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Proof Of The Pudding

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The difference between voodoo doctors promising a cure from everything and populist politicians can be, sometimes, difficult to tell. 
The difficulty is in verifying the truth of what they do and say. The fourth and presumably final tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore economic package to revive India’s capsized economy as a consequence of 52 days of lock down to contain the spread of the Corona virus will be, in all probability, a slogan that fails to deliver positive outcomes. The six years of the federal government led by Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party has milestones marking the failed promises and the descent of India’s economy, social stability and autonomous functioning of institutions into disorder.Modi’s obsession with slogans produced the obviously false hope, at the start of the lock down on March 24, that if there was life there was a future – Jaan hai to Jahan hai. Data on road accidents in May 2020 will reveal a bizarre jump in the numbers of people who died during lock down compared to the number in April, 2020, also during the lockdown. If the data is released, which it should be, but there is no certainty that it will happen, the world will know how many migrants walking home died in road accidents. The data will obviously not reveal how many died of dehydration compounded by hunger and exhaustion due to chronic energy deficiency. The martyrs of Modi’s war against the virus are the men, women and children who died walking,  1500 kilometres for some,  back to their villages , after jobs disappeared, employers and host states reneged on promises to feed and care for them and the federal government’s promise to ferry them back home on trains turned out to be unaffordable.An estimated 120 million people migrate from villages to earn more, make a better life and build a future in India. There are no reliable numbers, because the federal government has not allowed them to be collated and publicly shared. The loans or liquidity as economic pundits call it offered by Modi and his finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the multiple packages to restart the economy and roll back the lockdown to small and medium manufacturing units, farms and services will do nothing for the working class. In March, when the economy was not locked down, the labour force shrank to 362 million from 434 million, according to the respected Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy. Of these about 21 per cent, or 76 million, were already unemployed. Post lock down the unemployment rate has shot up. Before the lock down, unemployment in India, in six years of the Modi government has crossed a 42 year high. Can the loans, the “corporatisation” of the public sector, the labour law reforms, the industrial reforms, including private sector participation in space industries and nuclear power help the estimated billion members of the working class find alternative work or new opportunities within the next 4 weeks? If it cannot, and that is almost certain, the Modi government will have pushed India’s labour force deeper into destitution. The consequences of such callous and calculated measures, in the name of the impoverished working class will be social instability. There can be no doubt that hunger and joblessness, depressed wages and exploitative terms of employment will trigger volatile reactions. The Modi government has clearly calculated that the reaction will be feeble and therefore manageable. It is a measure of the cynicism that underlies the BJP’s relationship with the Indian citizen.
(Shikha Mukherjee is a former editor at Times of India. She writes exclusively for Easternlink)

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