AA Edit | Hope, but without blinkers, as Republic is 73 years old

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Several unfortunate developments have characterised the year that has gone by.

India celebrates its 74th Republic Day. (PTI)

On the 74th Republic Day, which we observe today with hope but without blinkers, it cannot escape notice that the past 12 months have been short on good news. In the single-leader governing system that we have practically become under the present dispensation, mostly it is up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to decide what steps to take to alleviate condition of life on the economic and social levels before the next Lok Sabha election due in just over a year.

If the economy has slipped, over several years social life has also deteriorated on account of religious strife being promoted unchecked, and this hurts the economy  in the final analysis. The Budget announcement is less than a week away. Under Mr Modi’s direction, will the finance minister choose to go with sops to woo voters, or will she go for cutting fiscal deficit for financial sturdiness? Is that the way to go to secure a higher growth?

In his address to the nation on the eve of the Republic Day last year, then President Ramnath Kovind had spoken of “impressive” results being in the offing on account of the success — in his estimation — of the Atmanirbhar Bharat programme initiated by the Prime Minister. The data fails to bear this out. The growth rate is officially projected to be lower than the previous year.

The Ukraine war has hit the world economy but in India we have luckily imported super-cheap oil from Russia — now our biggest source of petroleum — on account of the even-handed stance we took on that conflict. A year earlier Covid did make its effect felt on the economy, but the economic profile suggests that key indicators were well below par before the pandemic struck. Evidently, the pandemic and the war in Europe are largely ruled out as alibis for the state of the Indian economy. It is thoughtless policy-making which keeps cheer out.

It reflects insecurity on the government’s part that, on the eve of Republic Day, it has all but banned a two-part BBC documentary on Mr Modi’s tenure as chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 when the state was convulsed by weeks of hair-raising communal violence that shook India, and had reverberations around the world. But people are finding ways to watch it anyway. In the national capital, on two premium university campuses, the JNU and Jamia Milia Islamia, the authorities cracked down on students — in JNU even cutting electricity and the Internet — who had announced public viewing of the BBC production. Riot police was pressed into service in Jamia. Alas, this advertises the message of an illiberal order and comes only a few months after the country celebrated 75 years of independence and the PM declared the so-called “Amrit Kaal”.

Several unfortunate developments have characterised the year that has gone by. China has made deep ingress into Indian territory in Ladakh and the government refuses a discussion in Parliament. This led to the premature end to the Winter Session of Parliament last month. Last week, it was disclosed at the annual conference of the country’s top police officers that (in the last three years) China has prevented Indian security forces from approaching 26 of the 65 patrolling points on the Line of Actual Control.

President Droupadi Murmu, in her address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day, noted that it was our “duty” to follow the Constitution, but Centre-state relations have been manifestly unsatisfactory. Governors, widely viewed as Centre’s agents, in several states have withheld consent from bills passed by legislatures in non-BJP states for long periods, and in some cases have engaged in open confrontation with elected governments. The political news of the year is the Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra, which has fed on discontents.