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Home > 2022 > A Spark May Lead to Fire - Could India Go the Sri Lanka Way? | Radhakanta (...)

Mainstream, VOL LX No 26-27, New Delhi, June 18 & June 25 2022 [Double issue]

A Spark May Lead to Fire - Could India Go the Sri Lanka Way? | Radhakanta Barik

Friday 17 June 2022

by Radhakanta Barik *

Rahul Gandhi the leader of the Congress Party and has a deep understanding of the social and economic problems of the Indian people. He is able to interact with the leading economists including the Nobel Laureates and he is able to interact with thinkers and industrialists without fearing Modi. Modi is just the opposite who is scared of scholars and thinkers as he branded them as ’Hard work vs Harvard.’ He raises a point in his twitter regarding India is going on the path of Sri Lanka where popular protests are going on against the Rajapaksas who won the election in 2019 on the platform of majoritarianism and brought all his family members to the government where the President and Prime Minister belonged to his family. The whims and fancies of the Sri Lankan president and his family triggered a massive economic crisis. Modi after winning the election in 2019 brought his political family drawn from of the RSS most important member of his cabinet Amit Shah is a hard-core RSS member. His PMO (Prrme Minsiters Office) is packed with servile civil servants.

The Indian economy is suffering from economic stagnation plus high price rise. This is a rare situation when production suffers while price rise is growing. This is being recognized by the RBI with a policy decision by increasing interest rate. This is further squeezing the industrialists to take loans from the banks. Price rise is going to affect the common people. This has affected the poor and middle class. The best example is the Sabji Mandi (the whole sale vegetable market) in Delhi which is said to be Asia’s biggest mandi where sales have been cut by half as retailers do not buy much as people do not have the income to buy. The best example is the closing of the shops selling vegetables in Dwarka, suburb of Delhi. People suffer the pinch of high prices in terms of petroleum which is an essential commodity today in the village and towns. On an average, every normal village is having one hundred motorcycles which require petrol. Agricultural production depends on diesel which is at a high price. Common people use kerosene which is their petroleum is very expensive. The unavailability of these three can create havoc in everyday life. In Sri Lanka there is one mile long queue for collecting diesel and petrol.

The worst is the high rate of unemployment in India. This is the highest in last forty five years. Covid pushed workers out of their employment as city got locked down. This pushed workers to their homes in rural country. They have added to the villages which are suffering from high unemployment. Wages have fallen in the villages or stagnating for years. The unemployment among the educated is so high and they feel the pinch in looking and preparing for the jobs in staying in the cities like Patna and Allahabad who came to the streets some time back. Frustration is so severe that young came out to the streets some time back which has never happened in India as a MP of BJD raised on the floor of Parliament.

North India is suffering from heat wave and high unemployment. They may come at any moment to the streets as there are jobs neither in private sector nor in government. The best example is the Railways which abolished 77000 jobs in C and D categories over which there was protest. The North does not have a manufacturing sector to absorb the skilled labour trained by the ITI (Industrial Training Institutes) under PM’s skill India programme. Without the jobs they are getting pushed out to the South or West but today the situation is not good in these parts of India. They are unemployed. Prof Alagh writes some years back that UP is suffering from decline in industrial and agricultural growth but only growth they have in population. Indian average population growth is around two percentages but UP and Bihar are having three percentages. North is suffering from summer heat and heat of economic distress.

Modi is concentrating energies in political mapping in these states which may go out of their hands. Things are not going right as Rahul Gandhi raises the issues of peoples economic woes — a warning to the rulers. Modi himself faced the situation while allowing the export of wheat to some countries but when the price rise of wheat touched Rs 50 in some states of India and Rs 35 in Delhi; This forced Modi to retreat from the declared policy statement that India would go ahead with the export of wheat but reversed the policy after a month. He needs serious thinking for handling the economic situation as world economy is suffering from lot of uncertainties as warned by a leading economist Prof Abhijit Banerjee. The warning by Rahul Gandhi needs to be taken seriously to save the economic situation in India where millions can come out of their homes to the streets demanding food and work.
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Modi has a lot of similarities with the ruling family of Sri lanka getting the maximum support from Sinhalese majority by ignoring the Tamilans and Muslims. Here Modi went ahead without putting any Muslim candidates in the UP assembly election in 2022 ignoring Dalits and backwards. In the 2019 Loksabha election he showed his muscular nationalism by creating a military attack on Pakistan and collecting votes. Pakistan and Muslims are synonymous for Modi. A big democracy and neighbor of Pakistan and Srilanka needs an independent foreign policy to create good relations which is absent. Modi had the support of Imaran Khan a cricketer without having the support of political class in Pakistan but his muscular foreign policy has pushed Pakistan to be closer to China, and, America which made India more vulnerable in South Asian politics. In both Pakistan and Sri Lanka the elected regimes got threatened by public anger. In Pakistan, the resignation came of Imran Khan without any public protest and in Sri Lanka, the public are on the streets in demanding the resignation of the ruling party. These are young people in twenties with robust body and robust commonsense. They demand the removal of family rule of President Rajpaksa where brothers have already resigned except.

Modi after his 2019 win shows its instability in terms of social coalition. His politics has alienated Muslims Dalits and the Backwards. These visible cracks in the social coalition headed by Modi were reflected in UP election result as Dalits went with BSP and SP got the support of Muslims and backwards. The way state gets engaged with its administrative policy it makes further unstable. Jobs vanished from the state sector and the backwards and Muslims have benefited from the Mandal reservation has been nullified. Dalits are losing their share of administrative jobs because of privatization. Unstable social coalition headed by Modi can turn into political movement. They can come to the streets for demanding their share of power.

Hindus are not homogeneous community and only the high castes are behind the Modi politics. The second phase of Hindutva politics is starting now by keeping a Shivling in a Mosque of Kashi which is Modi’s parliamentary constituency. Politics can change in a day and things may not support Modi and it may go against his government any day like in Sri Lanka. Federation may save to some extent as South and West are relatively advanced than North. North is highly volatile in both economic and political sense. North may rise against him for jobs food and work. North specifically UP and Bihar are experiencing a mono culture. Both these states are agricultural states. High rate of unemployment in both these states have kept the political leadership in both are highly volatile and under the tenterhooks.

India is experiencing the worst economic distress and lack of trust among states in Federation. Most of the states are questioning Mod’s policy on decreasing the price of petroleum without consultation with the states. The Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu made a sharp comment over the decision which he brands as hypocritical. States are unhappy over the situation as their income is falling and they have suffered from the brunt of anger of people. They need more money for developmental activities such as NREGA which are getting less money. The economic development is associated with the investment of public sector but in India public sector is getting privatized which harming the economic growth of the regions. Regions require public investment side by side with private capital. Private sector is shrinking its activities and foreign capital is withdrawing its capital from India. This reflects in the falling value of Rupee in exchange of Dollar. This is going to harm Indian economy like Sri Lanka as they depend on foreign exchange for buying essential commodities like petro products. Price of petroleum has increased beyond one hundred rupees which was just one third when Modi took over the government. There was a protest over this issue against the UPA Government by the BJP workers led by Smriti Irani. Today situation is very much vulnerable when people demanding the lowering of the price of petroleum products.

Manufacturing sector is declining from the days when Modi went for demonetization and it has worsened during the covid and after covid it has not recovered. During the covid while the leading economists and political leaders belonging to opposition demanded for income support for the working people which was ignored by Modi. His arrogance combined with poor understanding of the economy is creating problems for Indian economy. Lack of competence among the managers those who are managing the economic activities accentuating the problem. Many think India may not experience Sri Lanka because of its size but North India is moving away from the South and West may create problems for political management.

ILO urged its member countries to take a human approach to the situation as the world has lost 11.2 crores jobs. India is suffering from the worst scene as forty five crores of workers have vanished from the economic scene. The other forty five crores are waiting for the jobs but the government is not taking any initiative to solve their problems. Women’s participation in the labour process has further declined from 23% to 18%.. Women, tribals, Dalits and Muslims and backwards are badly affected by the present policy pursued by Modi.

Economic activities in Sri Lanka pushed the political regime to the margin and their support base vanished in a day. Rajpraksa has removed most of his brothers from the government. Imran Khan has lost his job. India is vulnerable to such worst economic situation may result in the same process when politics is going to take a new turn. Political stability of Modi may vanish and his legitimacy is already getting questioned. Liberal political theory is turning upside down as political stability is not depending on the number of seats in Parliament and assembly. It depends beyond political stability which is pushing to the domain of economic and social disturbances.

Before 2019 Sri Lankan Economy was stable and had steady economic growth. But the political leadership messed up the stable economy. It went for organic farming which harmed the farming communities. The similar situation is prevailing as Indian economy was stable before Modi’s arrival in Delhi. It started declining with its policy of Demonitisation. As many economists agree to a point that Indian GDP came down by 2 percentages because of one wrong policy. As the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave warning to Modi: that it would be a disaster. This proved correct. With covid 19 the Indian economy faced threats and poor management pushed working class out of the cities and they moved away on foot which made them unhappy. No income support for the working people and small scale industries pushed the economy in a peculiar situation like stagnation and inflation. Such double crises have pushed people out of their livelihoods as poor today are committing suicide because of poverty and economic distress. The state is not having no package for them which is keeping people under the pressures of stagnation.

The educated unemployed are the critical mass in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh states who can move out of the political circuit and come to the streets which can push the Indian political regime getting separated from Economic situation. This may create problems of legitimacy for Modi as political majority may not make him stable in Indian Republic. With the hostile international situation Indian economy may face difficulties. Price rise has a close association with global commodity market. India may not be able to save the situation with their political manipulation. There is possibility Indian economy is going in the direction of Sri Lankan way.

(Author: Prof Radhkanta Barik retired as a former faculty member from the Indian Institute of Public Administration)

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