Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political record in Gujarat and at the Centre exposes the emptiness of his Independence Day’s speech. Presenting a detailed rebuttal of the Modi rhetoric
By Rohit Prajapati
In his first address as the Prime Minister on India’s Independence Day, Narendra Modi declared: “I am present amidst you not as the Prime Minister, but as the Prime Servant.” This was one of many clever uses of populist rhetoric to appeal to the heart of his audience on 15 August 2014. While it may be the duty of the PM to represent the aspirations of all the people of India, Modi’s actions and those of his government’s demonstrate that in reality, he is committed to serving only the capitalist class for the sake of the GDP.
The contradictions between Mr. Modi’s political record and his speech were numerous. In an instance of blatant flattery for political ends, Modi stated, “My dear countrymen, this nation has neither been built by political leaders nor by rulers nor by governments. This nation has been built by our farmers, our workers, our mothers and sisters, our youth.”
This recognition of the importance of farmers and common people stands in stark contrast to the Modi Government’s recent moves, which are anti-small-marginal-farmers, anti-working class and anti-people in general. Instead of going for more deserving amendments in ‘The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013’, the Modi Government is planning to dilute the act to get rid of almost all major progressive provisions by way of amendments to allow for more land-grabbing. The Modi Government has begun the process to amend present labour laws to make them more investment-friendly so that industries have free reign as promised in the election.
The Modi Government is internationally famous for espousing a business climate for the profit and prosperity of mega industries – the government’s patrons – and not for ordinary people. Modi was clear in his Election Manifesto: “Take all steps: like removing red-tapism involved in approvals, to make it easy to do business, invest in logistics infrastructure, ensure power supply and undertake labour reforms, besides other steps to create a conducive environment for investors.”
It is thus all the more ironic when Mr. Modi rhetorically asked, “Brothers and sisters, can someone please tell me as to whether he or she has ever introspected in the evening after a full day’s work as to whether his or her acts have helped the poor of the country or not, whether his or her actions have resulted in safeguarding the interest of the country or not, whether the actions have been directed in country’s welfare or not? Whether it should not be the motto of one and a quarter billion countrymen that every step in life should be in the country’s interests?” His loyalty to building an “environment for investment” leaves people in the lurch. This is a question, which Modi, instead of posing to the nation, should first ask himself and his party cohorts.
The Modi Government is busy in building up the environment for the profit and prosperity of its patrons and not for ordinary people. Government’s almost all actions are “honestly” in this direction. For Modi the word ‘Environment’ means “Environment for Investment”
Mr. Modi astutely observed, “Brothers and sisters, when we hear about the incidents of rape, we hang our heads in shame. People come out with different arguments, someone indulges in psycho analysis, but brothers and sisters, today from this platform, I want to ask those parents, I want to ask every parent that you have a daughter of 10 or 12 years age, you are always on the alert, every now and then you keep on asking where are you going, when would you come back, inform immediately after you reach. Parents ask their daughters hundreds of questions, but have any parents ever dared to ask their son as to where he is going, why he is going out, who his friends are. After all, a rapist is also somebody’s son. He also has parents. As parents, have we ever asked our son as to what he is doing and where he is going? If every parent decides to impose as many restrictions on the sons as have been imposed on our daughters, try to do this with your sons, try to ask such questions of them.”
But an appeal to the people to combat rape-culture from the inside – as autonomous feminist groups and other movements have been doing since years – is not sufficient action on the part of PM of India. Modi must go beyond tokenism and sloganism to earn credibility on this issue. He must show political will and allocate sufficient resources, by way of budget and staff, to implement “The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) 2012, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.” etc. Although as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Modi failed to provide the necessary political support and resources to seriously implement laws that protect women from these injustices, I hope that the people will hold him to putting his money and action where his mouth is on this issue in his new national position of power.
In yet another bizarrely ironic statement, Modi said “Brothers and sisters, for one reason or the other, we have had communal tensions for ages. This led to the division of the country. Even after Independence, we have had to face the poison of casteism and communalism. How long these evils will continue? Whom does it benefit?”
Nobody should know the beneficiaries of communal tensions better than Mr. Modi. His role as the architect of communal divide garnered him immense political capital: first bolstering him to the position of chairman of the central campaign committee of BJP, then the PM Candidate of BJP, then the PM Candidate of NDA, and ultimately the PM of the country. His political career peaked only after carnage 2002 in Gujarat.
Modi said “Therefore, I appeal to all those people that whether it is the poison of casteism, communalism, regionalism, discrimination on social and economic basis, all these are obstacles in our way forward. Let’s resolve for once in our hearts, let’s put a moratorium on all such activities for ten years, we shall march ahead to a society which will be free from all such tensions.” This is welcome advice, from a most unexpected source: we hope that his party leaders & members and members of the all affiliates organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and BJP’s electoral allies were listening.
I have a question for Modi: why only for 10 years? What happens when his 10 years moratorium on communal violence is over and you are asking whom (all those people) to implement this? Mr. Modi, can you eradicate the caste system without challenging the Hindu religion?
Modi appeal again when he stated, “Have we ever thought what the sex ratio in the country is like? 940 girls are born against per thousand boys. Who is causing this imbalance in the society? Certainly not God. I request the doctors not to kill the girl growing in the womb of a mother just to line their own pockets. I advise mothers and sisters not to sacrifice daughters in the hope of son.”
I wish to remind Mr.Modi that he has not even attempted to implement, ‘The Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, 1994, in Gujarat and only used government money for the rhetoric of “Beti Bachao” while promoting the ideology behind dowry through the schemes like “Mangal Sutra” and “Kunwarbai Nu Mameru”*. Mr. Modi, the negative sex ratio is just a symptom of a major decease called patriarchy and you have to challenge the patriarchy with short term and long term programmes .
Mr. Modi said ‘Therefore, an account holder under ‘Pradhanmantri Jan-Dhan Yojana‘ will be given a debit card. An insurance of One Lakh Rupees will be guaranteed with that debit card for each poor family, so that such families are covered with the insurance of One Lakh Rupees in case of any crisis in their lives.”
Mr. Modi, people want the “Right to Work” for fair and living wages, along with all the social securities. And if the government is unable to provide the work, the government should pay an “Unemployment Dole.” With their earning, people may have a chance to open the bank account and can also opt for insurance as additional social security with government further assistance for that. The Government should not withdraw from its social responsibly like education, health care, housing, food, etc.
Modi says “If we have to promote the development of our country then our mission has to be ‘skill development’ and ‘skilled India’. Millions and Millions of Indian youth should go for acquisition of skills and there should be a network across the country for this and not the archaic systems.” Mr. Modi should understand that present and the past Government has deskilled the people at large through almost complete privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of education has in practice given a voluntary retirement from the education to the children of the ordinary people. Now a day the policies of the past and present governments mean knowledge and education for the students of IIT, NIT and so-called, well-known universities & colleges and so-called skill development for ITI & dropout students.
Modi said “The economics of the world have changed and, therefore, we will have to act accordingly.” Mr. Modi, be bold and admit that you are a proponent of liberalisation, privatisation, globalisation, FDI, less and less government and out sourcing of all major policy decisions to private and multinational companies; “Swadeshi” is just a political slogan when the nation’s masses are tuned into the television. The Modi Government is moving ahead with the economic reforms by taking firm decisions in the cabinet like raising of FDI limit in defence and insurance sector from 26 percent to 49 percent, and fully 100 percent in the railway. The Modi Government has started making changes in environment clearance policy to make it simpler for industries to get environment clearance, so that mere submission of the paperwork is sufficient for clearance regardless of the environmental merit.
Modi said “Therefore I want to appeal all the people world over, from the ramparts of the Red Fort, “Come, make in India”, “Come, manufacture in India”. Sell in any country of the world but manufacture here.” Obviously, first world and giant corporate will be sceptical of this appeal, but what about all other small countries and their indigenous industries? Are we interested as a nation to tell other small countries that they become our economic colonies and they should only import from us and not export from their country to our country?
Tourism has brought alienation of local communities through gross violation of human rights. Yet Modi said “Brothers and sisters, we want to promote tourism. Tourism provides employment to the poorest of the poor. Gram seller earns something, auto-rickshaw driver earns something, pakoda seller earns something and tea seller also earns something. When there is talk of tea seller, I feel a sense of belongingness. Tourism provide employment to the poorest of the poor.” In reality tourism had lead to forced land acquisition, large scale displacement, loss of dignity and traditional source of livelihood, lack of accessibility to public spaces are quite visible. These costs of tourism are not the concern for Mr. Modi, however – “filthiness” is a barrier.
Modi said “But there is a big obstacle in promoting tourism and in our national character and that is – the filthiness all around us. Whether after independence, after so many years of independence, when we stand at the threshold of one and half decade of 21st century, we still want to live in filthiness? The first work I started here after formation of Government is of cleanliness.” Mr. Modi’s main worry is tourism industries and not the people of India.
Modi said “Cleanliness is very big work. Whether our country can not be clean? If one hundred and twenty five crores countrymen decide that they will never spread filthiness, which power in the world has ability to spread filthiness in our cities and villages? Can’t we resolve this much?” Modi Government should know basic facts revealed in the ‘Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy’ dated 12 May 2014 by Planning Commission of India. This report states that “As per CPCB report 2012 – 13 municipal areas in the country generate 1, 33,760 metric tonnes per day of MSW, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated. The MSW, therefore, dumped in low lying urban areas is a whopping 1,07,876 TPD, which needs 2,12,752 cubic meter space every day and 776 hectare of precious land per year.
Mr. Modi, things are not as simple as you say. This waste generation figure covers only 31.15% population of India. Considering the waste generation figures of all of India, these figures will be even more daunting. The Planning Commission (which Modi wishes to abolish) of India’s report further states “A study, of the status of implementation of the MSW Rules 2000 by the mandated deadline by the States, was carried out in class 1 cities of the country. It revealed that in 128 cities except for street sweeping and transportation, compliance was less than 50% and in respect of disposal compliance was a dismal 1.4 %.” What about the government’s major roll in policy making for the reduction of waste and implementation of ‘The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000’? Your tract record in the implementation of these rules in the Gujarat is worst.
The consistent follow up by the pollution-affected people, people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Board in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas, including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana, were declared ‘critically polluted’.
In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area. However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.
In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial clusters was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted clusters’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted clusters’. Following this study the MoEF on 13 January 2010 was forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas.
As the very first step after assuming power as the PM, Instead of improving the environment of these 88 industrial clusters and taking the remedial measure in these area for clean up after moving to the Capital, the Modi Government instead lifted the moratorium of industrial cluster like Ghaziabad (UP), Indore (M.P.), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Ludhiana (Punjab), Panipat (Haryana), Patancheru – Bollaram (A.P.), Singrauli (UP & MP) and Vapi (Gujarat) as a first order of business on 10 June 2014. Mr. Modi, Vapi’s track record demands more ‘stringent action’ against the polluting industries of Vapi & concerned officers of Gujarat Pollution Control Board and definitely not lifting of moratorium from Vapi.
Modi said “However, today I am going to announce a scheme on behalf of the Member of Parliament- ‘Sansad Aadarsh Gram Yojana’. We shall fix some parameters. I urge upon the Members of Parliament to select any one of the villages having population of three to five thousand in your constituency. The parameters will be according to the time, space and situation of that locality. It will include the conditions of health, cleanliness, atmosphere, greenery, cordiality etc. On the basis of those parameters, each of our MPs should make one village of his or her constituency a Model Village by 2016.”
Mr. Modi, we want you to first spell out what do you mean by ‘Aadarsh Gram’ because your policies and action program in Gujarat when you were the chief minister of Gujarat for ‘Aadarsh Gram’ were neither acceptable nor ideal to local people. Why Mr. Modi, do you not want the local Panchayat to work for their village?
Let me remind Mr. Modi about the struggle which is going on against proposed nuclear power plant with the slogan “Not here, not anywhere; not in any country in the world” – with these slogans the farmers and other villagers affected by the proposed 6000 MW nuclear power plant at village Mithi Virdi in Bhavnagar, Gujarat are protesting.
Orchards of mangoes, chikoos, coconut trees, lush greenery, sea and ships passing by, describe aptly the Mithi Virdi – Jaspara area in the Talaja block of Bhavnagar district. This lush green area is the irrigated region of Shetrunji dam. Situated on the Saurashtra sea coast, one would assume that the land is barren and un-inhabited, but a visit here belies all these assumptions.
The proposal for a 6000 MW nuclear power plant spread over 777 hectares on this green lush land is planned. Presently on this 777 hectare of land spread in Jaspara, Mithi Virdi, Khadarpar, and Mandva stand more than 50,000 fruit trees. Also, bajra cotton, groundnut, onions and other crops are sown year round due to irrigation facilities. This area is therefore aptly called Bhavnagar’s vegetable basket.
Recently on 13 August 2014 the villagers took a pledge that “We, today, on August 13, 2014, take the pledge, To ensure clean air, potable water, fertile lands, nutritious, uncontaminated food and secure life for the future generations. We will do all that is possible to save and protect the land, agriculture, agricultural products and seeds. We will stop all industries and nuclear power plants that pose risk to our food, health and environment. We will protest against the genetically modified crops and the resulting contamination of the natural seeds through them. We will continue our consistent struggle against the so-called development policy that contaminate agriculture, land and water while seeking GDP growth. We will strive to save the society from all companies – national and multinationals – that seeks profits at any cost. We will strive to ensure the deserving amendments to The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. We register our opposition and resolve to fight against the present government’s move to dilute this act to make it anti-farmer to ensure pro industrial growth.” These villagers want to make their villages as Aadarsh Village. Will Mr. Modi allow them to do so?
We saw, however, in Gujarat that following the will of the villagers was not a priority for Modi. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. needs 81 hectares of forest land in addition to the other land for the nuclear power plant. To facilitate this the Taluka Development Officer (TDO) of Gujarat State sent a letter dated July 15, 2013 to Sarpanch of Jaspara directing him to pass a resolution on the lines of the copy that he had sent, so as to have the village body’s stamp of approval for the state government transfer of forest land to the NPCIL. In this letter the TDO instead of seeking the opinion of Gramsabha as per the law for the land transfer, illegally and unconstitutionally orders the Sarpanch to pass the ready-made resolution.
The Gramsabha of Jaspara unanimously condemned and rejected such an unconstitutional letter of TDO. The Gramsabha unanimously resolved not to hand over the forest land for non-forest use to be handed over the NPCIL. Will Mr. Modi respect the decision of the Gramsabha?
Modi said “Thereafter, we have a feeling that it would be better to construct a new house altogether and therefore within a short period, we will replace the planning commission with a new institution having a new design and structure, a new body, a new soul, a new thinking, a new direction, a new faith towards forging a new direction to lead the country based on creative thinking, public-private partnership, optimum utilization of resources, utilization of youth power of the nation, to promote the aspirations of state governments seeking development, to empower the state governments and to empower the federal structure. Very shortly, we are about to move in a direction when this institute would be functioning in place of Planning Commission.” We do have a problem with present planning commission of India, but in the name of “public-private partnership” Modi Government is planning to outsource the planning to private interests. We had seen Mr. Modi use to take all major policy decisions and use to announce in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat.
In sum, Modi gave a “populist” speech in which he doled out advice to the people, yet hardly acknowledged his and his government’s responsibility in policy decisions to resolve these problems. On the issue of development, one only needs to look to his record in Gujarat to understand the emptiness of his “pro-poor”, “pro-farmer”, “pro women” rhetoric.
*‘Kunwarbai Nu Mameru’ is a scheme by the Social Justice and Empowerment Department of the Government of Gujarat for families below the poverty line. Scheme provides, at the time of marriage, Rs. 2000/- to parents and Narmada bonds worth Rs. 3000/- to girls belonging to SC, ST and Socially and Educationally Backward castes. ‘Mameru’ is a variant of the practice of dowry