A Year of DisappointmentsDr Mohammad Manzoor Alam (December 31, 2014)


A Year of Disappointments

Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam

It has been a year of disappointments and worries. The first half of 2014 was the last six months of UPA II, in which the corporate media did not see any merit. They spent those first six months ignoring the considerable achievements of the UPA government and building a crescendo of hope and hype about the next government, which they were sure would be a Modi-led one.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen wonders why was it that the UPA’s achievements were not brought to the notice of voters. He thinks the UPA leaders failed to tell it to the people. However, the fact is that the media never let them do it. As the media built up the hype about Mr Modi’s development agenda, Sangh activists got busy with organising attacks on Muslims (and, sometimes, Christians) across much of India. The two-pronged strategy worked out fine: some voted for “development,” others liked the idea of teaching minorities a lesson. Both kind of votes went to Mr Modi. Still, a point to remember is that 69 per cent of the vote went to others. That means more than two-third of the country was not convinced about the dual agenda.

Delhi, which had not seen communal violence since 1984, saw it in 2014 as anti-Muslim violence was staged at different places in the second half of this year. These riots were meticulously prepared. Placing of beef and pork in places of worship (a sure receipe for communal conflagration) in several areas of the city created tension, which did not always result in clashes, showing a sign of the maturity of citizens. We have not seen the last of it, as such provocation is still going on in Delhi and many other areas of north India.

There has been no distinct policy initiative of the Modi government except the continuation of UPA’s policies by other names. Whatever new it has brought is injurious to the country’s democratic tradition and public interest. Instead of proper legislation, the government has been resorting to rule-making through ordinance. The latest is the land allotment ordinance, which has been passed to dilute the farmer-friendly law of the recent past -- to make it easier and cheaper for businesses to acquire land without much consideration for farmers’ interests.

In a country where farmers have been committing suicides in thousands, this new move is sure to create more difficulties to the people who grow our food in already difficult circumstances. Whatever change has come, has only aggravated things. Whatever change is scheduled for early this year will deepen common people’s worries like in Reagan’s America and Thatcher’s Britain. These changes, which amount to private profit at the cost of public wealth and bartering away our assets to foreign companies, include the proposed unfettered entry of foreign insurance companies.

This government has been brought in with the help of corporate money and corporate media, and it is bound to serve their interests before it even thinks of common people’s interests. The unkindest cut that is going to affect common people’s health, wellbeing and life has come in the public health sector.

The government has ordered a 20 per cent cut in 2014-15 healthcare budget, directly threatening the health and life of the poor who depend on government hospitals and dispensaries. The rich and powerful do not have any objection to it as they go to flashy 5-star private hospitals that the poor cannot afford.

Rs. 60,000 crore has been cut from the public health budget for 2014-15. This has been done despite the fact that India’s health budget is among the lowest in the world. As it is, India spends only 1 percent on health compared to China, which spends 3 percent and the United States which spends 8.3 percent.

As one-third of world’s poorest people live in India this is going to be greatest disservice to the poor who are at a greater risk today. Besides the health budget cut, the Finance Ministry slashed Rs. 13,000 crore from the HIV/AIDS programme even though more than half of AIDS-related deaths in the Asia-Pacific region occur in India and one-third of people with HIV live here.

Where do we go from here?

That’s the right question to ask. Perhaps the next round of meat-eating related lafda would be kicked up early this year, followed by another bout of love-jihad turmoil by mid-year, and a conversion-reconversion controversy in the third quarter of the year, to be followed by a lousy, foul-mouthed comment by some ill-bred sadhvi against a section of Indians by October. And if, nothing works, the beef-pork prescription (the wrong kind of meat to be placed surreptitiously in the right kind of place of worship) for igniting communal frenzy could be tried. This has worked in the past, should work in future, hopefully.

The last question to ask is: what do we get out of all this? Better ask the people who are running the government and who are allowing all this to happen. All that people like us can do is hope that better sense would prevail. Best wishes for 2015.  g

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