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December 26, 2014

Modi Menace: For the people, by the people

By Sourav Banerjee

Hardly over a month ago (November 25, 2014), my eyes caught a Navbharat Times article saying, over 3 lakh bogus voters found in Varanasi, the place which blessed our current PM with a land-slide victory in the Lok Sabha election earlier this year. It further reports that the Election Commission has so far traced 3,11,057 fake voters and is expecting the number to reach around 6 lakhs by the end of the scrutiny process.

Truth in India needs a long time to be revealed, as we all know the rhetoric – ‘Law will take its own (unending) course’. But if it really happens to be true, I fear a repetition of a political turmoil similar to the June 12, 1975 one - the infamous ‘state of emergency’, imposed by the then challenged PM Indira Gandhi in retaliation to the dismissal of election for corrupt electoral practices.

Over 200 days in power

Let’s not panic about bogus votes till it is officially proved; rather it’s been over 200 days since Modi came to power, but things remain unchanged, as dirty as ever, despite a high profile sweeping and cleaning celebration, hi-dramatic international tours, picturesque NRI wooing and photogenic Obama dinner, including romantic slogans and promises of hundreds of new governmental policies, development plans, or almost everything men can want.

What action EC will take is no one’s guess, but all these incidents including the piles of hollow election promises raise genuine questions about the credibility of this current government. Though most of the promises Modi made make a lovely speech especially for an emotionally charged upward-mobile crowd abroad, but their political and social implication on the ordinary men back home is undoubtedly grim.

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan – by whom?

We are now blessed with the ‘Swachh Bharat Aviyan’, a campaign launched on Gandhi Jayanti October 2 (with much prominence of Modi than Gandhi, as if Modi Jayanti) to sweep dirt and dust under carpet without any concrete plan of permanent disposal. Ironically, while it’s been endorsed by almost all the people who had never ever picked up a broom to clean their own premises, the million dollar campaign condemnably fails to include the severely unorganised and underpaid vast number of sanitation workers those who have already been engaged in maintaining public hygiene either as municipal workers, contract employees or as domestic workers. Excluding them, Swachh Bharat will remain a utopia. Neither the workers can get rid of joblessness and financial break down, nor can Bharat become ‘Swacch’ as dreamt. C’mon man! After all we cannot rely on Ambanis to SRK or PM to DM to routinely swipe and wipe Bharat to keep her clean and dirt free. Can we?

Land Acquisition and reform – for whom?

Elected to the power, the government made slew of changes in the land acquisition law 2013. Major among them are – “Consent of half (slashed down from 80% consent earlier, following the corporate world’s huge outcry) of the affected families would be enough to acquire land by private parties,” and “lifting of a ban on acquisition of multi-crop land making 48% of the total 179 million of hectares of total agricultural land available for acquisition,” while earlier, acquisition was allowed only for waste-land and single crop agriculture land. The rulers also want that the provision for mandatory social impact assessment (impact on life and livelihood of the habitats) for all projects be waived off to avoid delay in execution of the projects.

Agrarian Crisis

In just over 200 days of the NDA government agricultural crisis is writ large while up till November, 4,600 farmers have committed suicide and another 46,000 to 69,000 attempted. In the same time nearly two lakh ceased to be farmers. Devastated by huge debt and price rise of seeds to basic commodities, only the tiny Vidharva in Maharashtra records 120 farmer suicides just in the month of November, let alone the vast country together for a year.

‘Make In India’ and Labour ‘Reforms’

Make in India as a slogan sounds much more promising than its actual implications as an economic as well as cultural concept. At one hand it opens the door for the west and invites foreign corporations to loot and plunder our common resources through exploiting the environment and cheap labour of the country in guise of making India the manufacturing hub of the world, while on the other, led by the RSS/VHP saints and the flagship Manuite Hindutva, it strongly limits peoples’ aspiration for the socio-cultural freedom and liberty on par with the ‘enlightened’ west. And they have economists as well to make believe the myth of ever increasing GDP resulting in more employment and money circulating among ordinary people.

Profit before health

Shortly before leaving for the Obama dinner, the government issued a circular directing the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority to withdraw its earlier guidelines that had capped the prices of 108 important drugs related to treatment of tuberculosis, hear ailments, cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS, resulting in a sudden spurt in the prices of important medicines. For example, the price of Glivec, an anti-cancer tablet, has risen from Rs 8,500 to Rs 1.08 lakh. Plavix, used to treat blood pressure and heart ailments, will cost Rs 1,615, against the earlier Rs 147. An anti-rabi injection, Kamrab, priced at Rs 2,670, will now cost Rs 7,000. Adding to its woes, recently, the government has even slashed its already lowest (perhaps on earth) health budget. Implications are better apprehended, and therefore need no explanation.


In the first 50 days itself, long before formal policy changes were announced, the government ‘gave environmental clearance’ (read waived clearance) for five infrastructural projects. According to a Business Standard report, “the projects given clearance include(d) Adani Ports’ Mundra special economic zone (SEZ) in Gujarat, two coal mining projects – Coal India Limited (CIL)’s Tikak block in Assam and Reliance Power’s Chhatrasal block in Madhya Pradesh (MP), GAIL’s gas-based power plant in MP and a state highway renovation project in Assam. These projects are worth around Rs 2,570 crore (excluding Adani Ports, as the environment clearance documents do not mention the cost details of that project).” The background to this, though well-known, bears repeating.

The very first three months saw a war waged against poor people as well as environment. It includes:

1. Taking away the right of village councils (Gram Sabhas) to oppose an industrial project: The NDA government is looking to abolish a provision of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, that requires the “prior informed consent” of gram sabhas before their forests are cleared for industrial activity. The Act, implemented in 2008, recognises the rights of indigenous tribes over forestlands, asking them to certify that their rights have not been violated by an upcoming project.

2. Exempting coal mining from public hearings, allowing irrigation projects without clearances: “The Environment Ministry has allowed coalmines with a capacity of less than 16 million tons per annum to expand without conducting a public hearing. Irrigation projects affecting less than 2,000 hectares will no longer require environmental clearances. Those occupying less than 10,000 hectares can be cleared by the state governments.”

4. Diluting forest norms and allowing industry to creep closer to national parks: “The environment ministry has changed a provision of the Environmental Impact Assessment rules to allow projects to come up within 5 km of a protected area without clearance from the now-toothless National Board for Wildlife. The earlier rule made NBWL clearance mandatory for projects in these eco-sensitive zones unless they were 10 km or more away.”


 We can expect no less from Modi whose case is perhaps clinical, as he advocates continuous humiliation and murderous attacks of the poor people (majority of the Indian population).  We can expect no less from a Prime Minister who hails the handing over of the country to the biggest and most corrupt corporate bidders as development.

Evidently, the politics of BJP coincide with ultra Hindu nationalism, war, communal riots, inflation, moral policing, patriarchy, sexism, gender inequality, and the violation of rights, especially of the minority and marginalised. BJP’s rule for people should be identified with a precarious life in a theatre of cruelty that is rather felt than seen. The policies are deliberately chosen, and such act is a historical derivative. They are the socio-cultural produce of BJP’s ultra right wing guiding philosophy, professed by its founder figures like KG Hedgewar and MS Golwalkar that has always befooled people in the name of cultural identity, religion and patriotism. BJP have been advocating an all-out crusade against ordinary people and workers since its birth after the disintegration of the Janata Party in the post-‘emergency’ era. The only thing appreciable about BJP is that they always remain a substantial challenge to the dynastic hegemony of Congress.

Sourav Banerjee. is a Seniorr Editor of an English mainstream daily namely Orissa Post, published from Orissa, India. He  is a poet and political activist, associated with several peoples' resistance in India and abroad, it's been more than a decade now. His works have been  published in India and abroad.