Corporate India Thrives And The Real India Withers

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In his 32-minute long speech delivered extempore at the Central Hall of Parliament on 20th May 2014, Narendra Modi said that his “government is one which thinks about the poor, listens to the poor and which exists for the poor. … The new government is dedicated to the poor. This government is for the villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed, for their aspirations and this is our responsibility.”

Nobody expected that Mr. Modi will or can translate his rhetoric into practice. Every politician comes to power in the name of the poor and governs to safeguard the interests of the rich. And the one year of Modi government is a categorical statement that the government rules only for the welfare of the corporate world, not for the welfare of the villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed. Their condition is worsening by each passing day and they are referred to and remembered only in rhetoric!

How enthusiastic Mr. Modi and his team is to make the Land Acquisition Bill and the Environmental Laws more corporate friendly and anti-farmer and anti-poor; and in slashing social expenditure that will benefit the ‘villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed’ he mentioned in his rhetoric!

The ‘achievements’ of Mr. Modi’s one year governance reminded me of what Arundhati Roy says about the Kingdom in the Sky in her article Listening to Grasshoppers: Genocide, Denial and Celebration:

“Ironically, the era of the free market has led to the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in India—the secession of the middle and upper classes to a country of their own, somewhere up on the stratosphere where they merge with the rest of the world’s elite. This Kingdom in the Sky is a complete universe in itself, hermetically sealed from the rest of India. It has its own newspapers, films, television programs, morality plays, transport systems, malls and intellectuals. …But there is a problem, and the problem is lebensraum—living space. A kingdom needs its lebensraum. The Sky Citizens look toward the Old Nation. They see thousands of acres of farmland, and think: These really ought to be Special Economic Zones for our industries. They see Adivasis sitting on the bauxite mountains…They think: That is our bauxite, our iron ore, our uranium. What are these people doing on our land? What is our water doing in their rivers? What is our timber doing in their trees?”

It is natural that the Sky Citizens will certainly try to deprive the people of their land, rivers and even their right to live. Who will protect the people in a democracy if those who are elected by the people become the servants of the Sky Citizens?

In his keynote address at the opening of the Edinburgh Commonwealth Summit on October 24, 1997 the then Prime Minister of India, I. K. Gujral, said: “Equal opportunity and democracy are often absent in the restricted chambers of the international economic system. And yet, I have little doubt that, in the long run, globalization will succeed only if it is equitable and just. The institutional systems that oversee the globalised economy must reflect an enlightened balance of interests.”

Nearly 20 years after, the globalised economy in India not only reflects a balance of interests but also widened the imbalance between the rich and the poor and as a result it has wiped out the lives of nearly three lakh farmers between 1995 and 2011. According to the NCRB (National Crime Record Bureau) data; 2, 90, 740 farmers committed suicide during 1995-2011—an average 18,171 farm suicides each year! And this wave of farm suicides still continues.

When Mr. Manmohan Singh ushered in the liberalized economic policies in 1991, it paved the way for the corporate business to be a Shylock with the unconditional help of the State. And in the 2001-02 Union Budget, the then Finance Minister Yaswant Sinha introduced a major policy decision (in favour of the big business) to reduce the role of the FCI to maintaining only minimum buffer stocks. This policy shift was a lethal blow to our PDS and led to the dismantling of the Minimum Support Price scheme which was a solace to the farmers.

The Union governments since 1991 have confined themselves to creating conditions for private enterprise to flourish. While the successive Union Budgets in the liberalization era have inflicted severe cuts in agriculture subsidies, the revenue forgone under corporate income tax, excise and customs duties during the period 2005 – 2011 is Rs. 21, 25, 023 crores. (P. Sainath, “Corporate socialism’s 2G orgy”, The Hindu, March 7, 2011)

And on Sept. 21, 2012 in his address to the Nation, Prime Minister manmohan Singh, by calling us brothers and sisters again and again, told us: “No government likes to impose burdens on the common man. Our Government has been voted to office twice to protect the interests of the aam admi.” What a great joke it was! And I was reminded of this joke when I haerd Mr. Modi saying that his ‘government is for the villagers, farmers, Dalits and the oppressed, for their aspirations and this is our responsibility.’ 

A country’s well-being depends on the safety and security its farmers and women enjoy. India miserably fails in this count. India’s agricultural sector has been in great distress since 1995. In his article ‘Of luxury cars and lowly tractors’, published in The Hindu (Dec. 28, 2010), P. Sainath says that “over a quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide since 1995. It means the largest wave of recorded suicides in human history has occurred in this country….It means one and a half million human beings, family members of those killing themselves, have been tormented by the tragedy.”

Manmohan Singh and his team have gone and Mr. Modi has come, but the policies have still not been changed and our farmers still kill themselves. In his article “Corporate socialism’s 2G orgy” (The Hindu, March 7, 2011) Sainath writes: “In six years from 2005-6, GOI wrote off corporate income tax worth Rs.3,74,937 crore. While writing off this gigantic sum for corporates, Pranab Mukherjee’s latest budget slashes thousands of crores from agriculture.”

Modi government too writes off corporate income tax and slashes thousand s of crores from agriculture and social expenditure. And he says that his government is dedicated to the poor!

PS: When millions of farmers were killing themselves during the decade long Congress rule, the Congress Vice President was in deep slumber and now suddenly he wakes up and sees the distress of the farmers and sheds (crocodile) tears for them. Every politician remembers the farmers and the poor when they are out of power and the moment they are in power they can only see the elites and their ‘problems’.

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