The four years under Narendra Modi’s prime ministership have proved to be the most devastating and destructive years since Independence. This period cannot be compared with any other four-year period in the last 70 years. The most disturbing aspect is that this devastation—economic, political, social and cultural—has happened in an otherwise stable and positive global condition.
Let us look at the economic situation. The international crude oil prices were at the lowest in the first two years of the Modi rule, and even now they are just on par with the prices of 2014. Yet, the petrol and diesel prices are rising and not conforming to the so-called market prices! But this is just one example. It is happening in respect of most other commodities, from sugar to Tur Dal and from mobile phone call charges to rail fares. At the same time, the unemployment scenario is becoming increasingly frightening. Post-demonetisation, the tertiary economy has collapsed completely and seasonal jobs, as well as the manual and semi-skilled employment, have become scarce.
The indigenous capital formation has virtually stagnated and international capital is not coming as was hoped by the masterminds of “Make In India”.
Industrial production is falling, factories are facing lockouts and strikes, the employers are not able to import what they need and cannot export what they should. This is because the terms of trade at the international level have gone against India. Less said about the agricultural sector, the better. Rural distress is so poignant that it would make Balraj Sahani’s Do Bigha Zamin look like a tolerable tragedy.
The farmers’ suicides continue with more frequency than ever before. Agricultural prices, which were promised to be remunerative along with bonus, have made the peasant’s lives much miserable. And yet, the stock market is booming. Gold and silver prices are rising. Despite the higher air fares,passenger traffic is increasing. The real estate prices are becoming astronomical and residential flats are beyond the reach of the middle class. Hundreds of thousands of apartments are unsold but flat prices are stable at the higher end or falling marginally. The overall sale of private cars or two wheelers has fallen, but still there is steady demand.
But since the Modi regime got entrenched and spread its tentacles, the place for optimism has become very narrow. It is nobody’s case that mere change in the government will radically alter the situation. But it also must be recognised that continuing with the current regime will destroy all hopes, options and possibilities for change
The occupancy rate in the five star hotels has fallen somewhat but business is still robust. Just when gated societies are coming up, so are the slums. The inequality that we see around is acquiring explosive dimension. On the political front, ideology has disappeared from the political discourse. The media has no interest in issues that face our society and the nation. They run their business 24x7 primarily on innuendos, subtle or not so subtle communal propaganda, aggressive and even abusive political debates.
Prejudices, gossips, rumours, aggressive defamatory campaigns and hi-decibel shouting matches in the panels of talking heads: all these define today’s TV screens. Hardly any party is in touch with the people or their concerns. Even individual activists, egged on by idealism, are decreasing in number. The RSS, which is a cadre- based organisation, the largest but unregistered NGO, has penetrated the society through educational and cultural institutions with the active support and funding from the government. Many well meaning and hard working NGOs, with committed activists, are starved of funds because of the non-cooperative and suspicious attitude of the BJP governments. The social scenario is truly alarming.
The themes like ‘love jihad’, the imaginary threats from the ‘alien-like’ Muslims, allegations of cow slaughter and availability of beef, screening of films like Padmavat, Triple Talaq and polygamy among Muslims, the alleged interference of churches in society and politics, changing text books to promote the Hindutva agenda, playing the National Anthem in the theatres—are some of the most “important” and dominant issues of news debates.
There is a kind of fear psychosis being promoted based on hidden communal threats, leading to ghettoisation of social and religious communities. On the cultural front, one sees a total vacuum. There is not an equal of Satyajit Ray or Bimal Roy, no one to replace Girish Karnad or Vijay Tendulkar, no idealism or profound pathos like in Phiroza Subandh Hogi or Do Ankhe Barah Hath or Mother India. Most progressive cultural movements have declined or disappeared. Of course, all this degeneration has not happened in the last four years. But the fact is the process of decay and derangement has accelerated so much that the situation looks like beyond redemption. One had hoped that the regressive tide would turn.
But since the Modi regime got entrenched and spread its tentacles, the place for optimism has become very narrow. It is nobody’s case that mere change in the government will radically alter the situation. But it also must be recognised that continuing with the current regime will destroy all hopes, options and possibilities for change.
Therefore, it is time we must, as a first step, bring about a change in the government and re-establish pluralism, liberalism and secularism. It is not an easy challenge because the damage done in the four years is huge. However, we must ask, who or what brought us to this agonising stage. The blame is not only at the door of the vicious and violent RSS. The liberal and civil society failed too. It did not reach out to the people in the same way Gandhiji, Panditji or Indiraji did. The liberals and secularists in other parties were more interested in seeing the discomfiture of the Nehru-Gandhi family and took political pleasure in seeing the Congress decline. They too contributed in their own way to bringing to power the forces of fascism. The intellectuals debated the differences between European Fascism and the Indian version. They quibbled about the semantics.
In a way, they were complacent and sometimes even conniving. They allowed the fake politics of “anti-Congressism” and treated it as a parallel ideology! It is nobody’s argument that the Congress was the most virtuous and ideal party. But it was trying hard to meet the tryst with destiny. Instead of strengthening the progressive forces, the working masses, women, the underprivileged classes and castes, many Congressmen succumbed to the pleasures of power and the liberal-secular parties embraced the various fronts of the Sangh Parivar. For them, the politics of anti-Congressism was more progressive than fighting the regressive and fascistic tendencies.
Narendra Modi is not alone. He is a representative of the deep-rooted communalism, obscurantism, patriarchy, crony capitalism, feudalism and casteism in Indian society. The forces of “Moditva” which are a manifestation of all that is debased, degenerate and destructive have surfaced with vengeance to take the clock of history backwards. They want to erase the values of the freedom movement, destroy the ethos of civilisation, thwart the march of history towards humanism and global integration of cultures. The four years of the Modi regime has made our task more challenging and demanding. But we shall overcome. The evil has not been able to claim history. It will not be allowed to claim the future.