This is the second in a two-part series on the Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s criticism towards the current government’s economic policies. Read the first part here.
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) – despite being an integral, economic wing of the Sangh Parivar – has taken a very critical stand on some aspects of the ruling government’s farm-sector policies, particularly the promotion of genetically-modified (GM) crops.
In a recent interview, Ashwani Mahajan, all-India co-convenor of Swadeshi Jagran Manch has said, “GM seeds are seeds of destruction. The arguments being given for Bt cotton are fallacious. They don’t exist.”
After going into the details of the SJM’s case against Bt Cotton and GM Mustard, Mahajan then turns his attention to the recent promotion of GM mustard by the ministry of forests’ genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC) and the NITI Aayog; focusing in specific on the government’s processes which have been criticised as being favourable to the GM lobby.
“I told GEAC and NITI Aayog your report is unscientific. Please read it again. There is a conflict of interest among members of the GEAC. Some of them have links with multinational companies and derive benefits for pushing GM (crops). GEAC is not an independent body. They say we have scientists. I told them you should have independent scientists. I asked Arvind Panagariya (of NITI Aayog) why he was pushing GM when his mandate is to push cooperative federalism. States are not interested in GM. Without asking their opinions, how can he write a report on GM? He said we have to educate them. We asked him, where were you educated on GM crops, so that you could teach them further? It was discussed with farmers, we were told. But we know so many farmer organisations – the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, the Bhartiyan Kisan Union – they are all against it.”
Having voiced this, Mahajan then curiously makes a more sweeping statement regarding the policy research and path being undertaken by the Niti Aayog – the Modi government’s primary think-tank, which was started after the Planning Commission was dismantled.
“If the NITI Aayog does not speak for the benefit of the nation, no one will listen to them.”
BMS labour issues
Another organisation belonging to the Sangh Parivar which has taken on the NITI Aayog is the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which is one of the country’s largest trade unions. In a recent interview with Shashikant Vats of Hindi Outlook, C.K. Saji Narayanan, the National President (Rashtriya Adhyaksh) of the BMS has said that the NITI Aayog tries to implement policies which are not relevant or useful for Indian conditions. The Aayog is merely trying to strengthen the corporate lobby, Narayanan said.
Voicing strong criticism of overall policies of the government, Narayanan said that a message is being spread around the world that a lot of cheap labour is available in India and that companies should come exploit it as much as possible. Narayanan said that the kind of employment the government is trying to generate will be employment below the poverty line and “this is what we are opposing”.
Commenting on the performance of the government so far he said that due to wrong policies, people at the grassroots have not got anything.
Attempts are being made to implement in India the same kind of policies that failed in America and Europe and created a crisis there, he said.
Commenting more specifically on labour policies of the government he said that at present there were provisions that before closing a factory, the permission of the government had to be taken but now on the basis of the recommendations of the NITI Ayog and in the name of labour reform, the government wants to remove this provision. “Trade unions are opposing this effort of the government,” he said.
Coming to wider issues, Narayanan said that the BMS’ opposition to government policies are on as many as 14 issues including agriculture, labour, foreign direct investment, coal policy, food subsidy, new employment creation, contract labour and implementation of Supreme Court orders on same wages for same work.
Narayanan also said that the policies being pursued are such that if they create some employment, a larger amount of jobs are also destroyed at the same time. In this way, the real problems of people “go on increasing”.
It becomes clear therefore that when it comes to issues of India’s economy, voices of opposition are not at all muted in the Sangh Parivar.
Bharat Dogra is a freelance journalist who has been involved in several social movements and initiatives.