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 massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

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".

RSS' 25,000 Shishu Mandirs 'follow' factory school model of Christian missionaries

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The executive committee of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) recently decided to drop the KISS University in Odisha as the co-host of the World Anthropology Congress-2023. The decision is driven by the argument that KISS University is a factory school.

India must recognise: 4,085 km Himalayan borders are with Tibet, not China

By Tenzin Tsundue, Sandeep Pandey*
There has as been a cancerous wound around India’s Himalayan neck ever since India's humiliating defeat during the Chinese invasion of India in 1962. The recent Galwan Valley massacre has only added salt to the wound. It has come to this because, when China invaded the neighbouring country Tibet in 1950, India was in high romance with the newly-established communist regime under Mao Zedong after a bloody revolution.

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.

Gujarat literati flutter: State Akademi autonomy curb a Sahitya Parishad poll issue?

By Dankesh Oza*
The 115-year-old Gujarati Sahitya Parishad is in election mode. More than 3,000 life members of the Parishad are set to elect its 52nd president and 40 plus central working committee (CWC) members, which in turn will elect its executive and two vice presidents, six secretaries and a treasurer for the coming three years (from 2021 to 2023).

Time to give Covid burial, not suspend, World Bank's 'flawed' Doing Business ranking

By Maju Varghese*
On August 27, the World Bank came out with a statement suspending the Doing Business Report. The statement said that a number of irregularities have been reported regarding changes to the data in the Doing Business 2018 and Doing Business 2020 reports, published in October 2017 and 2019. The changes in the data were inconsistent with the Doing Business methodology.

Delhi riots: Cops summoning, grilling, intimidating young to give 'false' evidence

Counterview Desk
More than 440 concerned citizens have supported the statement issued by well-known bureaucrat-turned-human rights activist Harsh Mander ‘We will not be silenced’ which said that the communal riots in Delhi in February 2020 have not been caused by any conspiracy, as alleged by the Delhi Police, but by “hate speech and provocative statements made by a number of political leaders of the ruling party.”

WHO chief ignores India, cites Pak as one of 7 top examples in fight against Covid-19

By Our Representative
In a move that would cause consternation in India’s top policy makers in the Modi government, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) director-general, has singled out Pakistan among seven countries that have set “examples” in investing in a healthier and safer future in order to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Agricultural reform? Small farmers will be more vulnerable, corporates to 'fix' price

By Dibyendu Chaudhuri*
Agriculture employs 42% of the total work force whereas it contributes only 16% to the country’s GDP. The average annual growth rate in agriculture has remained static to 2.9% since the last six years. This means that the post-green revolution conventional agriculture has reached its peak. Responsiveness of soil fertility to fertiliser application, an indicator of stagnancy in agriculture, shows declining trend since 1970. The worst sufferer has been the small and marginal farmers who constitute 86% of total farmers.