India is indeed facing a critical election in the coming weeks and the question on everyone’s mind is whether this will be a referendum on Modi’s accomplishments in the last five years of his governance! If it is one, he apparently has not only failed to deliver his campaign promises on the economic front but also damaged the institutions he has sworn in to protect and preserve.
One of the biggest accusations against UPA government by BJP was that it was immersed in corruption. Although coalition politics was partly to blame for that fiasco, Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister was beyond reproach in this regard, and he has led a nation with integrity and honor. Although the opposition and the media were quite harsh in their judgment of his tenure, the history will be much kinder to him.
However, the Rafale deal looks like the mother of all scams. As reports indicate, “the scam caused a slew of collateral damages: heavy loss to the exchequer, undermining of a national institution like Hindustan Aeronautical Limited, compromise on national security, and unfair favoritism to Anil Ambani enabling him to make undue profits.” How Anil Ambani who has failed with Reliance Communications was chosen to build an advanced jet aircraft bypassing an established Institution like HAL is beyond anybody’s comprehension!
The Modi Government has also dropped key conditions for anti-corruption penalties and an escrow account for payments days before the Rafale deal was signed. The PMO’s office appeared to have overruled strong objections by the Defence Ministry during the negotiations casting serious doubts on the integrity of this deal between India and France. The Government not only failed to make full disclosure on the details of the negotiations but also actively misled the Supreme Court. It is to be noted that though BJP came to power on the anti-corruption plank their failure to appoint a Lokpal is another glaring omission that should not go unnoticed.
On November 8, 2016, Modi Government unleashed the most reckless demonetization policy upon the nation. The devastating effect of this policy reverberated throughout the land costing 140 of its citizens their dear lives and plunging the GDP from 8.01% to 6.5%. According to CMIE’s surveys, 3.5 million jobs were lost during the final quarter of 2016-17. Small business took the brunt of the hit and business was down by as much as 50% for small traders.
The farmers, especially small and marginal who largely depended on cash to buy seeds, fertilizers and to pay for sowing, borrowing water for irrigation remained worst affected and could not complete the crop-related activities. Many people in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder lost their life savings and the poor traders went without business and so their families without essential food items. However, the rich and the privileged faced no problems and were given a gift-wrapped opportunity to convert all their black money into white money.
When Modi was running for election in 2014, he promised 2 crore jobs every year. What is the situation today? In 2017-18, the country’s unemployment situation worsened as the rate stood at 6.1 %, a 45-year high. Joblessness was recorded at 7.8% in urban areas and 5.3% in rural areas. The Center for Monitoring Indian Economy says that 11 million jobs were also lost in the 2017-18 period. According to the NSSO, the joblessness among youth was at a higher level compared to the previous years and much higher compared to that in the overall population.
The youth of the country feel betrayed, and their hopes dashed as the Modi government appeared to have no road map for job creation. Half of India’s working-age population, for the first time, is not contributing to any economic activity according to the National Sample Survey office’s latest job-survey. “In a country of over 1.2 billion people, India is creating about 450 jobs per 24 hours while China is creating 50,000 jobs in the same 24 hours. Our Prime Minister doesn’t think this is a problem, “said Rahul Gandhi, Congress President addressing a rally.
The Indian farmer appeared to have suffered the most under Modi administration as this important sector took the brunt of the effect of the brutal demonetization policy as the agricultural growth was sluggish at 1.9 % which is half of what was during the previous UPA government. Farmer’s suicide went up so much during Modi rule, the government stopped printing the suicide figures from February 2017. The BJP reneged on implementing its promise in the manifesto for 2014 elections that it would evolve the National Agricultural Market to give farmers the best price, cost + 50%, for their products.
The Modi Government has also earned the dubious distinction of being the first government ever to tax agriculture. Modi Government has imposed 5% GST on fertilizers, 12% GST on tractor/agriculture implements, 18% GST on pesticide, 18% GST on tire, tube, transmission parts and 18% on cold storage equipment. While the Government has written off Rs. 2.4 lakh crore bad loans for crony capitalists, it is not generous with small and marginal farmers to get rid of their debts.
“It is Gujarat Sabotage Tax,” Modi said of the GST in 2011 when the UPA government introduced it in the Parliament. However, it became an ideal tax scheme only when he became the Prime Minister. Although it was a much-needed reform the messy implementation and clumsy rollout sent panic waves among the business class that was not ready for the change in taxation. One year after GST rollout, small business was reporting drop in sales and struggling with the high cost of compliance.
Filing returns became a huge headache for small businesses as they have to rely on professionals, and that became an additional financial burden for them. Compliance process was further slowed down as the Information technology took a long time to resolve cumbersome registration and audit processes. In addition, GST moved the power center so much away from the States as it started impacting the relationship in a Federal power-sharing structure.
Mr. Modi’s stint as Prime Minister will be also be known for weaker national security, a rise in militant attacks and higher tolls in the army and civilian deaths. The dastardly Pulwama attack by the militants resulted in the death of 44 Security personnel. Under Modi’s watch, 498 soldiers and 278 civilians were killed as we saw an uptick in terrorist activities in Kashmir and across the LOC. In the case of Pulwama, how did a suicide bomber acquire 300Kgs of RDX and permitted to enter the most secure Jammu-Srinagar National highway despite the ‘standard operating procedure’ for sanitizing the convoy stretch? Undoubtedly, it is a massive intelligence failure that needs to be further looked into.
And also it is shameful in a manner in which the BJP and Narendra Modi government tried to gain political capital over the Pulwama tragedy accusing those expressing skepticism of the outcome of the surgical strikes as anti-nationalists. It is their leader Yeddyurappa who made the statement that this counterattack will fetch BJP 22 seats in Karnataka. While taking the patriot cover behind the army, the government’s allocation in the 2018-19 Budget was just 1.58 percent of the GDP, lowest since 1962. A parliamentary standing committee under Major General B C Khanduri exposed the neglect of the armed forces saying 68% of the equipment was vintage and there was no money for the purchase of emergency weapons.
Intolerance and Communal frenzy:
Communal differences and religious intolerance reached a new height during the regime of Narendra Modi with Hindu nationalists are having a free run in killing, assaulting and intimidating people of other faiths. Modi never uttered a word decrying the dangerous breed of cow vigilantes who have killed at least 118 Muslims and Dalits during his governance. The Modi regime, on assuming power, made cow an instrument of political warfare and men from the fringes sprang up from all over. Lynching became a national pastime as there were instances were BJP leaders were openly garlanding the lynchers.
India witnessed an alarming rise in violence against Dalits after Narendra Modi took over. The national Crime record Bureau registered a six to eight times upsurge in the rate of crimes committed against Dalits in the last five years. Dalits who supported BJP in the last election felt let down by the Modi regime as the policies were blatantly against them. Several decisions and utterances of the government especially the way UGC changed the formula for calculating reserved posts reinforced the lack of trust among Dalits. The suicide of research scholar Rohit Vemula was a final stroke that led to a widespread feeling of alienation among Dalits, and students in particular.
India’s democracy survived and thrived because of the resilience of its venerable Institutions. However, Narendra Modi was quite successful in demolishing these entities that formed the pillars of democracy. Today, we see these Institutions like Judiciary, Parliament, Cabinet, Planning Commission, Reserve Bank, Election Commission and Law Enforcement System being undermined. The world had witnessed a rare event when four Supreme Court judges held a press conference to warn against undermining judiciary while stating that the very system of democracy itself could be in danger.
It is alleged by the opposition that CBI is being misused by Modi to intimidate political opponents in the same way in which the Gestapo was used by the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler. Narendra Modi was singularly responsible for the shameful drama that unfolded at various venues under the title ‘CBI vs CBI’, pitting the two top officials against each other. CBI’s credibility has touched an all-time low under Modi government and increasingly being perceived as a political arm of the ruling party.
While skimping on funds to aid the flood victims in Kerala, Modi lives a larger than life story traveling the world over spending a whopping 2000 crores of Rupees. With the 2989 crores spent on building a Sardar Patel Statue, India could have built two IIT campuses or launched 6 Mars missions. The project shows the vanity of the office as these funds could have been put into much better use in areas where funds are desperately needed. On the other side of the spectrum, many of the flagship projects envisaged by the Modi government, purportedly to help the poor flopped due to lack understanding of the people’s needs or not appropriating sufficient funds.
The Big Bank Loot:
While many of the proposed government schemes were lacking in funds, the Modi regime closed their eyes on the bank looting scam by the crony capitalists who defrauded the PNBs and some even fled the country. The scam involves 19000 bank fraud cases involving 90000 crores of Rupees of its funds. Going by the records, it is clear that NPA (Bad debt) of nationalized banks went up from 2.83 lakh crore from May 2014 to 12 Lakh crore in March 2018. What has been swallowed by sharks like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vikram Kothari and many others is actually people’s money.
It is essential for every voter in India to take a good look at the Modi’s record as the Chowkidar of the nation and vote their conscience. If this record meets their standard of achievement, India’s future may be bleak, and the wellbeing of its democracy may even be in danger! However, the coming election is also an opportunity to turn the tables on those who not only broke their promises but also unsettled the nation with so much deception and misgovernance.
(Compiled by George Abraham, Vice-Chairman of the Indian Overseas Congress, USA)
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