By Prakash Karat
A look back at the year 2022, which is ending this Saturday, shows that it has been a year in which the Indian economy struggled to come out of the deep trough it was plunged into in the years 2020 and 2021. Rising inflation, growing unemployment, industrial stagnation and ever-widening inequalities in income and wealth were the visible features.
Towards the end of the year, the figure of unemployed reached over five crore and for most of the year, retail inflation was above 7 per cent. This was accompanied by stagnation in industrial growth with the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) in October 2022 being 4 per cent less than the previous October.
The Modi government’s drive for privatisation of public sector units continued with a major step being the IPO for the Life Insurance Corporation which diluted the government’s stake in the giant insurance company. The government also brought to parliament a bill to privatise electricity distribution in the country which will cripple the state-run distribution companies. The write-offs of bank loans for big corporates continued with Rs 10.01 lakh crore being written off.
It is these policies of the government which have resulted in the deepening of inequalities. The top one per cent of the population owned 40.6 per cent of the total wealth of the country in 2021, as compared to 32 per cent in 2000. A graphic example of this obscene concentration of wealth is that Gautam Adani emerged in 2022 as the third richest person in the world and the most richest person in Asia with a net worth of $ 133 billion.
It was also a year which saw the relentless drive of the Hindutva forces to reshape the Indian State and polity. The prime minister himself presided over renovation of temple premises like the Kashi Vishwanath corridor and various other religious ceremonies. The efforts to consolidate the pan-Hindu consciousness resulted in the continuing “othering” of Muslims. There were constant efforts to target the minorities during religious festivals like Ram Navami and the newly-manufactured Hanuman Jayanthi processions. Any protests by Muslims against these attacks led to their being arrested and their houses being demolished as in Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.
The 75th anniversary of India’s independence was utilised to project the idea of a `New India’ which is nothing but the idea of a Hindu majoritarian State. There was talk of freedom from “centuries of foreign attacks” and liberation from the “colonial mindset”. What it meant is liberation from centuries of Muslim rule and the colonial mindset does not pertain to the period of British rule, but goes back to Muslim rule.
Apart from the de-secularisation of the State, the year saw a stepping up of the attacks on federalism and rights of states. Governors of non-BJP ruled states were utilised brazenly to interfere in matters falling within the ambit of the state governments. The post of chancellor of state universities was used to appoint chosen people as vice chancellors and to interfere in the affairs of state-run universities. The centre devised new means to deprive the states of their due share of resources of their right to borrow funds.
After having tamed the Election Commission and other institutions, the last two months in the year saw concerted attacks on the higher judiciary by none less than the law minister himself. The stand of the Supreme Court in protecting personal liberties and rights of citizens irked the authoritarian rulers who continue to trample upon the civil liberties and democratic rights of anyone who express public dissent or spoke out against Hindutva politics.
The year saw elections to seven state assemblies – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur, Goa, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. The BJP won five out of the seven state assemblies, though they lost in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh. It was also defeated in the Delhi municipal corporation election. What the Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat elections portend is a warning. Despite popular discontent with rising prices, unemployment, agrarian distress and poverty, the deep communal polarisation and a pan-Hindu consolidation helps the BJP to overcome all these problems electorally.
This underlines the necessity to combine the struggles in defence of the livelihood of the people, fight against privatisation and anti-working class, anti-farmer policies with a popular and concerted campaign against the Hindutva ideology.
The year saw growing resistance of the working class and other sections of the working people. The two-day general strike called by the central trade unions on March 28-29 was a big success drawing in more workers and employees in the strike action. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) is continuing its struggle for a legal guarantee for minimum support price based on the Swaminathan Commission formula of C2+50 per cent. After the disruption of the pandemic years, students and teachers are prepared for a protracted struggle against the New Education Policy and other onslaughts on education.
One of the important issues for a countrywide struggle will be the Electricity (Amendment) Bill which, if adopted, will prove disastrous for the common people who consume electricity, including farmers and for the lakhs of workers and engineers in the power sector.
2023 will be the crucial year before the 2024 Lok Sabha election. It should be a year in which all the Left, democratic and secular forces pool their resources to fight the people’s battles and unitedly counter the political and ideological offensive of the Hindutva-corporate regime. (IPA Service)