New Delhi: More than 150 women activists from the capital and across India held a press conference to highlight targeted attacks on the constitutional rights of women in India.
In a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent ‘apolitical’ interview with actor Akshay Kumar, the women, while posing 56 hard-hitting questions to the PM, called it a ‘non-political’ press conference.
Calling it an “exercise in self-promotion in the middle of the election cycle”, the activists said, the interview “trivialised the real issues being faced by people and completely glazed over questions related to the failures of his government, including issues of unemployment, grand corruption, crony capitalism, rising hate, inflation and human rights violations.”
According to them, “An atmosphere of fear and insecurity has been fostered with a steady deterioration in the rule of law and the basic constitutional commitment to equality”.
“The last few years have witnessed a frontal attack on the constitution, particularly on the freedom of expression it guarantees – the right to dress, speak, write, eat and choose – which impacts women disproportionately. Voices of dissent have been systematically silenced,” a press release read.
Helming the press conference were Anjali Bhardwaj, Shabnam Hashmi, Purnima Gupta, Dipta Bhog, and Amrita Johri of Women March for Change.
“The theme of the 56 questions we are asking our 56” chhaati (chest) prime minister are themed on hunger, rural distress, farmers’ suicides, unemployment and demonetisation. Our questions relate to the attacks on institutions such as the judiciary, press, Reserve Bank of India, the Central Bureau of Investigation during the last five years,” activist Hashmi reportedly said at the press conference.
The 56 questions
1. How many jobs were created in the last 5 years? Why is the government suppressing official data on unemployment? EPFO (Employee Provident Fund) data represents formalisation of economy, not job creation & most loans under Mudra are too small to create any employment.
2. The stated objectives of demonetisation were – unearthing black-money, stopping terror funding, abolishing corruption and checking counterfeit currency. Where is the evidence to show that demonetisation achieved these objectives?
3. Why has the government stopped publishing data on farmer suicides since 2015? Why did the government fail to address the issue?
4. Where is Bhrashtachar-mukt Bharat?
5. More than 40 whistleblowers- the real Chowkidars- have been killed since 2014 for exposing corruption and wrongdoing. Why has the BJP government not operationalised the Whistleblowers Protection Act passed in 2014?
6. BJP had promised that the Grievance Redress Bill (to provide time bound and effective redress of peoples complaints) that lapsed in 2014 will be passed if the party came to power. Why has the bill not been re-introduced by the BJP in the last 5 years?
7. Why did the government not engage with the unprecedented Kisan agitations in which lakhs of farmers marched across India to highlight the agrarian crisis?
8. By what percentage have farm incomes increased? The BJP had promised doubling of farmer incomes by 2022.
9. The BJP had promised to bring back black money stashed abroad and deposit Rs. 15 lakh in every Indians bank account. How much black money has been brought back in the last 5 years?
10. Why is no accountability being fixed for the massive intelligence failure in Pulwama which led to the death of more than 40 CRPF jawans?
11. Who is funding the BJP? Why did the BJP introduce electoral bonds which allows for anonymous donations to political parties?
12. Why is the BJP fielding Pragya Thakur, a terror accused, who insulted Hemant Karkare?
13. Why did senior minister of BJP garland and welcome those convicted of mob lynching?
14. BJP came to power on the plank of anti-corruption. Why was the Prevention of Corruption Act weakened during the BJP regime by requiring government to give permission before any investigation into cases of corruption.
15. Ex- RBI governor Raghuram Rajan submitted a list of bank defaulters in February 2015. What action was taken on that list? Why is the government reluctant to make that list – and the action taken – public?
16. Why doesn’t Mr. Modi address the doubts around his educational qualifications? When results of universities are, as a matter of practice, publicly published, why are the results of 1978 batch of Delhi University being supressed, the year in which Mr. Modi claims to have graduated? Instead of fighting the matter in court, why doesn’t the Delhi University make public the records of 1978?
17. Mr. Modi had said if the demonetisation decision turned out to be wrong, he would be prepared to face any punishment. Why is there no government report on the decision and its impact? Who was consulted before the demonetisation decision? Were macro economic disruptions understood and factored for? IMF chief economist has estimated that quarterly GDP growth declined by at least two percentage points because of demonetisation, while RBI reports show negligible impact on extinguishing black money (99% demonetised currency deposited).
18. Why did it take the BJP government nearly 5 years to appoint the Lokpal? The Lokpal Law was passed in 2014. The issue of the absence of the Leader of Opposition could have been addressed by amending the law.
19. Why has the BJP government been constantly trying to undermine the RTI Act? First through proposed changes to rules, then by attempting to amend the RTI Act and finally by trying to set up a sarkari complaints committee to subvert the independence of information commissions.
20. Why did the BJP government illegally remove the CBI Director Alok Verma and appoint an interim CBI chief while bypassing the selection committee?
21. Why has there been deafening silence from the government on the rising hate, crimes against minorities, especially muslims?
22. Why has the Prime Minister not addressed a press conference in the last 5 years? A press conference/interview where the questions are not pre-screened.
23. Why doesn’t the Prime Minister address the allegations of the Rafale scam? What was the formal procedure followed before the PM announced the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft on April 10, 2015? Who all were consulted before the decision? Why was the Make in India and transfer-of-technology component of the original deal scrapped? Why did India agree to pay three times as much per aircraft? Why was Anil Ambani’s Company which was set up just a few days ago awarded the off-set contracts for the Rafale deal? Former French President has said on record that Modi government pushed Anil Ambani’s company as the partner.
24. Why doesn’t the PM and the government allow a Joint Parliamentary Committee to examine the allegations of corruption in purchase of Rafale? If there is no corruption, what are they scared of?
25. Why has the government failed to stop the downward spiral of the Rupee?
26. How did Mallya, Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi escape from India?
27. In the last 5 years, not a single appointment to the Central Information Commission was made unless citizens went to court. Why did the government always fail to fill vacancies in the RTI watchdog in a time-bound manner? Even now 4 posts are lying vacant.
28. Why has the BJP remained silent over the murders of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh and rationalist M.M. Kalburgi?
29. What is the view of the BJP on consumption of beef in the north-eastern and southern states of India?
30. Why doesn’t BJP accept the Supreme Court verdict in the Sabrimala case allowing entry of women in the temple? Isn’t instigating violence, creating a riot-like situation to prevent implementation of a Supreme Court judgment, anti-national?
31. Why was more than 50% budget of the Beti Bachao – Beti Padhao scheme spent on “media-related activities” or publicity between 2014 and 2019?
32. Why has the government not undertaken a detailed, official evaluation of the Ujjwala scheme? How many households use gas cylinders 3 months, 6 months and 1 year after getting the LPG connection? Evidence from the ground suggests that due to the unaffordably high LPG prices, BPL women, who have received the connection, are unable to maintain the much-hyped gas connection and prefer to go back to their original cheaper sources of fuel.
33. How many toilets build under Swachh Bharat Scheme are actually in a functional condition with water supply? How much budget of the scheme was spent on publicity?
34. Crimes against women have increased by 34% between 2014 and 2018 under the BJP Government. What action has the government taken to address the issue?
35. BJP had pledged to enact the Women’s Reservation Bill guaranteeing 33 per cent reservation for women in the legislatures. Why was the Bill not passed? What attempts did the BJP government make to prioritise and steer the bill through Parliament?
36. Why has the budget for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan been reduced every year? Education spending touched a 10-year low in 2018-’19
37. Why has the government failed to address severe job loss for women leading to their economic disempowerment and exclusion? According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), in 2018, as a category, women lost around 88 lakh jobs as compared with 22 lakh jobs lost by men. Rural women lost more jobs than their urban counterparts did.
38. Enrolment in government schools has been declining due to teacher shortage, quality of education. What steps has the government taken to address these issues? How many posts of school teachers in government schools are vacant across India? Why has the government not filled these posts?
39. Why has the government not taken any action on the 75+ starvation deaths reported from across the country? Why has no task-force/committee been set up to look into the cases of starvation deaths and formulate appropriate policy? Why has the government been denying and supressing starvation as the cause of these deaths despite clear evidence, including post-mortem reports in some cases?
40. What is the stand of the BJP government on the increasing number of encounter deaths in states like UP?
41. Why were the Land Acquisition & Rehabilitation Act & Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act (MMRDA) amended to allow private companies to acquire Adivasi and forest land without the free and informed consent of gram sabhas?
42. Why did the Modi government fail to defend the Forest Rights Act in the case in Supreme Court? What does the government intend to do to prevent displacement of millions of Adivasis from their land?
43. Why are fuel prices still high in India despite fall in international prices?
44. Instead of strengthening public provisioning for health especially in primary healthcare, to ensure quality healthcare for all, why has the government been pushing insurance schemes which benefit private companies? Why was the healthcare budget slashed by the government? (slashed by 20% in 2014-’15. In 2015-’16, it was further slashed by 5.7%. This continued in 2016-’17.)
45. Why has the budget for Mid-Day Meal Scheme been reduced from Rs. 10,523 crores in 2014-’15 to Rs. 9949 crore in 2018-’19? Expenditure on Mid Day meal slashed by 21% between 2014 and 2018-19.
46. Maternity Benefit has to be atleast Rs. 6,000 as per National Food Security Act. Why does Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PM-MVY) provision for only Rs. 5,000?
47. Why was the Parliament bypassed on important legislative changes by bringing ordinances (such as on amendments to Aadhaar Act to allow its use by private companies)?
48. What steps has the government taken to address the critical issue of wage delay under NREGA?
49. Why the U-turn and complete change of stance on Aadhaar?
50. As CM of Gujarat, Mr. Modi had said entitlement of 5 kgs per person under National Food Security Act was completely inadequate and would push people to starvation. Why did the BJP government fail to increase the entitlement by even 1 kg per family?
51. Why did the government fail to address the issue of deaths of manual scavengers while cleaning sewers? Manual scavenging has been banned yet the practice continues with people being coerced to clean sewers with no safety equipment.
52. What is the total expenditure on the foreign trips of the Prime Minister in the last 5 years?
53. Why did the government choose the Money Bill route for significant legislative changes such as Aadhaar Act or provision for Electoral Bonds? Was it done to prevent scrutiny and debate of the provisions in the Rajya Sabha?
54. What is the total expenditure on publicity spent by Modi Sarkar?
55. Despite clear evidence showing that claims of savings due to Aadhaar are highly exaggerated and false, why has the Prime Minister and government been repeating these claims?
56. Why were trans rights groups and organisations not consulted by the BJP government on the amendments that the government brought to the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill, 2016? What steps has the government taken to address concerns of the LGBTIQ community?