By K Raveendran
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s obsession with making India the best place in the world is much appreciated even by his critics. But many a time, the expression of his resolve often sounds jarring as it is marked by a terribly wrong sense of time. This, coupled with his genetic hatred against going over his own mistakes, makes his approach inexplicable.
The latest instance of his euphoria over India’s greatness came on the occasion of the release of two books authored by Patrika Group chairman Gulab Kothari in Jaipur, which he addressed via video conferencing. Modi called on the Indian media to go global, saying ‘not only Indian products, but India’s voice too is becoming more global with the world paying more attention to the country’.
It did not seem to bother him that it was the same day when rating agencies came out with their worst forecasts for the Indian economy. Investment bank Goldman Sachs said it expected the Indian economy to undergo a deeper recession in the financial year 202, with a contraction of 14.8 percent against its earlier estimate of 11.8 per cent dip.
India’s economy contracted 23.9 percent in the quarter ending June, which is the worst among the G20 countries and significantly below expectation of most economists. The agency pointed out the lockdown imposed in the wake of Covid-19 created a double whammy through both a supply and demand shock as people lost their means of livelihood due to the nationwide shutdown that was enforced with a vengeance in its early phase.
The government has claimed that it was an act of God that caused this huge turmoil, which has pushed India behind by a few years. But Modi cannot escape the criticism that it was the most inopportune time to enforce such a shutdown, which was announced in a jiffy, in his typical style.
A thoughtless demonetisation, which has turned to be the most monumental blunder of the two terms of Modi, had already caused India irreparable damage to its economy and lives of people. But the prime minister, not even once, expressed remorse for his ill-advised move, maintaining a stony silence over the issue. He had asked the people to ‘hang him’ if he failed to deliver what he promised with the deadline set by himself. But when the time came for the ‘execution’, he simply feigned ignorance and went on to talk about things that were, of course, important, but far less important than the debacle brought about by his own hand.
While his untimely lockdown failed miserably to contain the spread of the disease, as he used to claim in the beginning of the reckless shutdown phase, it created a new challenge to the Indian economy and the people, from which there does not seem to be an escape in the foreseeable future.
To make the insult even more unbearable, the gradual lifting of the lockdown has seen the virus spread faster than ever and at a rate that is not seen anywhere in the world. India’s daily cases have exceeded those of the US and Brazil, with the cumulative cases crossing 4 million. It has also overtaken Brazil in terms of the rate of spread.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram has called upon the Modi government to be ‘fairer’ to God and desist from blaming it on Him for the misdeeds of the prime minister. According to him, it is an act of one man, rather than God that has created the economic devastation.
He cites the figures released by the Central Statistics Office to bust what he called the ‘fake narrative that was peddled by the government through 2019-20, and even thereafter’. He has described the approach of the Modi government as the ‘disdain of a government that is so provocative’.
The contraction in the economy is so alarming that it is difficult to even comprehend its dimension. The four previous instances of negative growth in the Indian economy — 1950s, 1965, 1972 and 1979, were insignificant compared to what it is today. The word previous GDP contraction was in 1979, when it shrunk by 5.23 per cent. Also, India has never had a recession, which is defined as contraction or negative growth for two consecutive quarters, in the last 40 years.
But the Modi government has the ignominy of ‘bettering’ all these dismal numbers. The country is, in fact, in a situation from which only an ‘act of God’ can save it. (IPA Service)