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

Bill Gates as funder, author, editor, adviser? Data imperialism: manipulating the metrics

By Dr Amitav Banerjee, MD*  When Mahatma Gandhi on invitation from Buckingham Palace was invited to have tea with King George V, he was asked, “Mr Gandhi, do you think you are properly dressed to meet the King?” Gandhi retorted, “Do not worry about my clothes. The King has enough clothes on for both of us.”

What's Bill Gates up to? Have 'irregularities' found in funding HPV vaccine trials faded?

By Colin Gonsalves*  After having read the 72nd report of the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on alleged irregularities in the conduct of studies using HPV vaccines by PATH in India, it was startling to see Bill Gates bobbing his head up and down and smiling ingratiatingly on prime time television while the Prime Minister lectured him in Hindi on his plans for the country. 

Displaced from Bangladesh, Buddhist, Hindu groups without citizenship in Arunachal

By Sharma Lohit  Buddhist Chakma and Hindu Hajongs were settled in the 1960s in parts of Changlang and Papum Pare district of Arunachal Pradesh after they had fled Chittagong Hill Tracts of present Bangladesh following an ethnic clash and a dam disaster. Their original population was around 5,000, but at present, it is said to be close to one lakh.

Muted profit margins, moderate increase in costs and sales: IIM-A survey of 1000 cos

By Our Representative  The Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad’s (IIM-A's) latest Business Inflation Expectations Survey (BIES) has said that the cost perceptions data obtained from India’s business executives suggests that there is “mild increase in cost pressures”.

Anti-Rupala Rajputs 'have no support' of numerically strong Kshatriya communities

By Rajiv Shah  Personally, I have no love lost for Purshottam Rupala, though I have known him ever since I was posted as the Times of India representative in Gandhinagar in 1997, from where I was supposed to do political reporting. In news after he made the statement that 'maharajas' succumbed to foreign rulers, including the British, and even married off their daughters them, there have been large Rajput rallies against him for “insulting” the community.

Magnetic, stunning, Protima Bedi 'exposed' malice of sexual repression in society

By Harsh Thakor*  Protima Bedi was born to a baniya businessman and a Bengali mother as Protima Gupta in Delhi in 1949. Her father was a small-time trader, who was thrown out of his family for marrying a dark Bengali women. The theme of her early life was to rebel against traditional bondage. It was extraordinary how Protima underwent a metamorphosis from a conventional convent-educated girl into a freak. On October 12th was her 75th birthday; earlier this year, on August 18th it was her 25th death anniversary.

A Hindu alternative to Valentine's Day? 'Shiv-Parvati was first love marriage in Universe'

By Rajiv Shah*   The other day, I was searching on Google a quote on Maha Shivratri which I wanted to send to someone, a confirmed Shiv Bhakt, quite close to me -- with an underlying message to act positively instead of being negative. On top of the search, I chanced upon an article in, imagine!, a Nashik Corporation site which offered me something very unusual. 

Govt putting India's professionals, skilled, unskilled labour 'at mercy of' big business

By Thomas Franco, Dinesh Abrol*  As it is impossible to refute the report of the International Labour Organisation, Chief Economic Advisor Anantha Nageswaran recently said that the government cannot solve all social, economic problems like unemployment and social security. He blamed the youth for not acquiring enough skills to get employment. Then can’t the people ask, ‘Why do we have a government? Is it not the government’s responsibility to provide adequate employment to its citizens?’

Youth as game changers in Lok Sabha polls? Young voter registration 'is so very low'

By Dr Mansee Bal Bhargava*  Young voters will be the game changers in 2024. Do they realise this? Does it matter to them? If it does, what they should/must vote for? India’s population of nearly 1.3 billion has about one-fifth 19.1% as youth. With 66% of its population (808 million) below the age of 35, India has the world's largest youth population. Among them, less than 40% of those who turned 18 or 19 have registered themselves for 2024 election. According to the Election Commission of India (ECI), just above 1.8 crore new voters (18-and 19-year-olds) are on the electoral rolls/registration out of the total projected 4.9 crore new voters in this age group.

Mark Lee: A spiritual leader who thought conventional religions are barrier to liberation

  By Harsh Thakor*  The Krishnamurti Foundation of America (KFA) lost Roger Edwin Mark Lee, who was a devoted disciple of Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the greatest and most self realised spiritual philosophers of our time. Mark passed away due to pneumonia complications on April 6, 2024, at he Ventura Community Memorial Hospital in California. His exit was an irreparable loss to the spiritual world.