PM Narendra Modi’s claims at Delhi Economics Conclave: Truth is deadhttps://indianexpress.com/article/blogs/pm-narendra-modis-claims-at-delhi-economics-conclave-truth-is-dead/

PM Narendra Modi’s claims at Delhi Economics Conclave: Truth is dead

From inflation to social sector spending to reforms, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at the Delhi Economic Conclave has proved that Truth is dead.

Narendra Modi, Delhi Economics COnclave, inflation, jan dhan yojana, news, india news, economy, india economy
Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Delhi Economics Conclave in Vigyan Bhavan on Friday. (Source: Express Photo by Renuka Puri)

Bhaiyon, behno and deshwasiyon (even the sick-ular, beef loving, anti-national ones), lend Prime Minister Modi your ears.

I come to join PM Modi’s beautiful eulogy at the funeral of Truth. Here, under leave of Modiji and the rest of the NDA- for they are honourable and honest people, come I to speak at Truth’s funeral.

Despite my fondness for it (or what people say), Truth was wrong. You see, it didn’t leave room to obfuscate or deceive, and that is a grievous thing, for how else can consent be manufactured? Or elections be won? Truth, bhaiyon and behnon, would have spoken out at the PM’s address at the Delhi Economics Conclave, and it’s such a good thing that Truth is dead.

When honourable Modiji said that the Current Account Deficit (CAD) came down because of his efforts, Truth would have agreed on one count alone (that the CAD fell from four per cent to about 1.2 per cent), and audaciously disagreed with the rest. It would have pointed out that the CAD came down not because of any of NDA’s efforts but because of an unexpected fall in global oil prices.

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Truth, being pedantic as it was, would have argued that because the per barrel rate fell from $115 to $45, India saved… in its import bill. Naive Truth, with its propensity to speak with facts, would then argued that it was this that dramatically reduced India’s fiscal deficit, which would have countered the honourable PM’s claims at being instrumental in reducing the fiscal deficit.

The honourable Modiji also said that inflation has come down (from double digit to three per cent). Truth, impetuous as it was, would have then dared to point at the prices of essential commodities. Continuing from the specious argument about the fall in international oil prices, Truth would have wondered why those benefits had not been passed on to the common man, in the form of reduced petrol and diesel prices.

Truth would have also gone on to point to the soaring prices of pulses (with arhar dal selling at an unprecedented Rs. 200 a kg). Imagine that? Truth would have also dared to talk about what an ASSOCHAM report said (the report said that prices of brinjal, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes have become much costlier, while the prices of fruits have increased by 40-45 per cent). To add injury to insult, Truth would have pointed to the RBI’s third bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement as recording a “sharp month-on-month increase in food and non-food items, particularly, for vegetables, protein items (especially pulses, meat, and milk), and spices”. What does Truth know of the common man? As everyone knows, honourable Modiji knows best.

Truth would also have debunked some other pearls of wisdom that the honourable PM so generously pontificated for the common man’s consumption. It would have said that in stark contrast to what PM Modi claimed, fiscal consolidation started under UPA (it would dig up the UPA endorsing and working on the recommendations of the Kelkar Committee). Truth would have also dared to not just problematise PM Modi’s claim that social sector schemes had seen a massive boost under the NDA, but also questioned his commitment to sabka saath, sabka vikas. Truth would have pointed out that the NDA has slashed the budget for Panchayati Raj by 98.6 per cent, for Women and Child Development by 51 per  cent, for Drinking Water and Sanitation by 59 per cent, for the ICDS by 53 per cent, for the Mid Day Meal by 32.6 per cent, for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan by 22 per cent, for Health by 15.17 per cent. Truth would have rambled on and on, unless it was forcefully stopped. Truth may even have managed to slip in the fact that allocations to the agriculture sector have reduced by almost 20 per cent since NDA came to power. Thank God Truth is dead!

Truth would have contradicted (imagine its temerity) the honourable PM’s visionary labour reforms by claiming that under PM Modi, a number of regressive anti-labour amendments, which violate numerous ILO & human rights treaties that India has been committed to, are being rolled out. To substantiate, Truth would have pointed to the Factories Amendment Bill, which raises permissible overtime (every four months) from the current 50 hours to a shocking 125 hours! Truth would have pointed to the amendments to the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act which essentially legalises child labour in a limited form, and contradicts the Right to Education. Truth, in typical Congressi style would have argued that a number of other new bills (such as the Small Factories Bill, Labour Code on Wages bill, and the Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill) have been initiated by the NDA which effectively make slaves of workers.

The honourable PM Modi also talked about the pioneering banking sector reforms that he and the NDA (it is with the utmost reluctance that I mention the rest of the NDA. As everyone knows, the honourable PM Modi does everything himself) have spearheaded. That damnable Truth would have highlighted that the NDA has not appointed CEOs and MDS to four public sector banks (UCO, Andhra, Bhartiya Mahila and Indian), that over half a dozen banks (including Oriental Bank of Commerce and PNB) are without non-executive chairpersons, and that more than ten executive director posts are still vacant (after 17 months of NDA) in various PSUs. Apart from the failure to appoint key personnel in banks, Truth would have pointed out that the NDA has also not complied with the PJ Nayak committee’s recommendations and that IMF data shows that India’s banking sector is weighed by more stressed assets than countries like China, Brazil, South Africa etc. And Truth would have asked, “what reforms?”

By now, every reader is as angry as I am at Truth and its would be intransigent infractions. The reader would undoubtedly be infuriated at what Truth would have said at the honourable PM’s gospel on how transformation the Jan Dhan Yojana has been (after all 18.6 crore accounts have been opened in all). Truth would have first pointed out that the Jan Dhan Yojana is just a recycled version of UPA’s financial inclusion programme, under which 24.3 crore accounts had been opened (by March, 2014). Truth would then gone to argue that the reality is that 37.76 per cent of account holders under Jan Dhan are excluded from the insurance (life or accidental) and over draft facilities offered under the scheme. Truth, with maddening facts, would have argued that the much talked about extension of credit facilities to the poorest of the poor (the over-draft facility offers Rs. 5,000 to every account holder) has been claimed by only 4.17 per cent (or 78,000) of all the 18.6 crore account holders!

Before anyone could shut it up, Truth would have gone to argue that contrary to the honourable PM’s claims, the social security benefits of the scheme have been grossly exaggerated. Of the 8.86 crore people who have subscribed to accidental insurance, only 0.0002 per cent claims have been settled. Similarly, of the 2.84 crore people who have subscribed to life insurance, only 0.0019% of the claims have been settled. Truth, that dastardly sick-ular, beef eating anti-national element, would have argued that the Jan Dhan’s benefits to the marginalised are not only illusionary, but also devoid of substance.

And finally, relentless as always, Truth would have sought to disprove the honourable PM’s claims about the GDP. It would have said the high growth rates touted by the NDA have only been achieved by statistical jugglery. In doing so, Truth would have cited numerous investors and economists (including Arvind Subramanian, the NDA’s Chief Economic Adviser), many of whom have argued that the NDA’s efforts at fabricating GDP figures are damaging India’s credibility in global financial circles. Truth would have quoted Ruchir Sharma (the head of emerging markets and global macro at Morgan Stanley Investment Management) as saying “every piece of data-from the tepid increase in corporate revenues to imports, credit, rail freight and auto sales- point to a much lower growth figure…closer to…five per cent! Thank God Truth is irrelevant!

However, if I were to be perfectly candid, Truth does ring a bell. We all did love Truth once, not without cause. In what now seems like a fantastic fairytale, Truth mattered. People could speak it freely and boldly, and it was celebrated. Today, Truth is manufactured to solicit our submission and ensure our conformity. It is no coincidence that conscientious organisations like Greenpeace (that have only tried to highlight the truth about the fall outs of poorly conceived or executed development projects) have been forced to shut down. As Shakespeare once said, “O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and people have lost their reason”. Bear with me, fellow deshwasiyon; my heart is in the coffin there with Truth, and I must pause till it comes back to me. Meanwhile, bhaiyon and behno (even the sick-ular, beef loving, anti-national ones), continue to lend Prime Minister Modi your ears.

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Pushparaj is an analyst with the Indian National Congress. He has earlier worked with Members of Parliament on legislation and policy matters. Views expressed by the author are personal.