THE Independence Day speech of Prime Minister Narendra Modi was a piece of propaganda remarkable for its disconnect with reality and reeked of hypocrisy in certain matters.
This stood out most with regard to Kashmir. His exhortation that the problem will not be solved by “gaali” and “goli” but by embracing Kashmiris was the most hypocritical of them all. The Kashmir valley has been in turmoil and the use of force is the only distinctive approach of the centre to deal with the unrest among the people. There has not been a single initiative by the Modi government to start a political dialogue. On the contrary, step after step has been taken to attack the democratic rights of the Kashmiri people and to erase the special status given to Jammu & Kashmir. The challenge to Article 35A of the Constitution, conferring the right to legislate on permanent residents to the state legislature, in the Supreme Court, is one such latest instance. To enforce an iron hand in practice and to preach brotherhood and love is typical RSS doublespeak.
The prime minister has sought to embellish his demonetisation measure by claiming big success in unearthing black money. Without citing the source of the estimate, according to him, over 3 lakh crore of rupees which was outside the banking system had entered the banking system due to demonetisation. More than Rs 1.75 lakh crore that was deposited in the banks and 1.8 million people with disproportionate assets, he claimed were under government watch.
All these claims are dubious. So far, the RBI has refused to state the total amount of currency deposited with the banks after demonetisation. Neither the RBI nor the finance ministry has given any estimate of how much black money has been unearthed as a result. The figure of Rs 1.25 crore black money detected, cited by the prime minister refers to the amount the government has claimed to have unearthed in the past three years and not after demonetisation. The fact is that the abrupt withdrawal of 86 per cent of the currency in circulation has had a deleterious effect on the economy. The Economic Survey Volume Two released recently provides a discouraging picture of the economy.
The prime minister spoke out against violence in the name of faith, obviously referring to the lynchings by “gau rakshaks” that have taken place. But here too nothing has been translated on the ground. Just a few days before Independence Day, a mother and son were brutally beaten up near Vadodara for skinning a dead cow. The police and administration in the BJP ruled states are acting against those who legitimately trade in cattle or sell meat, while going out of their way to protect the violent cow vigilantes.
Narendra Modi had nothing much to say about the fulfilment of the promises made by him and his party in May 2014 – creation of two crore jobs every year for the youth and provision of remunerative prices for farmers which would be the cost of production plus 50 per cent more.
In fact, the slogan of “ache din” has been jettisoned for a new one keeping an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha election. The promise of a "New India" by 2022 ie, on the 75th anniversary of Independence is what is being dangled before the people. It requires a high degree of false confidence stemming from being out of touch with the realities, to be able to claim that a “New India” will be in place in five years’ time.
The 70th anniversary of Independence was held in the shadow of the tragedy in Gorakhpur where over 65 children died at the BRD Medical college hospital in the week leading upto August 15. The prime minister condoled with the bereaved families for their loss. But the state of the public health system in Uttar Pradesh and India bely any hopes for a new India within five years. India spends just 1.2 per cent of its GDP on public health while the world average is 5.99 per cent. Even the National Health Policy of 2017 has set the goal of public health expenditure at 2.5 per cent by the year 2025.
The whole country has been shocked not only at the deaths of so many children but also the callousness of the Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh. Even as children continue to die in the Gorakhpur hospital, Adityanath called for a grand Janmashtami celebrations in the state. He even ordered the police to observe Janmashtami in a befitting manner. The Director General of Police gave suitable instructions to the entire police force as per this directive.
There is a dual mockery here – a brazen disregard for the sufferings of the children and their families in Gorakhpur and using a religious festival to undermine constitutional values by making the police celebrate it officially.
Independence Day thus showed the vast gap between what Modi preached from the ramparts of the Red Fort and what is actually been put into practice.
(August 16, 2017)