Defeat the Modi Design of Governance by Ordinance

One of Modi’s pet pronouncements after coming to power in May 2014 was ‘Minimum Government, Maximum Governance’. By the end of the year, the meaning of the slogan became quite clear: ‘Minimum Parliament, Maximum Ordinance’! Modi scarcely attends Parliament and his cabinet prefers to take the ordinance route to amend key laws passed by Parliament. Ahead of the budget session, the Modi government has already promulgated more than half a dozen ordinances, a measure that, according to the Supreme Court, should only be resorted to in extreme emergencies. The President of India, despite reports of discomfort with the flurry of ordinances, has chosen to go with the government and give his assent to the controversial measures.

Three of these ordinances have already evoked widespread protests in the country: the decision to raise FDI limit in insurance sector from 26 to 49, a gift to US insurance companies before Obama’s Republic Day visit; the ordinance opening up the coal sector for private commercial mining; and the most autocratic and pro-corporate diktat of them all, the land acquisition ordinance that overturns the amended land acquisition law of 2013. While in opposition, the BJP had been opposing FDI in insurance and had supported the 2013 legislation replacing the widely resented colonial era Land Acquisition Act of 1894. Now at the helm of a government in which the BJP enjoys absolute majority on its own, the BJP is brazenly rewriting the laws showing utter contempt for the people’s voice, both within and outside of Parliament.

The land acquisition ordinance has exempted several sectors from the mandatory consent and social impact assessment clauses, paving the way for wholesale acquisition of fertile multi-crop land for a pittance in the name of compensation and resettlement. Land remaining idle after acquisition will no longer be returned to the original owners. Along with this draconian ordinance, the government is also busy finding ways to restrict, dilute and deny the powers enjoyed by gram sabhas in tribal areas under the Forest Rights Act and the Fifth Schedule so that tribal communities have no say in regulating land acquisition and mining and construction activities in their traditional habitat. Laws like Chhota Nagpur and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Acts in Jharkhand are also being sought to be amended to deprive tribal communities of whatever legal protection they have been traditionally enjoying over their land.

The thrust of the Modi government’s agenda of development has thus become crystal-clear – wholesale acquisition of agricultural and tribal land whether in the name of industrial corridors or mining or urbanisation or private universities, engineering colleges, hotels and housing projects. The other pet slogan of Modi – “Make in India” – relies and revolves completely around FDI. When Modi woos FDI with his favourite formula of 3Ds – demand, demography and democracy – he places the purchasing power of Indian consumers, skilled labour of educated Indian youth and the legislative system of India, all at the disposal of foreign capital, thereby promising it maximum operating freedom and profits. This land-grabbing FDI-dependent model of development means nothing short of a war on the rights and resources of the Indian people – peasants, workers and job-seekers in particular.

The ordinances will have to be subjected to parliamentary debate in the forthcoming budget session. While resisting every act of forcible acquisition on the ground, pressure must now be mounted in every possible way on the government and Parliament for withdrawal of the ordinances and defeat of legislative attempts to turn these ordinances into laws. The first budget of the Modi government signalled systematic cuts in social sector spending and attempts to abandon whatever welfare measures were legislated in the last few years in the spheres of forest rights, employment guarantee and food security. By all indications the forthcoming budget will only seek to intensify this assault on social welfare and people’s rights. The working people and their fighting organisations must get united to resist these attacks and push back the government.

Liberation Archive