Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
New Delhi: Revisiting the promises and performance of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government in the last three years, Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), a civil society initiative has come with a damning report that smashes the government’s propaganda of lofty achievements. It holds a mirror to the PM and the ruling BJP that they did not keep up to the promises they made to the people of India as its pet slogan Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas’ proved a hollow slogan. It also indicts that the government is mostly relying on retired intelligence officers or RSS workers for Kashmir policy.
Releasing the report at the Constitution Club here on Wednesday on the occasion of Modi government’s completion of three years in office, activists and experts opined that it failed on major counts and in the perpetual election campaign mode that gives impetus to aggressive hate rhetoric against the religious minorities particularly Muslims.
The 100-page document titled as “Citizens’ Report on the Third Year of the NDA Government 2017—Promises and Reality” is an anthology of reviews written by renowned experts in their respective fields. They revisit the commitments the government made when it came to power and analyse its performance.
Did the government translate into action its “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” slogan of taking each one in its fold? Experts say governance and inclusive development are no longer in the government’s agenda. There is a sharp rise in inequity as governance and inclusive development remain the NDA’s un-kept promises. It suggested that the government must make stronger budgetary commitments to make the slogan real.
A dichotomy exists between government’s policies and implementation. On the one hand, the government has introduced credit facilities, Skill India and monitoring of the funds for SC/ST, and on the other hand, it has withdrawn grants from centres for study of social exclusion, and not made efforts to stop structural violence against the community.
Noted activists Harsh Mander said the government’s promise of creating 10 million jobs still remains a dream while it has failed to reverse UPA’s dismal record of almost jobless growth,.
The unprecedented, but highly controversial demonetization move was projected in the media as the government’s “masterstroke”. But it was actually, the government’s act of expropriation that led to widespread public hardship and brought back no black money.
On human rights situation, the report states that it has come under sustained assault as India lags in creating a just, peaceful and inclusive society. Impunity for human rights violations by security forces remained a major concern, says Aakar Patel of Amnesty International. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which grants security forces sweeping powers and virtual immunity from prosecution, continued to enable human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern states. Authorities used crude colonial-era laws to silence voices of dissent. Despite several cases of racist violence and discrimination against African nationals, the government refused to acknowledge the attacks as racist.
An international survey by the World Justice Project, places India among 133 countries in the rule of law index, well below at least two peer countries Brazil (52nd) and South Africa (43rd). Experts blame the result on the “insufficient attention” to access to justice.
Goal 16 of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals focuses, among other things, on access to justice for all. But facts show that India’s effort towards achieving the goal is anything but satisfactory, whether it is provision of infrastructure, human resources, or public investment into achieving the goal.
On minority’s welfare, the report points out that the 2014 BJP manifesto promised to focus on the development of minorities, particularly Muslims. But the direct share of minorities in the Total Plan Fund of Union Budget is a dismal 0.21 per cent. The per capita outlay for minorities comes to only Rs 187.
On the condition of minorities, Journalist and activist John Dayal said the perpetual election campaign mode, and the aggressive hate rhetoric of the government is giving a lot of stress to the religious minorities.
On the role of media which is a largely controlled by upper castes, public editor of The Wire Pamela Philipose said it is well-acknowledged that Modi won his handsome mandate in 2014 with unqualified support from the mainstream media. Three years later, the media continues on the same groove, enthusiastically promoting his policies and politics, she said and added that a new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse.
As the BJP-led government completes three years in power, the pace at which it has moved towards mainstreaming its core ideology of Hindutva has far exceeded anything earlier envisaged. The appointment of Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in March 2017 was, perhaps, the clearest sign of this.
Looking at the scenario through the prism of media may be useful, given the central role played by newspapers, TV channels and social media in helping normalise and sanitise these seismic shifts, Philipose said.
“They do this against a background of blocked access, tweaked data and opacity in government functioning. All these are disturbing developments that bode ill for the future. A new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse. Also conspicuous is the curbing of dissent and the rise of the surveillance state. With General Election 2019 drawing closer, the challenges are only set to rise. The call of the times is for people to come together, share their experiences, speak out against everyday repressions.”
Anjali Bhardwaj, a Right to Information activist said, “The status of anti-corruption institutions and legislation is a clear indication of how the Bharatiya Janata Party is reneging with impunity on its poll promise of a Bhrashtachar-mukt Bharat. Lack of will on the part of the government to ensure greater accountability and transparency in its functioning, can be inferred from its various actions and inactions in the last three years. The government has failed to implement the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, which was passed by Parliament more than three years ago to provide protection to those who expose corruption and wrongdoing.”
Demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and granting prosecution of army personnel in civilian courts, activists said among the other major failures policy paralysis on Kashmir is definitely a big failure of the Modi Government.
Former executive editor of Rajya Sabha TV Uermilesh said the presence of draconian laws like AFSPA do not help matters in Kashmir. Describing policy paralysis on Kashmir as one of the big failures of the Modi government, he asked “How can such a complicated political issue be resolved by a military driven, Hindu nationalist means or through the so-called “progressive vision”?
“The government of India must accept this bitter truth that a very large section of the population that lives in the part of Kashmir that is in India is extremely unhappy with the Indian state due to the shrinking of the Constitutional autonomy provided to Jammu and Kashmir?”
Senior journalist said, “It appears the government and its advisors lack cogent thinking when it comes to Kashmir. The biggest irony of Modi government’s Kashmir policy is that most of its strategists are either retired intelligence officers or RSS workers”.
“They feel that a complicated issue like Kashmir can be resolved merely by strict military means or the thought line of creating a Hindu rashtra. They are not ready to think beyond the rubrics of “surgical strikes” and “hot pursuit”, Urmilesh underlined.
Delving with human rights issue in India, noted journalist and Amnesty International’s executive director Akar Patel said impunity for human rights violations by security forces remained a major concern. He pointed out that AFSPA grants sweeping powers and virtual immunity from prosecution, which continued to enable human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and north eastern states. He further said authorities used crude colonial-era laws to silence voices of dissent and because of this India is placed among 133 countries in the rule of law index.
The Report carries a full chapter on Kashmir and urged the GOI to desist from resolving the problem through military means.
The government has also failed to keep its promise of reducing unemployment, there has been a rise in unemployment and the big ticket schemes and slogans of the government has not being able to deliver in providing jobs and reducing unemployment. The Tribals and Dalits are being exploited in pretext of development and industrialisation; there has been a constant rise in atrocities against Dalits and Tribals, which are a matter of grave concern.”
As for civil society organizations (CSOs), they share a love-hate relationship with the government. While CSOs played a vital role and contributed in government’s flagship projects, some restrictive legislation and policies managed to gag them.
As the experts scrutinize the performance of the government, they also give recommendations that will help the country come out of the mess it has put itself to.
The WNTA has been coordinating the Civil Society Review of the government as a way of holding the state accountable to its promises. The first review was conducted in 2005 of UPA-I followed by annual reviews. In addition, the organisation has done a nine-year review of UPA (I&II), one on 100 days of UPA-II and 100 days of NDA, the Annual Review of the NDA Government, released on May 24, 2015, and another review a year later, on May 24, 2016.
The WNTA’s latest report touches upon 59 major issues concerning with general public, minorities and every sections of the society.
Wada Na Todo Abhyian is a large civil society platform of over 4,000 civil society organizations and individuals with its core focus on governance accountability to eliminate poverty and social exclusion.