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A year of misgovernance: NDA govt has presided over an economic crisis, and handled pandemic poorly

Ghulam Nabi Azad writes: While the economy was struggling, the Modi government dedicated itself to destroying the secular fabric of society. It blatantly attacked the very foundations of the Constitution and destroyed the federal structure of the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with BJP president Amit Shah. (Express photo by Amit Mehra/File)

As the Narendra Modi-led BJP government completes one year of its second successive term in office, India can only look back in distress as to how the nation has been brought to its knees in just 12 months. The last year has witnessed a total failure of the central government on administrative, economic, foreign affairs and social fronts. This year has been one where India has faced an economic crisis, job losses, cycles of violence and a pandemic that now threatens to blow out of control.

While the economy was struggling, the Modi government dedicated itself to destroying the secular fabric of society. It blatantly attacked the very foundations of the Constitution and destroyed the federal structure of the country.

PM Modi writes: A letter to the nation in the midst of a crisis that calls for firm resolve

Each and every institution is being used to further the political purposes of the BJP rather than for nation-building. The Constitution was subverted when the state of Jammu and Kashmir was divided, taking the entire world by surprise. This move destroyed the state politically and economically. The entire state was put under an unprecedented curfew, citizens’ rights were taken away and hundreds of leaders, including former chief ministers, were arrested.

On the economic front, the government’s failure has been pervasive. The January 2020 forecast by the National Statistical Office under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation was that the Indian economy will grow at less than 5 per cent. The growth rate this year is the “lowest in 11 years”.

The cascading effects of demonetisation continues to hurt business and cause job losses. The consistent fall in demand has affected all sectors. Yet, team Modi has not been able to offer a single solution to bring the economy back on the path of growth.

Adding to this crisis is the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pandemic itself is a massive challenge, its impact on the economy is going to be long-lasting.

The rate of unemployment has crossed all previous records, which the government has accepted. According to one estimate, in April 2020 alone, 12 crore people lost their jobs — the highest figure in almost half a century. Perhaps some of these troubles could have been mitigated had the Modi government listened to the opposition.

Had the lockdown been announced earlier, perhaps it would have helped to arrest the coronavirus threat. But the Modi-Shah duo wanted to topple the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh and capture power there. In the process, they put the entire nation at risk. Today, MP is among the top states in the grip of the pandemic.

And when the government did impose a lockdown, it did so without preparation, warning or planning. The economy was brought to a sudden halt. Millions of migrant workers were left to their fate. They faced hunger, starvation, infection and death.

There was no support for migrants in cities, and to survive, millions marched on foot to their villages hundreds of kilometres away. Many died before they reached the safety of their homes. The abject apathy of the Modi government towards suffering migrant workers has exposed its anti-poor attitude. Despite repeated demands by the Congress, the Modi government is yet to offer any economic aid to these hungry, jobless poor workers.

As the Modi government prepares to hold over 1,000 “online rallies”, perhaps those offline millions of migrants and jobless workers and youth will recall a harrowing year of unemployment, violence and the vision of a bleak future ahead.

The Congress demands that the Modi government immediately release direct financial support and provide immediate assistance to migrant workers in distress till the MSME sector is back on its feet and can offer the dignity of jobs once again to this crucial workforce.

This article first appeared in the print edition on May 30 under the title “A year of misgovernance”. The writer is leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, and former Union minister and chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir.

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