Exposed by one CAG report after another and challenged increasingly by popular agitations across the country, the UPA government has now begun to behave as a veritable autocratic regime. At one go it has now announced all the drastic measures it had been contemplating for a long time but had to put on hold in the face of massive opposition of the people. Price of diesel has been hiked by Rs 5 a litre, subsidy for LPG cylinders has been halved, sectors like multi-brand retail, civil aviation and broadcasting service have been opened up for foreign investment and shares of several profit-making public sector units have been offered for sale.
The big business houses and the corporate media that have been blaming the government for what they called ‘policy paralysis’ are visibly pleased with the announcement of all these ‘big-bang reforms’. The glee is evident even in their choice of words, with one industrialist describing the measures as a jump from ‘famine’ to ‘feast’. In an obviously choreographed display of ‘exuberance’, the share market has started moving up, reflecting the ‘soothed sentiment’ of a disgruntled market. The Obamas and Clintons who had been explicitly complaining about FDI ‘restrictions’ in India and lobbying for notorious US retail giants like Wal-Mart, are obviously happy with these measures, all the more so as Obama is facing elections in a few weeks.
Manmohan Singh has said he would like to go down fighting. The man who had promised to quit if found corrupt now invokes martyrdom in the interest of global capital and his American bosses. Pro-Congress voices in the media compare the FDI announcement to the Indo-US nuclear deal and hope that the PM’s gamble will work once again as it did in 2008 when he managed to save his government winning a dubious confidence vote even as the Left bloc withdrew support. The Congress also hopes that preoccupied with the ‘FDI in retail’ debate, the country will forget the scams. Home Minister Shinde has claimed that Coalgate will fade away from public memory as the infamous Bofors bribery scam of the Rajiv era.
To brush up Shinde’s memory, it was the Bofors bribery case which had proved the undoing of the Rajiv regime and despite systematic attempts of successive central governments to shield the guilty, the people of India have neither forgotten nor forgiven the bribe-takers of Bofors. The image of the Congress as the principal party of wheeler-dealers bent upon bartering away the country’s resources has since been deeply engraved in the national mind and the spate of recent scams has only reinforced that image. The only saving grace for the Congress has been the spread of corruption among other ruling parties, notably the BJP and the majority of regional parties, making corruption a common hallmark of neoliberal rule in India.
Neoliberalism has also redefined private/corporate interest as public/national interest. The land acquisition bill now pending in Parliament openly invokes the ‘public purpose’ objective to justify land acquisition for private profit. The opening up of civil aviation to foreign capital is a desperate attempt to bail out the crisis-ridden Kingfisher Airlines of liquor baron Vijay Mallya. The fraudulent logic of neoliberalism is coming unstuck in every sector. First, key economic sectors were opened up to Indian corporates in the name of fostering competition and efficiency and when many Indian companies are biting the dust, the government brings in FDI to bail them out and in the process allowing foreign companies to appropriate bigger chunks of India’s domestic market.
All this is being done in the name of promoting growth, but the growth miracle has already given way to a steady decline in industrial output. Even when the economy grew at a good rate, the growth never translated into creation of jobs or reduction of poverty. The ‘India story’ peddled by the corporate media as a spectacular rise of India as an ‘economic power’ is a big lie which seeks to gloss over India’s massive poverty and unemployment and high inflation that constantly erodes the purchasing power of the working people and even large sections of the middle classes.
The scam-tainted government must be stopped from inflicting relentless blows on the people and bartering away the country’s resources. The UPA government has betrayed the mandate it had got in the name of improving the conditions of the ‘aam aadmi’ and must now be compelled to remit office. The people are clearly in no mood to wait till 2014 to bring about change, and the whole country is turning into a battleground. Revolutionary communists must encourage the people to fight hard and fight for not just a change of guard but a change in key policies, for a reversal of the pro-corporate pro-imperialist policies that have proved disastrous for the people and for the economy.