The Modi government’s popularity has constantly risen since it assumed office in May 2014, It’s thumping victory in recent elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, after an interim slump (Delhi and Bihar state assembly elections), seems to indicate the same.
The civil society however does not share the government's euphoria over 'demonetisation' or Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas (Collective efforts, Inclusive growth) nor does it endorse its rising popularity. It has reasons to do so.
Wada Na Todo Abhiyan (WNTA), has been coordinating the civil society review of the state and central government as a way of holding them accountable to their promises. Their first review was in 2005 of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government followed by the annual reviews. Since then it has done a nine-year review of UPA I&II, 100 days, one year and two years review of the present National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
WNTA recently released its report card of the Modi government’s three years in office in New Delhi on May 24. The 110 page “Citizens’ Report on the Third Year of the NDA Government 2017—Promises and Reality” is a compilation of articles on different issues by activists, journalists and experts.
Criticising the government of reneging on its slogan of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas the report says that inclusive development is no longer in the government’s agenda. There is a sharp rise in inequality as governance and inclusive development remain NDA’s un-kept promises.
Human rights have come under sustained assault as India lags in creating a just, peaceful and inclusive society. Discrimination and violence against Dalits was widespread. Vigilante cow protection groups continued to harass and attack people, mainly Muslims and Dalits, in various states including Gujarat, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka in the name of upholding laws prohibiting the killing of cows.
Impunity for human rights violations by security forces remained a major concern. 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. The perpetual election campaign mode, and the aggressive hate rhetoric of the BJP and people in the government is giving a lot of stress to the religious minorities, asserts the report.
The unprecedented, but highly controversial demonetisation move was projected in the media and boasted by the government as the government’s ‘masterstroke’ on the fight against black money. The report however questions the outcome of the move that brought incalculable hardship on public at large, specifically the poor and marginalised.
On the job front also, the government has little to boast about. It’s promise of creating 10 million jobs still remains a dream. It has failed to reverse UPA’s dismal record of almost jobless growth.
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 Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), 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 them.
Report release function
While CSOs played a vital role and contributed in government’s flagship schemes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao etc, the government has misused the provisions of the Foreign Contribution (regulation) Act (FCRA) to gag them.
Speaking at the report release function Anjali Bhardwaj, a RTI activist said, “The status of anti-corruption institutions and legislation is a clear indication of how the BJP has failed to keep its poll promise of a Bhrashtachar-mukt Bharat. 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.”
“Policy paralysis on Kashmir is definitely among the big failures of the Central government.” Added senior journalist Urmilesh in the event.
Pamela Philipose, a senior journalist brought forth the controversial role of media under the NDA regime. “The pace at which the BJP led government has moved towards mainstreaming its core ideology of Hindutva has far exceeded anything earlier envisaged. The central role played by newspapers, TV channels and social media in helping normalise and sanitise these seismic shifts are disturbing developments. A new note of muscular nationalism has crept into media discourse.”
Recommendations made in the report
The report comes up with several recommendations to improve the situation of governance and accountability of the government. The key ones being:
- The government should immediately follow the Supreme Court’s directive and appoint the Lokpal (Ombudsman) dealing with corruption in high places in order to strengthen public confidence of PM’s slogan Na Khaunga na Khane Dunga (neither will I take bribe, nor will I allow anyone to take bribe).
- The government ought to take strong and clear stand to preserve the secular fabric of the nation and protect the minorities based on caste and religion from unwanted onslaught from fringe elements.
- While NFSA (National Food Security Act) has been expanded to cover the entire country, which is a good development, a glaring dilution is witnessed in the implementation of the universal maternity benefit programme (MBP) of at least Rs 6000/ to all pregnant and lactating women. Under the law, it should have been made unconditional but the government has linked it to institutional delivery. In other words, only the women who have delivered in a hospital can avail the benefit. This violates the objective of the programme. as it is likely to exclude the most vulnerable women, who are also the most needy of this programme and who cannot have access to institutional delivery. The government should implement MBP in its letter and spirit.
- Under the forest rights act (FRA) barely three percent of the potential areas under community forest rights have been provided to the tribals and the forest dwellers. The environment ministry has issued new forest policy guidelines to privatize nearly 40 percent of open forest lands in the country, which is detrimental to the interest of the tribals. The government ought to implement FRA with letter and spirit and give the tribals their due under the constitution and statutes.
- Eliminating child labour deserves an enhanced priority and at the same time the data on child trafficking shows that about a lakh children go missing every year, which is shocking and demands our urgent attention.
All in all, the government has a long way to go in addressing various problems grappling the nation to prove it to be a true democracy and a global leader.