(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 26, 2008
A Government Derailed
THE Manmohan Singh government increasingly presents a picture of a government that has lost its way. In the last few months, the way the government has dealt with the serious problems of communal violence, terrorist blasts and the impact of the financial crisis in the United States has conveyed the message that the government is rudderless.
The most glaring failure has been in tackling the violence unleashed by the Hindutva forces. For a full six weeks, the country was witness to the distressing spectacle of the VHP and Bajrang Dal hordes subjecting the Christian community in Kandhamal district of Orissa to a savage and sustained attack. When it became evident that the Navin Patnaik government was unwilling to take firm steps to check the rampaging hordes, the Congress-led UPA government remained a mute spectator apart from dispatching central para military forces to assist the state administration. Even directives under Article 355 were not issued. All the missives sent by the home ministry were in the nature of advisories which the Orissa government chose to pointedly ignore. Violence against the Christians flared up in various places in Karnataka with the brunt being borne in the Dakshin Kannada district. Here too the centre contented itself with issuing general advisories. To show that these two states are not being singled out, an advisory was sent to the Kerala government too about some minor incidents of stone throwing in Kasargode district.
The RSS and its outfits have stepped up communal attacks against the Muslim minorities in other parts of the country. Both in Adilabad district in Andhra Pradesh and in Dhule in Maharashtra, the administration, where the Congress is in power, did not take the warning signals seriously and failed to crack down on the communal elements. Despite the growing evidence of the role of the Bajrang Dal no action has been taken to curb its lawless violence. Even the entreaties of the UPA partners and cabinet ministers like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and the sober advice of Sharad Pawar to take action against Bajrang Dal could not move the Manmohan Singh government.
The refusal to take action against the Bajrang Dal utilising the provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act does not stem from any lack of evidence or political support. If the central government had taken action, every secular political party outside the NDA would have supported it. Even the allies of the BJP like the JD(U) and the BJD would have found it difficult to oppose it. The Congress cannot give up the habit of looking over its shoulder to see if there will be a Hindu backlash whenever it is confronted with taking a firm stand against the Hindutva forces. The failure to intervene in Kandhamal and bring the Bajrang Dal to book is the latest pusillanimous stand starting from the backtracking and vacillations on the Babri Masjid issue.
With this the pledge made in the Common Minimum Programme was given a quiet burial. The CMP had said: “The UPA government will take the strictest possible action, without fear or favour, against all those individuals and organisations who spread social discord, disturb social amity, propagate religious bigotry and communal hatred. The law of the land will be enforced effectively.”
Parallel to this, the country has had to grapple with a spate of terrorist blasts, the current round beginning with the Bangalore blasts on July 25. The central government has to take strong and effective measures against the terrorist groups operating in the country. But faced with the BJP’s strident demand for stronger anti-terror laws, vacillations in the Congress emerged. The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by senior Congressman Veerappa Moily, submitted a report which recommended more stringent provisions like Pota. The only difference with the stand of the BJP is that the ARC report wants these provisions such as a longer period of preventive detention, more stringent bail provisions, admissibility of police confession and so on should be brought as special section of the National Security Act. What is required is not more draconian anti-terror laws but better intelligence and the revamping of the security set up so that elements who comprise the terrorist groups are identified and their operations wrapped up.
The central government seems oblivious of the widespread rounding up and harassment of Muslim youth whenever a terrorist blast takes place. Increasingly, the police and State machinery is seen to be targeting the Muslim community. This has caused widespread anger and fear among the minorities. It cannot be denied that some Muslim youth are being drawn into groups who espouse extremist ideology and violence. This has arisen over two decades of recurring brutalisation of the minorities and the patent failure of the Indian State to render justice to the victims of communal pogroms, whether it be the Mumbai 1993 killings or the Gujarat 2002 carnage. But the fight to counter the extremist appeal among the Muslim youth is being hampered by the biased police and legal processes. The UPA government has done nothing to intervene when in state after state lawyers appearing for persons accused of terrorist violence are physically attacked and prevented from appearing in courts. The latest instance is of a lawyer, Noor Mohammed, who is a CPI leader, who was physically assaulted inside the court in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, by Bajrang Dal activists for daring to appear for arrested persons allegedly belonging to a SIMI group. The central government and its law ministry has a responsibility to intervene when such gross abuse of the legal process takes place.
The Congress led government by its opportunist silence on such matters is losing the confidence of the minority community on the one hand and emboldening the Hindu communalists as they go unchecked with their plans to foment communal tensions and create polarisation.
This should be a matter of concern for all democratic minded citizens as the vicious cycle of violence spawned by terrorism and communalism facilitates the growing assaults on the secular principle and democracy.
The abysmal failure to comprehend and act decisively to tackle these threats to the democratic secular polity is now compounded by the blinkered approach of the Manmohan Singh-Chidambaram duo in tackling the impact of the US and global financial crisis. In his first response Chidambaram asserted that the government would pursue reforms. He also endorsed “financial innovations” by stating that “As long as regulation remains a step ahead of innovation, there is no reason to fear that financial sector reforms will cause us difficulties or problems.” This dogmatic neo-liberal approach cannot comprehend that the so-called financial innovations created in Wall Street could take place only in a completely deregulated system. The decision to remove the restrictions on Participatory Notes and to increase the debt investment limits from $3.2 billion to $5 billion and $1.5 billion to $3 billion for FII investments in government securities and corporate debt are all measures which are contrary to what should be done which is stricter regulation for FII flows into the country and doing away with Participatory Notes altogether.
The recent meeting of the central committee of the CPI(M) has demanded a series of measures to tighten capital controls and finance market regulations; stabilise the rupee value and stop efforts to deregulate and open up the banking and insurance sector to foreign capital. But the government has not learnt any lessons due to neo-liberal obsession. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill has been listed in the current session of parliament for consideration and approval. The union finance minister should answer what would have been the plight of the government employees if their funds had been put into the stock market by the pension fund managers, if the bill had been passed in parliament earlier? Can he explain what he would have done if the crash in the stock market would have wiped out the pension returns of the employees?
In July this year, a decision was taken to handover the Provident Fund contributions of workers to finance companies for investment in the stock exchange. This amounted to Rs 2,40,000 crore in the corpus fund and another Rs 30,000 crore in the annual incremental fund. Four fund managers, including Reliance Capital, were selected for this speculation with the savings of workers. In the USA, according to a Washington Post article, nearly $2 trillion retirement savings of Americans have been wiped out in the last fifteen months due to the stock market crash. Does the finance minister want to gamble with the provident funds of the workers and employees? There should be an immediate directive to stop provident funds being invested in the stock markets.
For the prime minister who dreams of capital account convertibility and the finance minister who still claims 8 per cent GDP growth is possible, the loss of jobs for tens of thousands of people which has already begun in the services sector and will soon spread to the other sectors of the economy is of no concern. All that they are worried about is how to keep the stock market afloat and to bring the FII funds back so that the Indian and foreign “fat cats” can continue to reap big profits. It would have been better if the prime minister had announced in parliament in his statement on the impact of the global financial crisis that his government is withdrawing all the legislations to further open up the banking and insurance sector and abandoning the new pension scheme. What the country expects of this government to ensure are steps to stabilise the exchange rate of the rupee, extension of funds for productive growth and immediate measures to provide relief to the people who are suffering from price rise and inflation at a time when jobs and livelihood are being lost.
DISCREDITED AND ILLEGITIMATE GOVT
In the entire period since the trust vote session in July, this government has had a single purpose to get the India-US nuclear deal through. While Jammu was paralysed for a month the government did nothing. The Kashmir situation is being met by only force and administrative measures. It is at such a time that the Israeli army chief was sent to Kashmir in the first week of September. This has now been followed by the visit of the US army chief to Ladakh. The people of the Kashmir valley have had a direct experience of the nexus with the US and Israel. It has also opened the way for third party interference in Kashmir. What message it has sent to the people of the valley and to all the Muslim countries is something which does not bother a government which sees the future of India through the prism of the US neo-conservatives.
The way the Congress-led government has treated parliament is truly shocking. The bizarre continuance of the July trust vote session in October and the blatant manoeuvre to avoid a new session has now proved to be futile. This parliament session will now abruptly end on October 24, hardly a week after it was convened. Will a new session of parliament be held in December? As far as the prime minister is concerned, after going back on an assurance to come to parliament after the IAEA and NSG, these are trivial issues now that the “historic” pact with the US has been signed.
No government has lost credibility or legitimacy so rapidly in such a short time as the Manmohan Singh government did, in the four months period since the sordid goings on to manufacture a majority in the trust vote.