Since its ascendancy to power in 2014 with just 31 percent of the polled votes in the context of disunity among the opposition parties, the corporate-saffron Modi regime has been systematically manipulating or undermining the parliamentary institutions, constitutional offices and all administrative bodies in conformity with its sinister Hindutva design. Of course, a party or conglomeration of parties that gobbles up less than one-third of polled votes capturing power itself is a manifestation of the fundamental weakness of the parliamentary-electoral system that India still pursues. And what Modi did during the last five years was making the parliament as a mere spectator and surpassing or distancing himself from it with regard to strategic policy decisions. In the meanwhile, the saffron fascists in consonance with their ultra-rightist orientation of entrusting economic power with corporate-market forces had already abolished the Planning Commission and made the entire budgetary process a mockery as most of the key economic questions and policy decisions are resolved outside the budget.
And coming to its last ‘budget’ presented on February 1, 2019, the Modi regime has once again displayed its total disregard of the so called parliamentary traditions and scruples. For, it has been an established practice since 1961 that every budget shall be preceded by an Economic Survey to be presented to parliament. This Economic Survey prepared on the basis of official statistics collected by the government’s own agencies particularly constituted for collection and analysis of data is indispensable for parliament and people to know about the real “state of the economy” and, above all, the budget shall be quoting such reliable ‘figures’ for properly estimating its revenue and expenditures. However, for the first time in Indian budget history, the Modi regime has violated this precedent of presenting the Economic Survey as a prelude to the budget. The reason is obvious. Such statistical information coming through the Economic Survey would have exposed the last five years’ of frightening economic disruption that has created by the Modi regime. In fact the BJP government has been trying its level best to deliver a series of doctored data by manipulating National Sample Survey and Central Statistical organisations and unable to withstand the pressures, several leading members of these agencies were compelled to resign from their posts. Obviously, this was the context that prompted the Modi regime to abandon the practice of presenting Economic Survey on the eve of the budget.
Another aspect is with regard to the content of the budget document itself. According to established parliamentary conventions, when the term of the incumbent government is coming to a close and the country is going for a general election, it is the usual practice on the part of the outgoing government to refrain from making any policy announcements. In that case, instead of a full-fledged one, the budget document shall be nothing more than an “annual financial statement” or “vote on account” or utmost an “interim budget”. It will be the immediate task of the newly elected government to convene the budget session of the parliament and present the full-fledged budget with policy announcements at the earliest. But true to its fascistic orientation of disrespecting and discrediting even bourgeois parliamentary institutions and norms, the Modi regime in the guise of an interim budget has overstepped its mandate (which is for presenting five full budgets only)) and manipulated the occasion for presenting the sixth full budget with a series of policy announcements including the outlining of a “vision statement” for the next ten years. In the process, Piyush Goyal who now acts as finance minister, in his rhetoric spanning 100 minutes utilized the opportunity to convert the budget presentation into an election speech based on manipulated data and bogus claims with a whole set of freebies, giveaways, tax concessions, money transfer schemes and other populist programs, each being addressed to specific vote-banks.
Before coming to an exposition of the bundle of promises in Goyal’s speech, the financial sources of which have not at all earmarked and hence its liability shall be on the coming government, it would be in order to have a glance at the poll promises upon which Modi sought votes in 2014. The most infamous of all was his commitment of bringing back Indian black money from foreign tax havens and putting Rs. 15 lakh in to the account of each Indian citizen. To this day not even a rupee has been deposited in this manner. On the other hand, black money and corruption have assumed a multi-dimensional growth under Modi. While Modi regime has suppressed domestic data on corruption and black money, international agencies have come up with their studies as to how India under Modi has become a “flourishing example of crony capitalism” and how it became the most corrupt country in Asia. Again according foreign studies, Modi regime has granted all opportunities to the leading Indian corporate giants to loot the public sector banks in the guise NPAs such that the first ten corporate looters led by Ambani, Adani, Essar and so on are responsible for more than 90 percent of the Rs. 15 lakh crore worth of NPAs created in India. Demonetisation itself was a cunning move that facilitated the most corrupt corporate-saffron black money holders to whiten their black money. According to latest available RBI report, while it had printed only Rs. 14.11 lakh crore demonetised notes, it really got back Rs. 15.28 lakh crore worth of them! On the other hand, Modi government’s affidavit submitted to Supreme Court had claimed that around Rs. 3-4 lakh crores of demonetised notes being black money would not be returned to RBI. Hence if the claims both RBI and Modi regime are taken in their face value, then around Rs. 5 lakh crore worth black money might have been whitened through demonetisation.
Another poll promise of Modi was regarding the creation of 2 crore jobs per annum. But under Modi what occurred has been a total disruption of the productive and employment-oriented sectors of the economy. Not only no new jobs were created, but according to the 2018 statistics, the country is actually losing more than 1 crore jobs per annum. Even the logo of the much trumpeted “Make in India” was designed abroad and the unhindered entry of foreign capital in to the economy and concomitant growth of crony capitalism has led to an unparalleled joblessness. Demonetisation that denied cash transactions that form the life-blood for the informal sectors where 93 percent of the workforce depends for sustenance was a mortal blow for the unemployed millions. Further GST that put the tax burden on the unorganised sectors also resulted in massive job loss. Modi has not taken any step to fill the 24 lakh vacant posts in the central government sector so far. Decreasing the price of petrol to Rs. 40 per litre, reversing the depreciation of rupee, ban on FDI in retail, etc. were similar election promises of Modi; but what happened was the opposite. It was under his five year-rule that the number of peasant suicides crossed all previous records. Thus goes the list, and by this time Modi has proved an expert in the art of making election stunts.
The upshot of the argument is that it will be difficult for Modi regime to fool the people again. All the populist announcements in the budget speech by Piyush Goyal solely aiming at appeasing vote banks are the last resort of a desperate Modi who is sure that there is little chance of his return to power. The only gamble for him is to hoodwink the people once again. Therefore, the budget, breaking all previous records in terms of populism, has attempted a “cash-for-votes” program to please a range of vote-banks, most important being farmers, unorganised workers and middle classes.
The most populist among them is a farmer distress relief program known as Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi covering 12 crore small and marginal farmers who own up to 5 acres of land. It is an insult to the peasants of this country that the Modi regime which was consistently ignoring them for the last five years has suddenly woken up and started shedding crocodile tears for their plight. As laid down in the budget, the farmer who comes under this scheme shall get an annual money transfer of Rs. 6000 (Rs. 500 per month). If implemented, for a peasant family of five, this would mean just Rs. 3.30 per day. Ironically, as a result of Modi’s ultra-rightist and pro-corporate policies, the wealth of just 9 billionaires with Ambani in the forefront is swelling at the rate of Rs. 2200 crore a day, and the total wealth of 119 Indian billionaires has crossed Rs. 28 lakh crore in 2018! While large sections of the peasantry are landless, those with meagre possessions are deprived of credit, and the prices of all agricultural inputs and outputs are determined by corporate speculators. Fund allocations for agriculture and rural development remain in paper only. With reduction in fund allocation to MGNREGA, the peasants displaced through agricultural corporatisation are migrating to urban slums in search of sustenance, and for them Rs. 3.30 per day is nothing but an eye-wash. Even non-BJP state governments like Telengana and Odisha have announced more attractive cash-transfer programs for farmers.
The pension scheme, namely, Pradhan Mantri Sharam-Yogi Maandha addressed to informal or unorganised workers envisaging social security for 10 crore among them is the second in the series of dole-outs. According to this scheme, an unorganised worker who carry on remitting Rs. 100 per month as premium shall get Rs. 3000 as pension if she/he is lucky enough to live beyond the age of 60. Today more than 93 percent (around 45 crores) of the Indian workforce is depending on the informal/unorganised sector which is totally outside the social security net including pension. During its five-year term, the Modi government has done nothing to deal with the pitiable situation of this largest section of Indian society. On the other hand, demonetisation and GST designed at the behest of corporate centres have devastated the unorganised altogether. How can a casual worker in India regularly remit Rs. 100 per month for 30 years or more until he/she reaches is itself a serious question. No analysis is needed on the part of well-meaning people to easily comprehend the cunningness behind this announcement targeted at informal workers.
The income tax rebate proposing a gain of Rs. 12500 for those whose annual income is up to Rs. 5 lakhs is definitely intended to gather urban middle class votes. However, so long as the tax slabs remain unchanged, this rebate is going to be enthusing only a minor section who has extra income to invest in tax-saving schemes of the government. Therefore, the extent to which this measure can pacify those middle class voters who have been hit hard by such assaults as demonetisation, fuel price rise and GST is uncertain.
In the same vein, several giveaways are showered on marginal and weaker sections without any financial backing. Allocations for SCs & STs, MGNREGA, national Education Mission, Integrated Child Development Scheme, Mission or Protection and Empowerment for Women, Ayushman Bharat, etc., the liability of implementation of which will be on the shoulders of the coming government are done in a high-sounding way, though the real value of such expenditures are coming down. But in a context in which the Modi regime has become infamous for hiding or withholding economic data, it will be difficult for the people to believe what the regime has proposed. And if we take the Consumer Confidence Survey released by RBI in September 2018 in to consideration, the electorate is totally dissatisfied with the Modi regime.
Coming to the resource mobilisation front on the other, no new efforts are there to tax the superrich and the billionaires who control the entire reins of the economy. While the number of billionaires and wealth accumulation by them are galloping, there is no move in the direction of reinstating the wealth tax which the BJP government had abolished in 2015, and no initiative is there to bring the spectacular speculative gains gobbled up by the top one percent of financial elite who controls 73 percent of the additional wealth created in India under the Modi regime. Consequently, direct tax collection as a proportion of total collection is steeply going down. Under the new GST regime, (GST-evasion by leading corporate businesses who control the market for goods and services is also resulting in loss in revenue collection through this route also) there has been a further shift of the tax burden to the shoulders of broad masses of toiling people. While the direct-indirect tax (burden of the latter is borne by common people) ratio in India is 35:65, the reverse is the case with other countries in general. According to conventional bourgeois economic theory, increasing wealth concentration is a favourable condition for taxing the rich more intensively and improving the tax-GDP ratio which for India, despite very unequal, is one of the lowest in the world. With the existing nominal corporation tax rate of 25 percent (the effective rate while taking the exemptions in to account will come to around 15-16 % only), the tax burden on the upper richest section is one of the lowest in the world, even much below that of the leading capitalist countries. Modi-bhakts and saffron intellectuals who become ecstatic about the dole-outs to the poor are conveniently silent over this grave inequity in the budget.
Thus, in view of the impending Lok Sabha elections, the Modi government which during the past five years has been ignoring or side-lining the vast majority of the poor voters and shamelessly serving the most corrupt corporate class, is suddenly bending back to appease the voters through several allurements throwing to winds the so called solemn principles of bourgeois budget. Needless to say that this attempt at winning election with a populist budget is an insult to the political consciousness of the people. Vast majority of the people are suffering from lack of food, shelter, livelihood, essential services such as drinking water, education, health facilities, and other basic amenities indispensable for a decent life. Modi’s last budget has treated all of them as if they are last-minute deliverables, while over the years he has been destroying the foundations of the economy by facilitating the corporate plunderers, both Indian and foreign, to loot the workers and country’s resources under the camouflage of “make in India”, “start-up India”, “skill India”, etc. While his doctored statistics claim about the biggest GDP growth rates for India, it is a fact of life that people are not experiencing it. As a manifestation, unemployment rate is the highest in 45 years, that is, since the 1970s and agriculture growth has become negative. Around 60 percent of the GDP growth that Modi claims comes from the money-spinning service or tertiary sector, even as agriculture (where almost 50 percent of the Indians still cling on for sustenance) and industry are displaying deterioration. And the money-spinning, speculative service sector, on the other hand, provides employment only to less than 10 percent of the population. Nothing substantial is done towards creation of gainful employment to the unemployed whose number is now reaching 20 crores-much larger than the total population of many European countries taken together. Modi has cleverly excluded the issue of unemployment and corruption from his election stunt this time.
No amount of populism can resolve the basic malady confronting the economy which require a fundamental restructuring of the whole socio-economic structure. Modi regime or a different government led by another ruling class combine cannot resolve this question. The only alternative is a sustainable development paradigm led by the politically organised people capable of demolishing neoliberal-corporatisation altogether.
What we are witnessing in Venezuela presently is a neocolonial scramble among the imperialist powers, mainly US imperialism for the control of its rich petroleum wealth. The recognition of US installed Guaido as the president of Venezuela by NATO forces has put Venezuela in a critically vulnerable situation. This criminal move on the part of Britain, Germany, France and other EU members is part of a broader strategy of looting the oil reserves of Venezuela along with US by effectively curtailing the growing influence of China and Russia not only in Venezuela but in Latin America as a whole.
Taking advantage of Venezuela’s economic collapse and social tensions arising from the plunge in oil prices coupled with the tactical mistakes on the part of Maduro, US president Trump had already initiated the blueprint for a coup there by anointing his puppet Guaido as president. Together with the sponsoring of a bloody civil war, US imperialism may also pursue the option of a direct military intervention in Venezuela.
The present collusion among Western imperialist powers unveils the true essence of bourgeois democracy and a whole set of international institutions so assiduously propped up by US led imperialism for management of the post-war neocolonial order. The UN and its agencies are once again exposed as mere rubber-stamps of US led imperialism. Western imperialists with the backing of Bretton Woods funding institutions and military-industrial complexes are now planning to install an ultra-rightist, arch-reactionary puppet regime on the backs of Venezuelan people.
It is high time that the progressive-democratic forces the world over should rise up against imperialist machinations of converting Venezuela in to a typical neo-colony under US hegemony. In this situation, CPI(ML) Red Star declares solidarity with the struggling Venezuelan people. It appeals to the working class and oppressed people of Latin America to come forward resisting and kicking out imperialism, mainly US imperialism, and its local compradors from their soil. It calls upon all Party committees to organize demonstrations and other protest actions with the slogan: US and European Union, Hands Off Venezuela! Let Venezuelan People Decide Their Future!
CPI(ML) Red Star
6th February 2019
The US-based ‘hacker’ Syed Shuja, claiming himself as a former employee of the Electronic Corporation of India, which designed the EVMs, is the latest one to allege hacking of electronic voting machines and ‘rigging’ of 2014 Indian general elections in favour of the ruling party. In this context, we are reiterating the CPI (ML) Red Star’s position on the use of EVMs in elections, and on other important changes to be implemented in the Election laws. The following excerpt dealing with this question is from the Political Resolution adopted at the 11th Congress of the Party held on November 27-December 1, 2018, at Bengaluru.
“2.xix. Urgent attention is called for a major restructuring of the entire election process in the country. The BJP which till 2014 had been vociferously condemning the EVM on account of its vulnerability to fraud and tampering has now become its ardent champion as it can effectively utilize the same in its favour. The possibility of insertion of malicious software in to EVMs and manipulation of voting preferences being already proved, several countries of the world have abandoned EVMs and are pursuing the ballots. While raising this issue together with all like-minded forces, a concerted campaign is also required for replacing the ‘first pass the post system’ with proportional representation in elections and introduction of people’s right to recall the elected representatives. Similarly, provisions should be incorporated for totally keeping communal forces away from interfering in election in any manner. In brief, our Party should unite in campaign with all democratic and progressive forces for a thorough democratization of the election process.
The Reservation quota bill presented by the Modi govt, passed with the support of almost all big political parties in the parliament and signed by the president is a direct attack on the oppressed castes and it undermines the very Constitutional basis of caste based reservation in India.
Presently the unemployment rate is increasing day by day, and now it is the highest in last four years. No step has been taken by the Modi government to ensure employment for the youths. Migration rate of youths for work is increasing. No scope of a secure job, now it has become just a dream. In all government institutions and companies, the number of permanent posts is vanishing fast. With the fading hope of “acche din” dissatisfaction against Modi government among the youths is increasing. In this situation without taking proper steps to create proper employment the government is trying to divide the youth through the Economic Reservation Quota. It is a conspiracy to divert attention from the unemployment issue.
Moreover, when the upper castes as a whole have overwhelming predominance in socio economic and administrative fields this bill goes against the very principle of social justice. The Reservation system was intended to mitigate this kind of the wrongs of caste system, which suppressed the Dalits and other oppressed sections for millenniums.
Revolutionary Youth federation of India condemns this shameful and heinous act and demands the government to withdraw it. We would also like to ask the BJP government about what happened to the 2 crores of jobs a year which was a key 2014 election promise to the youths by Modi.
Raju Singh, General Secretary, RYFI
The people of Northeast and Bengal are struggling against the Citizenship Amendment Bill the Modi government which it is trying to push trough hastily to impose its saffronization. All of us should raise the question: if all Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians and Parsis who are forced to migrate from Pakisthan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh etc can be given Indian citizenship, why not the Muslims? Out of the large number of people who were forced to migrate from Bangladesh to Northeast, about half are Hindus and remaining Muslims. Modi govt wants to give citizenships to all Hindus, not to Muslims, thus creating conditions to in which millions of Muslims are going to become stateless! Same policy was followed in the case of the Rohingya refugees who were thrown out of Myanmar also. Instead of finding a political solution to these migrants’ question involving the state governments and political representatives from the Northeast and Bengal, Modi government and the BJP government in Assam are trying to saffronize the question, endangering the whole region. All democratic forces should raise their vice and campaign to defeat the Citizenship Amendment Bill moved by the Modi government.
The education system of our country is facing an unprecedented onslaught from the neoliberal, corporate and Hindutva fascist forces that are working covertly and overtly to subvert the Constitution and to reduce the republic into a paranoid nation of lynch mobs led by criminal ring masters. While it is true that the previous governments are responsible for the rot that afflicts our education system from school to higher levels, the present dispensation in Delhi is working zealously to wipe out whatever gains the people of our country, mainly the Dalits, bahujans, adivasis and minorities have so far made in terms of access to educational opportunities. The draft of new education policy earlier released by the central government has already stated the intention of the government to detain children in earlier stages (class V) and push them out of the formal education system into parallel and inferior skill development streams. Government school system is being consistently starved of funds and thousands of government schools are being closed across the country.
Similarly, higher education is also under calibrated assault – fund cuts, curtailment of scholarships, curbs on teachers’ and students’ rights, surveillance and bureaucratisation have become order of the day. Needless to add that this is just a glimpse of the total attack on our education system. At the same time, the Hindutva forces are constantly deflecting public discourse and debate on these fundamental issues affecting every child and youth and trying to raise false issues of protecting cows and building temples that stand in stark contradistinction to all the ideals of our freedom struggle to build a humane and enlightened society.
It is to counter this perverse discourse and to make education a rallying agenda in the coming general elections and political discourse of the country that AIFRTE decided to organise the All-India Hunkar Rally on 18th Feb 2019 in Delhi. This is not a single-point event, but a concerted movement under which we have been organising meetings, seminars, yatras and other programmes across different states in the country. We have approached different sections and different lines of democratic thought in the process, thus trying to build a synergetic action to effectively counter the reactionary agenda of neo-liberalism cum Brahmanical forces.
Please see our leaflet and the Programme of Action (PoA – 2018-19) document to know in more detail our position and the various assaults on our education system. We take this opportunity to appeal to you to support, participate and generously contribute in making the Hunkar Rally a resounding success. Please note that we are an entirely public-driven movement and we do not accept funding from any source except donation from individuals supporting the cause. Hence, your contribution would be invaluable for the movement. The details of the bank account will be provided if you inform us of your desire to making any contribution, and a proper receipt can be issued and provided to you.
Prof G Haragopal, Chairperson, Prof Anil Sadgopal, Convener, Dr Swati, Co-convener, All-India Steering Committee of Hunkar Rally, Dr Meher Engineer, Chairperson, Dr Vikas Gupta, Organising Secretary, All India Forum-Right To Education (AIF-RTE).