Modi politics during Lockdown -4

Radhakanta Barik

When there is a demand for holding discussions and debates with your own people and opponents to confront the present reality which is a multi-dimensional. One is the problem related to Corona and the second is the problem of economy which is lingering for almost four years. We have to think of people and economy. People are suffering when they are facing the problems of unemployment and without money. Today unemployment rate has increased more than 23 percentages. It is further to be added that urban unemployment is more than rural. This reflects in the conditions related to the migrant labour who were a part of the production system before the Lockdown started. The state needs to think that they were there and tomorrow they are required by the economy. Then how to keep them in good health and in high spirit by which they can come back in a healthy mood. For this the government has to put money into their pockets by which they can have food and pay the rent and can satisfy the basic needs. They want to go homes which require proper trains and buses without hassles. Last fifty days they are being harassed by the government and its machinery and they are getting beatings from the police and their muscle men which need to stop. They need to be promised by the government that they are there for them. This confidence is not there which makes them desperate which pressurizes them to go on foot or by cycling or any vehicle which is not safe for them. They should be assured of the government help which will bring back their confidence. Without their confidence this government cannot move ahead. By putting Rs 500 and five kg rice or wheat has made their plight more precarious. It is better not to pay at all or pay 7000 into their pockets for six months as this crisis will not continue forever but people will remember the bitter memories. The government needs to consult the others who have some opinions. This brings the question of the RSS School of thinking which a narrow and closed one is. When the media and intellectuals and experts and opponent politicians are speaking out then they should listen to them. They are behaving like a frog in the well which is creating problems for people and economy. Looking at the conditions of the migrant labour and their children which reminds us the scene around the world where war is going on. The way children of Syria and other countries where war was ravaging one finds our children are looking the same. Children of migrant labour are looking hungry and half fed without any proper dress are moving with their parents on the national highway. It seems that Modi's India has got similar pictures of the war torn countries.

Modi's leadership in Covid 19 is being praised by some foreign journal. Let us examine that on January30 first case of Corona got reported in India but prior to this there were reports of Corona in China. But he did not make any planning for tackling such a serious disease. On the contrary he had a planning of welcoming Trump which was on his agenda. He held a reception in his home state Gujarat. The stadium of Ahmadabad became the place where the crowd came to welcome Trump Modi. After Trump's departure he gave a call for the Lockdown -1. During the Lockdown he did not have testing kits and PPE for the hospital staff. Then he got some kits from China through an agency who found misused public money in getting defective tools. The agency has charged more money for the defective kits according to strictures by the High Court of Delhi.  Then he inaugurated the Lockdown-2. This is the time some tests held but without planning and execution. But Indian doctors in some well-known hospitals took responsibility in handling the cases of Covid19. Gujarat suffered worst as virus spread through the gathering in the stadium for which Gujarat is experiencing till now. Some states specifically Kerala has done a great job and showing to the world that with a proper planning one can fight the Corona. They had best social infrastructure which provided clues for tackling the problem and the political leadership and decentralized institutions helped in confronting the Corona. Gujarat is the worst in handling the Corona. Some states like Odisha and Bengal have handled next to Kerala.

The worst is the handling of migrant labour for Modi leadership. After 50days young workers are dying on the national high way. Many High Courts have taken a stand over such a humanitarian disaster. Most of the states managed by the BJP are poorly managing the Covid 19. Till today there is no social package even Modi announced 10% GDP will be invested in making social package but till now 1 percentage of GDP has got invested. People are dying without money no food and no work. Poor management of migrant labour and their returning to their homes show the poor leadership of Modi. Leadership requires planning and execution on both fronts he has failed. He has channels which praise his leadership that is a separate thing.

Why are we failing as a nation to defend the rights of labour specifically migrant labour. We are still a middle class society who played a critical role during national movement and today they grabbed power during Indian state pursuing its neo liberalism agenda. Their parents are the products of national movement studied in vernacular schools and they have knowledge of both regional language and English and after Independence they adopted the Hindustani language. Their children went to private schools and questioned the values of their parents and they turned into an aspiring class on the global scale whose demands are of global standards the best dresses of American brand and the best Hollywood films and they started reading the novels of Chetan Bhagat and they ignored the literary tastes of Premachanda and Shakespeare. They went with the intellectual pygmy like Modi and demanding the benefits of neo fascist state such as control over the working class. This resulted in Modi getting ambitious to remove the working class from the major cities in the name of Lockdown. He ignored their demands as raised by the leading Nobel Laureates that put money into their accounts and let them have a demand over the economy which will drive the economy ahead. Instead of putting into their accounts they are standing on the National High way where the middle class are sitting in their drawing rooms and looking at the Ramayana. These failures of middle class will not tolerated by the working class which made the Hindutva forces further fascists by demanding of banning rights of working classes. Will Modi target middle class next? This seems like as their pensions will be withdrawn and their PPF will be slashed and their banks accounts if necessary be frozen. Modi knows the mettle of the spineless class and they are not people of their fathers' generation carrying certain values and moral strength. That generation had a root in the rural society and shifted to cities and worked their jobs with sincerity and passion. This class has vanished and their children have taken over who are under the attacks by Modi. Get prepared for the second stage of attacks on middle class. Here the question arises that the working class without the support of middle class decided to the national high way rather than Rajpath of Delhi. A question will haunt all of us that why workers move in another direction which is against the Rajpath of Delhi and they move towards their village.On the way they walked and they move on cycles on trucks and in a cement mixer but they did not come to streets of Delhi and demanded food work and money which they would have got in an easier manner than this. The answer lies in the above narrative why working class did not dare to participate in the protest against the Modi government.

Lockdown 4 started by Modi after the announcements made by Prime Minister Modi that 10 percentages of GDP are going to be invested in creating a social package for various sections of a society. His finance minister took four announcements to spell out the plan of action by Modi government.  This comes around 1 percentage of GDP. Like his 2014 election manifesto that 15 lakhs to each account has gone now he is paying Rs 500 per month into Jan Dhan account which is equivalent for buying rice or wheat for a week and nothing more than that. There was a demand by a leading journalist Harish Damadoran to NDTV that PM has put money into NREGA created by UPA government but not to his own creation that that Jan Dhan account. He could have put Rs 5000 into this account which would have benefited the poor and but he is not concerned of the poor or low income groups nor even middle class but only 1 percentage of industrialists. The problem has got created for the masses by his declaration of Lockdown where people have no money no work no food and they are on the streets and they are dying of hunger like the great famine of 1943 Bengal or 1866 Odisha where millions of people died. Today millions of people are on the streets to go homes where they have an uncertain future which may result in many deaths as the great famine. But the Prime Minister is adamant regarding not putting money into poor man's or woman's hands. He is promising of 10 percentages of GDP is looking like the Telugu Film Bluff Master where the hero knows the art of cheating.

How I look at hunger of poor people? Let me examine that people in their conversation used to talk of rice for twelve months. That was the intense desire of a rural person that the whole year he has food in his storage and his family gets food every day. Food for him and his family has rice. Today he does not think of food for the year and he thinks of food for a day or week as he or she has earnings to buy rice every day or for week. This is possible because the formation of the single labour market in India.  He thinks beyond rice as rice and dal are taken together for the poor family in rural India. If possible, he likes to have vegetables minimum if not buying but drum sticks from his or her tree. Then the family has brought the rice dal into his basket and then think of education into their basket and they send their child be boy or girl to the school. Some years back parents think of education means only education of a son and today they think both or one child be daughter or son. Then they think of health facilities which has entered into their basket. They spend money for their health and health of their children. If there is someone from the family a migrant worker outside then they think of having a pucca house. Life creates hopes and aspiration for poor people in rural India.

The RSS pracharaks every day move in a vehicle with songs in praise of Modi as a savior from Corona and builder of new India in Delhi. After seeing thousands of poor migrant labour dying on the national high way and one cannot think Modi as a savior. Nor he is the builder of modern India which is getting ruined every day and now we are going back to force the workers to work for twelve hours and no Sundays. This is new India getting reconstructed under Modi. One reads a novel Black Beauty published in the early 19th century where a horse talks to his owner that he could not take him to Church on Sunday as it was a holiday. Furthermore, story speaks of eight hours work and old age security. Today in India we are going back to 18th century of India where Shivajis plundered the wealth of Eastern India specifically Odisha and Britishers were stepping on the soil of India. This is perhaps new India as the RSS pracharaks are speaking today. Under Modi between 2002 to 2013, 65000 MSME's were closed down, CMIE Report This brings out truth of industrial development of Gujarat that it happened during the Congress rule and a very good study conducted by (The Regional Roots of Developmental Politics in India: A Divided Leviathan - By Aseema Sinha, )  whose book talks of the public policies pursued by the Congress Government in Gujarat. It is a comparative study of Bengal and Gujarat. In the case of Gujarat it happened so that a team of civil servants are always on move to invite the private industrialists to Gujarat. In the case of Public sector industries, they move to Delhi and find the bottlenecks and remove the bureaucratic hurdles which make an easy flow of capital to Gujarat both in terms of private and public. This makes Gujarat an industrial state not the policies of Modi which affected the growth of Gujarat.

Workers are having the same rights as others by Indian Constitution. They have right to life with dignity which says that they have right to have minimum income, education and health. Directive Principles of State policy clearly state that they have right to their livelihoods and their work cannot be exploitative in nature. They have to work with minimum wage and equal wage with the women workers. They have right to go anywhere. All these rights have been ignored by the Supreme Court on the issue of migrant labour and the court says that they do not agree to the petitioner that the court can provide them food and minimum income. But it is interesting to note that most of the High Courts have a different opinion that the court has right to know the status of migrant labour that AP court gives directions to the government to alleviate the hardships of the labourers. Furthermore they need help while they are walking back homes as their livelihoods to be ensured by the government. The Madras High Court passed directions to the state and central governments after taking note of conditions of migrant workers, " one cannot control their tears after seeing the pathetic conditions of migrant laborers shown in the media. "Gujurat High Court took suo mot cognizance of the reports published in the papers and directed the state government to come back with a concrete plan for the migrant workers. Karnataka high court has taken a stand that how the migrant workers are going back homes from the governments. All these activities teach us that the Supreme Court has lost its autonomy to executive in the centre which is a sad matter today.

Prof Amartya Sen's theory behind the working of democracy at the time of Famine which saves people needs a new dimension. In India there is an elected government and Modi has got elected just a year before but on the issue of hunger he remains silent which is a shocking news for all of us. Fifty days of LockDown have gone millions of workers in the cities are without any income, any food and any place to live in. They are in a desperate to go home but their protests did not get materialized to fruits. It is only pressures from state governments which forced the centre to start some trains with a higher amount of fare when their pockets do not have any money. Why public action is not getting organised? This is where the educated middle class could have played a role in providing ideas and in providing an association to lead them which is absent. Why middle class are so silent at the time of crisis when millions of people are on the streets. This is a baffling question. They are in air conditioned houses which have made them less protesting against social injustice. There is an interesting observation by Prof Yogendra Singh that middle class got angry against the Congress government because of its pro poor policies which pushed them to Modi who is speaking for them and rich and not for poor. I do not agree to it as it is a soft Hindutva stand taken by middle class. They are unable to move out because of Lockdown but the film makers and students and teachers are speaking for them. The economists in unison are articulating the demands of these workers. Many channels are trying to do justice by providing the pictures of their movements on the national high way. Here the character of our national movement and political protest need to be underlined which is the passivity is our character. They have completely withdrawn from the Hindutva politics but unable to decide to take a stand with some other political groups yet. Hindutva as a pyramidal structure has got disintegrated under its own pressures and domination of stupidity. They are standing with the migrant workers who are without food and water and without public transport, this brings the listening to NDTV (hindi) which makes people shifted from Ajtak to other channels. There is hardly any crowd in front of TV in seeing Ramayana. Staying in a middle class colony in Dwaraka no voice comes from any corner from anywhere for the support of Modi which used to come some months back. Middle class want to come out of this Lockdown to support the protest against the Hindutva.

Modi as a magician is getting exposed on every day basis. He spoke of so many gods and goddesses then came back to his package some days back. His finance Minister is rolling down the programme for various sections of a society. For the migrant labour there is nothing. But there is some food of 5Kg of rice or wheat and 1 kg of dal for the poor who are living in the cities. This is not going to solve their hunger. What happens to food for all families which ensures food for all distributed under the PDS. When hunger haunts somebody the magician does not work as people want food. There is a package for small and medium industries which may not work as their industries do not have demand which needs on the part of government to put money into poor and vulnerable sections of society. The bubble which has created by him has burst out. Hindutva has a social network working from poorer communities to rich communities but poor are forced to leave them. For instance in Delhi washer men community are the great supporters of the Hindutva and they work on the streets of Delhi and earn Rs2 per kapada for ironing whereas in Bhubaneswar per kapada the washer men demands Rs7. For last two months they do not have work and they remain unemployed and hungry which has pushed them out of the Hindutva. The social network of castes and communities standing behind the Hindutva are slowly disappearing from the pyramid of power structure they built over the time. Modi has destroyed the pyramid.

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May 25, 2020

Prof. Radhakanta Barik

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