India is not a theocratic state. The idea of India is based on the Constitution of India, which while giving enormous leeway to religion, enshrines secularism as the four boundaries within which national affairs have to be conducted. The nation is run on the basis of modern economic theory and principles; not by a ‘bhai-khatha’ system that spells only exploitation. The solutions for the economic and social problems of the nation are not religion. The solution is the government. That is why it exists in the first place.
When the poor voted for the incumbent government, it was not on the basis of religion; rather it was on promises of economic prosperity and social welfare. It is the responsibility of the government to, if not deliver on its election promises, at least provide them with the basics at a time of a crisis that began with a viral pandemic which has been converted into a economic and humanitarian catastrophe due to the government’s incompetence and wrong priorities.
The economic catastrophe we are facing is not entirely due to the mishandling of the pandemic, but has been in the making for some time. Demonetization and the poor implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and other policy blunders indulged in by this government turned a thriving and growing economy with 8.2% GDP before the BJP took over the reins in 2014 to 3.5% before the end of its first term. The previous five years, in which a select group of people prospered while the rest of the nation kept hurtling from difficulty to hardship – economic and social – set the stage for the accentuation of the consequences of the pandemic. It was a given that any further negative influence on the economy would send it spiraling further downwards. The poor handling of the pandemic and even poorer planning and execution of the lock-down, which brought economic activity to a grinding halt for over 45 days, with the economy now partially sputtering, has sent the GDP figures into pre-1947 levels. Various economic bodies have predicted zero GDP if not a negative one for India in the near future.
If the government, coming to power on economic promises now asks the poor to do consider their impoverishment as taapasya and their sufferings as tyaag, it is outright government acknowledgement of its failure. To then ask the poor, the daily wagers, the migrant workers, farmers to resort to religion – that is what taapasya and tyaag are all – is adding insult to injury. If the people want religion to take care of their interests what is the government in place for?
For the ruling government, which seeks to convert the nation into a theocratic majoritarian state, the advice it gave the poor may seem in tandem with its agenda and its demonstrated lack of empathy for the suffering masses, but not for the nation. For the nation it is betrayal and humiliation. The nation does not need a lesson on how to deal with its problems using religion. There are enough men of the cloth to help them with that. The nation needs the government to deliver on its promises to the poor, especially in this time of crisis. Most of the needs, especially those of food of the penniless migrant workers is being taken care of by NGOs. The scenario is also pathetic for the other poor masses in the country with the government providing no concrete relief plan, with whatever being promised not being delivered as required and promised.
Despite all its window dressing and manipulation of data relating to social and economic indicators, despite the fake surveys put in play by the government, what the government has on offer for the people through its advice of ‘taapasya’ and ‘tyaag’ is on public display: nothing. Any deviation in governance from constitutionally laid down principles and goals will always end in such a fiasco in a developing nation. Both the government and the ideology that it pursues has once again been exposed for its irrelevance in the modern era and for hollowness and callousness.