AS part of a two-day session of the CPI(M) Odisha state committee, a seminar on ‘Challenges Before India Today’ was organised on May 3 at the Institute of Engineers hall in Bhubaneswar.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, addressing the gathering of a cross-section of people, called upon them to be vigilant and fight back the danger posed today by communal forces led by the RSS-BJP. “Whether India, as we see it today, will remain the same? A combination of many religions, communities, castes – will it remain unaffected by the onslaught unleashed by Hindutva forces?” he asked. Today’s Indian context is predominated by two distinct yet converging tendencies. One is the imperialist-driven globalisation accompanying with neo-liberal economic policies and the second is communal offensive. Both merge together in the current phase of the BJP government at the Centre, impacting the country and the people.
The plurality of India is unique in the world. During the freedom movement in 1920s, the emergence of the conception of the idea of India arose from a battle of three streams. The first view articulated by the Congress was that an independent India should be a secular democratic republic with plural/inclusive principles of equality. The strength of India lies in accommodating commonalities of such diversities. Secondly, while supporting the above, the Left went further to envision that this is not sufficient and the political freedom of the country must be extended to achieve economic independence of the people. Being influenced by this stand of the Communist Party in India, many militant and radical youths led by Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries joined the Communist movement. The third vision was that the character of an independent India should be determined by the religious affiliation of its people. This vision had a twin expression -- the Muslim League championing for an Islamic state and the RSS for a Hindu Rashtra. Based on this trend, the unfortunate partition of the country took place as demanded by the Muslim League. But the RSS, which had failed to achieve its objective a Hindu Rashtra at the time of independence, continues with its efforts to transform modern India into a Hindu Rashtra. After the BJP, the political arm of the RSS, assumed power at the Centre in 2014, they have been vigorously pursuing their activities in the direction of establishing their declared objective of a Hindu Rashtra.
Now, the attack on the five fundamental principles of the Constitution such as secularism, democracy, social justice, federalism and self-reliance has intensified. In the name of cow protection, Dalits and minorities are being targeted. The government has refused to extend the reservation to private sector, rather mindless privatisation of state-run organisations will lead to automatic abolition of reservation. We had opposed the previous Congress-led government for rising inequalities due to pursuance of neo-liberal policies. Now the BJP is also pursuing the same. As a result, inequality is getting widened, Yechury said. Previously, 1 per cent of the rich owned 49 per cent of the country’s GDP. The figure has reached 58.4 per cent during these two-and-a-half years’ rule of the BJP. Only 1,6000 jobs have created against the promise of two crore jobs every year made during the 2014 election campaign. The musk of ‘vikash’ (development) of Narendra Modi is getting unmasked.
Yechury said that the situation in rural India was grim. A whopping 36,000 peasants commit suicide every year due to heavy debt burden and deepening crisis in agriculture. The Forest Rights Act is being blatantly violated, Adivasis are being denied of their right over the land. The allocation in the 100-day job guarantee scheme MNREGA has been drastically reduced. Yechury said that the Left Front government in Tripura provided 92 days’ work under the MNREGA last year and this year, the allocation by the central government has been reduced to 34 days. Poverty is deep-rooted. Under the BJP rule, two Indias are clearly visible -- one is shining India and the other is suffering India.
To bypass the Rajya Sabha, the Modi government is taking the Money Bill route to pass many important legislations in the Lok Sabha with its majority. ‘One Nation, One Tax, One Election and One religion’ is the route towards an authoritarian rule heading towards the formation of a Hindu Rashtra. Hence, to have a better India, we would have to first save India, Yechury emphasised.
Retired chief secretary of Odisha and a recipient of Gyan Peeth and Tagore Peace awards, Sitakant Mahapatra emphasised the need to integrate politics with our daily lives. He said inequality among the people and regions are the real challenge before the country now. Citing an example, he said that in last 20 years after 1990, the inequality in distribution of assets has sharply widened. It has increased across the class and castes. Eighty per cent of Indian people own only 20 per cent of the assets. Ramifications of this inequality is reflected in literature, culture, etc. Inequality has created two Indias, one is an affluent India and the other is deprived India. For a better India, every Indian should be guaranteed with basic minimum needs like food, shelter, education, job and health security. Mahapatra reminded that Indian culture is pluralist and inclusive and any attempt to alter this will have disastrous affect.
The seminar, presided over by the Party’s state secretariat member Janardan Pati, was attended by political personalities, academicians, artists, writers and working class people in large numbers. CPI(M) Odisha state secretary Ali Kishor Patnaik and CPI state council secretary Dibakar Nayak were among those present.