By now, a great deal has been written on the tenure of the second National Democratic Alliance government, popularly known as the ‘Modi sarkar’. To put it mildly, the country has witnessed a hugely retrogressive five years, along several axes, during NDA-II.
There has been a massive policy-driven crisis in the countryside like never before; acute difficulties experienced by micro, small and medium segments of manufacturing enterprises; an unprecedented crisis of unemployment; burgeoning assets and income inequalities; creation of a pervasive atmosphere of fear through the repressive discourse of ‘nationalism’; massive targeting of minorities, in particular Muslims; a ceaseless assault on all public institutions of importance and attempts to capture them. The list does not stop here and one can go on.
By being entirely in cahoots with sections of the big corporate powers, through near total steam-rolling of the media, with the use of raw and muscular cult of Hindutva majoritarianism, and several other retrogressive strategies, the NDA-II government has possibly been the worst violator of the constitution, compared to any other government in post-independence India.
Of course, as one would expect, none of the above is even mildly acknowledged by the supporters of the current regime. On the contrary, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and every other influential leader in his party have used the strategies of bluff and bluster for their self-promotion. In this, the regime has been served most obediently not only by official spokespersons, but also supposedly ‘neutral’ establishment institutions and of course the media, creating an ‘Orwellian dystopia’.
Large sections of the masses and citizens, even while sensing some of the tragic outcomes associated with the Modi sarkar, allow their judgment to be clouded or remain in suspended animation. Hence, with the help of sober assessment of all the relevant facts and figures, it is extremely important to reach everyone when the election for the national parliament is around the corner.
It is exactly such a task that A Quantum Leap in the Wrong Direction?, edited by Rohit Azad, Shouvik Chakraborty, Srinivasan Ramani and Dipa Sinha, accomplishes. The volume has three parts – the economy, socio-economic indicators and governance – and consists of 14 chapters. Taken together, this volume will certainly help anyone interested in a robust analysis of the developments, particularly on the economic and social fronts, during the last five years. It engages with a whole range of policies and processes, along with all the relevant data, that are central to an understanding of the economy during NDA-II. The analyses and relevant information are presented in a clear and accessible manner.
For reasons of space, it is not feasible to comment on the individual contributions. But I have no hesitation in saying that given all the data challenges and official attempts at obfuscations, it is indeed a very significant volume, especially given the time that it has come. The authors have done very well in arriving at credible conclusions, and anyone contesting their claims and assessments will have a formidable, if not impossible, challenge on their plate.
The book reminds readers of the promises made during the run-up to the parliamentary elections of 2014, and examines the outcomes since then in light of the same. In doing so, it clearly establishes that hopes have been belied. Of course, the writing was already on the wall soon after the Modi sarkar had come into power when Amit Shah, in response to a question on Modi’s election eve promise of bringing back ‘black money’ from abroad and depositing Rs 15 lakh in the bank accounts of citizens, brazenly dismissed it as a ‘jumla’. It possibly is unprecedented that a top ranking official of any political party in India (or maybe anywhere in the world) had rubbished its own promise in such an arrogant manner.
The book is quite comprehensive in its reach of major policies and initiatives of the NDA-II government in different areas, by locating them in its overall macroeconomic policy architecture. All the important acts of commission and omission in the areas of agriculture, banking, health, education, environment etc. are carefully examined; and of course the book assesses the disastrous shockers – demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax.
One of the major strengths of the book is the assessment of policies and initiatives of the Modi regime with respect to the marginalised sections; accordingly, examinations of a whole range of critical sectors and policies have been foregrounded in the volume.
Let me conclude by saying that the authors of this book, consisting of young and committed scholars, have provided a very valuable and timely service through this publication, which combines very careful examination of all the relevant data and sharp analysis to debunk lies and propaganda of the current regime. I hope it is widely read by students, scholars and citizens at large. It will help everyone confront the economic and politics of deceptions and delusions.
Praveen Jha is a professor at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.