'Good Times' For Whom?
Where are the 'good times' that Modi promised the Indian people during his 2014 election campaign?

Two years after he came to power, Liberation revisits his key promises and looks back at what two years of Modi rule have meant for India.

"Enough of High Prices? Vote Modi This Time!"

Modi’s election slogan was “bahut ho gayi mehengai ki maar, ab ki baar Modi sarkar.”

THE BJP manifesto had promised to curb inflation; cut down prices of essential commodities and set up a price stabilisation fund.

Instead, prices of essentials have soared. Pulses – the main source of protein for Indians – have become so steeply priced that the joke is ‘bazaar me daal, murgi barabar’ (Dal costs as much as chicken in the market), a play on the popular saying ‘ghar ki murgi dal barabar’ (A home-grown chicken costs the same as dal).

Prices of chana dal soared by 51%; tur dal by 94%, urad by 88%, mung by 10%, masoor by 20% in the year between December 2014-December 2015. The Government did nothing to mend matters till the price rise issue came to a head in the Bihar elections in October 2015. It was only in October that the Government acted against hoarders and recovered hoarded pulses from warehouses. But the Government still avoided importing enough pulses to meet the shortage and curb prices.

International oil prices have gone down, but this has not translated into lower prices for Indians. Rail prices, and LPG cylinder prices have been hiked.

“2 Crore Jobs Per Year If You Elect Modi”

Modi’s promise of jobs for youth – which had attracted young voters to him – is the most epic fail ever. The ‘jobs’ promise has proved to be the biggest ‘jumla’ (empty phrase-mongering) ever.

According to the latest data released by the Government's Labour Bureau, in 2015, India has seen the lowest job growth since 2009, and there has been a decline of 20,000 jobs across 8 labour intensive sectors (textile, leather, metals, automobiles, gems & jewellery, transport, ITES/BPO and handloom/powerloom) in the last quarter of 2015.

The past two years were drought years – and should have called for massive expansion of MNREGA in rural India. But instead, what we got was massive shrinking of MNREGA. As Research Unit for Political Economy (RUPE) observed, “MGNREGA employment had in fact already been reduced sharply under the UPA, from 2.8 billion person-days in 2009-10 to 2.2 billion person-days in 2013-14. The Modi regime cut it further to 1.66 billion person-days during the drought year 2014-15. Finally, during the course of 2015-16, in the face of extreme rural distress and the BJP’s electoral setbacks, the Government was forced to raise MGNREGA employment...But even so, the final figure of employment for 2015-16 was under 2.3 billion person-days – 273 million person-days below the figure for 2010-11, which was not a drought year....Further, the figure budgeted for 2016-17 appears to be 7 per cent lower than the final figure for 2015-16. After accounting for inflation, not to mention wage payment arrears, the increase is negative, as indicated by the projected fall in person-days employment to be generated in 2016-17.... It is worth noting that even the increased allocation for MGNREGA budgeted for 2016-17 is only 0.27 per cent of projected GDP. By comparison, Central spending on rural employment schemes even before the MGNREGA was higher as a percentage of GDP: for example, in 1993-94 spending on the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana was 0.37 per cent of GDP.” (A Budget amid Agrarian Crisis Pt. I, April 11, 2016 by rupeindia)

Gujarat Model Exposed

Not only have new jobs not been created, the quality of work in general has taken a beating. Modi has trotted around the globe selling India as a tempting investment destination, were ‘cheap, good quality, docile’ labour can be had. ‘Make in India’ has meant an intensified assault on industrial democracy, labour laws, and workplace safety norms. The fire that engulfed the stage during the Make In India Week event in Mumbai is revealing of the overall contempt for safety norms.

The ‘Gujarat Model’ which was propagated in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls has itself unravelled. Today, it is widely recognised that the ‘Gujarat Model’ is one of jobless growth – bringing the anti-reservation, anti-Dalit Patidar agitation as a side-effect. And Gujarat is one of the worst offenders when it comes to violations of labour and workplace safety laws.

Recently, criminal negligence caused seven workers to be killed and six others severely burned after an accident at the Adani Power Limited (APL)'s Mundra Power plant in Kutch on April 20. Most of these workers are from Bihar and Jharkhand. The Gujarat Government and the BJP, including Prime Minister Modi are known to enjoy a close relationship with Adani. Corporations have enjoyed a sense of impunity since the Bhopal disaster, and this has only been emboldened with the Modi Government’s bid to loosen labour and safety laws in the name of ‘self-certification’ to woo corporate to ‘Make In India.’

The Supreme court directed the Gujarat government to release more than Rs 7 crore as compensation to the families of 238 workers – mostly tribals from Madhya Pradesh – who died due to silicosis after working in Godhra’s quartz and stone crushing industries. Pointing out that the Gujarat Government had ignored directives from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in 2010, the Supreme Court ordered, “In the interest of the kith and kin of people who died on account of the disease and particularly in the interest of the orphan children, the state of Gujarat should forthwith comply with the direction of the NHRC.”

In Gujarat, authorities have recently admitted that the Gujarat Government under Modi “did nothing” for construction workers’ welfare, compensating only 7 out of 731 workplace deaths, because of rules that only allow ‘registered’ construction workers to qualify for compensation. Not surprisingly, these rules are in tandem with the fact that Gujarat has among the worst rates in the country for registration of construction workers in welfare boards! Only 19% of Gujarat’s construction workers are registered, and expenditure on social security even for those registered workers is abysmally low.

All this proves that the ‘Gujarat Model’ that the Central Government headed by Narendra Modi favours, is an openly anti-worker, pro-corporate one.

Labour Laws Under Attack

Amendments to labour laws by the BJP’s Rajasthan Government are the blueprint adopted by the Modi Government at the Centre as well. Hire and fire has been legalised in factories employing less than 300 labourers – and only 256 of a total of 13,256 factories in Rajasthan employ more than 300 workers!

Amendments to the Rajasthan's Industrial Dispute Act restrict the number of trade unions in a company: forming a Union now requires the backing of 30% workers (earlier it was 15%) in a unit. This will go in favour of Unions backed by the employers.

The Contract Labour Act and Rajasthan Factories Act have also been amended to restrict coverage of labour laws and legalise contractualisation. The amended Apprentice Act lets the employers keep workers as ‘apprentices’ indefinitely, with apprentices being paid even less than contract workers for the same work. For all Modi’s claims of ‘Skill India’, no skills are imparted to apprentices – the term is just a euphemism to allow for greater exploitation of the workers. The Modi Government's amendments to the Apprentices Act resemble those in Rajasthan.

The Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill 2015 introduced by the Modi Government restricts ‘outsiders’ from being members of Unions. This is incompatible with the ILO Convention on the Right to Freedom of Association and Right to Organise (Convention No. 87). Employers frequently dismiss workers who organize Unions - such a provision would mean that these labour organizers would be deemed ‘outsiders’ and prevented from continuing to lead the Union. Further, Unions would be deprived of expertise of lawyers or senior activists. This Bill also severely restricts and penalizes the Right to Strike, and fails to mandate the recognition of trade unions by the employer – which is the very basis of collective bargaining. The Bill also empowers the Government to ‘exempt’ public sector departments from the Code when it chooses – which means that the labour laws protecting workers can be lifted at will!

The Labour Code on Wages Bill 2015 proposes that minimum wages can be notified only by state governments; this would mean that no national floor level minimum wages will be fixed; and minimum wage can vary from state to state even for workers doing work of the same or similar kind in the same establishment. It also allows the Government to fix time-limits for wage payment, at variance with the reasonable limits defined by the law.

The Small Factories Bill 2014 excludes small factories (employing less than 40 workers) from the purview of a whole range of labour laws. This Bill will result in exemption of the majority of factories in the modern manufacturing sector from the purview of labour laws.

Proposed changes in the Provident Fund provisions were recently defeated by a huge spontaneous uprising of women garment workers in Bengaluru.

"Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan"

The slogan of ‘Mar Jawan, Mar Kisan’ that Modi applied to the Congress-UPA Government is now even more apt for his own Government as well.

The Home Minister Rajnath Singh prematurely tweeted that the Pathankot operation was ended – in fact, NSG's Lt Col Niranjan was killed after this, in a messy and botched operation. Similarly, the Prime Minister Modi himself tweeted that all soldiers caught in the avalanche in Siachen had died. But Lance Naik Hanumanthappa survived thanks to his skills. But the belated rescue meant that he died anyway.

As distressed and debt-ridden farmers’ suicides continue unabated, it is the corporate heads like Mallya and Adani who get the loan waivers and indefinite relaxations in loan repayment dates. Mallya can leave the country to avoid debt repayment – farmers have no option but to leave the world. Meanwhile BJP leaders compete with each other to insult and humiliate the farmers.

Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh listed love affairs and impotency as reasons for farmers’ suicides. BJP’s Maharashtra MP Gopal Shetty said farmers commit suicide for the compensation money: “Not all farmers' suicides happen due to unemployment and starvation. There is a trend going on - that if the Maharashtra government gives Rs 5 lakh compensation, the neighbouring state will give Rs 7 lakh. There is a competition even in giving money (compensation) to farmers." Haryana State Minister and BJP leader OP Dhankar said that Haryana farmers who are committing suicide are “cowards” and “the government cannot stand by such cowards, such criminals.”

What the already crisis-ridden agrarian sector is experiencing in India under Modi Raj is what the RUPE has called a “Drought of Public Spending.” The RUPE note on the latest Budget ((A Budget amid Agrarian Crisis Pt. I, April 11, 2016 by rupeindia) observed that “...the Budget shows no increase in allocations for agriculture, as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Allocations for rural employment, as a percentage of GDP, have declined to less than 0.3 per cent of GDP. The Prime Minister’s avowed aim of “doubling” farmer income in five years is meaningless if doubling is meant in nominal terms (i.e., without discounting for inflation); and, given the miserly budgetary allocations, impossible if meant in real terms.”

The Government is serving the interests of corporate and foreign investors, not India’s small producers. As the RUPE note observes, “Contrary to the Finance Minister’s claims, the opening up of marketing of food products to 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI), announced in the Budget speech, will not help small producers of vegetables and fruit. Wild claims of very large waste in India’s vegetable and fruit supply chain have turned out to be false, and so too the assertion that corporate investment would eliminate such waste. Even moderate public sector investments and interventions in the horticulture sector could have yielded benefits for both small producers and consumers; but this course is ruled out, since the Government’s priority is to create business opportunities for foreign and other private corporate investors.”

What about the crop insurance scheme touted by the Government? RUPE notes that “the scheme is to prepare the ground for the Government in future to wash its hands of responsibility for providing relief and compensation to calamity-affected cultivators. In other words, it is part of a broader policy of State withdrawal and financialisation of social claims, which can be found with respect to other sectors as well, such as health.”

Public spending in agriculture has dried up drastically. As RUPE noted, “total allocations for agriculture, rural development and water resources were a meagre 0.9 per cent of GDP in 2015-16; the budgeted figure for 2016-17 is also just 0.9 per cent of GDP. The same is true when expenditure on the Department of Fertilisers – mainly fertiliser subsidy – is added (in fact, there is a slight reduction in the fertiliser subsidy)....There is some deceptive shuffling of allocations; for example, whereas earlier, the subsidy provided from the Budget for short term loans to farmers was given through the Ministry of Finance, it is now to be given through the Ministry of Agriculture. Hence the budget of the latter has swelled in 2016-17, while the corresponding provision in the Ministry of Finance has disappeared.” Further, “It is also revealing to compare the Budget figures for 2014-15 with the Actuals (i.e., how much was actually spent) for the same year. In the course of 2014-15, spending on agriculture, rural development and water resources was slashed by 20 per cent in order to meet fiscal deficit reduction targets. At the same time, procurement prices for the main publicly procured crops were virtually frozen, and states considering topping up the Centre’s procurement prices with state-level bonuses were warned that in that case they would have to bear the entire burden of subsidy in their state. (This blatantly anti-peasant step was praised in the Economic Survey 2014-15 as an effective inflation control measure.)”

These measures slashing public spending “were taken during a drought year, with a 12 per cent shortfall in rainfall; and amid a global crash in the prices of agricultural commodities, which caused a crash in the prices of many crops in India as well. The brutal cut in Central Government spending on agriculture during 2014-15 thus played a major role in intensifying the agrarian crisis....Thereafter, in 2015-16, the Central Government’s actual spending did exceed its budgeted figure, but by a meagre 5.9 per cent, despite emergency conditions prevailing in different states. To come forth with a band-aid in 2016-17, after spending two years turning the knife, is hypocritical.”

“Enough of Attacks on Women; Vote Modi This Time”

Modi rode to power promising an end to violence against women. That promise, of course, was stained with the blood of Muzaffarnagar’s women, raped by Modi’s supporters in the communal violence that helped win him seats in Western UP and bring him to power.

Instead, the BJP and RSS, emboldened by the Modi Government in power, have launched an all-out war on women’s rights and freedoms. The Haryana Chief Minister, ML Khattar of the BJP, tells women not to wear jeans or skirts to avoid rape. Modi Ministers like Sadhvi Prachi tell women how many children they must bear. In the name of preventing ‘love jehad’, the Sangh Parivar outfits violently attack and coerce Hindu women in inter-faith relationships. The Modi Government, like the UPA Government, refuses to recognise marital rape, defending it in the name of Indian culture.

Modi himself gave a call of ‘Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao’ – Save and Educate Daughters against sex selective abortion. But his Government has instead pushed the agenda of the medical industry in advocating an end to the law criminalising doctors for sex determination. Instead it proposed what is effectively a ‘Save Doctors, Survey Women’ scheme, suggesting that sex determination be made compulsory and mothers be put under surveillance to prevent abortions.

In a mockery of ‘educating daughters’, the BJP’s Rajasthan government closed down around 13000 schools. Rajasthan and Haryana – both states where girls face severe social and economic hurdles as well as deterrent violence in the path of education – imposed minimum educational qualifications for candidates in panchayat elections, thus effectively making it difficult for women and Dalits and minorities to contest these elections.

Again mocking the slogan of ‘Educate Daughters’, BJP leaders from Rajasthan MLA Gyan Dev Ahuja to West Bengal State President and MLA Dilip Ghosh have made sexist slurs against University women in JNU and Jadavpur, even justifying sexual harassment against them.

The Modi Government had promised to enact 33% Reservation for Women in Asssemblies and Parliament – but is showing no signs of keeping this promise in spite of its unquestioned majority.

On top of it all, the Modi Government is slashing public spending on women and children. The allocation for ICDS has been slashed by Rs 1,500 crore. This will not only affect anganwadi women workers employed in the ICDS, it will adversely affect children’s health. The Budget has failed to allocate provisions for the universal maternity benefit entitlement of Rs 6,000 that is guaranteed under the Food Security Act to all pregnant and lactating mothers. ASHA workers and mid-day meal cooks as well as anganwadi workers are denied even minimum wages, let alone the status and benefits of Government health workers.

The total gender budget, too, decreased from 4.19 per cent of the total expenditure in 2014-2015 to 3.71 per cent in 2015-2016, while there was a 50 per cent cut in the allocation for the Women & Child Development Ministry.
And who can forget that any and every woman who dares criticise the BJP is subjected to misogynist abuse from the same BJP RSS men who claim to care for ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’

In short, women too have got nothing but jumlas (empty phrases), topped with horrifying misogyny and violence from the BJP and RSS camps.

“Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” (Development And Support For All)

Modi Ministers – from VK Singh, Bandaru Dattatraya, Smriti Irani and Venkaiah Naidu have all launched a tirade of abuse and insults against Dalits. One woman leader of the BJP in UP was dismissed from her post after she made anti-Dalit and anti- Constitution slurs in a speech. Another Modi Minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made a vile speech against Muslims, calling them ‘Haramzade.’

The Modi Government has done all it can to convey that it is a Government of the RSS, for the RSS and by the RSS – and does not consider Muslims, Christians, Dalits, adivasis, women or anyone critical of the RSS to be an equal citizen at all. The Government has, by its calculated inaction, encouraged the Sangh Parivar that kills Muslims in the name of protecting cows – from Dadri to Latehar, these incidents of organised lynch mobs are becoming more and more frequent. The BJP Government is even trying to get rename roads that are named after Mughal kings.

Beef has been banned in Maharashtra, in spite of the protests of Dalits and others whose diet includes beef, as well as farmers who, unable to sell starving cows during drought, are selling daughters.

The Modi Government that is responsible for the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula has of course refused to enact a law against the discrimination of Dalits on campuses.

The expenditure on the Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan is just 7% instead of the requisite 16.6% of the total, while the expenditure on the Tribal Sub Plan has been slashed from 8.6% to 4.4%.

Moreover the Modi Government has, in the name of ‘ease of doing business’ worked systematically to dismantle or undermine laws protecting the rights of tribals to forest land. The BJP Government of Jharkhand is moving to undermine the CNT and SPT Acts.

Most importantly, the Tribal Affairs Ministry of the Modi Government under Jual Oram has made a U-turn and agreed to reinterpret the Forest Rights Act to allow the Maharashtra Forest Department rather than tribal villages to manage forests and forest produce. This U-Turn was brought about by Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Prakash Javadekar. Now, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha are likely to follow suit.

In BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, central security forces together with local militia are unleashing a war on adivasis, with custodial rapes, killings and eviction of journalists and activists being done to clear the forest land for corporations.

Christians are facing organised attacks in Chhattisgarh by BJP-backed Sangh Parivar forces.

Education, Progress, Modernity

The Modi Government has promised to spend 6% of GDP on education. Instead, the total plan expenditure of the Modi government through its nodal Ministry of Human Resource Development is just 0.37% of GDP - lower even than the pitifully low figure of 0.44 % in 2014-15, the last year of the UPA government.

The Modi Government is trying to kill the very foundations of autonomous, rational, modern education. This is at the bottom of its attack on JNU, HCU, FTII, Jadavpur, BHU, IIMC and the IITs. A saffronised diet of irrational and bigoted rubbish is all set to replace any scholarship and learning. A VHP leader has recently declared that the word ‘Industry’ came from the ‘Indus’ river; Modi himself said the story of the elephant-headed god Ganesha is proof that ancient India knew plastic surgery – this is the kind of rubbish that will replace history and science. Meanwhile it is also trying to erase the traces of any figures inconvenient for the Hindu Rashtra, from history books - from Nehru to Akbar.

The 2016-17 Budget has slashed funds for the University Grants Commission (UGC), cutting it by 55% from Rs 9315.45 crores in 2015-16 to Rs 4286.94 crores. How will Universities maintain laboratories, libraries or even pay teachers’ salaries while bleeding from such cuts?

The Modi Government, in answer is planning a ‘Higher Education Funding Agency’ – which will be the means whereby private players’ funds will make it to Universities – putting syllabi, curricula and autonomy itself at the mercy of the market.

The Modi Government instead of prioritising higher education and Universities, has allocated Rs 1700 crore for 1500 ‘multi-skill development centres’ – which are aimed at producing a low skilled labour force.

The Modi Government has already gone out of its way to commit to surrendering India’s Higher Education to WTO norms – which will essentially inhibit public funding in higher education and dversely affect social justice programmes and reservations since private and foreign institutions will be exempted from these Constitutional obligations.

Who, Then, Is Smiling?

Mallya, Adani and their corporate kin are being allowed to get away with daylight loot of the country’s exchequer. Scamster Lalit Modi has blithely made it to foreign shores as has Mallya. The Vyapam scam, with BJP and RSS leaders involved, has even involved the serial murder of witnesses in order to hush it up. The Modi Government’s failure and refusal to bring black money back to Indian soil has become a standing joke.

Sangh terror-accused and Gujarat’s killer cops who are being released from jail are certainly enjoying ‘Good Times’.

Modi himself is finding his image – manufactured by corporate media – unravelling. If Manmohan was mocked for his silence, Modi is known for his loud and crass mouth on many matters – but silence and belated utterances on burning issues like the Dadri lynching and Rohith Vemula’s death. On Modi’s degrees also, he is silent even as his party and Government produce and wave around degrees that lack credibility. It does not matter whether or not the PM has a BA and an MA – but it does matter if he has lied on oath to the Indian public and is now covering up lies with concocted degrees.

Modi’s attempts to pass the Land Acquisition Bill was rebuffed by peasants and adivasis. His attempts to tarnish HCU and JNU backfired badly. His tacit encouragement to Dadri lynch mobs by making beef and ‘cow killing’ the issue rather than the killing of human beings, was rebuffed by Bihar voters and writers and intellectuals alike.

In two years, Modi’s promises are fast proving to be false and concocted. The RSS-BJP attempts to cover up these broken promises by manufacturing issues like ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ and ‘anti-nationalism’ in JNU – but people are seeing through these ploys.

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