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Comment

Money they Spent

Modi's Independence Day speech this year is shorn of rhetoric and as far as the economy is concerned, it is far more restrained. It goes without saying that Modi's achievements are far short of his pre-poll promises to the people, particularly about 'inclusive development' and recovery of black money kept in foreign banks. That the latter promise was a hoax has been proved by Modi's complete silence on this issue. On one front, he is, however ahead of his predecessors, i.e. wooing US corporate interests. It is not that Manmohan Singh and his colleagues were against the US bid for world domination. But Modi has surpassed them in greasing the palms of the US ruling classes. This has been exemplified by the deal with the Westinghouse Company for the purchase of nuclear reactors, and the alliance with the USA regarding the move to drive out China from the Indian Ocean.

Modi's speech has surprised the critics of Manmohan's 'policy paralysis'. But Modi has seemingly realised that aggressive neo-liberalism in place of 'policy paralysis' will hurt his electoral prospects and will not take India very far, nor will the Hindu right be able to deliver the goods for him. Protests against the practices of the Hindu right have been mounting and exposures of their false and hypocritical myth-making are going on vigorously. Modi cannot afford to ignore these. His claims about the reduction of poverty are, however, largely empty. If one resorts to definitional changes about the poverty line, one can easily manipulate the facts about the real extent of poverty and project a false picture.

Modi's reference to Pak-administered Kaslimir (sometimes called Azad Kashmir) and Balochistan is intriguing. From whatever is known so far, it can be concluded legitimately that there is little 'azadi' in Azad Kashmir, and Balochistan is also restive. Just as the Government of India does not care for the sentiments of the Kashmiris in general, the Government of Pakistan pays no heed to the aspirations of the people of Pak-administered Kashmir (or what is generally known as PoK) and Balochistan. Successive central governments of India have, in varying degrees, blamed Pakistan for all the unrest in Jammu and Kashmir, as if their position on this issue has always been upright and the people of the Kashmir valley should not have any say on the future of Kashmir. Now, after Modi's open admission of his government's involvement in the affairs of Pak-administered Kashmir and Balochistan, the rulers of Pakistan are certain to speed up their anti-India campaign and to portray the disturbances in these regions as engineered by the Government of India. And quite expectedly the Pakistani media has come down heavily on Modi's 'interfering' in the internal affairs of Pakistan and accused India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of fomenting trouble in Balochistan, including the recent deadly blasts in a Quetta hospital that killed 70. In the mutual blame game, both sides are not at all willing to count the role of the people. That Washington has immediately noted Modi’s changed stance towards disturbed areas in Pakistan, while seeking clarity on India’s Baloch policy is somewhat surprising. They say Modi is either appeasing hardliners at home or deliberately signaling to Pakistan in an effort to strengthen India’s hand in future discussions.

The comments by T S Thakur, the present Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, on Modi's speech are somewhat unprecedented, but it highlights a fact, which is that a huge number of judicial posts are vacant owing to deliberate dilly-dallying by the central government. Here the simmering contradiction between the government and the judiciary has come into the open, and the embarrassment of the government is clear.

To return to the question of the society and economy, Modi has talked of equality, but has not offered any suggestion as to the way of achieving it. For the last two decades or more, income inequality has grown in India, and India remains far behind China, where the post-Mao decades have witnessed growing inequality, in terms of per capita income, public health care and adult literacy rates, although at the time of independence, both were more or less on the same footing in these respects. In the face of this stark reality, Modi's talks of 'inclusive growth' and social equality are not likely to carry conviction with anybody except the corporate lobby, Modi's financiers and the media controlled by them.

Frontier
Vol. 49, No.8, Aug 28 - Sep 3, 2016