transfer cash directly to needy and poor migrants so that they should not die from hunger) and not rely on only charity/philanthropy, donated by tiny corporate and India’s great middle class in the name of corporate social responsibility, to ease the tensions faced by millions of migrant workers.
Barring state like Kerala (where Left Front is the ruling now), the relief packages announced by the Finance Minister and safety measures provided by the Central and State governments till date are far from satisfactory, as sadly expressed by the economists, especially to address the economic and health crisis of millions of vulnerable/ poor and those who are affected by a coronavirus. While expressing his views in Man Ki Baat, PM Modi has reiterated and said that it was disheartening for him to see the sufferings of millions of migrant workers who were stranded in several cities and faced challenges due to the COVID-19 lockdown. However, he justified the announcement of lockdown and said that step was taken in the interest of the Nation and to save the life of millions of people from the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. During his talk, PM Modi also said that so far, our country is the least affected by the threat of deadly coronavirus in comparison to several advanced countries. And steps were taken by India and its people at large so far is now appreciated by the international community, underlined by PM Modi in his latest Man Ki Baat.
However, while reviewing the critical situations in health and economic sectors, the economists and progressive scientific community are still worried about situations mainly after seeing the increasing the curve of Covid-19 patients(mostly in the megacities like Mumbai, Gujarat and Delhi) and rising death tolls every day. There is also danger looming because those migrant workers who have now reached their homes may spread and transmit the virus at the community level. After the migrant workers who reached their villages through special Sharmic trains, the sporadic incidence of infections from coronavirus is noted in some pockets of northern India. In short, the threat of deadly coronavirus is still looming over because the number of cases are increasing rapidly. However, the speed of recovery is also going up.
To cut my discussion short, as a responsible citizen of secular and democratic India, I would like to express my view that report cards of the ruling government in several areas as mentioned earlier for the last one year, is not so worthwhile to celebrate, as expressed by the ruling government and its supporters. If one could examine seriously and reflect on the sad and depressing conditions of subaltern masses, ever since the current government came into power at the Centre in 2014, we have to accept the crude reality that the gap between haves and have-not has increased tremendously. Instead of bridging the gap between rich and poor, due to the neoliberal economic policy adopted by the current ruling government even more aggressively than the previous regime; the income and wealth of super-rich and corporates have increased drastically. The various reports and empirical studies that have been conducted by national and international bodies have clearly indicated these points. I am not here going to enter into detail empirical investigations, as it is widely available in the public domain.
To conclude, one could say that during the tenure of the Modi-Shah duo, we are witnessing the rise of the ‘Hindu majoritarianism’ and ‘Crony Capitalism’, however, under the roof of electoral democracy. Besides the marginalization of subaltern masses, the fact cannot be denied that due to authoritarian and tyrannical attitudes of the ruling establishment, the violations, and suppression of democratic and civil liberties of dissenting voices continue unabated in the larger public domain. It is unfortunate to note that the opposition parties are not able to counter and chalke out an alternative to the Hindu majoritarianism lunched by the PM Modi- Shah duo in the politico-public domain.
Recently keeping the huge risks and social distancing norms the Supreme Court had issued guidelines and given suggestions to respective governments for releasing the prisoners on parole. Instead of following the Supreme Court guidelines, the students and Human Rights Activists including Jamia’s girl student (namely Safoora Zargar who is pregnant now) who took part in anti-CAA protests peacefully and non-violent manner have been arrested by Delhi police for being allegedly involved in Delhi riots took place in the last month of February 2020. However, several anti-social elements including the BJP leaders who had delivered hate speeches and incited masses are now roaming freely.
So keeping the sad and depressing situations of our country in mind, it is not worthwhile and appropriate time to celebrate the success of the ruling government after the completion of one year. Rather the ruling government must seriously examine its own performances in the light empirical reality and promises made during the election campaign like sabka sath sabka vikas on whose plank PM Modi was voted in 2014 and 2019 again. In the post-COVID-19 world, it is high that government must take robust social welfare remedial measures (as reminded by Babasaheb Ambedkar in his book ‘state and minorities’ mainly on the concept of ‘State Socialism’ around 1947 which had not been accepted by the Constituent Assembly because it was dominated by the upper caste male members of Congress party) to address health and economic crisis and to ease the tension of millions of migrant workers in general and those corona affected patients who are battling for life. It is the responsibility of the ruling government to forget the political enmity for a while and fight the crisises in health and economic sectors in the post-COVID-19 world.
Badre Alam Khan is a Research Scholar, Department of Political Science, at the University of Delhi.