Nirmala Sitharaman may not have done much in her short tenure as the Finance Minister, but after her comment on millennial consumers, she will be remembered in the history of Indian politics. There is enough commentary on the correctness of her statements. Yes, asset-heavy products and services have evolved into a shared economy model; therefore reducing demand for production. Though consumption is never a problem; it is an ever-changing trend. These industries needed to reduce their production capacity to evolve with time as they were already built to produce over capacity, but they didn’t. The capital intensive industries like telecom and aviation needed deregulation to support reducing revenue because of lowering price points, but that didn’t happen either. So instead of correcting the production practices, we have come down to blaming the consumer.
This is where I feel there’s a desperate need to highlight how this government’s stance on blaming consumption patterns is the result of the capitalist mindset where their ideas are governed by business principles. And they somehow don’t seem to understand that businesses don’t run the economy, the economy runs businesses.
This is not a radical suggestion either. There is a desperate need to address the complicity of government officials with the top 1% of this country. The industrialists have successfully lobbied to work on key government policies, granting them a monopoly over several projects. Adani was granted the extremely controversial coal mining project in Queensland, Australia in 2015. The project was promoted to show India’s policy move for energy security for the next five decades. Yet the conscious citizens of Australia have been protesting and fighting this move as it will result in the destruction of one of the largest ecosystems on Earth, the Great Barrier Reef.
There is a very clear correlation again between the launch of Jio and the Digital India policy implementation. You would imagine a company selling its services for free would have caught the attention of the extremely heavy-handed regulators in DoT and TRAI. But instead, they were allowed to continue operations despite other operators raising concerns, leading to the largest merger in modern Indian history in telecom, a drastic loss of jobs and an extraordinary increase in debt.
The state-owned banks are not being merged because it will make the way to create a 5 trillion economy, as Nirmala has claimed. The banks are currently suffering to clear their NPAs and debts, largely owing to absconding industrialists. Demonetization is another topic that is avoided like the plague by these politicians. Aviation’s suffering revenues led to the closure of Jet Airways. In my opinion, all these phenomenons have had two things in common: loss of financial security for the working class, and therefore, reduction in unsustainable consumption. This includes environmentally damaging consumption as it is inadequately affecting lower classes through pollution as well.
The 1% of India has gotten away with a lot under every government, but the lack of corrective measures under the current regime seems to be especially problematic. Corporate tax relaxations have been substituted with an increase in income tax, but this is not enough. There is a mention of “marketing budgets” in almost every policy document and public funding announcement. It is absolutely appalling to me as a taxpayer how much money the government has spent creating marketing communication for what they are doing.
It actually serves no purpose—it is the job of the government to implement these policies and allow citizens to vote for them by reaping the rewards. But promoting all the supposed good deeds of the government using citizen money is literally propaganda. This is exactly what happens in North Korea, enormous posters and paintings of the state leaders with all the good they have done. Meanwhile, who can tell the incalculable environmental pollution which has been created by such activities? Maybe the cleanliness promoted by Swachh Bharat will magically make the waste disappear.
The lack of education of our leaders is clear; India has a long history of being ruled by “bahubali” politicians. They are beyond class politics and money is never a deterrent to their political dreams. Recently at a Pinjra Tod rally, a woman holding this poster won my heart: “Chatra rajneeti karte ho, manifesto se kyun darte ho? SUV mein jaate ho, kahaan se paisa laate ho?” Student politics has long been the initiation of young people into politics. It is therefore very reflective of the national politics at the center—because people who are fighting for class and caste justice are being labelled “Urban Naxals” and jailed with no lawful procedure.
Communism and Socialism have been successfully branded as deeply destructive ideologies so we can avoid actually working for the progress of 99% of our country. The working class gets up every day to use the same old public transportation system which has not been updated in decades, while newer flatter roads are being constructed for the rich to drive their fuel-guzzlers. So now the educated middle class is venting their frustrations online, realizing as the likes of Ambani kids celebrate their weddings with Beyonce—that we can’t even get a date and we will never be able to close the wealth gap.