It was going to be a historic day today and it has been as well, but a day betrayed by internal saboteurs of farmers movement, may be with patronization from the rulers. Yet farmer leadership failed to identify and check such elements which blunted the glory of their two months old great struggle. The farmers tractor march was to begin after official republic day parade, but farmers came out at 8 am only and got national media attention by 9 am along with national parade, but after 12 pm, the scenario completely overturned. The aggressive adventurist moves of some irresponsible perhaps internal saboteurs overturned the tables against farmers. BJP MP Sunny Deol's election agent Punjabi singer Deep Sidhu, known for his Khalistani leanings, took a group of farmers to first ITO and then to red fort and went up the rampart to unfurl flags of religion-Nishan Sahib and farmers' flag. One farmer died in his acrobatics with tractor. Even the most supportive media PTC Channel turned hostile with this action of this fellow. Sent many messages to Ravish Kumar, farmer leaders tried to retrieve situation by disassociating and condemning these elements and also returning to their place of dharna, but the huge damage has already been done. It will take time to rebuild such reputation, glory and moral high ground. Farmers movement which could have won a great victory if this parade had been peacefully concluded, now have to struggle harder even to keep the spirits of farmers sitting on protest for two months and ready to stay as long as they win. I was excited till 12 pm, later when the situation got deteriorated, felt sad. A Bhindrawale follower again betrayed farmers movement built on Bhagat Singh thought. What an irony! Punjab which was getting its glory of leading freedom struggle back, now stands stabbed by religious fundamentalist living in wishful world of winning Delhi-Dilli Fateh by unfurling a flag on red fort! A suicidal romantic illusion of victory by harming vital interests of farmers!

No Employment
Union Budget 2021-22 is a magical exercise full of hopes, dreams and aspirations to revive country's trillion dollar economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. It is, of course, for the leaders of the ruling party and their corporate partners. It identically symbolises digital capitalism with capitalists' growth. This government is not thinking about the vulnerable majorities—unemployment youth, poor along with elderly, women and children. This government has failed to generate employment for the youth. Therefore, the unemployment rate among educated youth is rapidly increasing. In her budget speech, the Finance Minister stated that the service and production sectors would boost would generate employment. But how? God knows. And what would be the strategies and what percentage of unemployed would be employed? There is no such direction. After a university degree with technical and professional skills, would they loiter? Or would they be a Zomato/Swigy delivery person? This government would form the Higher Education Commission. What are the wrongs with the UGC? Would it form an Unemployed Commission to register educated unemployed so that it would understand the real picture of the vibrant section of this country? It has deliberately been privatising public sectors i.e. railways, telecom and so forth. That's why Finance Minister. had no word for employment guarantee. Nonetheless, due to pandemic a large section of the population has lost their jobs, and they are living under constant threats of hunger and critical condition. This budget has no light of their recovery with a hope to survive.

Then, this budget has no word for the majority at the bottom of the pyramid, as if India has no poverty and hunger. Also, allocation under MGNEGRA is insignificant. The government is truly making all arrangements to kill poverty by killing the poor. Significantly, there is no word for unorganised and unskilled labour force. What the government is trying to show/establish? The majority of the population in various difficulties has elected this democratic government. But the government is only for the minority -elite and corporate.

Surprisingly, this government has been avoiding the gender budgeting. Is it against the economic empowerment of women, Dalit and other vulnerable sections? Would a provision for women in night shift work bring equity and justice? What would be their wages, duty hours and other facilities usually enjoyed by their male counterparts?

This pandemic has badly affected the elderly population of this country. Elderly of poor families are becoming orphans due to several social, economic and cultural reasons. But the government has given attention to the elderly older and elderly oldest who are economically better off by removing them from tax hazards. It is just a battering to a section who might be considered as an age-minority group.
Harasankar Adhikari, Kolkata

The term 'Populism' does not carry any homogeneous meaning. In 19th century Russia, populist politics carried a radical meaning. The eminent scholar, Teodor Shanin, observed in this context: "The label 'populist', like that of 'marxist', is badly lacking in precision…Populism was Russia's main indigenous revolutionary tradition…As against the force of order, oppression and exploitation, the revolutionary populists put their trust in a class war of the Russian labouring class…" (See Late Marx and the Russian Road, Monthly Review Press, New York, 1983)

But, the meaning of 'populism' has undergone a radical transformation in the 21st century. In his theoretical reading of the protest movements and 'populist' politics in the 21st century, Thomas O'Brien observed: "Alongside the apparent increase in the breath and scale of protest in the early twenty-first century has been a resurgence of populism…Populism in the twenty-first century has taken on a variety of forms that echo the specific socio-political and cultural context". (See "Populism, protest and democracy in the twenty-first century", Contemporary Social Science, Vol. 10, No. 4, 2015)

India has witnessed the rise of right-wing Hindu majoritarian populism in the late 20th and early 21st century, which has distinct anti-minority, particularly anti-Muslim, dimensions.
Arup Kumar Sen, Kolkata

Vol. 53, No. 33, Feb 14 - 20, 2021