2019 was rather an eventful turn of political affairs, from gruesome terrorist attacks to defiance against the current government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been gradually losing their names in the good books! Ex-PM, Dr Manmohan Singh was mocked for being the ‘Silent PM,’ but I guess the pages have turned now!
Enlisted below are the critical times where PM Modi stayed silent in 2019, forging his ultimate responsibility as the ‘Prime Minister’ of the world’s largest democracy. After all, criticism makes democracy stronger. Not my words.
I want this Government to be criticised. Criticism makes democracy strong: PM @narendramodi
— PMO India (@PMOIndia) April 18, 2018
It is no surprise that India is reported to be amidst a major economic shutdown as stated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The PM’s silence on something so crucial and critical to the nation as a developing economy is eerie. However, the Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman recently said: “Looking at the economy in discerning view, you see that growth may have come down but it is not recession yet; it won’t be recession ever.” (Are we waiting for the recession to happen, though?)
What is even more worrisome is, ex-RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan and Dr Manmohan Singh (DPhil, Oxford) have repeatedly published and suggested reforms to save the dying economy. India’s economic growth slowed to a 6-year low of 4.5% in the July-September quarter, and Rajan had suggested reforms to liberalise capital, land and labour markets, and spur investment and growth.
Singh criticised the falling economy as “unacceptable, worrisome,” and said, “I will talk today, largely as a concerned citizen and as an economist, so that we can keep politics out of this important discussion.”
When two of the most revered economists of the nation criticised something, the least the PM can do is say something!
As of December 26, 2019, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the unemployment rate in India stands at 7.6% (Urban 9.1%; Rural 6.9%). With an employment rate of 8%, November witnessed the lowest labour participation of 42.37%, ever! These numbers are scary, even if you fail to grasp any of these, the baseline is, the future generations are pretty much screwed. With a mounting population and growing number of degrees, the number of suitable jobs available is pretty rare.
The youth today works at positions they’re way overqualified for, the future generation is definitely in for a treat with a falling economy resulting in a major-major job crunch. But, PM of the world’s largest democracy remains silent, yet again.
There have been no official statements by PM Modi on the looming crisis, and neither have any of his schemes come out with flying colours. A nation with the majority of the population in the working-age, the unearthed capability, and potential, is surely going down the drain.
It is no surprise that the country is undergoing erratic climatic conditions; from heat waves to floods to cyclones, 2019 witnessed all of it on the Indian sub-continent!
If the statistics are to be believed, July 2019 was the hottest ever recorded, the monsoons witnessed 74% more extreme rainfall, and seven cyclones hit the country. India has been ranked as the fifth-most vulnerable country to the effects of climate change. By 2050, Mumbai, Surat, Chennai and Kolkata are predicted to be lost underwater. Is this the future that India dreams of? Is this not crucial enough for the esteemed PM to ‘at least’ make a comment on?
The intensity of this issue keeps on growing, day-by-day, slowly choking us, sucking out our very life under the name of ‘development’. As ‘Friday for Future’ gained momentum, the Ministry of Environment remained as silent as ever.
As the Aarey forest was being shredded to pieces, the government stayed silent as ever. As the rivers dried out and chemically reacted in ways unfathomable, the government stayed silent as ever, again.
PM Modi’s eerie silence on an issue of such imminent pertinence is nothing but a snippet for the dark future that is yet to come.
Over 12,000 farmers have died by suicide in Maharashtra between 2015 and 2018. With the rising global mean temperatures, the farm crisis is expected to worsen. The very farmers who this country owes a multitude of funds, resources and respect, is out there on the streets protesting to save them!
2019 witnessed a rise in farmer protests which were silently shunned off by shutting down the functioning of the Delhi Metro and promoting road blockages. PM Modi has never really remarked or implemented anything in favour of the farmers or relieved them from their worries.
During times of natural disasters, as survivors scavenge for food, down the line of middle-man and cold storages, rots the very sweat and hard work of the farmers. The rising inflation and failed mechanisms are exactly why the primary sector faults below both the secondary and tertiary sectors. Modi’s silence on issues related to one of the lowest-paid manual labourers’ of the country speaks volumes.
Considered as one of the most draconian laws of 2019, Transgender Bill, or the Trans Bill (now an act), projects a very myopic version of gender and sexuality by the hands of failed policymakers. Activists say the act itself goes against the principle of self-determination which has to be mandated by a district magistrate. In case of rejection, no room for redressal or appeal is provided.
The people who laid down the foundation for such a regressive bill include a cis-hetero male perspective, and the inclusion of non-binary individuals has been excluded.
The silence of the Prime Minister, on something which deals with basic, absolutely fundamental human rights of an entire community, is not just questionable but also offensive. Compared to the discriminatory, non-inclusive Citizenship Amendment Act, Twitter says:
The Trans Act was the first CAA.
— vqueer (@vqueeram) December 27, 2019
2019 witnessed a number of Assembly Elections all over the country, however, the one in Maharashtra was better than the eight Season of Game of Thrones. One second, Thackeray got the throne, another, Fadnavis took it home. Then, again, it all changed, as if we were in a failed Dharma Productions stint on political satire.
The sheer powerplay and dirty politics that ensued was a major threat to the functioning and integrity of democracy. The power entitled to the voters was reduced to nothing but a formality. Referring to Shah’s methods as that of ‘Chanakya’s’ we saw peak ignorance by patrons of the BJP.
PM Modi’s muteness on a situation which directly affects the very functioning of democracy deserved at least a single comment from him, let alone democracy, his party’s future and their alliance with Shiv Sena were worth giving a second thought to.
So much for women safety and empowerment, as ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ came crashing down. Modi’s eerie resistance on commenting on two major rapes which shook the country in 2019 makes all of us ask, in unison, why!
The Unnao rape case where the rapist, Kuldeep Singh Sengar was a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh, deserved all the shame, disgrace and isolation, but was met with nothing but public criticism. The Prime Minister abstained from commenting on a rapist from his party. Let that sink in, and question, why would anyone take the side of a rapist?
What good are schemes when the very ruling party we elected harbours rapists? Followed by the gruesome gang-rape of Hyderabad veterinarian, which triggered a series of protests all over India and was drawn parallels to the infamous Nirbhaya rape case; the silence of the very people who are responsible for ensuring the safety of women raises pertinent questions, again.
The Telangana extra-judicial encounter of the to-be believed rapists created another uproar all over the country, with people pleading the Prime Minister to ‘at least’ speak up then! Modi’s silence on catering to women’s safety is problematic, his silence on rapes of such heinous magnitude is even more problematic.
However, when the very non-judgment makers deliver a judgement that is yet again a threat to one of the basic pillars of the democracy-the judiciary.
As the question of democracy reiterates time and again, by the time 2019 ended, India was coloured with the rage of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), Central Universities remain under threat, and premier Universities plagued with fee hike.
The utopian dream of India becoming a ‘superpower’ by 2020, still remains a quixotic dream. Right before the 2019 General Elections, a transferred one-sided conversation masqueraded as a ‘press conference’ was carried out by the BJP. How much can the public hope for, how much can the public be fooled? After all, he is an honourable man.
When the country is in shambles, the least the Prime Minister can do is say anything but, sab changa si!