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Connecting the dots after three years in the saddle
Updated:May 28, 2017
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By Kapil Sibal
In 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the mandate to rule India and took power after 10 years of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule. The BJP-led regime has now completed three years in office — on May 25 this year — which is also a fair enough time to critically examine the track record of this government. I let the facts speak for themselves in light of a series of unkept promises.
Upholding farmers’ welfare
In one of his “Chai Pe Charcha” programmes on March 20, 2014, Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister, termed farmer suicides as a “national agony” and added that “the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) shall stand behind all farmers hit by natural calamities like the recent hailstorms, or economic crises. I shall not be able to sleep peacefully till I do something for you.” He wanted a system where with the infusion of modern technology, water resources and efforts to double agriculture output, farmers were not driven to end their lives. Thus his attention was focussed on ensuring farmer welfare.
According to a National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, titled “Accidental deaths and suicides in India, 2015”, the number of farmers who committed suicide was 8,007. The corresponding number in 2014 was 5,650. Thus there has been a 42% increase in loss of lives between 2014 and 2015. After blaming the UPA and its policies for farmer suicides, in the run-up to the 2014 general election and much after, this government now attributes suicides to reasons which it says have nothing to do with its policies.
For instance, in reply to a question in Parliament on July 24, 2015, Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh even cited among several other reasons, “love affairs” and “impotency” as key factors. To make matters worse, Haryana’s Agriculture Minister, O.P. Dhankar, in a statement on April 29, 2015, termed farmers who commit suicide as “cowards”.
Now back to Mr. Modi. Addressing a rally in Pathankot in Punjab, on April 25, 2014, as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, he said: “If the NDA comes to power, it will ensure remunerative prices to the farmers by adding 50% profit into the peasants’ input cost.” In addition he said: “We will fix the Minimum Support Price of crops incorporating 50% profit in farmers’ cost of production including seed, irrigation, manure, labour.” And he ended by saying that “no one will be allowed to loot farmers”.
Fast forward to February 2015. In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Modi government did a U-turn, stating that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) cannot be fixed on the basis of “cost+50 percent” as that would distort the market. Between 2009 and ’10, the MSP for paddy was ?950 a quintal as against a production cost of ?670 a quintal — translating to a 42% margin of profit for farmers.
In 2015-16, the MSP for paddy was ?1,410 a quintal against an estimated production cost of ?1,324 a quintal, which is only a 6.5% margin of profit to farmers. It is clear that the procurement prices of wheat, paddy and other agricultural produce have been much less than the price received by farmers during the UPA’s tenure.
Between 2014 and 2016, the Modi government hiked the MSP of rice only by 3.9% per year. In comparison, during 2011 and 2013, the UPA increased the MSP of rice by 9.5% per year. For wheat, the figure is 4.1% per year under the Modi government as against 7% per year under the UPA.
Bringing back black money
Another major issue for the BJP government has been the subject of black money. In his “Chai Pe Charcha” campaign, launched in Ahmedabad on February 12, 2014, Mr. Modi had said: “The whole country is worried about black money... We will bring back each and every penny deposited abroad by Indian citizens. I am committed to this because this money belongs to the poor people of India and no one has the right to do this kind of anti-national activity.”
The facts. In the last three years, the Modi government has received the names of those with illegal bank accounts in foreign havens. Yet, they remain a closely guarded secret.
On October 17, 2014, nearly five months after assuming office, the Modi government told the Supreme Court that it could not reveal the names of Indians with accounts in foreign banks due to double taxation avoidance treaties with other countries — a position taken by the UPA. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dismissed the government’s reluctance in revealing the names by saying: “Is the present NDA government led by Modi in any way reluctant to make some names public? Certainly not. We have no difficulty in making names public. But they can be made public only in accordance with due process of law.”
The Modi government now states that any account opened after 2017 will be made public, pursuant to an agreement between India and foreign powers under the Common Reporting Standards (CRS) or the Standard for Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Informations, an information standard for the automatic exchange of information (AEoI).
The resulting question is this. Why not the names of account holders before 2017? This was a demand made on the floor of the House by the BJP and the rest of the Opposition who attacked the UPA for not revealing the names of account holders.
Job creation
Let me focus on another Modi promise — of creating one crore jobs. Addressing an election rally in Agra, on November 22, 2013, Mr. Modi had said, “If the BJP comes to power, it will provide one crore jobs which the UPA government could not do despite announcing it before the last Lok Sabha polls.” Incidentally, the point about farmer interests becoming paramount under BJP rule was also made at this rally.
The facts. In the three years 2009 to 2011, when India’s GDP was still growing at an average 8.5%, the organised sector was producing on average 9.5 lakh new jobs every year. In the last two years, 2015 and 2016, average employment generation has plummeted to less than 2 lakh jobs a year. This is less than 25% of the annual employment generated before 2011. In 2015, employment generated in eight labour intensive sectors collapsed to an all-time low of 1.5 lakh jobs.
By adding service sectors to the organised sector employment data, the figures show a slight improvement in the growth of new jobs in 2016. New jobs generated increased from 1.55 lakh in 2015 to 2.31 lakh in 2016. But this is still only 25% of the organised sector jobs generated in 2009.
Data on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act show that unemployment continues unabated, and in fact seems to be worsening. In Mr. Modi’s first year as Prime Minister, 4.65 crore households demanded work in the scheme. In 2015-16, this number had increased by 15% to reach 5.3 crore. In 2016-17, it further increased by 6% to reach a staggering 5.69 crore households in search of work.
Another promise — on the safety of women. In a public rally in Pune, on November 1, 2013, Mr. Modi, while accusing the Congress of failing to ensure safety for women in the capital, said: “In spite of Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi being women, Delhi is known as the rape capital. People don’t know who to trust anymore.”
Women’s safety
Interestingly, at the BJP’s National Executive in New Delhi, in January 2014, Mr. Modi, while speaking about empowering women and ensuring that they went from being homemakers to ‘nation builders’, said: “What is happening with our mothers and sisters in the country leaves us shame-faced. Dignity of women should be a commitment.”
The facts. According to an NCRB report, though there was a slight reduction by 3.1% in crime against women in 2015 as compared to 2014, there was an increase of 2.5% in instances of sexual offences against women. There was also an increase in instances of kidnapping and abduction of women in 2015. Delhi recorded the highest overall rate of crime against women. Data from Delhi, the epicentre of the Nirbhaya rape protest movement, shows that, contrary to expectations, under a new government and with a new law — in 2013, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 or the Anti-Rape Bill, later called the Nirbhaya Act, came into existence — the number of rapes has gone up in the capital of India. As in Delhi, national data on rape too showed a substantial increase in 2015, when compared with 2012 data. In 2012, there were 24,923 cases while in 2015, there were 36,651 cases.
Curbing inflation
Another Modi statement made in early 2014: “The Congress had promised to curb inflation in 100 days, but did they live up to their promises? Don’t trust those who betray public trust. If the governments of Vajpayeeji and Morarji Desai could stop price rise, why can’t we? The BJP government in 2014 will do it, I assure you.”
The facts. Food inflation has not shown any trends of reversing. Instead, prices of essential commodities are on the rise, with pulses especially selling at ?100-?150 a kg. Petrol and diesel prices continue to be raised with shocking regularity. Industrial production is down, the rupee is down and somehow people have stopped believing in GDP figures that this government relies upon.
On corruption
Finally, I focus on yet another Modi promise — of delivering a ‘corruption-free India’. At a rally in Sujanpur, Himachal Pradesh, on February 16, 2014, Mr. Modi had said: “Mere liye na koi aagey, na peechhey. Kiske liye bhrashtachaar karunga (I have no family ties. I am single. Who will I be corrupt for)?”
He added, “This mind and body is totally devoted to the nation.” Then again on February 23, 2014, he tweeted: “When we come to power, we will serve as Chowkidars who will never allow any Hand to loot coffers of our nation.” Again on April 13, 2014, he tweeted: “[The] NDA is firm on its commitment to create a corruption-free India so that best opportunities are created for our youth.”
The facts. There has been an increase — by 67% — in complaints received of corruption in various government departments. According to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the Railways tops the list with over 11,000 complaints.
The probity watchdog received a total of 49,847 complaints in 2016, as against 29,838 in 2015 — an increase of about 67%, according to the CVC’s annual report tabled recently in Parliament.
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