A worried President reminds Modi govt about core values of Indian civilisation
President Pranab Mukherjee is anguished with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government viewing nationalism in a new perspective leading to increasing intolerance. Such a mismatch adversely affecting the country’s plurality is not new as it has been evidenced since the BJP led NDA government assumed power at the Centre in May 2014.
In the present instance it is with regard to the November 8 high power demonetisation unleashed by Modi continuing to cause great distress to poor.
The Head of State believes that in the short to medium term, demonetisation is unlikely to achieve its three pronged objective — eradicating the scourge of poverty, tackling black money along with dealing a crippling blow to the menace of terrorism. The poor encompassing the daily wage earner, farmers, the underprivileged as well as the oppressed and depressed cannot afford to wait for the long term. The copybook President has once again found it necessary to bring to the fore the core values of Indian civilisation.
These embrace tolerance and debate. Mukherjee underlined yet again the need to protect the virtues of democracy revolving around the “”freedom to doubt, express disagreement and discuss without fear and prejudice””.
He was categorical that the troubles of the poor cannot be brushed aside by a government on the promise of long-term dream of prosperity. A case in point is the widespread distress sale by farmers and lay offs underlying there is need for social security.
Impartial observers believe as the protector of the Constitution, his efforts in outlining yet again the virtues of democracy could not have come at a more opportune moment. Making these observations while addressing Governors and Lt Governors in the new year through teleconferencing, Mukherjee said it is natural to love one’s country and take pride in its past glory.
It should be remembered that patriotism puts blinkers on people’s eyes. The lens of patriotism can sometimes present or distort too one sided or too partisan a view of the past. The First Citizen was quick to say “”they bear reiteration, especially at the present conjunction in India when any criticism of India’s past or present is condemned as being anti-national””.
The response to the Head of State’s observations by the Prime Minister has been tepid in the past. On one occasion while campaigning in the run up to the assembly elections in Bihar in 2015 Modi responded publicly exhorting the people to follow the President’s advice.
In his message on New Year’s eve, Modi announced waiving bad loans wa well as cutting taxes and interest rates for businesses to soften the ruffled feathers of those badly affected by demonetisation. Providing these sops is one thing even as direly needed social security is nowhere in sight. The President emphasised those suffering “”need to get succour here and now””.
Amid all this the BJP leaders are singing paeans of Modi about the second surgical strike pertaining to demonetisation is bound to turn the tide. They are emphatic that Modi is determined to transform this country by leap frogging to a cashless world.
The economy is expected to grow at 7.1 during the current fiscal far slower than 7.6 per cent in 2015-16. The negative impact of demonetisation is far greater in the rural areas. The country faces an extraordinary situation due to demonetisation. It has become imperative to reach new notes to areas which continues to be affected by the liquidity crisis.
The Central Statistics Office forecast does not take into account the adverse impact of demonetisation which by some accounts is a daring step. The CSO’s prediction is based on data for the first seven months till the end of October last year. The CSO chief T C A Anant conceded that the latest projection may have to be reworked once data for the remaining period becomes available.
An alarming trend discernible in the country since the Modi government assumed office having completed half its term of two-and-a-half years, is to take nationalism to a new level particularly by the BJP’s ideologue and mentor, the RSS.
This in turn has shown nationalism in a different perspective of indulging in violence and whipping up a fear psychosis leading to increasing intolerance. Inevitably dissent and debate are becoming the casualty.
The Prime Minister has rarely ever intervened in curbing such aberrations. His silence has been stoic and on the odd occasion mild mannered. In October 2015, the President was categoric that coexistence of opposition forces, different opinions, strengthen ties along with increasing society’s capacity to move forward.
The President wondered aloud “”if acceptance of dissent is on the wane? Humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned,”” he emphasised. Another disturbing trend has been the propensity to use the Ordinance route for political expediency. This has been deprecated by superior courts as well as constitutional functionaries. There is the fear of defeat in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP led NDA government is in a minority.
There is no doubt that people in rural areas have borne a disproportionate burden due to demonetisation. The government must pay attention to the President’s warning of a looming crises in rural India rather than seeking to brush it under the carpet. The Modi government’s efforts in rendering assistance to the poor has to be direct and focussed.
(T R Ramachandran is a senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)”