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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 9, New Delhi, February 13, 2021

Dismantling Public Sector and Subverting Welfare State | D Raja

Friday 12 February 2021


by D Raja

Politics and economics can never be separated. It is political economy which decides and reveals the nature and character of the state of any Nation. The Constitution of our country defines Indian state as a secular state and as a welfare state. The BJP-RSS combine has been aggressively making efforts to subvert the secular state into a theocratic fascist state. The present regime headed by Modi has been subverting the welfare state by dismantling public sector after the dismantling of the Planning Commission.

The distinguishing feature of Modi’s governance since 2014 has been the steep decline of economy and the weakening of its foundation beyond measure. This process has been exacerbated by suicidal policy of privatization of economy and dismantling of very resilient and profit-making public enterprises, both strategic and non-strategic, which have a sterling record of immensely contributing to the emergence of self-reliant India. Paradoxically the prime minister who talks of Atmanirbhar Bharat is doing exactly the opposite in striking at its very root by privatising the public sector enterprises and pursuing neo- liberal policies which would make India critically dependent on international finance capital.

The announcement of the finance minister that the government will work with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for execution of the bank privatisation plan announced in the Union Budget 2021 constitutes yet another resolve of the government to hand over the public sector banks to private hands. This would take India to pre-bank nationalization era and deepen inequality, poverty and concentration of wealth and means of production in a few hands. Such measures to strengthen private and corporate sectors at the cost of public sector are disastrous. The adverse consequences of such policies on economy and society are already felt acutely. Such fatal economic policies are contrary to the Constitutional vision of India which aims at progressive reduction of inequality and poverty and realization, in practice, of justice and equality.

Dr B R Ambedkar while participating in the discussion in the Constituent Assembly on Objectives Resolutions on 17th December 1946 presciently said: “I do not understand how it could be possible for any future government which believes in doing justice socially, economically and politically, unless its economy is a socialistic economy”. The constitutional vision of social and economic justice for citizens of India has been gravely jeopardized by providing more space to market forces, private sector and corporates. The aggressive privatisation process of Modi regime affecting railways, banks, public sector enterprises which include navaratna companies is seriously compromising the social and economic justice enshrined in the Constitution.

The Directive Principles of State Policy is clear that “the ownership and control of the material resources are so distributed as best to subserve the common good and that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment”. One economist has commented that “what is particularly worrying in India’s case is that economic inequality is being added to a society that is already fractured along the lines of caste, religion, region and gender.”

Privatisation is direct attack on the policy of reservation. It deprives the access to the employment and education in the public sector for the SC/STs, OBCs and also differently-abled persons. There is no law to provide reservation in private sector. This is an attempt to put an end to all affirmative actions and to put an end to social justice. The economic process based on privatisation is generating crises aggravating the existing fault lines and structured forms of inequality such as caste, patriarchy and gender.

Dr Manmohan Singh who in the context of the financial crisis of 2008 originating in the USA had said that India could withstand it because of resilience of public sector enterprises and public sector banks. So if our country was kept relatively immune from a financial crisis of global proportions then it is entirely due to the public sector enterprises and public sector banks. By privatising the public sector enterprises and banks the Modi regime is making India more vulnerable to multiple crises of national and global dimensions. It would make India susceptible to manipulation by those who have monopoly over international finance. It aggravates crises at multiple levels of economy, society and polity and makes India an easy target for control by the global powers. India will lose its economic leverage and vast masses of people would slip into more poverty and deprivation at a faster pace.

Internationally renowned economist Joseph Stiglitz is on record in saying that the regulatory mechanisms controlling public sector banks of India had the salutary effects of keeping the country free from several crises which overwhelmed some of the developed countries. The Modi regime is deliberately ignoring such sane observations and going ahead with policy measures which has crippled Indian economy and is bound to result in devastating consequences for the people and the society as a whole.

The world over it has been deeply realised by the policy makers that during the COVID pandemic it is the organisations in public sector including public sector hospitals and health sector which came to the rescue of the people at a highly affordable cost. Even in a country like Britain its Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on record in saying that his life was saved because of the public sector National Health Service. The COVID crisis has underlined the point that it is the public sector which can rise to the challenge and save people and society from the dangers threatening their life, livelihood, safety and security. Such renewed emphasis on public sector at the global level to save humanity should awaken the Modi regime.

Our own public sector has played a key role in nation building. Instead of strengthening public sector the Modi regime is committing the egregious blunder of dismantling it. It will prove fatal for the country as a whole.

The working people both rural and urban must put up a strong resistance to the continuance of Modi regime and save Indian State to continue as a welfare state ensuring economic and social justice. The political parties which have the ideological political commitment to save the Constitution and the Nation must come together and build popular movements across the country.

(Author: D Raja, is General Secretary, of the Communist Party of India (CPI) )

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