Now that the high sounding praise by Corporate Sector of Modi Governments maiden budget is less noisy, it is time to look at it impartially. The insidious pro rich Bullet Train, Project is an open declaration of anti labour, anti rural bias in the context of about 60% of rural areas being only able to use bullock cart type of transport. As it is, 14% hike in railways fare has already demoralized the poor. The bullet train thinking is similar to Queen Marie Antoinette of France cynical remark who asked why should poor protest if they can’t buy bread – let them instead buy cake.
The budget has out done UPA in its approach to Foreign Direct Investment which has been raised in one sweep from 26% to 49%, which UPA even though it wanted to, could not do ironically because of the protest from amongst others BJP itself. Does it not show double faced-ness in politics which Dr. Lohia used to lament by emphasizing the morality angle, namely the absence of approximation between words and deeds.
The policy on Public Sector Banks has been left dubious. The market is interpreting it as a gradual device to privatize banks and even reducing public Banks equity to less than 51%. This thinking in BJP Government is bound to lead to massive protest amongst public which still remember the vast damage done by private banks to serve the need of their private owners in 1969 and were saved since then only by nationalization of banks and prohibiting private banks which were mainly owned by owners of Industry. Such a ban is on sound principle of avoiding conflict of private business interests from those of public interest in sound banking.
More surprisingly government is planning to go ahead to off load 5% in ONGC shares for Rs. 17,000 crore notwithstanding the protest by ONGC that the government will suffer loss and will not be able to realize its potential value. That Modi Government considers a policy of disinvestment of public sector almost as a religious compulsion is quite evident when almost within weeks of taking over, the finance Ministry has started exercise to selling residual government stake of 49% in HZL and Balco just as earlier UPA Government had decided to sell the two PSA to the common election fund donor of both the parties but because of certain circumstances could not finalize it. There is a real danger of Modi Government going all out to dismantle public sector and hand it over to private oligarchy, even when this action is violative of Article 39 C of our constitution which mandates “that the operation of economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth………” I feel strongly that unless a determined combined effort by all leftist parties and Trade Unions as urged by Socialist Party (India) is taken throughout the country, public assets are in danger of being given almost gratis to the big business lobby which has so liberally contributed to Modi Campaign.
But a more serious attack on the poor farmers has been announced by Modi Government to amend New Land Acquisition Act 2013, which was passed by UPA Government but with full support of BJP. This bill was the result of culminating struggle by scores of trade union and farmer’s organization of Narmada Bachao Andolan led by Medha Patkar and legally assisted by Sanjay Parikh. This New Act was a radical change from old Act which permitted land to be acquired for Private Corporations (a provision not to be found either in USA or UK legislations). Modi government wants to delete the consent clause which requires 70% affected parties consent if land is required for Private Public protect and 80% in case of private persons and also the compensation package, which is in accord with international covenants; such a dilution will be illegal and would be massively resisted.
One would have expected that the misstatement by Minister for Minority affairs that Muslims are not a minority would have been sought to be assuaged in Modi first Budget by making adequate provision for the development of Minorities i.e. Muslims, Christians. But one is disappointed. One would also have expected some special provision for recruitment for Minority especially the Muslims in the police. No doubt it is a hangover from the UPA government, but must the minorities continue to suffer intentional neglect both under UPA and now under BJP government. I should have thought that Modi would clutch at this opportunity if he wanted to show his impartiality. I am referring to the Report “Strategy for making police force more sensitive towards minority sections prepared by three Director Generals, of Maharashtra; of U.P.; of Tamil Nadu along with Intelligence Bureau, which has concluded that there is a trust deficit amongst Muslims, who see the Police as Communal biased and insensitive….” The report emphasized that the “poor representation of the Minorities in the police forces has contributed to this distrust and suspicion”. That the worrisome gap of Muslims in the police force is no conjecture was clear when U.P. Government during Muzaffar Nager killings was asked by PUCL in 2013 (which had sent an enquiry team to enquire into killing therein) to post Muslim inspectors in dominant Muslims area as a reassurance as had been recommended years back by a High Powered Committee set up by Central Government in 2005. Information was however given that it was not possible because Muslims were only 4% in the police and only 1% as inspectors ( as against a population of 18% in U.P. a state-which has been ruled by apparently secular parties – can hypocrisy in politics go any further). The above report had called for urgent action at Director General’s conference held in 2013 (during UPA) but no action was taken – sad that the Minorities find themselves orphaned both under supposedly secular UPA or Modi government which is openly backed by RSS Communalism.
FDI in retail is being brought back and such is the unabashed contempt for public opinion that even the mild provision that 30% sourcing should be from within India which is compulsory at present may be dispensed with – a total surrender to foreign capital by BJP contrary to its earlier position. If Modi had enquired from President of Brazil, she would have enlightened him about the role played by her predecessor President Lula who boldly fought against “foreign capital” domination and also that one of the fundamental principles of Brazils constitution is the “Social value of Labour.” Will Modi rethink and revise the development model being contemplated for India which can only damage the country.
The author is former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court.