There is panic in the ranks of the ruling party as the General Election time is approaching. The reason for this is the defeat in the elections to the three State Assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The three states in the Hindi heartland had been under BJP control and had contributed to BJP scoring a big victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and thus helped it win an absolute majority on its own and form the Government at the Centre. Its tally was more than 280 seats.
The signal given by these States is not good for the BJP as it clearly shows that the trends are not in favour of the BJP. To counter these indications, the BJP has initiated dangerous moves to promote a communal divide among the voters. They include the Citizenship law which discriminates against millions of people on a religious basis, besides a movement to protect cows and beat the Ram temple drum for the construction of an imposing place of worship at Ayodhya. These are steps being supplemented by enacting a law on a new jobs quota in the general category for upper castes with an average annual income of Rs. 8 lakhs a year or less.
The unfortunate part is that jobs are falling far short of the overall requirements of employment. Even the existing quotas for the backward and Scheduled Castes and Tribes are not being met, let everyone forget about additional quotas for new categories. There is the danger that the Supreme Court could strike it down as unconstitutional, as it has done in the past additional and special reservation of job quota, which exceeds the 50 per cent ceiling in the Constitution. The lack of jobs has been a major cause of unrest among young people as well as the rest of people. The other factor, which has created a new unrest is among the farmers as they have been hit by droughts and natural calamities, besides being paid the right and proper price for the food grains and other agricultural products.
In spite a higher minimum price being fixed and not being paid as well as the false new promise of doubling their income, the farmers have been forced to commit suicides in large numbers under the pressure of having to repay debts and loans. To help them loan waiver schemes have been announced, which have placed a heavy burden on the States’, finances forcing them to do so in a staggered manner.
There is general agreement among experts that loan waivers are not a solution for farmers ,who need to be paid a proper price for their produce. This price should include cost plus incentive of 50 per cent promised.
Small farmers have no capacity to survive and they are the worst affected andvictims of money lenders and middle men. The political parties offer no permanent solutions to these problems; instead they offer temporary solutions. For instance, a big problem is being created by too many people depending on agriculture with the result land holdings are becoming smaller year after year. Large-scale migration from ther rural areas to urban centres lead to the building up of new slums in all towns and cities.
There is no hope of more jobs being created at the present rate of growth. There have been several problems facing India and many more have been added to them by steps like demonetisation and restrictions on cow slaughter. Earlier, exporters earned foreign exchange from meat exports; now the cattle are a threat to the farmers as they attack farms where seeds have just been sown. One wonders how long Indians will live with a situation where feeding of cattle gets priority over human beings.
A country of the size of India faces many problems and we should avoid adding to them. Demonetisation and hasty implementation of GS certainly created difficulties and loss of jobs in the small, medium and unorganised sector. The problems of the banking industry have caused slowing down of investment and economic distress. At this time India needs action to boost the economy and make it healthy by reducing the burden of a slowdown in world trade. India faces dumping of goods by China and threats of trade imbalance and conflict and threats from the USA and China.
At this stage no purpose will be served by boasting that we are becoming the fourth largest economy. The large population that we have to take care of neutralizes the size of our economy to a large extent. Our banking sector is far from healthy as India’s exports are not rising. As such much more needs to be done to help the poor in the country, especially the poor in rural areas.
At such a point of time when India faces a crisis, our politicians should sink their differences and join hands to deal with the grave situation rather than be at war with one another. To make our democracy work, there is urgent need to persuade them to agree to be civil in their conduct and deal with some problems jointly in view of the fact that they are national issues.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)