As we move towards our 72nd Independence Day, we are confronted with a serious weakening of democratic structures and institutional safeguards. The entire country is being kept in a communal frenzy, where decible media debates are being manufactured to whip up Hindu-Muslim enmity. At this juncture, we need to ask ourselves: what exactly does ‘independence’ mean to us? Should it not mean decent livelihoods, dignified jobs? What has happened to the lives and livelihoods of youth and farmers of the country in the past four years?
A report by the French tech firm Capgemini shows that in 2017, the number of dollar millionaires (individuals who own wealth of more than one million dollars) in India increased by 20%, as did their wealth (TOI, 19 June 2018). A report by Oxfam India says that 73% of the wealth generated in 2016-17 went to the richest one percent; while 67 crore Indians making up half of the country’s population saw a meagre one percent increase in their wealth (Newsclick, 20 June 2018). Clearly, inequality has only increased in the past few years.
Farmers Betrayed: What Narendra Modi promised the peasantry of the country: Significant increase in MSP (Minimum Support Price) of crops incorporating 50 per cent profit over and above farmers’ cost of production, doubling farmers’ incomes by 2022 and farm loan waivers in UP. What his Government did:
- Facilitate corporate land grab: Introduced an Ordinance to facilitate corporate land grab and dilute the pro-farmer provisions in the existing laws on land acquisition and rehabilitation. Even after the Modi Government was forced to roll this back, BJP-ruled state Governments have introduced other means of corporate land grab.
- Demonetisation starved farmers of ready cash during rabi sowing and kharif marketing season.
- Jumla of “historic” increase in MSP:
- Instead of basing the increase in MSP on C2 (cost of production including land rent), the latest ‘hike’ is based on the age old formula of A2+FL that excludes the land rent!
- This latest ‘hike’ announced is ONLY for Kharif crops grown in the 2018-19 season. In other words, it is neither applicable for Rabi crops, nor is it a long-term policy change.
- Only 6-8% farmers in India will get the benefits of this ‘rise’ in MSP.
- More jumlas: MP Government’s Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana (promising to pay difference between MSP and the mandi price) imposes conditionalities and actually decreases crop prices! Garlic prices for farmers in Mandsaur fell from Rs 20 per kg to Re 1 per kg
- State repression and killing of protesting farmers demanding MSP in Mandsaur.
- Farcical “loan waivers’: In UP, farmers got as low as Re 1 ‘waivers’!
- Protection of corporate interests: Modi government stubbornly refuses to denotify Monsanto’s Bt-Cotton, even as it has failed in its stated agenda to keep pests away and caused massive farmer distress.
- Reduction in crop insurance: The overall area insured under crop-insurance schemes has decreased from 30% to 24% over the last 2 years (from 53.7 million hectare in 2015-16 and 57.2 million hectare in 2016-17 to 47.5 million hectare in 2017-18). The number of farmers covered by such schemes has dropped by a whopping 14% (85 lakh farmers)!
- Crop Insurance- Bonanza to Insurance Companies, NOT farmers: Under Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana(PMFBY), while insurance companies have collected Rs 9,041.25 crore as premium (for Kharif 2016), they paid just 25% (Rs 570.10 crore) of the total claims made (Rs 2,324.01 crore) (The Wire, 6 July 2017). Companies are protected, while farmers do not receive insurance!
- Dismantling of drought relief schemes: National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) now provides relief only for ‘severe’ droughts; buck has been passed to the State governments. The India Meteorological Department (IMD) now says the word ‘drought’ itself should not exist, because it is ‘imprecise!
Hiding of farmer suicide data: Since 2016, the NCRB has stopped publishing inconvenient farmer suicide data. This, when 639 farmers committed suicide in 3 months in Maharashtra alone.
Shameful and Insensitive Statements by BJP Ministers and Leaders mocking and insulting farmers:
- ‘Do Yoga’ (Yoga kijiye): Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, 8 June 2017, on agricultural crisis.
- ‘For farmers, seeking loan waivers has become a fashion’: Union Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, 23 June 2017
- ‘Farmers who commit suicide are cowards and criminals’: Haryana Agriculture Minister OP Dhankar, 29 April 2015
- ‘Impotency and love affairs are the top reasons behind farmers suicides’: Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh in Parliament, July 2015
- ‘Farmers committed suicide because they were possessed by ghosts’: MP Home Minister Bhupendra Singh, July 2016
“Unemployed India” — No ‘Skill India’, ‘Start-Up India’, ‘Make In India’ Or ‘New India’
Modi came to power promising to create 2 crore new jobs per year. Instead, his Government has destroyed jobs, sold jobs through corruption, and mocked the unemployed by advising them to sell pakoras!
FACTS: Labour Bureau has STOPPED doing employment-unemployment surveys since 2016. After stopping crucial data collection, Modi tells us there is no scarcity of jobs!
The cat is however out of the bag: Union Minster Nitin Gadkari has brazenly accepted that there are no jobs at all!
Killing jobs: On the one hand, vacancies for posts were kept unfilled; on the other, the Central Government has recently announced that all posts lying vacant for 5 years will be scrapped!
- Massive CUT in jobs:
- Government Labour Bureau says 52 lakh jobs were terminated between 2013-14 and 2015-16. This is the first time after Independence that there has been a drop in the total number of jobs. (EPW, 23 September 2017).
- Between 2013-2015, there has been an 89% cut in Central Government jobs (Indian Express, 29 March 2017). More than 4 lakh jobs have been slashed.
- Huge 40% cut in UPSC jobs this year (from 1,291 seats in 2014 to 782 in 2018).
- Number of teachers in higher educational institutions in India has drastically come down by about 2.34 lakh in the last three years (All India Survey of Higher Education data).
- Exclusionary and antireservation policies for faculty recruitment: PhD is mandatory qualification for assistant professors, denying employment opportunities for marginalized sections.
- Vacant posts: About 24 lakh posts are lying vacant with the central and state Governments (The Times of India, 5 August 2018).
- Standstill in Recruitment: No recruitment in railways, banks, clerical jobs, teachers in schools and colleges. Exams are pending for 3-4 years, results of exams are pending.
- Massive corruption in recruitment: Rampant paper leaks and corruption in Staff Selection Commission (SSC) examination.
Lakhs of appointments to several posts in the Railways, considered the largest job-generating sector, had been pending for 4 years. When the forms did come out after 4 years, the age limit was reduced, the exam fees were raised, and the exam pattern was changed, thus attempting to deprive a large section of this opportunity. It was only after strong protests by us students and youth that these changes were rolled back.
- Fighting unemployment or FILLING CORPORATE COFFERS? The government is giving loan waivers to the tune of lakhs of crores to private companies for “generating employment”. But private companies are NOT providing more jobs! 60% engineering graduates are unemployed; layoffs are rampant even in the prosperous IT sector.
- The JUMLA of ‘Self-Employment’: Desperate, survival mechanisms adopted by people now have a fancy new name: ‘employment generation’ and ‘self-employment’! This form of ‘self-employment’ always existed. What then was the point of voting in a government in the hope that it would generate 2 crore jobs per year?
- The Reality of ‘Mudra Yojana’: The government claims it has given self-employment to 8 crore people under its ‘Mudra Yojana’. This is actually the number of loans dispersed! Of these loans, 93% amount to a mere Rs 23,000, hardly enough to generate jobs and set up a sustainable business. (Newslaundry, 21 September 2017). In 2017-18, the average loan size was Rs 52,700, not enough to create jobs. The number of larger-sized loans – of more than Rs 5 lakh – that can create real jobs are just 1.3% of total loans disbursed (The Wire, 14 May 2018).
- The Reality of ‘Skill India’: Only 0.19% of the total 4.50 lakh youth registered in 2014-15 could get employment in different
- ‘Start-Up India’: Employment Scheme or Shutdown Scheme? A total of 800 Start-Ups were running between January and September 2017. This number was 6,000 in the same time period of 2016. The remaining have all shut down.
- The condition of Employment Exchange offices is so bad that only 0.57% of those registered in these offices have obtained employment through this institution. (Indian Express, 26 July 2017).
The Modi government has presided over one of the most disastrous economic periods in recent history. Thanks to deliberate policy measures, the agricultural crisis is deepening. Jobs are being slashed. Unemployment is rising. It is high time we call the bluff of the government, and collectively expose the Modi and Shah’s jumlas! Let us hold governments accountable for our lives and livelihoods, jobs and dignity, rather than let governments use us to keep the communal pot boiling.
To support AISA, Click here to donate.