September 15, 2019

Hundred Days of a Toxic Government

THE Modi government’s second stint in office has completed a hundred days. Though it is a short span of time, the genes of this government have been made starkly clear – an authoritarian regime marked by the fusion of corporate capital and Hindutva.

The past 100 days have seen an unprecedented assault on democracy in Jammu & Kashmir; the denigration of parliament, the subversion of constitutional bodies including the judiciary and the authoritarian onslaught on the opposition and all forms of dissent.

The gravest assault on democracy and federalism occurred when through constitutional chicanery, the state of Jammu & Kashmir was deprived of its special status and dismantled. Kashmir has been converted into a vast prison with the eight million people in the valley deprived of all basic liberties in a continuing clampdown.

The first parliament session after the Lok Sabha election saw the unprecedented spectacle of the passing of legislations which were railroaded through without any proper scrutiny and discussion. The intentions of the Modi government are clear: parliament has to act as a rubber stamp for the executive.

The subversion of constitutional bodies and the institutions of the State have been stepped up. The judiciary is sought to be intimidated, the refusal to accept the collegium recommendation to make Justice Akil Kureshi the chief justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court is the latest instance of how the government seeks to interfere in judicial appointments.

The attempts to suppress the opposition are being aided by the use of the CBI and Enforcement Directorate. They are being wielded as instruments of coercion against opposition leaders. The number of instances of opposition leaders being investigated by these agencies have risen sharply. Under this threat, leaders of opposition parties are being motivated to defect to the BJP.

The subversion of the criminal justice system has proceeded apace with Hindutva values colouring police investigations and trial court decisions. No one was found guilty in the Pehlu Khan murder case. The case of lynching of Tabrez Ansari has now been diluted and murder charges dropped. By these topsy turvy standards, the victims are made responsible for the crimes committed against them.

All this is happening in the background of a serious economic slowdown and a looming recession. The GDP growth in the first quarter – April to June – was five per cent, the lowest in six years. Even this figure is an over-estimate. Rural distress, rising unemployment, lack of purchasing power and demand are cause for the present crisis. Job losses running into lakhs is affecting different sectors of industry and the economy.

Despite the economic slowdown staring in its face, the Modi government has doggedly pursued policies which prioritise the interests of big business and foreign capital. The union budget of 2019-20 gave various concessions to foreign capital and corporates. This was followed by the caving in to the pressure of foreign finance capital and the surcharge on capital gains made by foreign portfolio investors was withdrawn.

The Modi government has embarked on an aggressive plan for privatisation of the public sector enterprises. Rs 1 lakh crore worth of shares are to be disinvested in the PSUs. Among the targets for privatisation are the railways, defence production, banking and mining.

Instead of enhancing public expenditure on social welfare schemes like the MNREGA which can stimulate rural demand, the government is out to appease foreign capital. 100 per cent FDI in coal mining has been announced by the “nationalist” government which will open the way for multinational mining companies to plunder the coal resources of the country and weaken the State-owned Coal India.

The Modi government has embarked upon systematically infringing and curtailing the rights of the states. Much of the legislations passed in the last session of parliament have resulted in curbing the powers of the states. On top of this, the Finance Commission has now been asked to consider defence expenditure as one of the terms for dividing the resources between the centre and the states. If this is implemented, the share of the states in taxable income will be seriously affected.

The concept of a national security state got further strengthened with amendments to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the law concerning the National Investigation Agency. Dissenters and protesters will now come under the radar of national security more easily.

The very concept of citizenship as defined in the constitution is under threat. The Modi-Shah duo are planning to extend the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the rest of India. For this, it has already issued a notification for enumeration in the National Population Register of all residents in a locality. This would become the basis for the NRC. This will be used to weed out “infiltrators” to be read as Muslims. At the same time, the Citizenship Amendment Bill is to be passed by parliament which can provide for citizenship for non-Muslim illegal migrants, whereby Hindu migrants can be granted citizenship.

In this short period, the Modi government has taken further steps to become a subordinate ally of the United States. One of the first decisions taken by the government was to stop buying oil from Iran altogether. More purchases of US weaponry and military equipment have been initiated. The negotiations to sign the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) with the US have reached the final stage.

The hundred days of the Modi regime are thus a foretaste for what is still to come.

The Left and democratic forces have the onerous task of defending secularism and democracy and protecting constitutional values. They have to mobilise the people in defence of their livelihood, jobs and democratic rights. The widest possible unity of the people must be forged for struggles to accomplish these tasks. The “nationalism” of the Modi government must be exposed for what it is – Hindutva majoritarianism which only serves to divert attention from the serious problems facing the country and the people.

(September 11, 2019)