Skip to main content

Sitharaman's Act of God idea 'justifies' unequal social order as GDP contracts 24%

Bhabani Shankar Nayak*

A few days before the news came that India's gross domestic product (GDP) has contracted 23.9 per cent in the April-June period, much worse than economists' estimates, as coronavirus brought key industries to a halt and rendered millions jobless, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman created flutter by attributing the pandemic-led economic downturn as an “Act of God.”
This was the worst negative growth since 1996, when India began publishing quarterly figures, and also the worst among major Asian economies. Official figures show, the negative growth stands in stark contrast with expansion of 3.1 per cent in the previous quarter, and 5.2 per cent in the quarter ended June 30, 2019.
However, Sitharaman is not alone in this Act of God bandwagon. The theological reasoning gives temporary relief to the ruling classes, but fails to provide long term hiding ground in history. The extraordinary economic fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic gives an opportunity to the ruling classes and neoliberal economists to hide all their failures.
Neoliberal authoritarian governments always find a way to manipulate and outsource their ignorance and responsibilities to God. Surely, the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crises are not an Act of God, but the result of destruction of nature, neoliberal capitalism, and failure of states and governments to respond to the global pandemic and the resultant economic crises.
The Act of God theory of Sitharaman clearly puts her in theological trouble. The Hindu religion has 33 crore Gods and Goddesses and religious Perhaps nobody has the record of how many of these are registered and unregistered God and Goddesses. Some are mythological deities and some are living deities.
It is difficult to fix the blame on one God or Goddess. You may not have real choice in a capitalist supermarket as a consumer. There is no freedom of choice for consumers under neoliberal capitalism unless you have purchasing power and disposable incomes. But there is real freedom in choice of Gods and Goddesses.
Even the hierarchical caste and temple barriers have are no obstacles in the choice of one’s Gods and Goddesses. There is no mystery here. India is a society of cultural diversity, which breeds religious diversity and vice versa. However, this religious and cultural diversity in India is a bane for Hindutva politics, represented by Sitharaman.
One wonders why she didn’t invoke the Karma theory as outlined in the Bhagavad Gita to justify the government and blame all Indians or all the people in the world for the ordeals of global economic and health crises. In fact, the Karma theory would have provided a better way to escape from the constitutional responsibilities and economic ignorance of the leadership.
The Karma theory not only individualises responsibilities and results of one’s own work but also externalises individual problems to the results of the Karma in previous life. It helps to naturalise and normalise the crises, structural inequalities, exploitation and risk-free accumulation of national and global capitalist classes in India. There is no business like the business of religion. It is risk free. The profit belongs to the priest and crisis is individual responsibility. 
Karma theory would have provided a better theological and ideological justification for an exploitative and unequal society like ours
The Indian economy was knocked down by mistaken economic policies, social insecurities and directionless politics. By invoking the Act of God theory, the effort is to evade blaming the Modi government for the demonetisation, GST, unplanned and authoritarian lockdown, and lack of investment in public health and health infrastructure. All are supposed to be pre-planned by God and destined to happen beyond the control of the state. 
The Act of God theory is not only obnoxious but also reflects arrogant economic illiteracy of Hindutva leadership. The hierarchical and Brahmanical social order-based ‘caste’ and ‘capitalism’ are the twin pillars of Hindutva politics. The Karma theory would have provided a better theological and ideological justification for an exploitative and unequal society like ours.
After all, the Act of God theory supplements the Karma theory, helping her cover up her government’s failures. But Karma theory could have been a superior excuse than the Act of God argument. It is not just about personal Karma in previous and current life; it is about seeing a life as a whole and justifying every actions of the power in the society.
The Karma theory domesticates production, consumption and distribution. It organises it with caste hierarchy. Therefore, probably it would be good idea for Hindutva forces to fall back on Karma theory to justify loot, corruption, dominance and deaths in Indian republic.
However, the fact is, the markets, ruling classes and Gods have failed the people in history. Governments are overthrown to the dustbins of history by the reasoning power of people. The collective experience breeds collective movements to steer society out of the crises.
It is a matter of time when neither the acts of god nor Modi government can stop the emanating upheavals in India. The 33 crore Gods and Goddesses in India cannot take the blames and witness to the deceptive politics of the BJP government led by Modi.
Sitharaman’s Act of God explanation has lost its relevance in history. It is illusionary like Hindutva promise of salvation of life under Mod’s rule. However, a powerful mass movement alone can save India and Indians from the disaster called Hindutva, which is a cocktail of arrogance and ignorance.
---
*Senior lecturer, Coventry University, UK

Comments

Lijo Matthew said…
I think the author needs to study finance. He/she seems to be terribly ill equipped to comment on matters of finance and economics. The author instead of writing on the issue of GST, goes on a bigoted rant.

TRENDING

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".

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Upholding labour rights, Nehruvian scientific temper, Rajni Patel opposed Emergency

By Harsh Thakor*  Rajni Patel, who died 40 years ago, whatever his flaws, had one great quality: his human touch to offer selfless service and ability to galvanise or influence human beings from all walks of life. Few people would ever go out of the way to help someone or serve as selflessly without aim of personal gain. Rajni championed Nehruvian secular ideas and scientific temper. As a master in public relations he revealed utmost humility. As a barrister, he never appeared against the trade unions or workers. A Fabien Socialist he opposed liberal capitalism and radical socialism. Unlike most lawyers, he did not succumb to the lure of amassing wealth. Rajni was born in Sirsa, in Gujarat, on the very day Gandhi set foot on Indian soil, on 9th January, 1915. He gained his baptism through one of Gandhi's speeches calling for the boycott of foreign goods, which was the virtual turning point of his life. Rajni toed Gandhi to organise boycott of foreign goods. Rajni was able to cros

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Vadodara violence: Fine Arts Faculty alumni raise fingers at Varsity's political appointee

Hasmukh Vaghela with PM Counterview Desk  In a statement, alumni of the Faculty of Fine Arts (FoFA), Maharaja Sayajirao University (MSU), Baroda, Gujarat, referring to the “violence” by right-wing groups for displaying “objectionable” paintings that “hurt religious sentiments” at the one of India’s top fine arts institute May 5, have taken strong exception to “the assault and rustication” of one of the students, and lack of action taken against those who “violated” the institution and committed the act. Floated as an online petition seeking wider support, the FoFA alumni, in their statement, addressed to the vice chancellor, MSU, said, there should be “thorough” investigation in the whole incident and “immediate action” should be taken against syndicate member Hasmukh Vaghela, MSU, who sparked the assault, and “other co-conspirators” for breaching “university code of conduct and unlawful activities committed in broad daylight”. While the alumni statement doesn't say so, Vaghela

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.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They