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Mainstream, VOL LV No 42 New Delhi October 7, 2017

Can One Expect Anything Better?

Monday 9 October 2017, by SC



The lead report on the front page of The Indian Express today has the headline: “‘Demonetisation A Milestone: Reward For Honesty’: Critics are spreading despair but economy is on track: PM”. This is a gist of Narendra Modi’s address at the Institute of Company Secretaries of India in the Capital yesterday (October 4, 2017).

At one point it appeared that the PM was trying to strike a new path when he said:

Over the last few days there has been criticism on the economic front. I don’t think they are bad. We are a sensitive government and we accept even the harshest criticism from the heart. We think deeply on those criticisms in a sensitive manner and I say it, with full humility, that we will take the country’s economy forward with the same rhythm and pace. This I want to assure even my critics with humility.

However, it became clear soon after that all these words were intended to hoodwink the public. The PM has not changed. There is no trace of humility before the critics. Or else why did he have to make such a sarcastic comment about a “handful of people”, that is, his critics who, he insisted, had a good sleep if the economy registered a downslide? The sarcasm in his speech was unmistakable. And that exposed his real face: he is not one to gracefully accept any valid criticism and rectify a mistake.

If he was open to criticism he would have understood and accepted the validity of Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie’s criticisms. The former described demonetisation an “unmitigated disaster” while the latter underscored it as the “largest money-laundering scheme ever, conceived and implemented by the government”. And they established these with specific facts, not just by resorting to rhetoric.

Meanwhile, the Forbes magazine has disclosed: Despite India’s economic hiccups, tycoons on the Forbes India Rich List saw their wealth soar as their fortunes rose 26 per cent to $ 479 billion (over Rs 31 lakh crores).

It further pointed out:

India’s turbo-charged economy spluttered in the quarter ended in June as it grew at a three-year low of 5.7 per cent due to the aftershocks of last November’s demonetisation and uncertainties over the rollout of a nationwide Goods and Service Tax. Despite this the stock market scaled new heights and boosted the fortunes of the nation’s 100 richest.

This is the ground reality. The economic stratification of the society has doubtless increased. While the poor and the lower middle class suffer, the rich are making hay while the sun shines. Only one should be thankful for small mercies—the PM has admitted that the growth rate has declined since the statistical figures cannot be dismissed offhand.

Today is October 5, 2017. Exactly a month ago activist-journalist Gauri Lankesh was brutally gunned down by unknown assailants before her residence in the evening of September 5. Secular democrats of all hues have held mobilisations on this day throughout the country to remember her. She met the same fate as rationalist leaders Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and Dr M.M. Kalburgi. But till date the PM did not find the time or have the inclination to issue a statement conveying sympathy to the family of deceased for the manner in which her life was cut short. Rather he continues to troll on twitter a person (Nikhil Dadhich) who had the audacity to attack Gauri in the filthiest of language after her assassination.

To expect anything different from such a dispensation as the one Narendra Modi heads is like asking for the moon.

October 5 S.C.   

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