Government failure to revive a slumping economy and uphold democratic principles has resulted in an outpouring of public dissent, writes Krishna Jha
We had our Republic Day this week, the day when our Constitution came into effect for the first time with a democratic governing system completing the transition towards becoming a sovereign republic. For the first time, we addressed ourselves as "We the People" of a secular, socialist, democratic republic. For the first time in the last two hundred years, we became an independent country with our composite culture and a pronounced sense of love and peace for the entire humankind. With the attainment of nationhood, we started building up the world's largest democracy. On January 26, 1950, with the coming of the Constitution, the path was charted out and we took our initial steps.
To achieve the declared status, initiatives were taken but the process was not smooth. It was filled with interruptions. The country had to come to terms with them and find solutions. Getting rid of colonial legacy and establishing democratic traditions spelt out in the Constitution, like equality to all irrespective of their caste, community, creed and gender was not easy to achieve in a country with its feudal past overlain by British rule. The goal was to achieve unity at all cost, among the diverse identities. Constitution provided universal adult suffrage, giving the right to vote to all. Then there were fundamental rights, including the right to live and right to work. Thus, the process of national integration started. It was not an easy task. India has been evolving since last several centuries along with its cultural diversities. It has been a dialectical process, consolidating the diversity as a content in the form of commonality all along in its past.
The first war of independence is an example of that which existed in the economy, polity and the consciousness of the masses. In course of the national movement, the unity was further strengthened since the struggle was against the common enemy and a broad foundation evolved in the decades after independence. It was then that along with strengthening of democratic forces, the enemy within also started asserting itself. Rightist forces gained strength as RSS kept growing. There were soon cracks, with majoritarian challenges getting louder against the Muslim minorities. Such rifts were not part of our composite culture. This separatism was close to racialism and was organised politically as fascism. It was against democratic traditions and remained anti-secular. Still despite the threats, it failed to get any space.
It was by the end of the seventies that the Hindutva forces started eroding within and the right-wing forces managed to capture the centre stage but it was short-lived. By the second decade of the new century, they came back and took the reins of the country in their hands. They got elected even for the second term. It was plain and simple. Finance capital was ruling the roost. The entire economy started getting devastated. Each year of its rule, there was a gift of destruction. The period of 2016-17 was that of ominous demonetisation, long lines and a lot of loss and tears, yet the promise of getting back black money fell apart. That the real theme was not the offered one everyone came to realise that. Soon came the year of 2017-18, with the introduction of the ominous and flawed GST. By 2018-19, the real fall started, with GDP sliding down every quarter and arriving at less than five per cent, with no sign of stopping.
Then, about unemployment levels reaching their highest peak at 6.1 in 45 years, the NSSO report came out. It was actually leaked and the government claimed that it was not finalised. The report was actually sent to the government in 2017-18 but after that, it never saw the light of day. When it reached the public domain, the government tried to claim that the report was only a draft. The periodic labour force survey has noted that participation in the age group of fifteen years and above has come down to 46.5 per cent and for urban youth, it is down to 37.7 per cent. Even if employed, the wages are so low that they suffer from what is called employment poverty. That causes loss of consumption.
The budget will be soon presented and the government revenue is going to register a fall much further down the hill than what estimates claim. The slowdown is another catastrophe economy has been facing. There is only pessimism and anarchy left, the future remains bleak as there is no effort to revival as the government has no hope to get any credit from the banking system, nor any hope to retain financial stability and growth.
As has been pointed out, the government has been awaiting help from the corporate sector for funds, the majoritarian forces for the vote.
For distraction, it has offered the CAA-NRC-NPR and then there is the job of suppressing the unusual spread of protests like Shaheen Bagh, students' dissent. Elections in Delhi are also in the saffron agenda. Yet, all their calculations are going wrong. Common masses are on the streets opposing the injustices with dignity and elegance, reaching out to the annals of history. In contrast, the government whose business is to meet the three essentials for the people has, with its total mishandling of country's economy, become a 'drag on the world economy', a verdict passed on by the IMF.
Views expressed are strictly personal