Skip to main content

Why Modi's Atma Nirbhar Abhiyaan looks more like Fend For Yourself campaign

By Anand K Sahay*
Now it is hard to find any classes of people, including among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s followers, who believe that the PM has given leadership in the execution of the urgent twin tasks before the country -- of fighting the pandemic, and dealing with the economy- after the unknown virus struck, or even before.
The thali-banging, the cheap diya trick linked to a religious motif of the majority community, and the perverse showering of flower petals on hospitals by the Indian Air Force (a waste of the taxpayer’s money) even as medical professionals remain massively exposed to risk for want of appropriate gear, look especially decrepit as moves to raise morale.
Indeed, looking back it is clear that these were acts of desperation by one who was low on ideas of any intellectual, social or political depth or sophistication. Rather, they resembled artifice of a small-time sorcerer who found himself in a corner. At any rate, these were hardly steps that would advance the fight against a virus.
What’s important, though, is that the intent behind these rituals was the glorification of an individual as an ‘innovative’ thinker, one who was heads and shoulders above other politicians. Some in the poodle media even sought to talk up the leader for wearing a ‘munda’, a sarong -- like lower garment of common use in South India to which the PM is unwonted, as he stood by a tall temple lamp in televised images, as they thought this would raise his stature in the south.
When the lockdown came without notice (as had demonetization in 2016 with terrible consequences), and the regime left the 400 million informal sector work force in the lurch, forcing lakhs of them to embark on a very long march home, the Indian state sat unmoved, issuing meaningless directions. 
It refused to provide transport until pushed to do so by an angry public opinion, and even then it moved grudgingly, fitfully, grumpily, and minimally. It became quite apparent then that this government was not going to lift its little finger to help even when the people found their life- energy ebbing.
What is still unfolding before us – the march of the otherwise invisible millions seems far from over -- is the most tragic spectacle in independent India concerning the country’s poorest, and the government’s pretty much point-blank refusal to assist them in any immediate or tangible way in this dire hour.
The truth is that the whole world too has watched this in horror as disturbing pictures of our people at their most vulnerable have played out on television screens across the globe. The carefully cultivated image of Modi’s “New India”, devised by the regime’s spin machine and its media collaborators, lies in tatters. Today, it is truly “New India” versus “Pareshaan India” (or Mentally Exhausted India).
After the migrant labour horror show, the question engaging attention is: Does the Beloved Leader have feelings for anyone, except himself?
The effect of this on our foreign policy cannot immediately be assessed but it is likely that after this we will be unable to look even the world’s poorest nations in the eye for some time to come. Some of them are in our neighbourhood, and that’s bad news as the little frogs would have had the big frog figured out. For the big-league players, we might now just become an object of condescension, shorn of leverage, made to sweat for a seat in the reserves.
After the migrant labour horror show, the question really engaging people’s attention today is this: “Does the Beloved Leader have feelings for anyone, except himself? And, does he have any goals other than the ‘3 S’s’ of self-advancement, self-aggrandisement, and self- praise?” Of no previous Indian leader has this been asked, and no other question is asked of leaders in places like North Korea, China, and lately the United States.
It is no less than remarkable that the PM, after their more than two months' ordeal, has finally, though passingly, spoken about the misfortune of the lakhs of migrant workers walking back home: Such is his haughty aloofness and contempt for the poor. 
As for his acolyte finance minister, she held tedious press conferences spread over the better part of the week after her leader did data jugglery to announce a Covid relief package of Rs 20 lakh crore, or roughly ten per cent of the GDP, which was later revealed to be less than one percent of the GDP. 
Nirmala Sitharaman steered clear of the subject of the Long March of the Migrant Worker. She was, in fact, peeved that a Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi, had sat down by the roadside to speak to a cluster of labourers trudging back home to their distant village.
Ever Orwellian, the PM has announced an “Atma Nirbhar Abhiyaan” -- a Campaign of Self-Reliance. If there are any soaring ideas that underpin it, we have not been told yet. But on the face of it, the voodoo scheme looks like being nothing more complex than a ‘Fend For Yourself’ Campaign, and the Devil take the hindmost.
The 15-year old Bihar girl, Jyoti Kumari Paswan, understood the meaning of Modi’s words perfectly. She knew her government wouldn’t stand by the likes of her. She picked up her father with a broken leg and pedalled on a second-hand bicycle from Gurgaon to their home in Darbhanga, 1200 kilometres away. It was a profile in courage born out of the deepest existential doubts. India’s most needy have been thrown to the wolves.
After 60 days of lockdown, the Covid positivity curve is rising aggressively (in Italy and China, among the worst hit nations, it flattened in 40 days) and the poor are the main victims. Since the regime loves false comparisons to make itself look good, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have done better. As for the economy, the prognosis is a growth rate of well below zero per cent.
In such an hour, the government has opted to disrupt national unity on a religious and partisan basis. Over weeks, official pronouncements have sought to draw forced attention to the irresponsible behavior of a Muslim sect for the spread of the pandemic, shielding from view policy failings, and blamed non-BJP state governments and politicians. 
The government has also run amok arresting, during the lockdown, activists who had earlier opposed the discriminatory citizenship amendment law.
---
*Senior journalist based in Delhi. A version of this article first appeared in “The Asian Age”

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Lack of welfare schemes, BSF curbs force West Bengal farmers to migrate far away

Counteview Desk  In a representation to the National Human Rights Commission chairperson, a senior West Bengal based activist has complained that villagers living near the border with Bangladesh are forced to migrate to as far away as Mumbai and Kerala because of lack of government sensitivity towards their welfare in original villages. Giving specific instances, Kirity Roy, secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), said, if the Border Security Force (BSF) had not put any restriction on agricultural activities, and if villages had properly implemented welfare schemes, these people would never migrate to other States. Text: I want to attract your immediate attention to the inhumane condition of the migrated workers of Gobra village, Swarupnagar Block in North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal to seek your urgent intervention to protect the rights of these people. Gobra is a village situated near the Indo-Bangladesh Border where the border fencing is about 500 meters i