Calling of the Times: Challenging the Anti-Poor Post-Truth Politics
The BJP – RSS establishment’s handling of the corona crisis is an extreme example of amoral, partisan and anti-poor orientation.
May 30, 2020
The insensitivity with which the RSS – BJP led establishment is behaving towards marginalized majorities, i.e., the migrant workers during this COVID-19 related lockdown, leaves one with no civilized words to describe the callousness. Beginning with only four hours of notice on 24th March 2020 for a total lockdown with no provisioning plan or mention of migrant workers, as if these 8-12 million do not even exist. This was not a case of one-time over-sight. Subsequent moves including ‘stimulus packages’ announced by the government make it amply clear how much this dispensation cares for the poor.
Further, this story of insensitivity makes evident the deeper moral crisis of the present regime. Just analyse the statements of Mr. Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India, made over the last two months in the courts whenever the matter of migrant labour came up.
On 28th March 2020, when the Hon. Supreme Court gave directions to the government to bear the travel costs and supply food to the returning migrant workers, it was responded to by a tirade against all those who raised these issues, to the extent of calling them ‘vultures’. Near absolute insensitivity and a power intoxicated state of mind is evident from statements of all those in ‘responsible positions’.
The late and miserably inadequate stimulus and relief packages announced by the government demonstrate how much ‘PM Cares’. But it runs deeper. How can so many Shramik trains run late by dozens of hours, how can so many trains go astray to far and wide corners and not reach straight to their destinations? Obviously, messages have gone down to the lower bureaucracy of the Railways, telling them how much these ‘poor people’ are to be cared for!
It is not just the central leadership that is behaving in this way. In different states where the BJP is in power, such as UP and Karnataka, it is a similar story. Karnataka government initially stated that it will not allow migrant workers to return home to their states of origin since this will have negative consequences for restarting economic activity, as if we are still in the era of begar (slave labour). The worst example is the response of the U.P government to the Congress party’s offer of one thousand buses. Instead of welcoming the gesture, all kinds of frivolous arguments were put forward to obstruct the use of these buses for transporting the migrant workers and their families, including children, women and old persons walking hundreds of miles. The Red Cross ensures safe passage of civilians even among warring nations. Here Mr. Yogi’s government was dealing with its own countrymen! It is beyond comprehension how any elected government can behave towards its own people in this manner. Priyanka Gandhi’s response asking the U.P government to use the vehicles for urgent transportation even by putting B.J.P flags on the buses if they so pleased, was just the appropriate response.
The BJP – RSS establishment’s responses are an extreme example of amoral, partisan and anti-poor orientation. One is touched by the work done by ordinary Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, people of all faiths including agnostics and atheists in coming forward and helping. Many a new community and civic institutions were launched while undertaking these kinds of efforts. One wonders, where are those millions of active members of the largest political party of the world, i.e, BJP? Or the largest NGO of the world RSS? Why are they so silent and inactive on issues of the migrant workers?
These political formations are not only ruling and controlling the central government, but also trying to capture power by hook or crook, demonstrating an unmoderated hunger for power. Examples are in plenty such as in the states of Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh. They are also undermining the professionalism of institutions of the state, e.g. by introducing large scale lateral entry at joint secretary and above levels by totally by-passing the UPSC processes and procedures. And they attempt to malign the opposition state governments through very abashedly false propaganda. One will recall the statements of Home Minister Amit Shah saying that West Bengal was not allowing Shramik specials into the state, while TMC leader Derek O’Brien counted off several cities of West Bengal where the trains had reached.
The anti-poor politics of BJP – RSS can be challenged by putting forward a better moral example by other societal initiatives. The hollowness of the millions of members of BJP – RSS and their anti-poor bias will stand exposed if we document various small and big initiatives taken by ordinary people to mitigate the miseries of the migrants. Initiatives by Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi and Congress Party as a whole coming forward are good examples. But there are thousands more, which must be made visible. May be this portal for some months can run a column on such citizens’ initiatives who have done exemplary work.
The Congress and other opposition parties must take the initiative to fight this post-truth moral degradation led by the present ruling dispensation. In fact, this aspect of moral fight must be undertaken by the Civic and Social Outreach Congress, newly formed by the Congress Party in 2018, and called Rachnatmak Congress in Hindi. The conception of Rachnatmak Congress as worked out by senior party leader Madhusudan Mistry along with Vijay Mahajan, Amitabh Behar in consultation with the party President envisaged that it will link party leaders who are movement-oriented with NGO leaders in their personal capacity, movements and Community Based Organisations (CBOs). These are testing times. They do pose a challenge to prove ourselves, wherever we are located on the political continuum of patriotic democratic polity. If Rachnatmak Congress can string together such initiatives, then it shall also contribute to strengthening alternative narratives of nation-building, in opposition to the divisive, amoral and anti-people narrative of BJP – RSS.
Vijay Pratap is a Gandhian socialist worker of long standing, committed to expanding and deepening the practice of democracy.