Of claims & reality

Modi’s Governance

By OisheeMukherjee

A section of political analysts feel that Prime Minister Modi has succeeded in making banking effortless through new technology while corruption is significantly down, power cuts reduced and many more Indians paying taxes without harassment. A recent survey suggested that rural India has 20 percent more internet users than urban India and between 2019 and 2021 this grew by 45 percent.

Meanwhile, growth in the fourth quarter of 2021-22 (January-March) slowed to a crawl at 4.1 percent, reflecting just how enfeebled the economy had become because of weakening demand and a broad based surge in prices. The downward revision in the last fiscal’s GDP growth was attributed to the omicron variant and the start of the Russia-Ukraine war. The Indian economy has grown by just 1.5 percent above the pre-pandemic level (fiscal 2020) compared with 1.8 percent estimated earlier

Even in the demonetisation year of 2016-17, GDP growth was 8.3 percent but fell to 6.8, 6.5 and a calamitous 3.7 percent in the next three years. In the Covid year, the GDP rose by 6.6 percent. There followed a recovery to 8.9 percent in 2021-22, which pessimists call dead-cat bounce. GDP growth in the current year was projected above 7 percent in the budget but the Ukraine war will drag down to may be just 5-6 percent. Meanwhile, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation & Development Countries (OECD) slashed its growth forecast for India to 6.9 percent for the current fiscal against 8.1 percent earlier. The OECD follows the World Bank, which cut India’s growth for 2022-23 to 7.5 percent from 8 percent earlier.

Congress sources pointed out that the average GDP growth during 2004 and 2014 under the Congress (UPA) was 8.36 percent while the Modi regime has recorded an average growth of 4.75 percent in the last 8 years”. It was revealed in the party’s recently released booklet that 84 percent people suffered a decline in incomes and over 12 crore suffered job losses. Over 60 lakh MSMEs closed down during the lockdown when millions of people suffered unprecedented miseries, walking home without transport and food.

One may mention here that the government’s bluff on the surging inflation has finally come to light. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), debunked the Centre’s persistent claim that a string of external factors over which it has no control such as rising crude oil and commodity prices, the Ukraine war and the resultant supply chain disruptions is responsible for the broad-based surge in prices across the country. The RBI analysis suggested that the wholesale price index (WPI) inflation has a greater rub-off effect on retail inflation, which would suggest that several local factors, including supply shortages and taxes and other levies have been playing havoc with prices across the board, from food and fuel to clothing, personal care products and health care.

As such, the policy makers on Mint Street raised the repo rate by another 50 basis points to 4.90 percent – the second time they have done so within a month. There are expectations that RBI may hike rates by another 70-75 basis points in this fiscal. The RBI GovernorShaktikanta Das, ruefully admitted that the central bank would fail to meet its mandate to keep inflation below 6 percent.

In fact, the cost of various items like synthetic rubber, chemicals and other raw materials, mostly imported from China, has gone up by over 20 percent in the last three months while the price of the final product has to be kept the same. India’s economy grew at its slowest pace in the first three months of 2022, hit been a fall in manufacturing and weaker consumer spending. Manufacturing contracted 0.2 percent year-on-year basis after 0.3 expansion in the previous quarter.

Small firms, which employed about 110 million Indians and accounted for 45 percent of manufacturing, were hit the hardest, casting a cloud over the economic recovery. According to available details, over 70,000 businesses in Tamil Nadu have closed shop in the past few months while in Ahmedabad, business has been struggling with a 60 percent rise in steel and gas costs over six months. Another aspect is the rupee’s more than 4 percent against the dollar this year, making imports more expensive and adding to the burden from rising interest rates.

Added to all this, other documents do not fully support any major achievement of the government. In The Economic Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index, which looks at civil liberties, pluralism, political culture and participation, India’s global rank has fallen from 27 in 2014 to 46 in 2021. Freedom House rates political and civil freedoms for 162 countries, India’s rating was 66 this year down from 67 in 2021 and 71 in 2020. On the Transparency International Global Corruption Perception Index, India was 85 in 2014 and is still 85 in 2021. Ordinary folks believe Modi has reduced corruption a lot but the reality is somewhat different.

Thus Modi’s claim at the ‘Gareeb Kalyan Sammelan’ at Shimla that governance has improved as welfare of the poor had changed this meaning appears false. Justifying his claim, he said that before 2014, corruption was viewed as an “essential part of the system” and instead of fighting it, the government had succumbed to it but all this has changed now, as per the prime minister though facts do not support this contention.

Meanwhile, a few days back, while releasing the 2021 International Religious Freedom Report at Washington, Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, had cited India as one of the examples of how religious freedom and the rights of minorities were under threat in communities around the world. “In India, the world’s largest democracy, and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship”, Blinken had said. Besides, the US ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, Rasid Hussain, had stated: “In India, some officials are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship”.

All these developments at the political, economic and social fronts don’t match the claims being made by the ruling dispensation. Though normal monsoon has been predicted, the situation may not improve in the coming months of this calendar year.Realising this, the BJP has possibly adopted a new strategy of identifying so-called temples which have been converted into mosques. Though claims made by the Hindutva groups that medieval Muslim rulers desecrated Hindu temples and converted them into mosques cannot entirely be ruled out this desecration of religious places of worship was an acceptable political act in the medieval period. Guess, the Hindutva groups now want to boost Hindu sensibilities in the one and half years before the Lok Sabha as a counter to its economic failure. — INFA