Guest Post – Irfan Engineer
The theme of the NDA Govt. seems to be – lavish spending on cultural events, tax cuts for the corporate India and cuts in budgets on social welfare touching the poor, peasants, dalits, adivasis, women and other weaker sections. In the process, the BJP and those who shower their blessings on this Govt. – the Hindu Nationalists push the oppressed, exploited and the most deprived sections of society further into cycle of hunger, debt and suicide. They enable the corporate houses and a few families to enrich themselves further. Both – soft Hindutva and hard Hindutva are tools to create “cultural pride” in the hearts of the people getting further marginalized and deprived and feel good as a result of NDA’s policies. But the “India Shining” and the “feel good factor” campaign of the BJP in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections was rejected by the people of India and yet they are trying the same strategy with a difference – trying to involve people in taking selfie with their daughter and feeling proud, doing yoga, cleaning and sweeping the streets and such other sundry activities.
Budgetary cuts for social sector:
The total social sector allocation in the budget has come down from 16.3 per cent in 2014-15 (budget estimates) and 15.06 per cent in revised estimates, 2014-15 to 13.7 per cent of the central budget outlay in 2015-16. Within this overall decrease the percentage of allocation for women and child development remains stagnant at 0.01 per cent of the total budget (AIDWA, 2015). For gender budget, the budgetary allocations decreased from 4.19 per cent of the estimated total budgetary expenditure in 2014-15 to 3.71 per cent of the total expenditure in the 2015-16 budget. In absolute terms this constitutes a decrease in 12.2 per cent in the gender budget and almost a 49.3 per cent decrease in the allocation of the ministry of women and child development over the revised budget of 2014-15 (AIDWA, 2015). The gender budget in the health sector has been reduced by 17.9 per cent over last year’s revised estimate. In disregard to girls education, the overall gender budget for school education came down by 8.3 per cent over last year’s revised estimate. The much publicized Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Abhiyan got only Rs. 100 crore (AIDWA, 2015). For about 10 crore women and children who are the beneficiaries of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), the allocation for this flagship programme of the government of India has been drastically cut by more than half, from Rs 18,108 crore in 2014-15 to a paltry Rs 8,245.77 crores (AIFAWH, 2015)
The budget allocations for drinking water and sanitation are drastically reduced by more than 50 per cent, to a mere Rs 6236 crores from Rs 12100 crores, despite the announcement that each house will be provided with safe piped water (All India Agricultural Workers’ Union, 2015). The social sector spending has been slashed by a whopping Rs. 1,75,122 crores in one year alone – Rs. 66,222 crore cut in grants on social sector scheme, Rs. 5,900 crore cut by closing down the Backward Regions Grant Fund and Rs 1,03,000 crore cut was effected by not implementing the food security programme aimed at 67 percent of the country’s population (Firstpost.com, 2015). The cut affected women and child development, agriculture (engaging 49% of the workforce), irrigation, panchayati raj, education, helath, housing, welfare of SCs and STs and others. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana funds were reduced by Rs 7,426.50 crore, funds for animal husbandry and dairy was cut by Rs. 685 crores, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojna funds have been reduced by around Rs 8,156.22 crore, and funds for the National Livelihood Mission have been reduced by Rs 1,632.50 crore. The health budget was cut by 17%! (PTI, 2015). In 2015-16 Budget, Rs 30,852 crores were allocated for the Special Component Plan (for the Scheduled Castes) and Rs 19,980 crores were allocated for the Tribal Sub-Plan – much less than in the 2014-15 Budget. The objective underlying the SCSP and TSP is the development of SCs/STs, and allocation of funds in proportion to their shares in total population, which is 16.6 per cent for SCs and 8.5 per cent for STs. The budget 2015-16 only provided a meagre 6.63 per cent for the SCP (DMSM, 2015).
The plan outlay for the department of school education & literacy was reduced from Rs 51,828 crores in 2014-15 budget to Rs 39,038.50 crores in 2015-16. The budget for department of higher education was cut from Rs 16,900 crores in 2014-15 to Rs 15,855.26 crores in 2015-16. Plan outlay for the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan declined from Rs 28,258 crores to Rs 22,000 crores. Plan funds for the all-important Mid-Day Meal Scheme have been reduced from Rs 13,215 crores to Rs 9236.40 crores. The fund cuts in real terms (after taking into account inflation) are much larger. Plan outlay for secondary education has declined from Rs 8,579 crores to Rs 6,022 crores. The funds allocated to the UGC have stagnated at last year’s levels, which amounts to a cut in real terms. Technical education has witnessed fund cuts to the tune of Rs 434 crores. Science education and research would suffer as the allocation for the Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research has been cut by 25 per cent (Students Federation of India, 2015).
The government abolished the wealth tax which the wealthy have to pay and sacrificed Rs. 8,325 crore on direct tax account by and reducing the corporate tax. On the other hand, the Govt. made the common citizens pay more as indirect taxes and gained Rs. 23,383 crores (CITU, 2015).
Expenditure on upper caste culture:
While the expenditure on social sector is being reduced along with corporate taxes, the expenditure on culture to promote the hegemony of the upper caste elite of the Hindu community is being scaled up. Yoga, which draws from Brahminical religious and philosophical texts like Patanjali, Hatha and Upanishads, largely practiced by a section of middle class, was sought to be promoted as India’s soft power tool. On promotion by the Prime Minister Modi, the U.N. General Assembly had in December 2014 adopted an India-led resolution, supported by over 175 U.N. member states, declaring June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’, recognising that “Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being”. Defence personnel, security forces, school and college students were mobilized and coerced to participate in a massive event on par with Republic Day celebrations with 150 CCTV cameras to enter Guinness Book of World Records. The World Record entry states “The largest yoga lesson involved 35,985 participants at an event organised by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India (India) on the occasion of the first International Day of Yoga, on Rajpath, New Delhi, India, on 21 June 2015.
“The event was organised on a 1.4 km segment of the iconic Rajpath in the centre of New Delhi and 32 LED screens were streaming the live images of four instructors on the main stage. The event was opened with a speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who later participated practising yoga for the duration of the lesson. The event included (roughly) 5,000 school children, 5,000 national cadet corps, 5,000 central army forces, 1,200 women police officers, 5,000 union ministers and similar, 5,000 diplomats and foreign nationals, 15,000 from yoga institutions. To ensure that all participants perform Yoga to the best of their abilities, the Ministry shared a video of exercises to participants 2 months before the event to practice.” The publicity budget of the event borne by the Information and Broadcasting ministry alone was Rs100 crore. The Ayush ministry put in 30 crores. Publicity budget of the Embassies were also to bear an unspecified amount (Ghosh, 2015). The expenditure on the event and arrangements, including on security personnel is not known.
For the Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad in the year 2013, Rs. 1,151.83 were spent according CAG Report – Rs. 1,017 crore came from Central Govt. and Rs. 134.83 crores were spent from State Govt. contribution. 85 close circuit television cameras (CCTVs) installed. The estimated expenditure of the state for the Kumbh Mela to be held in Nasik in 2015 was Rs. 2,380 crores – more than double only in two years! The expenditure will include installation of 550 CCTV cameras of which 348 have already been installed. There would be 15,000 policemen deployed. Over 145 kilometers of pipelines for the water supply have been laid, plus 120 kilometers of connecting pipes. These would be serviced by 26 tubewells specially bored at the ghats and 450 kilometers of overhead power lines, serviced by 35 sub-stations to light up 15,000 streetlights.
Sanskrit which is neither spoken nor popularly used in everyday conversation, and the use of which once was restricted to only upper-castes is witnessing huge promotional efforts by the NDA Govt. Sanskrit must be learnt by scholars who are studying Hindu philosophy and religious texts. However, it is pertinent to note that knowledge of Sanskrit was once used as a tool to oppress the lower castes. The Shudras who spoke Sanskrit were to be punished by cutting off their tongues, if they heard Sanskrit, molten lead was to be poured in their ears and if they read Sanskrit, their eyes were to be gouged out. NDA is promoting Sanskrit at massive cost. The HRD ministry made Sanskrit compulsory as a third language in Kendriya Vidyalaya schools midterm in the academic year 2013-14 without adequate numbers of teachers and text books in place of German language. In the 16th World Sanskrit Conference held in Thailand from June 28 to 2nd July 2015, Government scaled up the delegation to 250 scholars led by the minister of External Affairs Shushma Swaraj. 30 of the 250 delegates were from RSS affiliated body Sanskrit Bharati (Roy Chaudhury & Venugopal, 2015). The Conference was held twice before in the years 2000 and 2003 when A B Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The total expenditure on the World Sanskrit Conference and for promotion of Sanskrit in general is not known.
Soft Hindutva and Hard Hindutva:
The Govt. is promoting soft Hindutva using tax payers resources. While individual leaders of BJP, including some ministers and MPs promote hard Hindutva – using violent and aggressive language stigmatizing the non-Hindu religions and spreading hatred. The objective of Hard Hindutva is cleans the country of non-Hindus or relegate them to status of second-class citizens without any citizenship rights, including voting rights through a war if necessary and establish Hindu rashtra. Just a few examples of such measures are the scores of communal riots obviously whether using cow protection, love jihad, accusation of violation of sacred symbols of Hindus, or conversions as a pretext. Pravin Togadia of VHP instigated Hindus to forcibly take possession of house bought by a Muslim in a Hindu locality, or blatantly hate mongering and constituting criminal offence speeches by Sakshi Maharaj, Yogi Adityanath, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Giriraj Singh and others.
Soft Hindutva on the other hand seeks to promote the cultural hegemony of the upper-caste through media, education, the scores of godmen and other platforms and to dominate the religio-cultural discourse. Hegemonizing the religio-cultural space undermines the diversity of religious practices, beliefs, cultural traditions, customs, and way of life. Today how many know about the Lokayata philosophy, the Nath Panthis, Siddha Panthies, hundreds of bhakti saints from all castes, cultures and traditions. Why not promote Buddhism as explicated by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar as a tool of soft power? Or Jainism or Sikhism for that matter? The objectives of both – hard and soft Hindutva are same – they use different strategies for tactical reasons. Soft Hindutva is for those sections for whom violence and offensive language does not suit their tastes and does not appeal.
Soft and Hard Hindutva are working in tandem and complement each other. Prime Minister Modi used hard Hindutva till it served his purpose and now uses soft Hindutva to achieve the same objectives. Soft and hard Hindutva aid each other. For example, soft Hindutva is coming to the aid of those practitioners of hard Hindutva who were incarcerated for their role in terrorism and communal riots. Under the watch of the NDA Govt. convicted criminals like Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kondnani are out on bail and Rohini Salian has accused NIA officials that they advised her to go slow on Malegaon bomb blast accused Col. Purohit, Dayanand Pandey, Sadhvi Pragnya Thakur and the agency does not want her to win the case. Soft Hindutva in power emboldens the hard Hindutva to become more violent and aggressive and not to fear rule of law. Why does anyone expect the Prime Minister to speak on these issues? Soft Hindutva also mesmerises the people getting marginalized and slipping further into poverty and powerlessness by soft Hindutva filling them with false pride. But the feeling of pride won’t last for long and the reality of poverty and powerlessness will soon mobilize people for their real empowerment.