One quality, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to be admired for by one and all, is his chutzpah. His felicity and straight face with which he manages to say things and even convince a vast majority of people stand apart, albeit in denial of facts staring him in the face.
Actually one thing that his long years of training at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has taught him well is Audacity, with a capital A. Facts be damned in the face of conviction. And he has yet again demonstrated this in his long letter to the people of India on completing one year of his second term in office.
At a time when the Supreme Court has reacted to the plight of lakhs and crores of India’s poor workers, street vendors and such other daily wage earners, pauperised for the last three months, starved with no roof over their head, walking, cycling back or packed like sardines into small tempos and trucks, risking death due to penury and accidents, reported daily in the media, the Prime Minister dismissed it thus, “In a crisis of this magnitude (Corona pandemic), it can certainly not be claimed that no one suffered any inconvenience or discomfort.
Our labourers, migrant workers, artisans and craftsmen in small scale industries, hawkers and such fellow countrymen have undergone tremendous suffering.
However, we have taken care that the inconveniences we are facing do not run into disasters…This is one of the important reasons for India being safer and in a better state than many other countries. This is a long battle but we have started traversing the path to victory…” So this starvation and pauperisation of 70-80 per cent of our population is no disaster for our Prime Minister.
Nowhere in the world, not even in the poorest of the countries in our neighbourhood, we find sights of poor men walking long miles with their sundry belongings on their heads, little children in their arms or being dragged along. Every day, many of them fail to complete this harrowing journey due to hunger, fatigue or just a road accident. But this in the Prime Minister’s eyes is a “path to victory!”
The Prime Minister has the gumption to declare victory in defeating the COVID-19 pandemic when the cases are rising exponentially right under his nose in the national capital Delhi, growing from a few hundreds a day to now over 1000 a day with 30 deaths reported on just the day of his tall claim. And we are not talking of his home state Gujarat whose treatment of COVID-19 has been so disastrous and ill equipped that the Gujarat High Court had to take note of it and upbraid the state administration.
As for Arveena, who died of hunger and thirst in the Shramik Express on her way to Darbhanga with no food or water supplied to the passengers, or Mohan Lal Sharma whose body rotted in the railway compartment for four days, again due to the negligence of Indian Railways and lack of any food or water provided in the train, or the Shramik Express trains losing their way first time in the history of Indian Railways, the Prime Minister merely made a passing reference to their “tremendous suffering.”
That too after the heart-breaking video of Arveena’s one-year-old infant, unaware of his mother’s death pulling her shroud went viral. And what have the numerous BJP governments done for the poor worker? They have virtually scrapped all labour laws providing the worker some degree of legal protection in wages, safety and working hours and the Prime Minister has affixed his stamp of approval on this decision. No doubt no Prime Minister in the past showed such “Concern and Compassion” for India’s working population.
His real achievement is in shredding the Constitution, be it on Right to Life and Liberty or the Right to Freedom of Expression or political activity, or playing with the Preamble of the Constitution by passing the patently communal Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. Till date, the people of Kashmir are under siege. There are more security forces stationed in the Valley than the population of Kashmir. Modi has proudly mentioned freeing Indian women of triple talaq. But M. Phil scholar Safoora Zargar, in Modi’s view, committed such a heinous crime, by participating in or by leading peacefully anti-CAA demonstration, that the six-month pregnant young girl in her early 20s has to be kept in jail since mid-April.
And the Supreme Court’s directive of releasing most undertrials during COVID-19 has failed to persuade Modi’s police to release Sudha Bhardwaj detained since 2018 or Varavara Rao or Anand Teltumbde or Gautam Navlakha, arrested later on the same ‘trumped up’ charge of having instigated the violence in Bhima Koregaon in 2017. And the moment the BJP government went out of power in Maharashtra, the Centre immediately transferred the case to the Central body, the National Investigative Agency (NIA), lest the new Maharashtra government withdrew the cases and released them.
But those who attacked Dalits are roaming free till date. Same is true for those who took part in the Delhi riots. Even the court has said that Delhi Police’s performance has been one-sided. Naturally when Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur strut around arrogantly while the peaceful anti-CAA women demonstrators are being jailed, the Prime Minister has to be really audacious to mention his achievements in last one year.
(Views expressed are the writer’s own)