The Strategy of Inaction

Not content with having demonetised the whole of the society Modi continues to iterate his resolve, rather ludicrously and arrogantly as well, to cleanse the system from black money and corruption. War against black money is such a hollow rhetoric that even diehard advocates of market reforms look sceptical. Of late some pro-establishment economists have been mobilised to act as cheerleaders of Modi’s attempt to fit a headlight on the bullock cart called Bharat. Even if he cannot unearth black money, he is now over enthusiastic to make India digital much to the delight of service sector business houses. Not content with having failed in developing consensus on ‘monetary reforms’ that is supposed to get the unconditional and galvanised support of the people, that is say scared, frightened citizens who are more paralysed by fear of cash-less economy, the Modis hope, somewhat against hope, that their monetary coup would succeed.

The degree of tolerance shown by common people because of cash crunch and notoriously inadequate and inefficient banking service across the country that has made both ends meet difficult has no parallel anywhere in the world.

The budget session is not far away. Indications are that Opposition parties are waiting for that occasion to grill Modi on demonetisation and other related issues. But a mere debate on such a national calamity—demonetisation—in parliament can hardly alter the ground reality. As things are Opposition parties seem to have lost interest in anti-demonetisation movement. An initial euphoria over ‘unity in opposition’ seems to be petering out very fast.

Modi is the problem, Modi is the solution. Unless the scenario is changed radically, nothing will change for the better. With shifting gear from demonetisation to digitisation, Modi’s business lobby is now hawking gospel of growth and job in e-commerce and they are working overtime to lionise Modi for his ‘bold’ step in Indian history. As per Snapdeal–KPMG report India’s e-retail and allied sectors including logistics, ware-housing and IT/ITes are expected to create about 1.45 million direct jobs by 2021. Meanwhile, retailers, small retailers in particular, will be forced to follow the path of farmers—suicide. After Aadhar it is one more dubious mechanism to enforce social exclusion.

For the time being the banking sector may not face the immediate prospects of bankruptcy. But bad debt will continue to haunt the economy for decades. After all generation of black money and bad debt as well is a continuous process. Banks are now overflowing with cash, but not for ordinary people. Industries will enjoy the bonanza, they will get more loans and this time at cheaper rates.

The point at issue is why Modi is still not uncomfortable though the result of note ban is disastrous for majority of people. The reason : the Opposition is a divided house. Congress, itself being a source of corruption and inefficiency for so many years, is now trying to raise secondary issues. They want a debate in presence of Modi in parliament as if the situation would return to normal through such hollow debates. Instead of focusing on the fall-out of demonetisation, they are now busy to detect the level of corruption in Modi’s camp. What is more they are too eager to project the demonetisation scenario, rather the anti-demonetisation scenario, as a fight between Rahul Gandhi and Modi. They are more interested in inflating the fighting image of Rahul Gandhi—their prime minister in the waiting. And quite naturally they don’t want to cross the boundary of parliament. All their anti-demonetisation move centres on how to make Rahul Gandhi focused in the media.

That Congress cannot dig its own grave by going too far is a fact of life. But what about the Left? Particularly the Marxist Left? They are just echoing the Congress strategy of making fire without smoke. Why the government is bypassing any discussion in parliament on the misery and suffering of the common man is their sole point of agitation. But there is every scope to turn mass anger into mass revolt, at least on the demonetisation question, in the streets. They too are reluctant to mobilise masses in their millions to thwart Modi’s march towards authoritatianism. They periodically issue threat notice through the media to launch agitation but in practice do nothing. For all practical purposes this CPM and its allies are now part of the ruling dispension, they know their limits. They think people will spontaneously vote for them because Modi has brought in such a catastrophe. It is unlikely to happen even in their old citadels, not to speak of green fields.

The hard fact is that Modi has backing from the corporates and the corporate-owned media. Nor is he drawing flak from foreigners. Barring Russian embassy, no foreign embassy in New Delhi, criticised Modi’s demonetisation drive and hardships their employees were facing for it.

Surprisingly, the role of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) at a critical time like this, is puzzling. The Commission could have easily started suo motu cases against Modi for the dead in queue. Legal activism too has failed to deliver. It’s now more than certain that people are unlikely to get relief from courts. They have only one option : spontaneous rebellion against the Modi brigade everywhere. But spontaneity is no answer to human rights violations by Modi. The NHRC has every right to take cognizance of the issue of human rights violations and recommend to the Centre for course correction, including monetary relief to the victims of human rights violations and positive action against the guilty—in this case it is Modi and his sycophants.

Rules, regulations and legislations to protect and promote human rights have been reduced ineffective and yet Modi can manage his house in blatant violation of democratic norms. Central Trade Unions affiliated to opposition parties could have forced the Modi government to retreat if they voiced their anger by announcing the threat of indefinite industrial strike throughout the country. No, it is not going to happen even if people are forced to live in more misery and penury. Writing on the wall is very much clear—a famine like situation is emerging in Modi’s Digital India. Meanwhile, over five lakh bank officers and employees have threatened to strike work in protest against the ‘‘mismanagement of cash supply by RBI’’ to public sector banks and their ATMs. Just a threat—yet sometings better than nothing!


Vol. 49, No.25, Dec 25 - 31, 2016