— Dipankar Bhattacharya
Ahead of the crucial Gujarat elections, the chinks in the Modi propaganda armour of Gujarat model of development continue to get brutally exposed. Indeed, the popular narrative on development that has emerged from within Gujarat and taken the social media by storm is ‘vikas gando thayo chhe’: ‘development has gone crazy’. It is not just about Gujarat, it could be said about the dominant discourse and design of development in the rest of India too. To be sure this is not a recent phenomenon happening only in the wake of the Modi victory of 2014 when the ‘Gujarat model’ is being sought to be replicated nationally. Crazy development is a characteristic outcome of crony capitalism when the resources and focus of the state are being increasingly dedicated to the interests of a handful of corporations and well-connected cronies.
Even as economic observers including former finance ministers from within the BJP have been expressing concern over the continually declining GDP growth rate for the last six quarters in a row, and reports of job loss are coming in virtually from every industry and employment sector, the latest International Food Policy Research Institute report on the state of global hunger tells us that India is ranked 100 in a list of 117 countries. In the neighbourhood, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are ahead of India with only Pakistan and Afghanistan faring worse than India. What is even more worrying is that after a marginal improvement from 2011 to 2015 when India’s ranking went up from 108 among 122 countries in 2011 to 93 among 117 countries in 2015, India’s ranking started slipping again in the last two years, going down to 97 (among 118) in 2016 and 100 (among 119) in 2017. India’s GHI 2017 score of 31.4 places India at the ‘higher end of the serious category’.
The report exposes the disturbing state of affairs behind the lofty rhetoric and tall claims of ‘Digital India’ and ‘Make in India’. However shocking and shameful, the report is hardly surprising for those who are aware of the ground reality in India. The phenomenon of child deaths in government hospitals is a bitter reality in several states. From Simdega in Jharkhand has come the stunning news of a young girl dying of starvation after being denied food for not having Aadhaar-linked ration card. Chronic deprivation – lack of access to food, drinking water, sanitation and housing – combined with cruel exclusion in the name of non-possession of Aadhaar card has rendered sizable sections of our population permanently vulnerable to acute malnutrition and hunger. The GHI is however not the only global index that reveals a disturbing comparative position of India. The world slavery report put out by the International Labour Organisation in collaboration with the Walk Free Foundation puts India on top with 1.4% or more than 18 million people estimated to be trapped in various forms of slavery.
Add to this acute malnutrition and hunger the growing burden of unemployment and under-employment, the soaring prices of essential goods and services and the lack of state expenditure and investment on public welfare, and we get an alarming picture of the living conditions facing the common people. Governments have been trying hard to keep this grim reality hidden behind the misleading statistics of GDP growth, but now even the GDP figures no longer paint a rosy picture. The growing concentration of wealth in the hands of an ever smaller minority leaves the rest of the society reeling precariously under the burden of economic inequality. Renowned economists Thomas Piketty and Lucas Chancel of Paris School of Economics have detected an alarming rise in economic inequality in India. Between 1980 and 2014, the share of the top 1 per cent of India’s population in income increased from 6 per cent to 22 per cent. During the same period, the share of the top 10 per cent increased from 30 per cent to 50 per cent; the share of the middle 40 per cent (the middle class) fell from 43 per cent to 30 per cent; the share of the bottom 50 per cent fell from 24 per cent to 15 per cent.
The Sangh-BJP establishment knows only one way of tackling this growing economic disaster – by sharpening communal polarisation in the country. No wonder, the BJP has even begun to target the Taj Mahal as being ‘alien’ and non-Indian and projecting Yogi Adityanath who has emerged as an epitome of communal vitriol and failed governance in Uttar Pradesh as a star BJP campaigner from Kerala to Gujarat. It is desperately trying to politicise the mutual clashes between RSS and CPI(M) in Kerala’s Kannur district as a ‘Marx against Hindus’ bogey and spearhead a violent anti-communist campaign across the country. But if the by-poll results of Gurdaspur LS seat or Vengara assembly seat in Kerala or for that matter the results of the Allahabad University Students’ Union elections are anything to go by, the BJP is finding it increasingly difficult to hide its failure and betrayal in economic or administrative governance behind communal aggression and jingoistic rhetoric. The rise of the disastrous Modi model had begun from Gujarat, let the signal of its downfall also emanate from the coming elections in Gujarat.