Amba Charan Vashishth
The opposition is as much a vital element of a democracy as is the ruling party. A democracy without a strong and effective opposition is no democracy. Both are elected by the people. Both are not inimical to each other; they are complementary to each other. The opposition role needs to be constructive, positive, and honest in the realisation of the common goal of both: the welfare and prosperity of the country. But in India, the situation seems to be different. Putting hurdles in every plan and policy of the ruling party seems to be the main objective of the opposition. That, perhaps, is the main malady of the Indian democracy.
Prices of essential commodities and some other things of daily common use are rising. So are the prices of petrol, diesel, and cooking gas going up every other day. Who can deny this fact? Nobody. But our opposition parties and critics do not wish to appreciate the reasons behind all this. They only criticise and don’t cooperate in pursuing the common goals for India. Even on the issue of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, some in the opposition have their ifs, buts, and whys when it comes to dealing with China and Pakistan.
COVID-19, THE MAIN REASON
Covid-19 is recognised as the main cause of economic downtrend all over the world. The way the Modi government handled the epidemic has won the appreciation from numerous countries and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Otherwise, the number of fatalities in the country would have been the highest, perhaps a little less than those in China. India became the first country to produce the anti-Covid vaccine to fight this menace. She also helped many countries and earned their gratitude. But the role of opposition had been anything but constructive. First, they cried hoarse that the government was not coming out with any medicine to combat Covid-19. When it did, they started finding fault with it. Some injected politics and called it Modi and BJP vaccine. They refused to get themselves vaccinated and exhorted people not to do so. Time has proved who was right.
PRICE RISE UNHEARD OF?
The opposition holds the present Government in power at the Centre solely responsible for the misery of the people because of the rocketing prices. The States, too, have a major role because many subjects which affect the prices are State subjects, as per provisions in the Constitution. Before laying the blame on the Centre, the States should do what they should. They cannot be a silent spectator to the misery of the people. They also try to give the impression as if the phenomenon of price rise dawned with the dawn of the present NDA government at the Centre in 2014. Before that, the price rise was something people had never felt, seen, or heard of. If ever it was, it was only like the prick of an injection that sucked all the pain of the patient.
NO UNEMPLOYMENT BEFORE 2014?
Is the unemployment rise a spectacle that also rose only with the rise of the BJP-led NDA Government with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister in May 2014? Did the Congress-led UPA Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when voted out of power, left behind a legacy of zero unemployment among every youth, man or woman, educated or illiterate, living in a village, a town, or a city?
No. It was not. It cannot also be possible when a country was taking great leaps forward in development. UPA Government had left behind a trail of 5.44% unemployment in the country.
The employment rate for persons aged 15 years and above in urban areas, as per the report of the National Statistics Organisation (NSO), dipped to 8.2 percent in January-March 2022 from 9.3 percent in the quarter last year. Similarly, the unemployment rate among females in the same age group in urban areas declined to 10.1 percent in January-March, 2022 from 11.8 percent a year ago. Among the males too, it dipped to 7.7 percent in January-March 2022 compared to 8.6 percent a year ago.
Joblessness was high in January-March in 2021 mainly due to the lockdown restrictions in the country imposed to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
No country, not even the advanced ones, is free from the malady of unemployment. For example, in the USA the percentage of unemployment is 3.6%, in Russia 3.9 percent, and in China 5.9 percent.
Poverty too continues to give sleepless nights to those who are at the helm of affairs, not only in India but the world over with some countries worried less and some more.
The late Prime Minister India Gandhi in 1971 elections promised to the people to eradicate poverty from India. But the promise went topsy-turvy. It only resulted in inflating the number of poor people.
Later, the government promised to vanish unemployment. One is reminded of a cartoon in an English newspaper at that time where a young unemployed asks a beggar, do you think the government will be able to exterminate unemployment from the country? The beggar replies, “Hundred percent. I am waiting for my poverty to be obliterated for the last over a decade”.
FASTEST GROWING ECONOMY
On the other hand, as per the World Bank (WB) report, India is the fastest growing economy in the world. In response to the COVID-19 shock, it says, the government and the Reserve Bank of India took several monetary and fiscal policy measures to support vulnerable firms and households to expand service delivery (with increased spending on health and social protection) and cushion the impact of the crisis on the economy. Thanks, in part, to these proactive measures, India’s economy is expected to rebound – with a strong base effect materializing in Financial Year 22 – and growth is expected to stabilize at around 7 percent thereafter.
Yet, for unexplained reasons, all these positive developments do not spread a ray of smile on the faces of the opposition.
In a democracy, the opposition party is as vital as the ruling party. Both are representatives of the people, voted by the people. Both are complementary to each other. Opposition is not opposition for the sake of opposition. It must be positive and constructive. It has every right to be critical of the government but, at the same time, it must come out with positive and constructive suggestions to make any measure more useful to the country.
ED & IT
For the past some years, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Income Tax (IT) Department had not been as active as they should have been to realise the objective for which these institutions were created. If the earlier governments turned the institutions like CBI to be a “caged parrot” and hampered ED and IT to perform their duty to unearth the black money stashed by individuals, companies, and firms, some of whom have turned out to be ministers, officials, and others, some with political connections too, NDA cannot be blamed. There are cases of Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Delhi ministers from whom hundreds of crores of rupees, gold in kilograms, and silver in tens of kilograms, houses, flats, plots of land etc., have been recovered. These are, perhaps, the highest-ever hauls of moveable and immoveable properties which have come to the hands of these agencies. Two ministers of Maharashtra, one of Delhi, two West Bengal, some bureaucrats, etc. are rubbing their heels in jails for the last many months. Last year, former Congress Union Minister P. Chidambaram had also to spend some months in jail. Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi are also under investigation in connection with the alleged National Herald case. All of them went to the highest court of the country for quashing the cases against them but of no avail.
Much hue and cry is being raised because some politicians themselves or their relations, friends, and supporters have been found to be involved. They are terming the ED and IT action as a political vendetta against political opponents by the ruling party. They have held protest marches, bandhs, etc. in protest against the legal action against their leaders, colleagues, and supporters. Their conduct amounts to generating a lack of faith in the law of the land and the judiciary which amounts to the commission of the crime of sedition. The chief ministers and ministers condemning this action by the judiciary are working against the oath of office they took at the time of their swearing-in.
LACKING WILL TO ACT
The governments in the past did frame laws against violation of Income Tax laws, money laundering, and black money, but these remained on the statute books, never executed and implemented. Under the present dispensation, the ED and IT agencies have been given a free hand to act, it has put in trouble the individuals and units who thrived under political patronage and protection.
A most surprising aspect is emerging in the present political scenario in the country. Jail terms for corruption to some leaders are proving to be a great glaring glue for political alliances while traits of nationalism and honesty are emerging as untouchables for the ‘secular and liberal’ political parties and leaders. Birds of the same feather flock together, it is also said.
Any person or a group proceeded against under the law of the land, as a natural course, are a man or a woman, belonging to a certain caste, some faith, be a bureaucrat, a businessman, a politician owing allegiance to the ruling or the opposition party, from one or the other state of the country. In that case, can the action taken by any legal agency be called a vendetta against one of the sections of society and, therefore, not a crime?
RAID ON TRUMP
Just two days back, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) laid a raid on US former President Donald Trump’s home. What can India say? It is an internal matter of USA. But can we say that USA has taken a cue from India?
(The writer is a political analyst and commentator)
Amba Charan Vashishth